Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Women who write science fiction

Science fiction giant Kate Wilhelm. She writes a lot of mysteries, too, but we SF fans insist she belongs to us. 

Lists are always fun, and always a little annoying. Arthur Hlavaty pointed to to a list of "100  Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels by Female Authors," compiled by Nikki Steele.

While the list helps make the case that women have contributed significantly to the SF and fantasy genre, it seems to me that the most convincing way to make the point is to list some of the novels that Nikki Steele leaves out: When Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (Hugo Award); Downbelow Station, C.J. Cherryh (Hugo Award). I'm surprised those two authors aren't mentioned at all, and also surprised that Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness isn't chosen. (RAW was a big LeGuin fan, and Robert Shea campaigned for LeGuin's The Dispossessed to win the Prometheus Hall of Fame, which it did in 1993)

There are also more obscure books which I think are probably better than some of the books on Steele's list. I can't really fault Steele for leaving them out, but I'll mention them here: The Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman (Prometheus Award), Those Who Hunt the Night, Barbara Hambly (an underrated writer, probably). The Healer's War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is a great book that won the Nebula. Look to hear more about Johanna Sinisalo, whose The Core of the Sun I am currently enjoying.

Of course, I could list a lot of other pretty good SF and fantasy books by women, but those are all titles I strongly recommend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Indiegogo campaign seeks to finish Wilhelm Reich movie

Wilhelm Reich

A campaign to finish a documentary about Wilhelm Reich (often mentioned by RAW because the U.S. government burned his books) has been launched on Indiegogo. (Initial funding for the movie was provided by a Kickstarter campaign).  The movie is a project of the Wilhelm Reich Trust. 

Hat tip, Richard Rasa on Facebook.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week Four

By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger reading group guest blogger 

Welcome to week four of the RawIllumination group reading of Cosmic Trigger. This week we are diving in to the text proper starting at page 1, Prologue: Thinking About the Unthinkable.

Right there in the section title Bob tips off the alert reader that this is “a cryptic and ambiguous book,” and of course he reiterates that in plain English a few pages later as he winds up the first of many descriptions of Chapel Perilous, which seems to be one of the major themes of the prologue, which functions as a bit of a guide to how best to approach the rest of the book.

The alert reader might also notice that there is a lot in this prologue that Bob later inserted into his introduction to Neal Wilgus’s The Illuminoids (the text of which can be found here, not least being the opening line—"As the late, great HP Lovecraft might begin this narrative . . .”

Be that as it may, I want to bring your attention to a few of the post-markers that Wilson offers us here. Perhaps you can find others?

Starting in the middle of page four and stretching all the way through the top of page five Bob introduces us to Chapel Perilous in one of my favorite bits of writing by any writer, bar none:

Chapel Perilous, like the mysterious entity called “I," cannot be located in the space time continuum; it is weightless, odorless, tasteless and undetectable by ordinary instruments. Indeed, like the ego, it is even possible to deny that it is there . . .

Awesome writing indeed. Of course Bob goes into much more detail regarding Chapel Perilous, just so we might recognize it if necessary. I especially enjoy some of the more colorful descriptions:

An Insect Horror Machine, a Hall of illusions, Invisible to radar, a Fun House at a rather seedy Amusement Park.

The multi-model approach also gets a strong mention. Bob attributes this approach to Niels Bohr and goes so far as to claim that "any single-theory approach is premature and causes a truncation of our intelligence"—p13.

Niels Bohr

And of course what introduction by Robert Anton Wilson would be complete without a healthy dose of name dropping; amongst our cast of characters we will find Aleister Crowley, Marshall McLuhan, and Alfred Korzybski.

There is far too much in this tightly packed 14 pages to touch upon it all, so I will leave that to you. What is your favorite bit in the prologue?

Next week we will embark upon Part One: The Sirius Connection, from the Introductory Fables to the Simonton Pancakes. I’ll take mine with extra wheat germ!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A couple of images I liked

Ian "Cat" Vincent's selfie — wearing a golden apple lapel pin. (Via Twitter.)

Modern variation on the eye in the pyramid. Via Ted Hand on Twitter, who got it from Robert Anton Wilson Fans on Facebook.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A couple of changes in the links

Lucy Steigerwald. Read her column at 

Here at, we aim to be nonpartisan and welcome everyone, regardless of political persuasion. But we also stand for peace and civil liberties, just like Robert Anton Wilson did. I've always included peace and civil liberties links on the right side of the page.

However, I don't think supporting peace and civil liberties is necessarily compatible with supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the current presidential election, so I've made a couple of changes.

I've quit donating to, at least for now, because I'm tired of seeing Justin Raimondo campaign 24-7 for Trump on Twitter. And I noticed that the latest link article from on the "Sangha" section was a Raimondo Trump piece, so I deleted the link. I'd like to be able to point you to Lucy Steigerwald's columns at but I can't figure out how to do that, so instead I've put up a link to the Cato Institute's blog.

I also had a link to Tom Hayden's "Peace Exchange Bulletin" up under "Resources," but the other Hayden endorsed Hillary Clinton. Whatever her virtues, Clinton is a hawk, so I've deleted that link, too, but added left peace activist Joe Scarry to the "Sangha" area.

UPDATE: Angela Keaton suggested adding a feed from news, so I've done that. In the end, I hope I've strengthened the antiwar links.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Puppies, again

Ann Leckie 

It doesn't look like the politicization of the Hugo Awards, the most prestigious awards in science fiction, are going away soon.

The Hugo nominations have been released, and many of the categories are dominated by nominations from the "Sad Puppies" and "Rabid Puppies." You can read the coverage at io9, and File 770  has a table showing which books were nominated by a Puppy faction and which were not. (The "Rabid Puppies" are the Vox Day group, and the "Sad Puppies" are a more moderate conservative bloc.)  File 770 covers all of this pretty thoroughly; go there if you want to know more. The Guardian also has a piece (hat tip, Eric Wagner).

Here are the best novel nominees, with the "Puppy" nominated works in boldface:

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I tend to agree with Eric Flint that the Hugos have become largely irrelevant — it's not the 1940s anymore, and the magazines and short fiction no longer rule the genre. (Scroll down Flint's website to see his arguments.) The novels and series of novels is where it's at. Not that I think it's great to screw up the Hugos.

As it happens, I've read the Stephenson and Leckie novels on the ballot and both are excellent. The Leckie is the third book of a trilogy — start with the first book of the series, Ancillary Justice.