When I launched my campaign to raise money to help me afford to keep my website running, I received a great deal of pushback, largely from fringe believers, who found it déclassé to speak of money or who took the capitalist line that any project that isn’t profitable is necessarily worthless. Since then, Scott Roberts and John Ward have launched a crowdfunding campaign asking for $50,000 to fund their fringe history business startup, and now the latest entry in the field is the team of Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck, who launched an IndieGoGo campaign looking for $42,000 to publish 500 copies of a revised deluxe edition of Wonders in the Sky (2009), their demonstrably false and generally quite unreliable anthology of badly translated and frequently fictitious documents recording premodern UFO sightings.
Let me say that again: $42,000 for 500 copies. That’s $84 per copy, for a book they are selling for $200 per copy. I have no idea what printer they are using, and clearly they are going top of the line on everything, but as someone who has assembled books myself, I’m quite sure a decent product could be had at much lower cost. I can have a hardcover, slip-cased full-color interior book printed for probably less than $50 a copy. Presumably they need the money to purchase a full 500-book print run up front rather than use print-on-demand technology, and I will guess (though I of course do not know) that they had to employ people to lay out and design the book, things I do for myself for free.
“We need to get your help to bring this volume to light,” Vallée said, “and I hope you’ll make a contribution.”
What I’d like to point out, though, is a basic fact: Jacques Vallée is a very wealthy man. He is a venture capitalist, and according to Bloomberg.com, he is a general partner in SBV Ventures, a firm that operates more than 70 companies and has vast real estate holdings. He is also the managing partner of Runway Capital Partners LLC, a general partner of Astrolabe Ventures, and a partner at Red Planet Capital, a firm he founded in 2006. He sits on at least three corporate boards of directors. And here he is asking his fans to give him cash to print a book, money that someone in his position ought to simply have sitting in the petty cash drawer. (And if he doesn’t, his business ventures are not at all what he claims they are!)
In terms of the content of the book, two things stand out: First, the authors claim that they want to present this material “to the scientific community” and yet are printing only 500 copies, which will not be available in libraries or research institutions. Second, my criticisms of the earlier version of the book did not go unnoticed. Get a load of these lines:
New cases have been researched and appear in this work for the first time (Penguin produced a paperback version in 2010). Meanwhile other cases have been expanded following further investigation, and some cases from the original work have been removed as additional research proved that they lacked merit.
More than a little of that would be my additional research, which Chris Aubeck confirmed to me months ago. In fact, just to make that perfectly clear I would like to quote Aubeck’s exact words to me from May 17 of this year: “Despite your reactions to the first version of Wonders in the Sky, which I have found extremely useful while making a totally revised 2nd edition (thank you!), I believe you and I share a common goal.” This generated not a dollar from our very wealthy author Jacques Vallée, who is nevertheless happy to use my criticism for free to revise his book and then ask his fans to pay him to print a version of the text saved from embarrassing error by my labor. This upsets me a bit. If they were producing genuine scholarship for modest returns, then I’d say I was simply contributing to the furthering of knowledge. But to ask for $42,000 to publish a deluxe edition revised against my criticism on which everyone profits but me just rubs me the wrong way.
What readers ought to be asking is this: Why should they believe the authors when they say that this time they have produced the best, most scientific, and most accurate version of the book possible when they admit that the first one was filled with errors and omissions?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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