PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY - My Say - Edited by Daisy Maryles
2 October 1987.
"Where are the outrageous claims in Communion? They aren't there, unless extracted by out-of-context quotation" [portrait photo caption]

What 'Communion' Really Said

When William Morrow & Co. offered a million-dollar advance for Communion, I worried that they had overpaid for the book. Little did I know what would happen: that the book would be warmly adopted by a public eager to question the nature of alien abduction, but that it would also unleash a thunderstorm of media hysteria.

Judging from my reader mail, Communion did well because it asked questions, not because it convinced people that I had met aliens. Two books based on the idea that aliens are real were published at the same time as Communion, but they did not gain broad public acceptance.

One segment of the media operated on the assumption that Communion should be dismissed because its "claims" were a danger to the public's intellectual health. A few publications and one television show elected to pander to the notion that the public wants to believe in aliens. Both of these positions assume that the public is gullible and stupid. They bear no relationship to the thoughtful response that Communion actually received.

The sharks swept in the moment the book hit the stores. The Nation lavished 5000 words on it, taking the grotesque position that not only I was insane, but that mental suffering was funny.

The San Francisco Chronicle followed suit, warning readers that "if you swallow Communion whole, it might be your last sane supper."

The New York Times published a well-reasoned review. The reviewer-influenced no doubt by the hysterical and inaccurate accounts being published elsewhere-later repudiated the review in an outburst of invective in the pages of this magazine ("When Is a True Story True," Aug.14).

Newsweek announced that I had said that "small creatures with fierce, limitless eyes abducted" me from my cabin in upstate New York.

I was astonished, as the whole sense of my book was not to make claims but to ask questions.

Reporters doing features on the "story" edited my statements to fit their own biases. The Washington Post quoted me as saying: "These days I'm often the only skeptic in the room." The San Francisco Examiner quoted my recitation of events but not my questions about the nature of those events. As far as Washington was concerned, I was a UFO skeptic, but in San Francisco I was an unabashed contactee.

I got a more rational reception in the live electronic media. As often as I possibly could I delivered my message: "We do not know yet what is happening to people. It seems very real, but there isn't any proof that it is aliens."

Sometimes the media confusion was nobody's fault. On Good Morning America an unavoidable change in the length of my interview made it impossible for me to express my questions about what had happened to me. I made up for this on the Johnny Carson Show when I stated that Carl Sagan has pointed out that we have absolutely not a shred of physical proof that unearthly visitors are here.

But when electronic editing was possible, things went less well. One program edited tape so heavily that I appeared to be saying that I was taken aboard a spacecraft by aliens. This program also tried to create the outrageous implication that my "claims" had been somehow endorsed by the New York Times simply because the book was on their bestseller list.

Two weeks later the same program had a "UFO debunker," Phillip Klass, on to refute the invented "claims." Klass called me a "big, fat liar." He did this despite the fact that I had weeks earlier written him a letter explaining my position and saying that, as far as I was concerned, his assertion that UFOs didn't exist "might be right."

This magazine ran a lengthy article (see above), addressing the question of whether or not Communion should even have been published. The suggestion was that the nonfiction publication of a book making such outrageous claims was questionable.

But where are the outrageous claims in Communion? They aren't there, unless extracted by out-of-context quotation.

Communion was written to bring into question the idea of alien abduction. It was intended to enrich speculation about this experience by placing it in historical perspective and-at the same time-acknowledging its power and the startling sense of physical reality that accompanies it.

I again ask the question that I asked in Communion: Why are people seeing spaceships in the skies and encountering aliens in their midnights? Is the inner mind-or perhaps the universe-warning us that we cannot remain sane unless we correct the vast political, social and environmental problems that threaten us as much psychologically as physically? We must address this issue responsibly, correctly-and soon.

Strieber's Communion has been on PW's bestseller list for 29 weeks. ~

What 'Communion' Really Said
© 1987 Whitley Strieber. All rights reserved