May 29, 1998 at 8:00pm ET (30 min)
BARNES & NOBLE is pleased to welcome Whitley Strieber to our authors series to discuss his latest book, CONFIRMATION: THE HARD EVIDENCE OF ALIENS AMONG US.
About the Author
Whitley Strieber has written more than 20 books, including six on the subject of close encounters between human and extra-terrestrial beings. His claim to have experienced such an encounter himself is the topic of the multimillion-copy bestseller COMMUNION. Prior to that title, Strieber was already the successful author of horror fiction, including the novels THE HUNGER and THE WOLFEN.
About the Book
In the bestseller COMMUNION, Whitley Strieber first fomented the controversy which now surrounds his name with a personal account of what he claims to have been an encounter with an alien lifeform. In CONFIRMATION, he reviews the stories of others and takes inventory of the substantial body of evidence of human encounters with extraterrestrials that he suggests merits a serious, involved investigation by the scientific community. Included in that body of evidence is the recent upsurge in amateur video footage of unidentified flying objects; the substantial qualitative shift in character in recent years of a tremendous amount of close-encounter testimony; and the uncanny discovery of objects that have been surgically removed from a number of close-encounter witnesses, including the author himself. Whether or not the reader is willing to grant that Strieber's investigation is a rigorous treatment of hard evidence and straight science, it is most certainly an intriguing deliberation of exciting possibilities, which become apparent at the small sacrifice of a bit of prejudice and obstinate skepticism.
Moderator: Welcome, Mr. Strieber! We're honored to have you with us this evening!
Strieber: Thank you!
Moderator: We have a lot of audience questions waiting for you, so we'll get right to them!
Question: Do you deplore the commercialization of the UFO question in places like Roswell, and the effect it has of discrediting serious research, or do you welcome the interest it encourages?
Strieber: Right now there's very little serious research. Part of the problem is that the sensationalism scares scientists away. At the same time, the subject is indeed sensational, and it's going to get that kind of treatment. Hopefully, science will get past its reticence and be drawn by its curiosity.
Question: The discovery of putative planet TMR-1C suggests that planetary systems are probably common and that some almost certainly contain potential life-sustaining planets. What do you think are the implications of this discovery for the future?
Strieber: All such discoveries throw into question the parameters we have been using in Drake's equation, which measures the probability of intelligent life in the universe. If we can ever gain a statistically valid idea of the number of planets that may indeed harbor intelligent life, we could refine the equation further.
Question: Have you been examined by Dr. John Mack? Do you plan to be?
Strieber: I know Dr. Mack as a friend and co-researcher. I have never been examined by him.
Question: Do you find it conceivable that the recent popular embrace of all things alien answers to the need of our culture and its marketers to fill the void left by the collapse of the insidious Communist other?
Strieber: It's an interesting question. I really don't know the answer. All I do have to say is that it seems more as if the idea of alien-ness is being absorbed into the culture and made commonplace. Maybe this is healthy.
Question: Have the aliens that have thus far approached human beings all belonged to the same species or civilization?
Strieber: We don't know if aliens are the answer. CONFIRMATION offers hard evidence. But evidence suggests it is proof that compels, and we don't yet have proof.
Question: Are the aliens' designs on Earth benign?
Strieber: I don't know. There is evidence pointing in many different directions. We should clearly proceed wtih caution.
Question: What did you think of the movie version of COMMUNION?
Strieber: At first I was quite disappointed, but as time has passed, I have become more of a fan. It was painful to see the changes they made to my work. I certainly don't recall wearing a top hat during my abduction experience. But nevertheless, Mora manages to capture a lot of the magic and ambiguity of my experience. He is most especially effective in the scenes of family life and the wrenching emotional agony experienced by me and my wife.
Question: If aliens are so advanced in technology, with their flying saucers and stuff, why are they so interested in us?
Strieber: That's an excellent question. I deal with it as much as I can in CONFIRMATION. I would refer you to a paper by Kuiper and Morris in the April 1977 issue of Science magazine for more thoughts on this subject.
Question: A hypothetical question, if you will indulge: Would it surprise you if everyone in the world had these experiences, but the perceptual difficulties of the meeting caused many to not remember? Would you comment on why there seems to be a perceptual problem?
Strieber: It wouldn't surprise me at all if this experience was an ordinary part of human life and that people who remembered it did so because of some accident, or perhaps defect, that made it impossible for them to ignore. The perceptual problems are significant and complex. I think that the fundamental indeterminacy of all perception (the quantum perception problem) makes it extremely difficult for us to correctly observe things for which our brains lack any reference point at all. This is probably why alien figures are so difficult to see. If the people on the other side understand this problem and can exploit its consequences, that may explain things like their seeming ability to appear and disappear at will. It may be that this is more like hiding in plain sight than some kind of magical process. 
Question: When you had your encounters, how did you deal with the fear you felt?
Strieber: Before this happened to me, I was a horror novelist, among other things. I am fascinated with fear. Frankly, I am entertained by it. So even though I was scared, I was also terribly curious. The curiosity won.
Question: Do you picture aliens as amoral, calculating, little green men, or as angelic spirits here to aid the human race?
Strieber: This experience is neither all good nor all evil. The situation has placed us in a state of profound question. We are facing questions that we cannot bear to leave unanswered, but also that we do not have enough information to answer properly. No matter the motives of those who have given us these questions, the questions themselves are richly evolutionary. No matter the motives of the visitors, therefore, we can certainly take advantage of and therefore use their presence as a tool for growth.
Question: Hi. What got you started in writing about extraterrestrials?
Strieber: I had a close encouter in 1985. After extensive medical tests, the memories could not be explained in any ordinary way. Therefore, I became fascinated with what might have caused the experience. I have been trying to determine that ever since.
Question: Do you still stand by the story that you traveled in time to the age of Cicero and consoled him on his deathbed?
Strieber: There's nothing in the experience about consoling anybody. Whether any of the experiences I have related are true in the absolute and final sense, I do not know. These things remain in question. An experience so bizarre must have some meaning other than straightforward physical movement through time. I have never claimed that I understood what caused those memories to emerge in my mind, but I would not be at all surprised if it was something very different from what the memories themselves appeared to be. This question is integral to the book THE SECRET SCHOOL.
Question: Do you feel aliens have a specific plan or intentions?
Strieber: There seems to be a structure to our experience with this that involves something coming slowly closer and closer that would appear to be proceeding on its course very carefully, in order to achieve complete climatization at every step. I think that this suggests more strongly than anything an alien presence.
Question: Do you think that the emergent arms race in South Asia is beckoning in the eventuality which you predict of the nuclear annihilation of Washington, D.C.?
Strieber: I have never expected those prophecies to come true. I am not sure that I believe that the ability to prophesy is real. Remember, I started as a skeptic, and I still am. I included those prophecies in THE SECRET SCHOOL with the expectation that it was the purest chance if any of them ever came true. Only if a group of them comes true would I be convinced that we have a prophecy bone. I hope that particular one fails to come true. However, I must note that a substantial amount of fissionable material has disappeared from stockpiles especially Russian ones over the past few years. It is always possible that a bomb could be assembled secretly and detonated almost anywhere. For the sake of our country and our world, I certainly hope that never happens.
Moderator: Mr. Strieber, thank you so much for joining us tonight! Please come back soon!
Strieber: I would like to thank everybody who came tonight for giving me a hearing. ~
 This quote was later reproduced
in the endnotes of
Dr. John Mack's book Passport to the Cosmos (1999).