It was hard to miss the ads for Arcturus Books in the early days, when I took my first steps into the pool of ufology. Overwhelmed with information as I was, I never thought to contact them or get a copy of their catalogue: magazines, ‘zines, newsletters and bulletin board postings (remember the long-gone days of BBS?) provided a dizzying mix of information where abduction claims, tales of underground bases and straight-out conspiracy theory shared the cramped pages like passengers on a subway train during rush hour.
It was much later that Joan Jeffers – a devoted Pennsylvanian researcher of UFO and related phenomena – told me to get a hold of Bob Girard, saying he could find any book or periodical I might remember from the early days of sauceriana, or even material from other countries. Oddly enough, I was sort of in touch with Bob already. His former partner, the late Ron Bonds, had set up Illuminet Press expressing an interest in publishing my translation of Salvador Freixedo’s “Visionaries, mystics and contactees”, a great introduction to the Spanish Jesuit’s vast body of work on the paranormal. Bob’s wife Monica provided the cover art for the project, so when I picked up the phone to call Arcturus, no introduction was really necessary.
I spoke for hours with Bob that first time. What I’d been told was true – he knew all the corners, light and dark, of the paranormal community, current and past – and an encyclopedic recollection of old books. We spoke at length about his own work, “Futureman”, a dystopic view on the ultimate fate of humankind if the age of abductions proved true. Disturbing reading, but written in a most insightful style.
So it was that Bob helped me rebuild my collection of UFO books, which had been lost over the course of years, some lost over the course of international moves and others forsaken as new interests commanded my attention. Getting into “new” materials was never difficult thanks to Bob’s reviews, which made the Arcturus Books catalogue a joy to read – probably more so than a number of newsstand offerings available at the moment! Some descriptions are etched in my mind, like an old samizdat whose cover “depicted a hayseed peeing into a pond with a flying saucer hovering overhead” – I’m paraphrasing here, but I still smile at the laughter the description caused in me at the time.
Some reviews were at the other end of the spectrum: scathing indictments of the subject matter and sometimes the author. Words that could either make you want to order the book to see if such an assessment was warranted, or enough to make one turn the page and hope for better.
1993 saw the birth of my first newsletter on “UFOs in Latin America and Spain” and Bob Girard was pleased to add it to Arcturus’s offerings, cautioning me not to charge too much for it, since “mystics never have any money”. The price point must’ve been right, as SAMIZDAT (as it was called) became a strong seller for Arcturus over a time frame of five years. When I announced that I the little newsletter was folding (its news stories rendered stale by the Internet), I told him I intended to come back with a new idea. “Whatever you do, make sure it’s good!” he said, and INEXPLICATA came out within months, available in print format for many years before the same situation – the immediacy offered by electronic sources – forced it to migrate to the web, where it has remained since 2003.
We didn’t see eye to eye on everything, though. The Chupacabras Diaries, my initial offering on Puerto Rico’s paranormal predator, didn’t really meet his approval. Bob thought the correct approach to take should have been a dismissive one. He particularly disliked a chapter bearing the title “It’s In the Trees- It’s Coming!” – a homage to Jacques Torneur’s The Night of the Demon (1957). Now you’re part of the problem, I believe he said. However, he gladly accepted my self-published copies of TCD and sold them through Arcturus to a world that was only just starting to hear about the creature’s exploits, way before it became a media phenomenon.
When people ask me where I obtained my knowledge of book publishing, having never worked in the industry, I always say it was thanks to those long telephone sessions with Bob Girard. The ins and outs of the publishing world were as familiar to him as the dark corridors of the paranormal. A good and knowledgeable friend who richly deserves to be remembered as a 20th century Renaissance man.