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Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Saturday links


Cosmic pancake delivery

R.U. Sirius on Eve Berni:  "Eve attended many gatherings of "The Network" ...  a group that gathered around Robert Anton Wilson in the 1970s. Is there anyone in the coolest byways of the second half of the 20th century that Eve didn't have some interactions with? Even Bowie and Dali... It's fair to say that she confounded Bob. Hail Eris!" I reported her death Tuesday. 

 U.S. to withdraw troops from Niger. Did you know they were there? 

Jesse Walker on why it's unlikely the government will cut off NPR funding. I selfishly like NPR because I like having classical and jazz radio broadcasts available everywhere I go. 

What Tyler Cowen is nostalgic about. I miss the Borders bookstores, too. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Prometheus Award nominees announced



[Again. the connection with this blog is that the only literary award, that I know of, that Robert Anton Wilson or Robert Shea ever won was the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Also, Robert Shea was an active member of the Libertarian Futurist Society. This is the official press release, minus the last sentence,which has contact information for questions. Anyone  with a question can simply ask me in the comments. -- The Management.]

The Libertarian Futurist Society, a nonprofit all-volunteer international organization of liberty-loving science fiction/fantasy fans, has announced five finalists for the Best Novel category of the 44th annual Prometheus Awards.

In brief, here are the Best Novel finalists, in alphabetical order by author: Theft of Fire,  by Devon Eriksen (Devon Eriksen LLC); Swim Among the People,  by Karl. K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press); God’s Girlfriend, by Dr. Insensitive Jerk (AKA Gordon Hanka) (Amazon); Lord of a Shattered Land,  by Howard Andrew Jones (Baen Books); and Critical Mass, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton).


Here are capsule descriptions of the Best Novel finalists, explaining how each fits the distinctive focus of the Prometheus Awards:


•  Swim Among the People, by Karl K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press) — The fifth novel in Gallagher’s Fall of the Censor series (following Captain Trader Helmsman Spy and three other previous Best Novel finalists) continues the struggle between a freer polity of planets and a much larger interstellar empire that maintains totalitarian control by censorship, the suppression of history, destruction of older books and other memory-holing to cement power. This sequel focuses on how a subjugated people on a reconquered planet can continue to pursue and preserve knowledge while resisting an occupying authoritarian regime through voluntary covert organization. Of fresh interest: an exploration of a previously unrevealed society of Jewish culture, maintaining its customs in hiding for centuries; and an early discussion of liquid democracy, as parliamentary candidates seek enough support from some minimum percentage of voters to get a seat with no restrictions on party or geography.


• God’s Girlfriend, by Dr. Insensitive Jerk (AKA Gordon Hanka) (Amazon) — Subversive and satirical, the fifth and final novel in the Gaia’s Wasp series (and sequel to 2023 Best Novel finalist A Beast Cannot Feign) offers a mixture of unorthodox libertarian provocations and Christian eschatology amid taboo-smashing clashes of two cultures: Earth humans and Wyrms, human refugees from another planet. The story revolves around the rising tensions and increasing likelihood of nuclear war between Earth governments, desperate to preserve their power, and the Wyrms, genetically modified to resist disease and political-psychological control. As Wyrms settle Western Australia’s desert, building a radically free colony to survive the End Times, Earth’s rulers scheme to avert social collapse from the loss of millions of the world’s most productive men emigrating to this “Galt’s Gulch.” The novel raises thorny questions about coercion, consent, sainthood, morality, masculinity, femininity, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.


• Theft of Fire, by Devon Eriksen (Devon Eriksen LLC) — Taking place mostly on an asteroid-mining ship diverted to reach what may be hidden alien technology, this chamber-sized space opera is set within an anarchocapitalist-style frontier where industrialization and colonization have spread throughout the solar system. Both formal and informal contracts are central here, with free-market innovations and alien artifacts unleashing vast wealth and progress as independent Belters conflict with enforcers hired by corporate elites. Conflicts (and sexual tensions) develop between the ship’s stubborn captain (a resourceful loner operating as an occasional pirate) and the robot-protected, super-smart, pintsized SpaceX heiress who has taken over his ship and locked him out of its computer controls. Notable for the originality and plausibility of Leela, an A.I. character, the novel offers a complex portrait of the pros and cons of its free-wheeling future while offering insights into agency, ethics, free will, contracts, property rights and other human rights.


• Lord of a Shattered Land,  by Howard Andrew Jones (Baen Books) — This epic sword-and-sorcery novel, first of a projected trilogy, revolves around Hanuvar, a grief-stricken former general risking his life to free the enslaved remnants of his peace-loving, free-trading people as he finds allies and travels through a brutal empire filled with human and inhuman dangers. Rather than seeking revenge, Hanuvar embraces a libertarian ethic of non-aggression while striving to avoid harming the innocent. Woven into its rich, far-flung narrative are more than a dozen key scenes underlining the meaning of freedom and why it motivates so many to try to achieve it for themselves and others. Loosely inspired by the conflict between imperial Rome and Hannibal’s defeated Carthage, the saga illuminates the deep passion for liberty while underlining the evils of slavery, the horrors of mind control, the cruelties of tyranny and the temptations of absolute power.

• Critical Mass, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton) —  Set in the inner solar system, this fast-paced sci-fi thriller follows engineer-entrepreneurs striving against the odds to use space-mined materials to build infrastructure in space for commercial development. Heroic characters risk their lives in an audacious mission to complete a space station, allowing construction of a nuclear-powered spaceship and rescue of stranded crew members on the distant asteroid Ryugu. The resourceful band must achieve their goals amid shortsighted opposition, censorship, shifting alliances and international tensions of Earth governments. Unusually realistic in depicting the perils of living and working in space, Suarez achieves a high level of plausible engineering speculation. Government is shown as the problem and cooperation through free enterprise as part of a space-based solution to problems on Earth. Included is a plausible depiction of the creation of a functional, private, decentralized currency beyond the reach of Earth, relevant in this era of inflationary government fiat money.

The Best Novel winner will receive an engraved plaque with a one-ounce gold coin. An online Prometheus awards ceremony, open to the public, is tentatively planned for mid-August on a date to be announced, once the winners are known for both annual categories, including the Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction.

 

Seventeen 2023 novels were nominated by LFS members for this year's award – a near record, the highest number in this century and the most since the first few years of the award in the early 1980s.

Also nominated: Futureproof, by Stephen Albrecht (Hybrid Global Publishing); Queen Wallis, by C.J. Carey (Sourcebooks Landmark);  The Long View, by Mackey Chandler (Amazon); Liberty’s Daughter, by Naomi Kritzer (Fairwood Press); Prophet Song, by Paul Lynch (Atlantic Monthly Press); Julia, by Sandra Newman (Harper Collins’ Mariner Books); House of Gold,  by C.T. Rwizi (47North);  Victory City, by Salman Rushdie (Random House); Trail of Travail, by R.H. Snow (Rosa de Oro); Black Hats, by Steve Wire (Plaintext Publishing); Hacking Galileo, by Fenton Wood (Amazon); and Misplaced Threats, by Alan Zimm (BookMarketeers).

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently given in sf. The Prometheus Hall of Fame category for Best Classic Fiction, launched in 1983, is presented annually with the Best Novel category.

For more than four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor voluntary cooperation over institutionalized coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, and/or critique or satirize authoritarian systems, ideologies and assumptions.

Above all, the Prometheus Awards strive to recognize speculative fiction that champions individual rights, based on the moral/legal principle of non-aggression, as the ethical and practical foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, civility and civilization itself.

All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for all categories of the Prometheus Awards, while publishers and authors are welcome to submit potentially eligible works for consideration using the form linked from the LFS website’s main page.

A 12-person judging committee, drawn from the membership, selects the Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel. Following the selection of finalists, all LFS upper-level members (Benefactors, Sponsors and Full Members) have the right to vote on the Best Novel finalist slate to choose the annual winner. 

Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction/fantasy fan interested in how fiction can enhance an appreciation of the value of liberty and recognition of the dangers and evils of tyranny and the abuses more prevalent under centralized and coercive powers of the State.

 

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org. For reviews and commentary on these and other works of interest to the LFS, visit the Prometheus blog via our website link. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Small press distributor crash won't hurt Hilaritas


The latest release from Hilaritas

A New York Times story, "Hundreds of Small Presses Just Lost Their Distributor. Now What?," says that many small presses are being hurt by a company named Small Press Distribution suddenly going out of business. The news leaves "the presses scrambling to retrieve their inventory before the books were destroyed and wondering if they’d ever be paid the money S.P.D. owed them for past sales," the article says.

As a book  lover I liked small presses in general, but the news left me wondering how the demise of S.P.D. would affect one small press in particular, Hilaritas Press. So I asked Rasa, and he assured me Hilaritas is fine.

"Well, that’s not good news, but it does not affect us at all. We use Ingram, a powerhouse in the industry, and we also publish most of our books with Amazon as well. Ingram supplies all the ebook sellers but Kindle, and they supply brick and mortar stores around the world. We also publish through Amazon just because we get about twice as much in royalties from sales on Amazon.com when the book is published through KDP.

"Recently, Ingram decided to not charge any fees for uploading files. That’s pretty wonderful for us. We are counting every penny, and if we had typos to correct, we always had to pay $25 to upload any new file. That would be $50 to upload the print and ebook corrections. They also used to charge for the initial upload of any file, so now that they got rid of those fees, we feel a lot better about that one expense being gone."



Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lionel Shriver's 'Mania'


"Reading is an act of submission."

-- Lionel Shriver, Mania, page 268. 

I have certainly submitted to the charms of Lionel Shriver. Our best living libertarian novelist has a new one out; let's see if Lionel Shriver can contrive to lose the Prometheus Award again. The new one is Mania, a dystopia in which libertarians have been reduced to a tiny underground of folks who dare not declare their ideas openly. 

In Shriver's novel, equality has been reduced to insisting that all idea of intelligence, merit and competence should be tossed out and no one should be allowed to pretend to being smarter or better than anyone else; "Mental Parity," as the movement is known, is billed as the last great civil rights crusade. But although Mania is "political," it can also be read as  a novel about getting along with people who have political opinions different from your own; there are also some good criticisms of libertarians, and people who have the "libertarian" mindset. 

I've now read three Shriver novels; I plan to read more. Wish me luck in trying to get an interview with Shriver.




Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Eve Berni has died


Art by Eve Berni, posted on X by Ted Hand

We are sorry to have to pass on bad news, but Eve Berni, the longtime partner of R.U. Sirius/Ken Goffman, has died.

Posting on Twitter/X late Monday night from @StealThisSingul: "I am sad beyond words to report that my partner of 26 years (Jacqueline) Eve Berni has left us. She died at around 1230 pm today in Marin General after many years of poor health and about a week of extremely poor health. I'll share some details soon. I'm in a state of total shock, deep sadness and some relief that the extreme suffering of the past week or so has ended.

"I love her so much."

From Ted Hand: "RIP Eve Berni, the amazing partner of  @StealThisSingul and an accomplished visionary artist. I will have to dig for the photos I took of her work. Here is a sample from her Facebook page. I will treasure my time hearing her stories about Jacques Vallee and Uri Geller."

 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Kicking out the Jams at the Rock Hall

 




Dillinger laughed. "Yes," he said. "I'm the president of Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus Inc. You've seen them— 'If it's not an LBJP it's NOT an L.P.'?

"Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus?" Joe exclaimed. "My God, you put out the best rock in the
country! The only rock a man my age can listen to without wincing."

"Thanks," Dillinger said modestly. "Actually, the Illuminati own the companies that put out most of
the rock. We started Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus to counterattack. We were ignoring that front
until they got the MC-5 to cut a disc called 'Kick Out The Jams' just to taunt us with old, bitter
memories. So we came back with our own releases, and the next thing I knew I was making bales of
money from it."

Illuminatus!, Wilson and Shea

Sunday we had visitors from out of town, and much of the day was spent visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, kind of a ritual in Cleveland if you have guests. One is the displays (in a section on rock and roll from the Midwest) had a couple of artifacts from the Detroit rock band, the MC5, and above is the photo I snapped of it. 

At the bottom is a jacket worn by the band's drummer, Dennis Thompson, around 1970, but at the top you can see painting of what was supposed to be the original cover for "Kick Out the James," the band's debut. A placard at the museum says, "This painting was the original artwork for the album but was rejected by the label."

Is it just me, or is that an Illuminati all-seeing eye on the painting? 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Satanic panic and RAW

Although I can't remember it ever being discussed by RAW fans, one of the best things Robert Anton Wilson ever did, at least in my opinion, was to speak out loudly and clearly against the 1980s "Satanic panic" which sent quite a few innocent people to prison. In "Trajectories" pieces reprinted in Chaos and Beyond (recently released by Hilaritas Press), RAW wrote angry denunciations of the McMartin preschool case, prosecuted in supposedly progressive California by a Democratic district attorney, Ira Reiner, and other Satanic panic cases. (See the pieces "Sex, Satanism and Sodomized Dogs" and "1994 Update" in Chaos). 

I am old enough to remember these prosecutions and I thought they were bullshit, but as RAW writes, there were plenty of true believers. This Wikipedia article summarizes many of the cases. Also, shoutout to Dorothy Rabinowitz, who was a brave voice of sanity at the Wall Street Journal. 

The New York Times has now published an obituary for one of the villains in the Satanic panic, Bennett Braun. Hat tip to Jesse Walker, who spotted the obit and quoted this memorable sentence: "I began to add a few things up and realized there was no way I could come from a little town in Iowa, be eating 2,000 people a year, and nobody said anything about it."


Saturday, April 13, 2024

Two great Beethoven works

[I love to read Robert Anton Wilson quotes that discuss Beethoven, and the short piece below was new to me. The below also seems pertinent considering the use of Beethoven in Reality Is What You Can Get Away With. The only problem is while I have listened to all of the Beethoven piano sonatas, all of the symphonies, all of the piano concertos etc., I had not listened to the Missa Solemnis. I am fixing that now with a Szell/Cleveland Orchestra recording. The below is from Robert Anton Wilson's column in New Libertarian, Volume Four, Number Eight, December 1990-February 1981, and thank you again, Chad Nelson -- The Management]

Art and Morality

I was once denouncing Alfred Hitchcock to an Oxford intellectual. (There is a great deal I admire in Hitchcock's work, of course.)

"Oh," said the Oxfordian in that tone the English always use in talking to Americans who dare to have opinions about art, "you believe in art as Moral Uplift."

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do. In fact, to reveal the full abysmal depths of my heresy, I think the greatest art only comes from hearts and minds enflamed by a passion for the sublime in all dimensions, including the moral dimension.

Beethoven considered his greatest works to be the Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony, and many intelligent musicologists agree with him. I don't think those towering Matterhorns of music could have been composed without a great passion for Utopia. After all, the Missa ends up with voices crying out for Peace, and the Ninth with a hymn to human brotherhood.


Friday, April 12, 2024

RAWs 'Reality Is What You Can Get Away With'


So, I finally finished the new Hilaritas Press edition of Reality Is What You Can Get Away With. It's one of the few Robert Anton Wilson books I had not read before. The main body of the book is in the form of a screenplay, with two prefatory pieces by Wilson and a new introduction for 2024 by Joseph Matheny. 

It did not seem  much like a conventional screenplay, more like a montage of many of Wilson's concepts and ideas. For me, and perhaps other people quite familiar with RAW's work, it seems like a useful and inspiring summary, with a satisfying ending. Some of the depictions of the female characters do not age particularly well. Matheny, in the new introduction, hopes that somebody finally will attempt to make a movie out of it.  If that happens, it would be really interesting to see if people  new to Wilson manage to make any sense of it. I liked the book and felt like I got my money's worth for the purchase, but it probably doesn't rank as one of the most important RAW books for me. 

I liked the new Joseph Matheny introduction quite a bit, and I'm going to explain a couple of  his sentences for the sombunall of you who may not know his work well. He writes, "This work can be read as a novella  disguised as a fully functional movie script .... looking at it in this way inspired me to write a novella disguised as a movie treatment (the work that precedes a script) many years later." 

There's no further explanation, but it's a reference to Liminal, the first book of Matheny's Liminal cycle, which I recently read and enjoyed. It's $3 on Amazon. I read it as a digital horror story; it's been described as a "mind virus." I plan to read the other two books in the trilogy soon. 

I'm curious how Reality fits in the RAW canon for everyone else. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Book notes: John Higgs and John Dickson Carr


John Higgs on X/Twitter: "Finally! It's only taken 12 years, but The KLF will be published in North America and Canada on July 9th, thanks to @BlackstoneAudio, on audio read by me as well as paperback and ebook." 

Pre-orders are here.  I don't have information yet about what edition of the book is being published in North America, i.e. whether it's the second edition with the additional footnotes. Quite a lot about Robert Anton Wilson in the book, which is really interesting even if you aren't particularly a KLF fan. 

Also, The Crooked Hinge by classic mystery writer John Dickson Carr is available on Kindle this month for $2.99. Robert Anton Wilson recommended it thusly in Sex, Drugs and Magick: "Before dropping witchcraft and the solanaceae drugs, it is worth mentioning that John Dickson Carr has written a detective thriller, called The Crooked Hinge, revolving around a revival of witchcraft in which the members drink belladonna and imagine they are flying around on broomsticks or copulating with demons. Carr cooked this plot up before the current occult revival -- his book was published in 1937! It's still reprinted frequently in paperback and is worth your time. The surprise ending is a lulu." Hat tip to Gregory Arnott for reminding me about Carr. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

RAW on pornography


[The below ran in New Libertarian, Volume Four, Number Seven, April-June 1980, as part of a collection of short pieces, entitled "Miscellaneous Heresies." With the Hilaritas Press version of The Sex Magicians out soon, I thought it might be topical. Big thanks to Chad Nelson for making a number of issues of New Libertarian available to me. -- The Management.]

Amid the Alien Porn

Libertarians, of course, oppose censorship of pornography, on the same grounds that they oppose all other forms of censorship. In my reading, however, I have yet to encounter in print a libertarian who will admit that he or she likes pornography.

This is moderately odd. Kinsey discovered, back in the 1940s (and the Kinsey Institute confirms that there has been no change in this matter since then) that those who like pornography tend to be more intelligent than average, and to be better educated. Kinsey guessed that the reason for this was that intelligence is intimately connected with imagination and fantasy (creativity).

Such a correlation is supported by the Kinsey Institute study of imprisoned sex offenders in the 1960s, which found that these men respond less to pornography than ordinary men. Probably, this is because they are, like most convicts, lower than average in intelligence (which is why they get caught).

My own experience is that criminals in general are emotionally and semantically unintelligent (with a few exceptions). That is, they are more like children than like adults; and this is especially true of sex criminals. 

In other words, the Kinsey studies seem to confirm that those who do respond to pornography are less likely to be emotionally imbalanced; more likely to be semantically adept (verbal: rational); more imaginative and creative; less likely to be criminals.

There are only two explanations,  then, why libertarians never say they personally like pornography. The first explanation is that they are, as a group, less intelligent, imaginative and creative than average. I doubt this very much, on the basis of my experience with libertarians. The other explanation is that they are ashamed of liking pornography, i.e. that they are as subject to hypocrisy about sexual matters as most people in our society are. 

-- Robert Anton Wilson




Monday, April 8, 2024

John Sinclair memorial service


 From Steve Pratt: "The Memorial For John Sinclair will take place on Tuesday 9th April (13.00 EDT)

Streamed / hosted by Richard Blondy."

Second link.

Getting this up earlier than usual. All sympathy for Steve for his friend and Radio Free Amsterdam colleague. Sinclair was the manager of the MC5, one of the few actual existing rock bands mentioned by name in Illuminatus!



Science fiction news


Frederik Pohl, center, with Donald A. Wollheim and John Michel, in 1938. Public domain photo. 

As there is considerable overlap between science fiction fandom and Robert Anton Wilson fandom, I thought I would share a couple of interesting news items.

Another exclusion

The main villain in last year's Worldcon censorship scandal, Dave McCarty, recently flew from the U.S. and tried to attend Eastercon, a science fiction convention in the United Kingdom. File 770, the science fiction news site, reported on March 30 that McCarty was refused admission when he tried  to buy a membership at the door. When he tried the next day and refused to leave, he was escorted away by security. 

I learned about this via Ansible, the monthly newsletter of SF fan Dave Langford, who used the headline Exclusion Act for the news item. This refers to an historic moment in fandom. When the first Worldcon was held in New York City in 1939, attended by about 200 people, "In addition to its groundbreaking role as the first of its kind, the convention was noteworthy for the exclusion of a number of politicized Futurians by convention chair Sam Moskowitz; those excluded were Donald A. Wollheim, Frederik Pohl, John Michel, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Cyril M. Kornbluth, and Jack Gillespie, an event known to fannish historians as "The Great Exclusion Act.' " More at the link, see also here. 

Murder in China

The fallout over the Hugo awards, which has cast a shadow over last year's first-ever Chinese worldcon, isn't the only scandal on the Chinese science fiction scene. The new adaptation of The Three-Body Problem, currently airing on Netflix, apparently was delayed when the Chinese businessman who brought it to Netflix was murdered by one of his employees. The New  York Times has the story.  See also this Hollywood Reporter article for background.