Shortly after I issued a press release last year announcing the publication of The Day After the Singularity, I received a suggestion from a person of significant stature that I submit the book for the 2021 Eric Hoffer book award for most thought-provoking book of the year. I was blown away.
I’d never heard of the award and didn’t really know what to expect, but I had two thoughts: First, what could possibly be more thought-provoking than the solution to the 75-year old UFO mystery? Especially when the solution suggests that life on Earth was engineered by a more technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization that has spread throughout the Galaxy, seeding life? I mean, it’s prima facie The Winner, right? My second thought was: it’ll never win.
It didn’t win.
As I said- not a surprise. What did win you ask? That’s an interesting question once you begin to contemplate the answer. The Eric Hoffer Book Award, named after the famed contemporary philosopher, author of the classic, The True Believer, is an award for small, academic, and micro presses as well as self-published authors. The award promotes “freethinking writers and independent books of exceptional merit” that don’t get the attention they deserve because they are the proverbial needle in the haystack on the Internet and because of commercialism.
The Hoffer Book Award home page notes that writers like Emily Dickenson, James Joyce, Walt Whitman and Virginia Woolf all self-published “rather than have their ideas forced into a corporate or sociopolitical mold.”
The Hoffer people have a Grand Prize, but they make the majority of their awards based on genre, from Young Adult to Sci-Fi/Fantasy to Romance to Nonfiction and everything in between. It has an award specifically for most thought-provoking book of the year called The Montaigne Medal, named for the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne.
This year – the year 2021 – there were two awards issued under The Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking book: Not Even Past, a book about the civil war by Cody Marrs (John’s Hopkins University Press) and Smoke But No Fire by public defender Jessica S. Henry (University of California Press), about innocent people convicted of crimes that turned out not to actually have been crimes.
To be fair, I haven’t read either book. I’m sure they’re fantastic works deserving of great recognition and praise, but… more thought-provoking than a new model for life in the Universe – the greatest paradigm shift in history – all backed-up by astronomical evidence?
I don’t think so.
I suspect bias against a pro-UFO book due to conspiracy theory stigma and what I call the politics of paradigm protectionism were likely factors. Over the years, institutions have been conditioned to reject UFOs and the extraterrestrial hypothesis as a “conspiracy theory.”
It’s not. I’ve written about that. The behind-the-scenes machinations that UFO researchers uncover are simply the result of a policy of denial and the system of compartmented intelligence used in the military-industrial complex. The meme that UFOs are just a looney conspiracy theory became institutionalized long ago. When someone or something challenges such institutional dogma the paradigm protectionists will emerge to deny anything that contradicts accepted beliefs. The coronavirus pandemic is a recent example.
When astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe and his team published a peer-reviewed paper arguing that the Coronavirus originated in microbes brought to Earth by a meteor that exploded over northern China in October 2019, they got the UFO treatment. No, the Coronavirus didn’t come from space declared a NASA spokesperson on space.com. Nevermind the evidence. It can’t be; therefore it isn’t.
Wickramasingh’s assertion about the coronavirus is based on panspermia, a theory he and astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle developed thirty years ago, which posits that life did not originate on Earth, but arrived from elsewhere via comets and meteors.
Panspermia is at odds with the mainstream theory abiogenesis, the belief that life originated on Earth in the so-called primordial soup. There’s no actual evidence to support abiogenesis. Conversely, there’s a lot of evidence to support panspermia, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the paradigm protectionists. Wickramasinghe may as well have published a paper on UFOs. The reaction was the same.
It’s painful to be wrong about something. It’s difficult to be shown-up, but sometimes the denial reaction is as material as it is intellectual or emotional, like the MIT/cold fusion debacle. According to the late MIT science writer Eugene Mallove, MIT hot fusion scientists fudged their data to disprove so-called cold fusion in large part because they had a $100 million dollar contract with the department of energy to research hot fusion. They were also greatly embarrassed. The possibility of room temperature fusion was a face-palm moment for them. Mallove said it was like the TV repairman telling you that your TV doesn’t work because you forgot to plug it in.
I don’t know if UFO stigma or paradigm protectionism played a role in the award. You don’t get any feedback from the Hoffer people. You either win; place or show or you don’t. Like I said, I don’t know why The Award would think another book about the civil war or a book about people who went to jail for illusory crimes – a ten minute segment on a news magazine show if I ever saw one – could possibly be more thought-provoking than The Day After the Singularity– no matter how well written. I suspect the thoughts provoked are the problem.
I’ve been saying for years, one reason (there are others) that the UFO/UAP phenomenon is so easy for the authorities to deny is that it’s so far beyond us. It’s just too much for most people to get their heads around, especially if they all they know are the shits and giggles and nonsense bandied about on mainstream media over the last 70 years.
In the book’s introduction, I wrote about how this might all seem like science fiction, but our lives are becoming more like science fiction every day and that maybe the book really would be better categorized as nonfiction-science fiction or science faction. Maybe the Hoffer Award should have taken a cue and created a new category just for The Day After the Singularity instead of snubbing it altogether?
If it’s true that stigma attached to the UFO subject played a role in the award, then I can’t help but think that the sentiments on The Hoffer Award home page ring hollow, especially that bit about why Dickenson, Whitman, etc., self-published rather than have their ideas distorted by corporate and sociopolitical agendas. If the UFO subject itself is the problem, then sociopolitical considerations have distorted the award process and helped to prevent the circulation of ideas instead of encouraging them as the Hoffer Award claims it intends.
It could be that the Hoffer Award doesn’t want its name attached to a book about UFOs? This is why it occurred to me that The Day After the Singularity would not win despite being the obvious choice. I still held out hope because I thought maybe the Hoffer Award panel might be aware that the New York Times had reversed course in 2017 and has been reporting that UFOs/UAP are real ever since. I thought maybe they’d be aware of the three UFO videos released to the public and authenticated by the Pentagon.
Maybe if I’d been a university press it would’ve made it more palatable for the Hoffer people? I did notice that both winners of The Montaigne Medal were published by university presses. Temple University is one of the few (maybe the only) universities to teach a course on UFOs. Maybe if they’d published the book it would’ve had a better chance?
Whatever the case, there is no greater self-publishing example than The Day After the Singularity. I have a background as a graphic artist/designer/technician in the publishing industry, so I literally did everything from the cover art to the index. Who could better exemplify the type of author the Hoffer Award claims it seeks to benefit with the “worldwide media exposure” and coverage in the US Review of Books that its prize-winners receive?
I can’t help but note the irony that the Huge Hoffer Book Award Montaigne Medal Fail came less than a week before the preeminent TV news magazine show spanning multiple decades – 60 Minutes – broke the news to a mainstream TV audience for the first time that the U.S. government is admitting that UFOs are real and unexplainable on earthly terms. I can’t help wonder if any of the panel caught the show. I can’t help but think that if they did it might have triggered an epiphany of sorts, some embarrassment, and maybe a tinge of regret… If not, maybe the Pentagon report that’s set to drop this week will do the trick.
In life, there are ironies piled atop ironies, paradoxes atop paradoxes. I cut an Eric Hoffer quote from my book before publication. One of Hoffer’s most famous quotes fit nicely as an introduction on a chapter title page. “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket,” said Hoffer.
I forget why I cut the quote. It was probably because of space. I had too much material and just didn’t need it. Maybe I should’ve left it in? I don’t think it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, but it couldn’t have hurt. You never know.
At this stage, I have to wonder if Hoffer’s famous observation now applies to the Eric Hoffer Award itself. Has its great cause to increase the circulation of ideas by helping the little guy devolved into a racket? I don’t have any idea, but I do know it’s just kind of mind-boggling that post-Singularity Extraterrestrial Transmigration hypothesis is not more thought-provoking than a civil war hangover or unlucky people who got screwed by the system. Also, how could a book that ends with the line that “Nietzsche, Sartre and all that nihilistic hand-ringing over the abyss is going to turn out to be just a lot of pre-Singularity angst,” not win an award named after a French philosopher?
Great books are hard to write. Every author who has pulled it off deserves recognition. I congratulate authors Marrs, (Not Even Past) and Henry (Smoke But No Fire) on their award, but I think that, as UFO Disclosure continues to unfold in the mainstream media, triggering the mother of all paradigm shifts, the Eric Hoffer Award will live to regret snubbing The Day After the Singularity for the Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking book of the year.