Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
One of the most moving chapters in THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR is the "Why?" chapter, on page 153 of the original Pocket Books paperback.
Benny Benedict, depressed about violence, walks out onto a balcony during the party and encounters Cagliostro the Great (i.e., Hagbard Celine under another name, i.e. a stand-in for Wilson himself). Cagliostro shows him how to perform an exercise in which a "primitive Terran" questions an extraterrestrial from an advanced civilization. The alien explains that violence in endemic to primitive, undeveloped planets, and then Benny, taking the role of the alien after the two exchange roles, suggests that a man's duty is to learn as much as he can about how the world works and how to fight injustice and pain: "The next question is: What do I do about it? How ever many minutes or hours or years or decades I have left, what do I do to make sense out of it all?"
It seems to me that this brief chapter (less than four pages) summarizes much of Wilson's work: Opposition to violence and cruelty, determination to become more enlightened, and how the two concerns relate to each other. The role playing is described twice as a "gimmick," but it seems to me that this is meant to be ironic, that Wilson saw his novels as, however absurd, as a way for the reader "to make sense out of it all." Cagliostro is described as a "magician," a term which in Wilson's work seems interchangeable with "shaman" or "novelist" or "artist."
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Robert Anton Wilson wrote that he and Robert Shea never thought of ILLUMINATUS! as science fiction. Yet, it's interesting to note that every one of his novels were published as part of some publisher or another's science fiction line, and produced by editors in the science fiction world.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
What's interesting to me is that RAW's editors perceived ILLUMINATUS! as a science fiction trilogy, and succeeded in making that perception a reality, despite the intentions of the authors.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I don't follow movies very closely, so I only just discovered a few days ago that there was a 2007 movie starring Jim Carrey called "The Number 23" that had a story influenced by Robert Anton Wilson. The New York Times review said the movie "owes something to David Fincher, a little something else to Robert Anton Wilson ... "
The review also called it "an accidental comedy starring a deadly serious Jim Carrey" and other reviews also do not appear to have been enthusiastic.
IMDB link is here.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Dell editor David M. Harris discusses his experiences in getting Illuminatus! into print
Robert Anton Wilson was not particularly gracious in discussing his experience with Dell Books, which published ILLUMINATUS!, alleging that large sections of the manuscript were cut before the trilogy was published. He also has said that getting the book into print was a struggle that took place over several years.
There is, however, another side of the story which I don't think has been reported. What about the editors at Dell who worked to get the novel into print and help it gain a foothold in the literary world? The unusual book, which made Wilson and Robert Shea into at least minor literary stars, must have been championed by some of its editors. This is a story that has not been reported, and I am researching it. I plan to write an article, but in the meantime, I will share the fruits of my research on this blog.
David M. Harris is a longtime editor and writer. He edits the Rat's Ass Review, an online poetry journal. He was a science fiction editor at Dell Books in the 1970s, when ILLUMINATUS! was pulblished.
When I wrote to Mr. Harris, he explained that he was not the acquiring editor, the editor who bought the book. (I am still chasing that point down.)
"I was, however, the editor who got the book into the schedule and through most of production (I numbered the pages, among other tedious jobs). If it wasn't Jim [Frenkel] who oversaw the end of that process, it would have been Fred Feldman, who was the science fiction editor between us," Harris related.
Mr. Harris kindly agreed to answer my e-mail questions about the publication of ILLUMINATUS!
Q. What had to be done to get the book ready for printing? Do you remember anything about any cuts that were made, or any requests that were made to the authors for revisions?
A. I don't recall any cuts in the manuscript, but we did have to divide it into three volumes. It was originally signed as a single book, I think, and I had to sell the idea of three books to the editorial Powers. I also had to get agreement from the authors. Shea was no problem; I think he was still working for Playboy at the time, in Chicago. Wilson had left, gone to Berkeley, I think, or somewhere near there, without a telephone. In those days, long before email, a lot of business was done on the phone, and it was rather a pain to have to do everything by mail. I was trying to move the book along before the corporate enthusiasm, never very great, disappeared. Wilson was not much interested in cooperating with any of my ideas until I put it to him that I was his only friend in the company, and that if I dumped him his manuscript would be put on a shelf to die. (Actually, I think I said that it would be tossed in the East River.) He finally agreed to the three-volume idea, and I got it into the schedule not long before I left Dell, which would have been October of 1974. I don't believe I was involved in the cover copy or design. If I did ask for revisions, they must have been minor, since I have no recollection of them.
Q. What were Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea like to work with? Has any of the correspondence between them and the editors been preserved?
A. When I left, all my files belonged to the company, so they stayed there. (Again, it was all on paper; making copies would have been prohibitive.) If they still exist, it would be in the archives (if any) of Bantam-Doubleday-Dell.
I do clearly remember Bob Wilson as one of the most difficult authors I ever worked with. He seemed to think of me as his enemy, rather than his ally in getting the book into print. Fortunately for me and the book, Shea was more easygoing -- in those days I would have said rational. We had lunch once when he was in New York, and had a nice time as I recall. Again, no details remain in my memory, just a sense of a pleasant meal.
As it turned out, of course, it was one of the most successful projects I was involved with at Dell (its only serious competition would be Venus on the Half-Shell, by Kilgore Trout). Not many books stay in print for thirty-something years. Of course, I don't know that Illuminatus! is in print, but at least people are still interested in it.
Q. I'm not quite clear on why you decided the book had to be published in three volumes. Can you explain that to me?
A. The book had to go into three volumes because in those days you couldn't publish category fiction longer than about 75,000 words. I published a lot of novels that were only 50K, or even less (unthinkable now). That's why Lord of the Rings is a trilogy, too; no one would buy a fantasy novel that long, or pay the cover price for a single book that big. (Something like Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was notably large, but remember that it was a big best-seller, not genre fiction.)
A. If I hadn't gotten behind the book, it would have been shelved at least until the next editor came along. That turned out to be not so long, and it's possible that Fred or Jim would have plucked it off the shelf and put it into production. I wouldn't say that I was indispensable to its fate, but I happened to be the guy who did it. The book has considerable merits of its own. [Editor's note: Mr. Harris is referring to Dell editors Fred Feldman and Jim Frenkel.]
Q. Wilson has claimed that large sections of the book were cut before it was published. If there had been large cuts, would you have remembered it? Or could the cuts have been made before you came on board?
A. Shea and Wilson had very different attitudes toward the book, as well as toward me. Shea told me that it started as a joke and, as far as he was concerned, stayed that way. Wilson decided it was a statement of faith and philosophy somewhere along the line. So it's possible that I asked for (or made? less likely) cuts and don't remember them, and it's possible that the original editor demanded cuts, and it's even possible that Shea made them. It's also possible that Wilson misremembered or made it up. At this point, I have no way of knowing. Remember, when I was working on the book it was a science fiction trilogy, not the focus of a worldview. I did a bunch of trilogies and series, including stuff by Lin Carter and Jack Vance. This was wild and goofy and a lot of fun, but just another trilogy.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
was a bit confusing. To add to the confusion, let me say that the
links below have not been added to rawilsonfans.com.
> http://www.ep.tc/realist/16/14.html(Ellis interview by Krassner and RAW)
From Paul Krassner’s The Realist
“Man Becomes What He Hates” No 6, February 1959
"The Semantics of God" No. 8, May 1959
letters to the editor regarding "Semantics of God" No. 9, June/July
"negative thinking - Detergent Democracy” No. 10, August 1959
"negative thinking - a column of miscellaneous heresies” No. 11,
"negative thinking - Sex Education for the Modern Liberal Adult" No
12, Oct 1959, reprinted in The Best of The Realist
"negative thinking - The Morality of Head-Hunting" No 14, Dec 1959/
"negative thinking" No 15, Feb 1960
"negative thinking - The Doctor with the Frightened Eyes" No. 16,
March 1960, reprinted in Coincidance
"negative thinking - Letter to a Lady in Iowa" No. 17, May 1960
"negative thinking - Semantics of the Soul" No. 18, June 1960
"negative thinking - Is Capitalism a Revealed Religion?” No. 27,
"negative thinking - What I Didn't Learn at College" No. 29, September
"negative thinking - (Hugh Hefner)" No. 41, July 1963
"Timothy Leary's Psychedelic H-Bomb" No. 52, August 1964
"negative thinking - The Anatomy of Schlock" 1965? reprinted in The
Best of The Realist
“Thirteen Choruses for the Divine Marquis” No. 67, May 1966,
reprinted in Coincidance
"The Cybernetic Revolution" No. 72, December 1966
"The Great Beast – Aleister Crowley" Nos. 91-B, C, 92-A, B; 1971-72
“The Future is Coming!” No. 111, Winter 1990, reprinted in part in
Cosmic Trigger 2
"Out of the Innsmouth Triangle" No. 120, Summer 1992
the realist archive project completes in a few months and we'll have
the full picture.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I have been re-reading the SCHROEDINGER'S CAT trilogy, and when I finished THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR, I realized I had seen a similar structure somewhere else.
During the 1980s, I read a trilogy of novels by California writer Kim Stanley Robinson, all set in a future California, that is referred to as the "Orange County trilogy" or the "California trilogy." THE WILD SHORE (1984) is set in a U.S. which has been largely wiped out by nuclear bombs smuggled into the U.S., so it could be read as a dystopia. THE GOLD COAST is a future California very much like the present. PACIFIC EDGE (1988) is a utopia.
THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR has a very similar structure, published in one volume. The first section could be read as a dystopia (it ends with a terrorist group setting off bombs all over the U.S.) The second section is a kind of funhouse mirror of the present. The third rather short section is a utopia. Wilson's book came out in 1979, so it predates Robinson's works. I know nothing about whether Robinson could have gotten the idea for the structure of his own work from Wilson, whether it is just coincidence or whether both writers got the idea from an earlier work.
Interestingly, both writers lived in California at the same time and both were very familiar with the work of Philip K. Dick (Robinson wrote a book about Dick and has lectured about him). I once saw Robinson on a panel at a science fiction convention with another of my favorite writers, George Alec Effinger, and when they shook hands before the panel I wondered if that was the first time they had met. I don't know if Wilson and Robinson ever met.