If we grant that the "visitors" are real and possess at least a superficial understanding of human society, they must have known Strieber was an author and anticipated his writing about them. Could that have been part of their plan all along?
If it's easy to underestimate the success that greeted "Communion" in 1987, it's even more difficult to appreciate its multiplex impact on our culture. The cover painting alone almost single-handedly defined the "alien" to many thousands of readers. Strieber even devotes a section of the book to a hologram-like mental image that allowed him to describe the cover's iconic alien to artist Ted Jacobs, offering the possibility that "they" were complicit in the portrait's creation. (Even if their abductions are clumsy, the visitors seem to be consummate self-promoters.)
When Strieber and author Daniel Pinchbeck sparred on Strieber's Internet radio program, the former vigorously denied the possibility of being manipulated or seduced by a potentially negative alien intelligence. According to Strieber's writings (online and in print), the visitors -- whoever and whatever they are -- possess boundless insight into the very workings of consciousness and aspire to cultivate our species to the point where we can interact as equals. At the same time, their true appearance is compromised by our own perceptual limitations; as a result, we've come to fear them. (The visitor phenomenon, as described by Strieber, seems to epitomize the idea of "reified metaphor" espoused by the late Dr. John Mack.)
Whatever their actual intentions, the publication of "Communion" surely signaled a victory for any curious aliens. Never before had the notion of visiting extraterrestrials been allowed to reach such an expansive (and largely sympathetic) audience. Despite the mockery endured by the author, "Communion" helped mainstream the most unlikely prospect of awakening to the unannounced presence of enigmatic others. Not surprisingly, the "alien abduction" meme, previously confined to a relative handful of enthusiasts and Forteans, quickly cemented itself as a consumer touchstone. Pale-skinned aliens with ink-black eyes became commercial fixtures while leading an unremarked invasion of the collective psyche.
If the visitors' ability to relate to function in our reality depends on our acceptance of them (a concept found, interestingly, in Strieber's own writings), the cascade of "alien" imagery triggered by "Communion" and its successors could scarcely have done a better job. For better or worse, we seem to have been indoctrinated.
If so, what's next?