Monday, September 28, 2020

Robert Shea presents an early Prometheus Award

As the Libertarian Futurist Society puts more of its old newsletter contents online, more material connected to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea is becoming available. Today, when I read an article from the very first issue of the newsletter, I discovered that Shea had been the presenter when L. Neil Smith received the award for Smith's first novel, The Probability Broach:

“And the winner is …” Opening the proverbial envelope with his Swiss Army knife, author Robert Shea of Illuminatus! fame awarded L. Nell Smith the second Prometheus award for his novel, The Probability Broach. The presentation was made at a special event held by the Libertarian Futurist Society at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, September 9 [in 1982].

The Prometheus award is a half ounce privately minted gold coin bearing the likeness of F.A. Hayek, one of the intellectual giants of libertarianism. The award was created to encourage and reward outstanding tibertarian fiction. The award was revived this year after a two-year hiatus dlue to money and organizational problems. Credit for its phoenix- like rise goes to Michael Grossberg, the Austin, Texas libertarian who put together a new set of backers and made the Prometheus Award part of an ambitious new Libertarian Futurist Society. The purpose of LFS, in Grossberg's words, is “to cross-pollinate the worlds of libertarianism and science fiction.”

What do the two have to do with each other? Robert Shea, in his speech presenting the award, eloquently expressed the connection:

“From the days when Sir Thomas Moore wrote Utopia and Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels science fiction has used imaginary societies both to show how our society could be improved and to lampoon what is wrong with it. Libertarians are often asked how their ideas would work in practice, and one of the best ways to answer that question is to present fictional models of libertarian societies. Libertarians need science fiction because the idea of maximizing freedom is still so new and strange in the world that there are few examptes in the real worlds past and present, of how a totally free society would works So libertarians have to turn to the worlds of the future and the imaginations. Libertarian writers also like to use their imagination to demonstrate what is likely to happen to our world if certaln authoritarian trends, some of which may seem harmless or beneficial today, are allowed to develop unchecked. The results of these uses of the imagination to explore libertarian themes have been some classic science fiction novels, such as Le Guin's The Dispossessed, Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion, C.M. Kornbluth's The Syndic, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Ayn Rand's Anthem and Atlas Shrugged (which in my opinion is borderline science fiction), and Ira Levin's This Perfect Day.

More here. (One of the finalists that year was Samuel R. Delany.) Thanks again to folks such as Chris Hibbert and Anders Monsen who have been making these articles available. You can also browse other articles. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Robert Shea on 'The Dispossessed'

[Ursula K. LeGuin's novel, The Dispossessed, won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1993, but only after a long debate over its merits by members of the Libertarian Futurist Society. Robert Shea was one of the members who argued in favor of giving LeGuin the award. 

Thanks the efforts of LFS members such as Chris Hibbert and Anders Monsen, much material originally published in the LFS newsletter is now available online, including Shea's two letters about The Dispossessed. I have Shea's two letters below, but anyone who wants to follow the discussion also can read letters from Jim Stumm and Samuel E. Konkin III, There is also a letter from Joseph Martino, and also an editorial from Victoria Varga. 

I had an earlier post about this which only had one Shea letter. -- The Management.]

Volume 7, Number 2: Spring 1989

Dear Editor,

Jim Stumm's letter about Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed. In the Winter, 1989, Prometheus newsletter is a typical example of a libertarian going on at great length sermonizing other libertarians on their errors and expounding the One True Path to Freedom.

Jim calls The Dispossessed "socialist propaganda." I insist that the society descried by LeGuin is an anarchist, not a socialist, society. The difference between anarchism and socialism is quite simple. Socialist societies maintain their economic systems through coercion. Anarchist societies, whatever their economic arrangements, arrive at them through voluntary agreement.

I don't want to debate Jim on the role of private property in an anarchist society. I'm even inclined to agree with him that pockets of free market activity would probably appear rather quickly in a non-coercive anarchist society initially organized along purely collectivist lines. Where I do want to take issue with him is on his insistence that all awards given by the Libertarian Futurist Society pass his particular ideological purity test.

Jim writes that if The Dispossessed were to win the Hall of Fame award it would indicate to him that the LFS is dominated by people who are not propertarians. He's gotta be kidding. Look at the list of books that have won the Prometheus Award and the Hall of Fame Award already. Look at the persuasively propertarian defense of The Dispossessed put forward by Sam Konkin in the same issue of Prometheus.

Might not a Hall of Fame award to The Dispossessed indicate that a majority of LFS advisory members, unlike Jim, opts for a broad, rather than a narrow, definition of libertarianism?

I don't believe in concealing differences of opinion for the sake of outreach. My own philosophy is not identical with those of Ayn Rand, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, Cyril Kornbluth. But I respect all the authors who have received awards from the LFS. I've learned much from their works. I don't expect to agree with them point for point. For that matter my views differ in many respects from those of L. Neil Smith, yet I still feel honored lo have made the speech presenting the Prometheus Award to him for The Probability Broach in 1982.

Let the LFS Hall of Fame consist of a variety of novels. Let newcomers see that the freedom movement is large and generous, providing a home to many differing opinions. Surely the recognition and acceptance of variety of points of view must be one of the first principles of a free society.

I pledge that if The Dispossessed is not selected for the Hall of Fame this year I will not pick up my marbles and go home. I will stick with the LFS and continue to try to persuade it to give The Dispossessed the recognition it deserves. Surely an excellent novel describing the workings of an anarchist society deserves to be considered for the Libertarian Futurist Society's Hall of Fame award.

ls the society described in The Dispossessed an anarchist society? Yes.

Is The Dispossessed an excellent novel? Yes.

I rest my case.

—Robert Shea

Volume 5, Number 4, Fall 1987

Again, The Dispossessed

By Robert Shea

After reading the two commentaries on Ursula Le Gui's The Dispossessed in the Summer 1987 Prometheus, I had to offer my opinion. I was happy to vote for The Dispossessed for the Hall of Fame award this year. I think Le Guin does a remarkably good job of portraying a real live anarchist society.

The objections I've seen to this novel as libertarian science fiction seem to come from people I would call right-wing anarchists—I can think of no more efficient way to describe them—who believe that freedom is impossible without private property. If Le Guin had portrayed everything as hunky-dory in her anarcho-collectivist society their criticisms would be easier to understand, although The Dispossessed would in that case be a flat, banal, propagandist book. But Le Guin's novel is primarily about the things that have gone wrong in this society.

The Odonians, banished to a world where everything is scarce, have managed to create a society that is, in many ways, quite attractive. It is non-violent, nonhierarchical, ascetic, sexually free. But in the generations since it was established, it has ossified. Shevek begins a rebellion against this ossification.

Annares has oppressive institutions, but not because Le Guin fails to understand the nature of freedom. She understands freedom quite well. The Annaresti, in their struggle to survive on an inhospitable planet, came up with solutions that later led to more problems. Le Guin knows that the business of any revolution—perhaps especially and anarchist revolution—is never finished.

Other sf novels advocating anarchism often show the society's problems as stemming from internal subversives. Everything would be just peachy were it not for the small grop of evil people who want to bring back the state. Odonian problems stem from their society itself which makes a far more subtle and profound thought-experiment.

Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which deservedly won LFS's Hall of Fame award, describes a anarchist society on the Moon which many libertarians find attractive. But his more recent The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, returns a few generations later to find it, like Le Guin's Odonian society, plagued by creeping archism. This does not mean that Heinlein's view of freedom is flawed. Like Le Guin he knows that freedom is never won once and for all and there is no perfect blueprint for a free society.

George Orwell pointed out in an essay on Gandhi that in an anarcho-pacifist society people would be subjected the the most pervasive tyranny of he unlimited power all, the unlimited power of collective opinion. Orwell, who created the archetype of tyrannies that rule by force and fraud, might have given us a novel about tyranny by guilt and shame had he developed his insight. What Orwell did not do, Le Guin has done.

The Dispossessed is a cautionary tale for anarchists. The people who hate it remind me of those who want Huckleberry Finn taken off bookshelves because they see it as a sympathetic portrait of a slaveholding society. Because Le Guin shows that life on Annares has its positive side, people who want their fiction to have a simple good vs. evil message are offended.

Le Guin is too fine a writer to appeal to people who insist of taking their propaganda straight. But that's why The Dispossessed deserves a place in LFS's Hall of Fame.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

This podcast sounds like it would be interesting

Podcast announcement for the F23 podcast: "Michelle Olley is host of Journey to Nutopia events, a member of the Cosmic Trigger production team, used to work for Skin Magazine and hosted the most famous fetish night of the 90's Rubber Ball. We talk about the first time we met, the works of Robert Anton Wilson, belief systems and much more. I can't recommend enough attending the (sort of) monthly Journey To Nutopia events and I'm sure after you've heard our conversation you'll want to be there.

"Find Michelle on Twitter @journey2_nu 


"Find me @Jimthediamond"

I will listen soon, I have not had a chance yet. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Devil's Masquerade

Back in 2013, I published a blog post which discussed Arthur Hlavaty's speculation that Masks of the Illuminati originally was titled The Devil's Masquerade. 

You can read the whole blog post, but here's a bit of it:

Arthur wrote, "One thing I noticed again is that the original title was probably The Devil's Masquerade, which I like. Presumably changed for commercial reasons." I asked Arthur if he could offer a citation, and he said, "That's a guess. There's the poem where each quatrain ends with the phrase, and it's an obvious theme in the discussion on the train."

I sometimes get interesting comments posted to old blog posts, and the other day, Photovore posted this comment: "Masks was originally titled The Devil’s Masquerade yes. Bob says so in an interview 'the man with the cosmic triggerfinger' (interview can be found at"

Here is the relevant bit from the interview (with Neal Wilgus in "Science Fiction Review," 1980:

SFR: I understand you’ll have a science fiction trilogy coming out soon and are working on an occult novel called THE DEVIL’ S MASQUERADE.

WILSON: The occult thriller will be published first and is now called MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI. It’s set in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1914 and the principle characters are Albert Einstein, James Joyce and Aleister Crowley. It should be in the bookstores early next summer. The sci-fi trilogy is called SCHRODINGER’S CAT and is a kind of quantum comedy, based on the most literal possible reading of the Everett-Wheeler-Graham multi-universe interpretation of the Schrodinger equations. That is, it’s the parallel worlds theme that’s been done and redone and al­most done to death in sci-fi, but I really think I have an unusually com­ical slant on it. That’ll be out in winter’ 79- 80, in some universe or other. The action or actions of SCHRODINGER’S CAT are set in various possible realities that might emerge by 1984 and, if the Eveiett-Wheeler­Graham theory is true, the publica­tion of the trilogy should cause the readers’ subsequent experience of 1984 to be more like my Hedonic pro­jections than like the masochistic projections of the doomsters. That is, the writing and publication of the trilogy is a magical and scien­tific experiment — an attempt to demonstrate the creation of an altern­ative reality. It’s very much like the old Marx Brothers routine: “There’s $1000 in the house next door”. “But there is no house next door”. “Then let’s build one”. I’m going beyond guerilla ontology to guerilla Futurism.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A new zine from Arthur Hlavaty

Lots of nice content can be found in "Nice Distinctions 33," the new zine (after three years) issued by Arthur Hlavaty. I'm on his email list, but you can go grab your own own digital copy easily enough. (If you get hooked, see the Hlavaty zine archive. )

Much of the zine has an kind of amusing grumpiness about it, as when he says "I  never liked golf. It's not a major problem for me, at worst taking up space on the sports page for some reason." Or when he says he stopped listening to new music 45 years ago. (Doing the math suggests he stopped in 1975. Is it too late to turn him on to 1980s Tom Petty and Elvis Costello? I knew a guy in Lawton, Oklahoma, who thought classical music went bad in about 1775.)

But the jokes also merge into thoughtful content, as when he reviews two books about the "golden age" of science fiction, or writes pithy obituaries, here are two I liked but the others are worth reading too:

Justin Raimondo quite seriously described himself as the #1 gay supporter of Pat Buchanan (he admitted there was not a lot of competition), but that was not the whole story. I have abandoned the hope of having a society without a few elements controlled by a legitimized armed gang, but I still have a lot of sympathy for libertarianism, not just sex&weed&dirty books but two other good ideas: 1) distrusting the cops. Radley Balko proudly upholds that one, now more liberals are noticing, and that may be the one element of vestigial libertarianism in Rand Paul's makeup. 2) staying out of Asian wars. Going back to Woodrow Wilson and continuing today there is the allegedly liberal doctrine that democracy is so wonderful that we must impose it everywhere no matter how many people we have to kill. Justin Raimondo and stood up to that idea. 

Paul Krassner was the first great corrupting influence in my life. _The Realist_ introduced me to Robert Anton Wilson and Albert Ellis, among others, and he himself commented incisively on the follies of our times. In the 70s he went through paranoia and came out the other side. I always sent him my zines, and one of the high points of my writing life was being quoted in _The Realist_.

Wednesday links

From @Kaosreigns23 on Twitter: "The Revelation parchment print by Alex Screen. Showing the birth of the Erisian Movement, when a simian herald of Our Lady of Discord appeared to Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley one night in a bowling alley and unveiled the sign of the hodge podge.

Latest John Higgs newsletter. I've covered some of his news but not all of it. 

Review from PQ: "The Interstellar Corridors of Killah Priest's Rocket to Nebula"

"1970 - The FBI opened a file on George Carlin after his first appearance on the Carol Burnett Show."

Interesting profile of Susanna Clarke, who has been ill and housebound for 15 years and finally has a new novel out. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

James Heffernan's new book


[A book announcement from James Heffernan, which he's been posting to the RAW groups on Facebook. I earlier did a posting on Heffernan's book on the Eight Circuits model, Nonlocal Nature: The Eight Circuits of Consciousness. -- The Management.]

I am a longtime follower of and contributor to this group, and so wanted to let you all know that I have just released a book called Unfolding Nature: Being in the Implicate Order, based on the ideas of David Bohm, who of course is featured prominently in many of RAW's books. Take a look if you're interested! Here is a brief excerpt:

I think in time we will find that reductionism doesn't make any sense.  The particles we reduce to are themselves abstracted from the unified  background. To say that these abstracted entities called atoms are  themselves the fundamental causal agents of reality is circular, you  see. And this is precisely the circle we find ourselves in when we try  to say, as almost everyone does, that atoms are the fundamental causal  agents of all of infinity. After thousands of years of scientific  development, and the quantum revolution in the twentieth century, we  have been able to infer, and then much later “photograph,” individual  atoms. 

But then, if atoms are the reason everything happens,  where do the fundamental forces come from? These forces are responsible  for how the atoms behave, but they are not “in” the atoms, are they? And  without these forces, the whole notion of an atom would be entirely  meaningless. So we have these mysterious forces which we just have to  throw up our hands and say are a “given.” We also know that atoms are  constantly shifting from matter to energy and back again. And then there  are nonlocal phenomena, which seem to transcend space and time  completely – the dimension in which our atoms exist. 

So we can  see that to suppose atoms are the whole story rather falls apart when we  consider how complex the situation is. And this is to say nothing of  the fact that it goes much deeper than just the atom. We have subatomic  particles, of which there are several hundred! And of course when we  posit phenomena like the quantum potential and the implicate order,  atoms are rather put in their place. So this ultimate reduction to atoms  seems to have some very serious problems indeed. And of course, it is a  primary theme of this book that there are very good reasons for this.

                                                                      -- James Heffernan on Facebook 

Monday, September 21, 2020

RAW Semantics on metaphor in language

RAW Semantics takes on what Robert Anton Wilson wrote about metaphors, and how metaphors are used in language. Excerpt:

When RAW writes that the principle software of the human brain consists of metaphors and disguised metaphors, he appears to be referring primarily to what linguists mean by conceptual metaphor.

Examples of poetic/’figurative’ metaphor

“Juliet is the sun” (popular metaphor relating to romantic love, from Shakespeare)

“The Scum” (popular metaphorical label for The Sun newspaper, from Liverpool)

Examples of conceptual metaphor

Right where you are sitting now, if you’re concerned that you might be wasting your time, then imagine the reality tunnel of a culture with no notion of time as a commodity that can be wasted or not wasted. (Such cultures have existed. The conceptual metaphor of time as a resource or commodity-like thing that can be squandered, utilized, saved, spent, invested, etc, isn’t universal, but owes a lot to the concept of work as it has developed over the centuries – particularly, but not solely, in modern Western societies.)

More here. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Ad for RAW's newsletter


The clever "why you should subscribe" advertisements used to be one of my favorite parts of the old Boing Boing magazine (which came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before the well-known website). 

It turns out that the ads for Robert Anton Wilson's "Trajectories" newsletter, put out by RAW and D. Scott Apel, were pretty interesting, too. Here is an ad from "Magical Blend," April 1991, posted on Twitter by Michael Clinton.  (Michael and Ken Condon are the folks behind the work featured at the website; if that doesn't ring a bell, go look at it.) And of course, much of the material for Beyond Chaos and Beyond, edited by Apel and published in 2019, as well as RAW's Chaos and Beyond came from RAW's newsletter. 

This would have been about the time I subscribed to Boing Boing, by the way. I never subscribed to "Trajectories" or even heard about it until years later; maybe they should have run an ad in Boing Boing. (Back issues of Boing Boing are available at the Internet Archive.) 

Boing Boing was put out by Mark Frauenfelder and his wife, Carla Sinclair; I currently subscribe to Mark's new newsletter, The Magnet. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Knights Templar church may have had crypts, secret tunnel


Saint Stanislaus chapel in the Polish village of Chwarszczany, built by the Knights Templars. 

Who doesn't enjoy a little bit of Knights Templar gossip? Smithsonian Magazine reports that crypts and a possible "secret tunnel" have been found beneath a Polish church built by the Knights Templars. 

A Knights Templars member is a major character in Robert Shea's novel, All Things Are Lights, they are mentioned in Illuminatus! and as the Smithsonian piece mentions they of course are featured in many other works, including Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. 

Hat tip, Jesse Walker on Twitter. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Brenton Clutterbuck on the Illuminati


Where is all began, or at least some of it. 

A multiple choice question, blog readers! When Brenton Clutterbuck poses for a photo at Theresienstra├če 23 in Ingolstadt, Germany, he is standing:

A. In front of Arthur Hlavaty's house.

B. In front of Angela Merkel's house.

C. In front of Eric Wagner's house.

D. In front of Adam Weishaupt's house.

I'll bet many of you know the correct answer is D (or at least can guess -- it has to be, with that address, right?). And many of you will likely enjoy Brenton's blog post at Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia web site, "The Illuminati Files, Part One: A Conspiracy is Born by Brenton Clutterbuck." (Mr. Hlavaty's current whereabouts probably are far from Ingolstadt, but you do get to see the "Anti-Illuminati Discordian business card" he designed.) 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

British Discordian news roundup


1. While the John Higgs play HG Wells & the Spiders From Mars, a one-man production that would have starred Oliver Senton, was cancelled because of the pandemic, the recent news that Venus may have life has inspired the release of one of the songs from the play, "Life on Venus" from Tim Arnold, and you can listen to the song on Bandcamp and also download it. Details from John Higgs. (The song will be up for 23 days but you can buy a copy.)

2. Daisy Campbell is teaching her online "Get Your Show Written" class for writing plays; if you didn't sign up in time for the sold-out course, you can go on a waiting list for the next class. 

3. "The multi-dimensional Michelle Watson - Cosmic Trigger producer/actor - as well as many other things (artist/poet/singer-songwriter) - has the most wonderful collection of poetry and spoken word out now under her Moksha poet moniker." More here. 

4. "Cosmic Trigger" actress Kate Alderton is pursuing her The Dreamfishing Society project: "I held our first sessions of ‘Dream Crossing’ also hosted by The Cockpit -back in August. It was a deep dive, fusing meditation with social dreaming, working with dreams as a complimentary map to waking reality and exploring how our dreams link and connect to create patterns of meaning."

More on all of this here, and see also Kate's signup page for her Dreamfishing Society newsletter.