Monday, October 12, 2015

[Today's guest post is by Eric Wagner, author of the book AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO ROBERT ANTON WILSON. The Management.]

I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of one of my favorite books, I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor. This memoir tells about how he took care of his dying parents and also about his continuing quest for God, both before and after his parents’ deaths. I began reading Rafi’s writings in Musician magazine in 1979, and I loved his novel The Bear Comes Home (my favorite book about jazz as well as a marvelous spiritual epic), but I, Wabenzi has a special place in my heart. Rafi’s earlier writings had revealed his deep spiritual awareness, but I, Wabenzi tells the fascinating story of his spiritual journey. It makes explicit what his earlier work only hinted at. (After reading I, Wabenzi I reread The Bear Comes Home and saw the spiritual odyssey beneath the music voyage I had concentrated on when I first read it.)
I don’t know how to write about his wonderful book. I’d thought of quoting favorite lines, but I think they need their context. Similarly the wonderful characters (especially Rafi’s family) resist compact summaries. I encourage you to read the book. I don’t think it has found its true audience yet. I think fans of Robert Anton Wilson will particularly enjoy it. I used it along with Bob’s Cosmic Trigger for a class at the Maybe Logic Academy called “Chapel Perilous”, and I thought they worked very well together. They both tell of brilliant young men negotiating the wild world of the 1960’s and 70’s and their adventures in consciousness.

— Eric Wagner

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Details on the new Cosmic Trigger I edition

I'll have an announcement on the Cosmic Trigger reading group pretty soon (working on a few details), but in the meantime, Richard Rasa has details on the new edition of Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati: "Hilaritas Press will publish Cosmic Trigger I first, and then Prometheus Rising, and then Quantum Psychology.

"I can tell you that for Cosmic Trigger there will be a new preface, a new cover, many corrections of typos and, when it was possible, the improvement of interior graphics. All we are waiting on now is the cover. As for when Cosmic Trigger I will come out, I’m hoping for an upcoming 23rd. I was hoping for October, but we are waiting on the cover, so it’s a little bit out of our hands at the moment. But that’s not entirely true. We are being picky about the cover, and I’m sure that’s adding to the time.

"Sometime in the next few days we'll be sending out the Trust's first newsletter."

You can sign up for the Hilartas Press newsletter at the official website.  Or you can just watch this space, as I'll be reporting on any news.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Daily Grail on the Wold Newton Universe

Philip José Farmer

At the Daily Grail, John Rappion has a piece called "The Wold Newton Meteorite: from Outer Space into Fiction," which explains how a large meteorite that fell in 1795 helped inspired an alternative universe of the science fiction writer Philip José Farmer, and also is mentioned in other works of fiction. About Farmer, Rappion explains:

In Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) Philip Jose Farmer presented the life story of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan as if he were a real person. In the book it was revealed that two carriages, travelling along the road at the time, were within 20 feet (6 metres) of the Wold Newton Meteorite when it landed. The people travelling within were exposed to a burst of ionizing radiation from the stone which caused mutations within themselves and consequentially their future offspring. Ancestors of Lord Greystoke (Tarzan), Solomon Kane, Captain Blood, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Harry Flashman, Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty (AKA Captain Nemo), Phileas Fogg, The Time Traveler from The Time Machine; Allan Quatermain, A.J. Raffles, Professor Challenger, Richard Hannay, Bulldog Drummond Fu Manchu, Sir Denis Nayland Smith, The Shadow, Sam Spade, Doc Savage, his cousin Pat Savage, Monk Mayfair, The Spider, Nero Wolfe, Mr. Moto, The Avenger, Philip Marlowe, James Bond, Lew Archer, and Travis McGee, were among those present. According to Farmer then, the strength, intelligence, and general superhuman qualities of all these pulp heroes and villains are the result of the impact in that muddy Yorkshire field in 1797. The connected roster of characters has become known as The Wold Newton Family.

Robert Anton Wilson may have alluded to Farmer's Wold Newton universe in Masks of the Illuminati, as I mentioned in a previous blog post:

"The boy's mother was Lady Catherine (Greystoke) Babcock" and subsequent sentences, Page 27. This sounds like a nod to Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton family, which ties various characters in fiction (such as the Greystokes, e.g. Tarzan's family) into one family. Farmer and Wilson were fans of each other's work.

Wilson was certainly familiar with Farmer's work. For Wilson on Farmer, and Farmer on Wilson, go  here. 

I used to read a lot of Philip Jose Farmer, and I re-read the World of Tiers series a few years ago. The Riverworld books that Wilson writes about are good, the World of Tiers books are good and "Riders of the Purple Sage"Wage" is maybe my all-time favorite science fiction novella.

Addendum: As John Merritt points out in the comments, I had a typo and meant "Riders of the Purple Wage." It  explicitly refers to Finnegans Wake and is reprinted in Farmer's The Purple Book and the Riders of the Purple Wage collections.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Jerry Brown's veto message

Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., aka "Jerry Brown"

In Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminati Papers, the essay "Celine's Laws" includes Hagbard Celine's third law: An honest politician is a national calamity.

The essay explains that an honest politician is sincerely committed to bettering the nation, but that in practice this means passing lots of laws, which have the effect of creating more and more criminals. "An honest politician, who keeps his nose to the grindstone and enacts several hundred laws in the course of his career, thereby produces as many as several million new criminals."

The book was published in 1980, 35 years ago, so let's fast forward to 2015 and a recent veto message by Gov. Jerry Brown of California.

I was a fan of Gov. Brown in his original incarnation as "Governor Moonbeam" (1975 to 1983) and supported him as a volunteer in his 1992 campaign for president (his platform included getting rid of the distortions and corruption in the federal income tax and replacing it with a flat tax.)

I haven't followed his current career very much, but via Twitter read about his Oct. 3 veto message, vetoing nine bills.

After listing the bills Brown wrote,

"Each of these bills creates a new crime -- usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed. This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.

"Over the last several decades, California's criminal code has grown to more than 5,000 separate provisions, covering every conceivable form of human misbehavior. During the same period, our jail and prison populations have exploded.

"Before we keep going down this road, I think we should pause and reflect how our system of criminal justice could be made more human, more just and more cost-effective."

Link to PDF of entire document.

He would have made an interesting president.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Robert Shea (and Chad Nelson) on 'Doing Anarchism Yourself'

Robert Shea 

While I  have obviously focused on one half of the Illumnatus! team,  I am also very interested in Robert Shea and have tried to bring attention to him, too. For example, I obtained PDFs of all of the issues of his anarchist fanzine, No Governor. You can access them from this site, and also from the official Robert Shea site maintained by his son, Mike Shea. 

There's quite a bit of material to mine in these zines, including pieces written by Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. I've quoted some of it, and now Chad Nelson has reprinted Shea's essay, "Doing Anarchism Yourself," for the Center for a Stateless Society.

Nelson also wrote an intro for the piece. "Waiting for leadership or group approval of one’s ideas is entirely antithetical to anarchism," Nelson writes. "Shea calls this follower’s mentality a 'hangover from authoritarian thinking' which has been deeply ingrained in human beings from time immemorial."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Michael Dirda on RAW

Michael Dirda 

I have been reading Browsings, the new book by Michael Dirda, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic for the Washington Post. Dirda likes all kinds of books and is a big science fiction fan (apparently he goes to 2-3 SF conventions a year, including Readercon.)

I mailed a copy of Illuminatus! to Ted Gioia a couple of years ago, and Gioia eventually actually read it and posted a review. 

I'd been thinking of sending another copy to Dirda, but it looks like I needn't bother; he's familiar with it. Here an excerpt from an online chat:

Lesser Perplexia: Goodbye August, hello September and Mr. Dirda: Can't stand the wretched summers here. Is "Housekeeping" (now) a stealth classic? I don't recall much patter previously, but if her new book strikes fancy she'll be a re-heated topic. Anyway, great is the number of finds from this exchange (thanks, all!) and after last week I raced out and read it. [Sublime] distillation of words said one critic... indeed. I think what she wanted to talk about outweighed the book's structure but, strange, was hopping the rails in fashion for women? And how would you describe transcendence?

Somehow while scramming about Robinson, I fell in a hole about Robert Anton Wilson. Probably not your spot of tea but how could I never have heard of him? Thanks.

Michael Dirda: Nice riff on Robinson. I'll be writing about her new book Gilead later this fall. [They are talking about the acclaimed novelist Marilynne Robinson -- The Management].
Robert Anton Wilson--so you're into the Illuminati, are you? Conspiracy theory, kinky sex and all that? His books are fun to read, but I've never felt that they were worth returning to. I could be wrong.

Well, maybe, Mr. Dirda!

More by me about the new Dirda book and being a book nerd. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Internet brings many of us together

Jonathen Franzen. (Photo credit, David Shankbone). 

The New York Times Book Review Sunday had two lead reviews criticizing digital culture, as Arthur Hlavaty notes. (A review of "Reclaiming Culture" by Sherry Turkle — the review is by novelist  Jonathan Franzen — and Tim Parks' review of "Changing the Subject" by Sven Birkerts. Arthur writes:

The Times Book Review leads off with two books about the evil of on-screen communication, as if people could not dehumanize and bully one another face-to-face. Since I may have saved my life many years ago by discovering a communications medium (fanzines) that enabled me to get to know people without having social skills, I have my doubts. It's a disability issue.

I think it's probably a good idea to turn off the smart phones during meals and engage with the person sitting across from you, and I see nothing wrong with discussing some of the downsides of digital culture. I don't like seeing a car barrel down the road, its driver peering at a phone rather than looking at where he or she is going. Douglas Rushkoff's Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age seems essential to me; one of his commandments is to sometimes disconnect from the Internet.

But I also share Arthur's doubts. It seems to be that the Internet is very valuable in letting marginalized people connect. I don't just mean marginalized people in the Left since (although that's part of it) but simply people who have interests that aren't share by large numbers of people they encounter in "real life." How am I doing to talk about Robert Anton Wilson or avant-garde Russian composers or any of my other interests if I don't take to the Internet?

It's easy for Jonathan Franzen to say that he doesn't need Twitter.  Of course he doesn't need Twitter. He is arguably America's most prominent literary novelist. He sells lots of books, so he makes lots of money. He doesn't need to promote himself on social media because his books get lots of attention from The New York Times, National Public Radio, the Guardian, and on and on and on. And he, personally, probably gets lots of attention when he chooses to leave his homes, one in New York City and one in California. The old model for communications works well for him, and I don't begrudge him that, but it may not work well for everyone.

Arthur mentions social skills. You probably don't need the Internet for dating if you are good looking, rich or famous. That leaves out a considerable portion of the population.  For them, Internet dating is a godsend. And it's a godsend for many other people, who suddenly have a voice and don't have to be content with getting occasional letters to the editor published.

By the way Arthur, happy birthday.