Friday, September 24, 2010

Author profile--Whitley Strieber

If there is a name that has been most associated with aliens in the past 25 years or so, it is Whitley Strieber.
Strieber was an advertising executive before giving it all up to become a writer, a move that I admire greatly.  His first novels, The Hunger and The Wolfen, are works of horror and did rather well for themselves.  In fact, both were made into movies.
But it was not until 1986 that things broke wide open for him.  That year, he published Communion, a book-length account of his alleged experiences with alien abduction.  With this book, Strieber single-handedly brought the phenomenon of abduction straight into mainstream culture.  I got around to reading it in 1988. It had a profound effect upon me and I don't mind telling you that it made me sleep with the lights on for a few nights.
The book begins with the Strieber family enjoying Christmas in an isolated cabin in upstate New York.  With carefully crafted suspense and intensity, Strieber then describes the harrowing experience of being taken from his bedroom and experimented upon by aliens.  His account of this shook me to the core.
As the book wore on however, I found it increasingly difficult to accept what he was saying.  Apparently, Strieber had been experiencing alien abduction since he was a little boy.  He remembers being afraid of Mr. Peanut  on the cans of Planter's due to the character's similarity in appearance to the "grey" type of alien.  And if memory serves, he discusses the fire that was started in his family home due to the faulty wiring in an anti-gravity device that he built in his room, the plans given to him by the aliens.
Communion was a blockbuster best seller and spawned multiple sequels.  He switched gears a bit in 1998 when he claims to have been visited by a man (apparently human) in a Toronto hotel room.  This mysterious stranger imparted upon Strieber dire warnings of impending ecological disaster.  Though the man gave no name, Strieber took to calling him The Master of the Key.  Based on the given warnings, Strieber then wrote The Coming Global Superstorm with Art Bell of Coast to Coast AM.  You probably know the book in its film incarnation, The Day After Tomorrow.  His most recent duo of books deal with the 2012 "end times" meme.  Currently, you can find Strieber shilling at his website, Unknown Country

I'm not really sure what to make of Whitley Strieber.  As a fellow writer, I respect his skills and as previously stated, his account of abduction and the psychological aftermath in Communion is nothing short of mindblowing.  If this really did happen to him, then I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for the poor guy and his family.  No one should have to go through what he claims to have endured.  Although I have not read anything other than the initial Communion, I understand that his subsequent books on the alien presence have been  hopeful.  Maybe his contact with the aliens has been more positive in recent years, I don't know.  But there's just something about his bibliography that is unsettling.  He moves from aliens in the 80s, to ecological threats in the 90s, and now doomsday as we approach 2012.  Is he surfing the zeitgeist as most writers do or is there just a smidgen of...well, opportunism for serious lack of a better word?  I mean no disrespect towards him, I'm just used to thinking critically about anything presented in the media.  These days, you have to be skeptical.  At least at the beginning.
Recently, I picked up a copy of Communion at a used book store and I intend to reread it for the first time in 22 years...long enough ago that I remember reading excerpts of it with Graymalkin and Bradley in our high school computer lab.  I hope that this rereading will refresh my memory and allow me to post a detailed and more informed review.
Whether or not he has actually had these experiences, I certainly cannot say.  What is certain, however, is the impact he has had by bringing stories like his own into the mainstream consciousness.  I'm certain that for anyone else who feels they are going through the same experiences, the wide recognition of Communion must at least make them feel less alone.  For that at least, we should be grateful.  

By the by, I was quoted in today's Chicago Tribune on the issue of "the value of pets."  I bet you can pretty much guess my stance.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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