Friday, May 22, 2015

Only 38 more times for me to go!

Eric Wagner

An email in March from Eric Wagner, which I forgot to post until now:

"On pg. 151 of my book during the interview I mention that Pound recommended reading forty books by Henry James to help one’s prose style. Bob replied, “Uh-huh. I’d say, Read Ulysses forty times.”

Eric's book that he mentions is An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, which I'll probably re-read when I finish the Illuminatus! online reading group entries. The book includes an Illuminatus! timeline, useful in sorting out the complicated plot.  Looks like I need to read Ulysses again, too.

Eric's book is put out by New Falcon, which has a big sale on RAW's books going on.  Eric's book is also on sale; the Kindle is only $5.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Discordian zine from Britain

From Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia comes word of a new fanzine, Discordia Britannica. The first issue includes Lewis Shiner's interview of RAW (which I've also published) and a piece by Adam. Adam includes information on how to contact the publishers to obtain a copy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One more bit from Eric Flint

Eric Flint

This kind of puts "someone said something mean about me on Twitter" in perspective:

 I fought for a just distribution of wealth and—more importantly—a reorganization of the way wealth is produced in the first place. I fought for civil rights and women’s rights, and the first rally I ever attended supporting the nascent movement for gay and lesbian rights was held in a black church in Detroit, Michigan back in 1977. And, throughout, I fought against the imperialist tendencies of the American political establishment in foreign affairs.

Listening to you anti-SJW types whine about your persecution just makes me laugh.


Boy, are you a bunch of pikers. I have had three murder attempts made on me because of my political beliefs and activities. I can’t remember any longer how many times I’ve been threatened with murder. I have been badly beaten by a mob of right-wing thugs in broad daylight on a public street and the man I was with was crippled for life. (That happened just outside of Birmingham, Alabama in June of 1979. Did the police ever investigate? Be serious. Of course not.)

 I have been physically assaulted because of my political beliefs on perhaps a dozen occasions. Being fair about it, while most of those assaults were carried out by right-wingers, some of them—perhaps a third—were carried out by Maoists. I have no idea how many times I’ve been threatened with physical assault. I lost track decades ago.

I have been arrested by the police on several occasions. No charges were ever filed, mind you, since they were so bogus no prosecutor would have taken them up. But this is a typical form of police harassment. They can legally hold you in jail for 24 hours without pressing charges, and if you don’t want to miss a day’s work you have to post bail—and if you don’t just happen to have several thousand dollars handy you have to pay a bail bondsman a percentage which you’ll never get back.

Since I was in my early twenties I’ve known that most careers were closed to me because of my political beliefs and activity. Those include any career in the military, any career in government above the level of a postal clerk, any managerial career in any major corporation—the list goes on and on.

More here. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Eric Flint on changes in science fiction

Eric Flint at Marcon

I didn't even know who science fiction writer Eric Flint was until a few weeks ago, but he turned out to be one of the most interesting writers at Marcon. An academic historian by training, he was a left wing labor union activist and factory worker until he turned to full time writing.

Commenting on the running kerfuffle over the Hugo nominations, Sad Pupplies, etc., Flint made a several points when he spoke at Marcon: (1) The emphasis on short fiction in the Hugo Awards is hopelessly outdated, as it dates from the time when magazines dominated the field; today, most of the action is in novels, particularly novels that are part of a series; (2) the relatively small number of people who hand out awards have little connection to what is actually popular these days in the science fiction field and (3) science fiction has grown so vast that it's inevitable that many really fine writers will be overlooked for awards.

For more on this, I strongly suggest reading the essays posted recently on his website, in chronological order: "Some Comments on Hugos and Other SF Awards," "More on the Hugos from a Dark, Dark Place," "And Again on the Hugo Awards," and "What the Hell, Let's Do it Again — Still More on the Hugo Awards." The essays do become a little less interesting as he goes along — the main points are in the first essay. 

Incidentally, as I'd never read Flint, I asked him what someone who wants to sample his work should start with. He suggested 1632, which is available free as a Kindle ebook. (In fact, it was Flint who originally created the Baen Free Library.) 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 65, Illuminatus online reading group

Publicity photo of Marilyn Monroe. "The only other detail," she went on calmly, "was arranging a convincing suicide." Page 714

(This week: "And later in the Bugatti," page 697, to page 715, "That was when I really lost identity with the Ringmaster.")

"All categories collapsed, including the all-important distinction ... between science fiction and serious literature," page 714.

If there ever were a novel that sought to collapse the categories and erase the "all-important distinction," it would seem to be Illuminatus!

Even now, it's a distinction that is maintained by the gatekeepers. "Literary" writers who appropriate the tropes of science fiction, such as Margaret Atwood, still often feel compelled to explain that they don't write science fiction. The New York Times' book review section regularly reviews mysteries, but even though it can now be read on tiny computers that everyone carries around in their pocket, it still does not regularly review science fiction.

The question of whether Illuminatus! "is" or "is not" a work of science fiction or fantasy still seems difficult to answer. It was published as part of Dell's science fiction line. The only literary award it ever won, the Prometheus Award, is an award for science fiction.  It has clear elements of the fantastic, such as a giant yellow submarine, eldritch creatures out of Lovecraft and a Hollywood actress transformed into a goddess by magic.  Let's face it -- it still gets very little attention from serious literary critics. The people trying to keep the work alive are mostly a bunch of weirdoes.

Yet at the same time, it fits uneasily into the genre category. It incorporates avante-garde literary techniques such as the cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs. It has more debts to the "James Joyce mythos" than any genre novel ought to. Even after being substantially cut, it is longer, weirder and more complex than any science fiction novel ought to be. It is dense with literary allusion, not just to genre writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, but to "serious" writers such as James Joyce and William Faulkner. Even in 2015, as the Hugo Awards controversy shows, many people believe that science fiction is a genre of adventure stories, told in straightforward prose. The authors published their novel without serving the traditional apprenticeship of being repeatedly published in the science fiction magazines.

It "is" a science fiction novel and a literary novel, a large piece of prose that transforms into Stella one moment and Mavis the next.

Some notes:

A rendering of Yog Sototh. 

Yog Sototh, page 699, one of H.P. Lovecraft's creatures, who comes to the festival after being freed by the bombing of the Pentagon.

Pages 707-714, the "reality is what you can get away with" section: There is more about magic in the appendix that probably sheds light on this. I'm hoping Oz weighs in.

"As he fell forward, his hands became hooves, antlers sprouted from his head," the wrath of Artemis, e.g. Diana; "She was rising out of the waves, proud of her nudity," page 713, Aphrodite; "wandering the long Nile, weeping, seeking fragments of his lost body," page 713, Osiris and Isis.

(Next week: "Raise you five," said Waterhouse, throwing down another five-ton note," page 715, to page 729, "Don't you remember any of the last ten minutes?" said Hagbard.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nick Herbert on working for Werner von Braun

Werner von Braun, with models of the Saturn rocket. 

I had summer jobs when I was a college student, too, but it wasn't anything as interesting as working for Werner von Braun. The always-interesting "hippie physicist," Nick Herbert, describes his summer job working for NASA in 1957, in Huntsville, Alabama, where about every week he would visit an office that had a "nuclear warheads" sign on the door. (At the time, Herbert was a physics major at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.)

Herbert discovered that traveling a few hundreds miles for a job in his own country could be a disorienting experience. "I look upon my trip to late '50s Alabama as my first visit to a foreign country," he writes. "Alabama in 1957 was indeed for me a foreign country, with its incomprehensible deep South dialect, its peculiar patterns of racial segregation, its colorful Bible-belt fundamental preachers on the stairs of the Huntsville Court House, born-again Baptist tent revivals in the countryside and the ever-present feeling in the air (and in the public statues of Confederate heroes) that for many residents of Alabama the War Between the States was still current news. I was often referred to as a 'Yankee'."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chad Nelson on Wilson and Shea's article on crime

Chad Nelson

One of the tough perennial questions which anarchists must tackle is how an anarchist or libertarian society would deal with crime. Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea addressed the issue in "Anarchism and Crime," originally published in Green Egg in May 1974, and which I reproduced on this website. The two discuss what they contend are the three kinds of laws: Laws which reinforce the power of the state, laws which enforce morality, and laws which prohibit the kinds of behavior that almost everyone agrees constitute real crime: Murder, rape, theft, etc.

I would be content, at least in the short term, to redeploy the police and the criminal justice system to concentrate on the third type of law; that would be "libertarian" enough for me. But anarchists believe a stateless society would work in dealing with crime.

In his new piece for the Center for a Stateless Society, Chad Nelson argues that Wilson and Shea piece "remains as relevant today as when it was written."  

"As we watch the horrendous injustice perpetuated by the current state-run system unfold before our eyes on the nightly news, we ought to be eager to jump ship and entertain some of Wilson and Shea’s fresh ideas," Nelson concludes.

When I first posted about the Wilson-Shea article, I suggested that it might have been one of the appendices cut from Illuminatus! I certainly think it reads that way. Can anyone weigh in on that theory? 

Scene from a Libertarian Party convention, as depicted in the Onion.