"I learned long ago that reading is not a passive process," says Vale. "I like to mark up my books. My books are heavily interacted with. I look at books not as books, but as conversations."
The RE/Search volumes Vale is most proud of, on Burroughs and Ballard, resuscitated the former author's career and threw a proper coming-out party in America for the latter. Vale went so far as to help organize Burroughs' tour with Laurie Anderson. Meanwhile, RE/Search's sibling compendiums, Incredibly Strange Movies (1986) and Incredibly Strange Music (1993, Vol. 2 1995), were pivotal in placing filmmakers like Russ Meyer and Herschell Gordon Lewis and music-makers such as Yma Sumac and Ken Nordine in a new canon for culturally conversant hipsters, leading to crucial reissues and reappraisals of their work.
And then there's RE/Search's biggest hit. "The most influential of all the books is Modern Primitives , which sparked the whole mainstream mass interest in piercing and tattoos and body modification," says Jello Biafra, who first met Vale in 1978 when Biafra was simply an admirer of Search and Destroy and the vocalist for a then-new band called the Dead Kennedys. "There was very little of that going on compared to what happened after that book came out. Of course, now even secretaries and bank clerks and Bush administration bureaucrats have tattoos, and who knows how many pierced penises are on the Republican National Committee!"
With a new publication, prOnnovation? Pornography and Technological Innovation, just out, and books on Timothy Leary, Burning Man's Piss Clear newspaper, and steampunk on the horizon, Vale doesn't have time to be bitter that so many have grabbed ideas from his tomes and run with them. "I would say I've had a disproportionate amount of influence," he says. "People tell me, 'Your Pranks  book inspired Jackass, Punk'd, and god knows how many other TV shows.' You just keep thinking of your next project and never look back."