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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 6

(Latest in a series of blog postings reprinting letters Wilson wrote to a fanzine, the Diagonal Relationship, about 30 years ago).

The Diagonal Relationship 7, 1979

The Diagonal Relationship 16, 1980

Seeing myself as part of nature, rather than as an alien who landed here by mistake, does not incline me to determinism. In fact, it inclines me to the opposite...if not to free will in the classical theological sense, at least to a notion of give-and-take or feedback or flexibility in the system.

"In nature there is immediate adjustment but no Compulsion," said Chuang Chou, who also considered himself part of nature.

l am part of nature in that my mother and father produced me by purely natural processes, with no supernatural aid. r.\y DNA comes half from her, half from him, and is one node in a molecular message going back, via him, to Irish and Norwegian strains, and via her, to Hungarian, Austrian, and Polish-Jewish strands, and, further back, to various primates, other mammals, reptiles, fish etc.

Natural selection played a role every step of the way in this process. Which male mated with which, female involved some kind of stochastic process of "choice"--see Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature.

Since I am whimsical, playful, imaginative etc., I assume that these traits can be traced back pretty far in this genetic roulette.

All of which is to reject traditional or constipated determinism. I also reject classical notions of free Will, of course, since there are some elements of determination in the process.

"In addition to a yes and a no, the universe contains a maybe," as David Finkelstein says. That's my view.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 5

(Fifth in a series of letters from Robert Anton Wilson, reprinted on the Internet for the first time since their original appearance more than 30 years ago.)

The Diagonal Relationship 14, 1980

On the "nature" problem: Bucky Fuller suggests that "Universe" should mean everything that exists including me and "environment" should mean everything that exists excluding me. This is totally arbitrary, like all definitions, but at least is (or seems to me) clear and bereft of muddy metaphysics.

Of course, this distinction is only useful in some areas of discourse. In other areas, it becomes necessary to note that environment and me are constantly interacting, exchanging energy, etc., and that we cannot, ultimately, be disentangled. (That is, we can only be relatively disentangled for special purposes in special areas of discourse.)

This does not clarify the "nature" problem but possibly confuses it further. I'm sorry. I'm doing the best I can. Give me a few more years and maybe I'll figure it all out.

In any case, I cannot feel, imagine or conceive myself as outside of "nature." I seem, to myself, as natural as any hamster, rosebush, cockroach, bear, rock, pelican, or star anywhere. I may be peculiar, but that does not make me unnatural. Pelicans are peculiar, too. Lobsters are very peculiar.

I think my blasphemous inability to develop a sense of guilt has to do with this inability to develop a feeling of being outside nature. When a moralist (Christian, Marxist, Libertarian or whoever) tells me I should not be what I am, I am not offended; I just think they are silly-as if they were telling a lobster not to be a lobster.

Einstein got into relativity by imagining vividly what it would feel like to be a photon. I got into whatever is wrong with me by imagining vividly what it is like to be a cow. I was living on a farm and doing acid at the time and maybe the six-legged majority on this planet somehow got more real (or as the mystics say, more Real) than the domesticated primates with whom I am supposed to identify. I don't know if I'm a star imagining progressive games in which I pretend to be a cow, a lobster, domesticated primate, etc. or if I'm a domesticated primate imagining I have been a star, a lobster, a dinosaur, etc.

Ecology and ethology make perfect sense to me. So does sociobiology, that bane of the Left. But nobody makes any sense when they start telling me that I'm unnatural or that any part of domesticated primate life is unnatural. I don't know why birds sing or why Beethoven wrote Sonata 23, but, while both astonish me, neither seems un-, anti-, super- or infra-natural to me.

I have read Theodore Roszak, who argues at length that everything or most things that I like are unnatural. I concluded that Roszak does not like the same things as me, but I could find no merit in his claim that what he likes is natural and what I like is unnatural. I think that he and I are equally natural, but different, as the purple-assed baboon and the preying mantis are equally natural, but different.

And I have read you, Arthur, arguing that nature is "mundane shit" but that did not change my perceptions. I merely registered that Arthur Hlavaty has different perceptions than me--which is not astonishing to me, since it is an axiom of my neurology that everybody has different perceptions. I continue to perceive all of nature, including myself, as beautiful, mysterious, grand, and radiant with intricate intelligence.

James Joyce said he had never met a boring person; he was a Humanist. I have never had a boring perception, because I am a Universalist.

In answer to Sam Konkin, I am an agnostic about every thing, not just about "God," and for totally pragmatic and selfish reasons. I have observed that when certitude enters a human mind, mental activity then quickly ceases. Wishing to continue mental activity, I therefore avoid certitude. This is not a philosophical position (I am not a philosopher) but an empirical rule for growth, change, and mental alertness.

I'm as agnostic about Sam Konkin as I am about "God," or more so, since I have had a great many experiences with "God," or with what is alleged to be "God," and only a few experiences with Sam Konkin or what is alleged to be Sam Konkin.

I am also dubious about Sam's proposition that if you can't prove something, you should assume it has been disproven, or pretend that it has been disproven, or label yourself as one who has disproven it. (This may not be exactly what Sam meant but it is as much as I can understand of his argument against agnosticism. I am sometimes slow.) I think at once of the alleged 10th planet beyond Pluto. Nobody has found it yet, but astronomers do not for that reason assume it is not there; they go on looking. Similarly, the proposed quarks in quantum theory have not been found yet, but physicists do not assume quarks are not there; they go on looking.

To "go on looking" seems worthwhile to me, because It is good exercize for the intelligence, and also because if one goes on looking, one generally finds something, although not always exactly what one was looking for.

I suspect that "God" is a term invented by humans in certain cultures to describe experiences of contact, or seeming contact, or mind-fusion, or seeming mind fusion, with an intelligence or intelligences that are, or seem to be, inhuman or trans-human or super-human. I suspect that similar experiences in other cultures led to the invention of terms like "the Buddha-nature," "the True Self," "the World Soul," "the Atman," "the Tao," and once, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, "the Force." I also suspect that Alan Watts was a very smart man in simply calling it It. And I suspect that contact, or seeming contact, with It provoked philosophers and scientists to such terms as "Mind" (as distinct from individual mind (Plato), "orgone" (Reich), "implicate order" (Bohr), "the psychoic Level" and "synchronicity" (Jung), the "neurogenetic" and "neuro-atomic" circuits (Leary), "Life Force" (Bergson, Shaw) "synergy" (Fuller). These are suspicions, not certitudes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 4

(Fourth in a series of Robert Anton Wilson letters reprinted from the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 14, 1980

Adrienne Fein is quite right about the term "temple prostitute": It is a projection of Christian prejudice backward on pre-Christian theology.

Certainly, sexual yoga or sex magick or hierogamy is powerful magick, and that is what the so-called temple "prostitutes" were doing. It takes a considerable amount of shamanic training to work up an equally passionate and devout religious mood by any other method.

The trouble with Christians is that they are constitutionally incapable of understanding anybody else's point of view. I mean literally I have never heard or read a Christian describe a non-Christian belief system accurately. (The one exception to this rule is the Jesuits, but there is some doubt--shared by the Pope lately--that they are really Christians.)

I was amused by your account of the parapsychology class where everybody thought skepticism meant a dogmatic refusal to believe. This confusion has been created by a band of vehement and intolerant fanatics (the Fundamentalist wing of the Materialist Church) who have coopted the word "skepticism" to describe their own bigotry.

I haven't been able to take the so-called "skeptics" seriously since the burning of Wilhelm Reich's books in 1956. The ringleader of the "skeptics," Martin Gardner, was one of the instigators of the persecution of Dr. Reich, and I was young and naive in those days. I kept expecting Gardner to say, when it became obvious that the government was going to throw Reich in jail and burn his books too, "Hey that isn't what I meant. I meant Reich's theories should be criticized, not obliterated." But Gardner never objected to the mutilations of the Constitution in the Reich case, and I finally decided that having Reich in jail and his books in a bonfire was exactly what Gardner wanted. I strongly suspect that what he wants today is all the parapsychologists in jail and their books burned, too.

If you will pardon me, I think you misuse the word "nature" just as badly as the pop ecologists or ecologoids do. That is, both you and they seem to mean by "nature" something which does not include humanity. I think it is semantically and scientifically more accurate to use the word for something that does include humanity, as a domesticated primate species as much a part of the biosphere as the wild primates.

In the latter usage, not only are our bodies part of nature in general, but so are our brains, as tools or adaptation for our bodies. The purpose of the dog brain is to make survival of doggihood possible; the purpose of the human brain is to make survival of Homo Sap possible. I believe Freud pointed this out before me.

The idiocy of the ecologoids is that they believe, or talk as if they believe, that nature stops at around the human neck, everything above there being "unnatural." On the contrary, I cannot conceive of my thoughts being any less natural than my bowel movements, my endocrine system, or my blood circulation.

In this connection, it is obvious that the dog brain does not abstract enough information to create a perfect model of the total universe; it abstracts enough for the dog's survival, pack-status, and reproduction scripts. I assume the same is true of the human brain. Those who are looking for the Total Truth are probably looking for more than a domesticated primate brain can achieve. I do, however, think it is amusing, entertaining, and survivally useful to look for more of the truth than we currently own.

No, the Craft is not a front for Discordianism. But, since more and more witches are Discordians, and more and more Discordians are getting initiated into Wicca, the two are increasingly hard to disentangle. Which is just the way I want it....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Diagonal Relationship letters of comment, No. 3

(Third in a series of letters reprinted from the pages of the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 13, 1980

Permit me to horn in on the inside/outside debate between Ron Lambert and Adam Weishaupt.

I. An atheist is one who is quite sure there is no Higher Intelligence; if there is any doubt on the matter, you are not an atheist but an agnostic. God, by definition, is the only being who can be quite sure there is no higher intelligence than Hirself. Therefore, God is the only real atheist.

Others must be theists or agnostics.

II. Berkeley says the universe is inside the mind of God. Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. If and only if both Berkeley and Jesus are right, I am inside God and God is inside me.

Berkeley and Jesus must both be right since:

III. In the highest mystical states, in all religions, the mystic experiences oneness with God. But we have already seen that God is an atheist. Therefore, the mystic alone can escape theism and agnosticism and become, like God, an atheist. This is possible by turning inside out.

IV. In a Möbius strip or Klein bottle, inside is outside and outside is inside. The same flip-flop occurs in music, art, and mathematics, as demonstrated by Hofstadter in the greatest book of our decade, Gödel, Escher, Bach. Therefore, if and only if God is like unto a Möbius strip, a Klein bottle, Gödel's proof, Escher's paintings, and Bach's fugues, Berkeley and Jesus can both be right, and God is inside and outside simultaneously

V. In Euclidean geometry, inside and outside do not flip-flop. Therefore, God is either inside or outside--and the Lambert-Weishaupt debate can be decided on one side or the other--if and only if God is limited by Euclidean geometry. But a limited God is not God. Therefore…

VI. Pantheism is really atheism under a fancier name, as all critics of pantheism agree. But the highest forms of theism, such as Vedanta, are all pantheistic on the very logical grounds that God must include everything, or else God is limited, and a limited God is no God at all. Since the highest form of theism is pantheism, and pantheism is indistinguishable from atheism, the highest form of theism is atheism.

VII. I can know the mind of only one Creator really well: myself. In Schrödinger's Cat, I put myself in the book as a character, but I also remain outside the book as its Creator. Therefore, the only Creator I know well is inside and outside his work at the same time.

VI I I. When God actually, or allegedly, wrote a book, He put Himself inside it as a character. If one Creator is like unto another Creator, God evidently wanted us to understand that He is inside and outside at once.

IX. When God actually or allegedly wrote a book He made Himself the villain in it, as all intelligent readers have noted. (This is why the Gnostics and William Blake, among others, have denied that God wrote the book and claimed Satan wrote it to discredit God.) But if God did write it, the portrait of Himself as a sadistic monster must be either an attempt to frighten us or a very subtle joke. Since God would not want to frighten us, it must be a joke. Since God is both an atheist (knows no Higher Intelligence) and a mystic (is at one with Hirself), the joke must be such that only those who are both atheists and mystics can understand it.

X. Since only the mystic is one with God--an atheist--all others, as demonstrated above, must be agnostics or theists. But the theist claims to know what he has not experienced; if he had experienced it, he would be, like God, an atheist. Therefore, for those who are not mystics, the only honest, modest, and logical alternative is to be agnostics.

XI. According to literal Christianity, Jesus was God and the son of Mary; the Holy Ghost was God and the husband or at least the impregnator of Mary. Therefore, God is His own father. But God is also the father of all humanity, including Mary, so God is the father of His mother, and thus His own grandfather. If God is both inside and outside, and an atheist, and His own father and grandfather, any attempt to reason about God must lead to paradoxes and contradictions.

It will be observed by the thoughtful that these arguments are quite logical, and totally mad. I do not claim that they are true, but merely that they are at least as lucid as the other writings about God produced by the human mind to date.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 2

(Second in a series of letters of comment by RAW reprinted from the pages of the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 10, 1979

Alas, I have noted that in my letter in DR 9 I use the word "numismatic" where I meant "numinous." I guess all that fucking dope has finally fucked up my head.

Oh, well, even Homer nodded; jeder macht ein kleine dummheit; and the function of our mistakes is to remind us that humility is endless.

Do you realize that almost everybody is a member of a minority now? The Civil Rights Commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination, said in a recent news story that 86% of the population can have their complaints investigated since they belong to one minority or another.

Actually, since women are 51% of the population, and Gays are estimated between 12% and 37% (depending on whose figures you believe), and Blacks are around 11%, I'm surprised that only 86% of the population qualify as minorities. There are also Jews, Chicanos, Buddhists, atheists, Orientals, eighty dozen unpopular religious sects, Arabs, etc., etc. On second thought, I'm sure the 14% who don't presently qualify as minorities would qualify if the bureaucrats looked into the matter more closely.

Concerning your debate with Tony Parker about robots: I suggest that it is amusing and profitable to regard all of us as robots. Some of our programs are hard-wired via genetics. Others are softer and more flexible, since they are due to imprinting or conditioning. Conditioning, of course, is softer than imprinting.

Obviously, if this metaphor is accepted, we are presently in the process of derobotizing ourselves, becoming self-programmers or even metaprogrammers in Lilly's sense. We began to learn deconditioning with Pavlov and have learned more from Skinner, Wolpe, and Co. We learned, or some of us learned, reimprinting from the psychedelic revolution. Current work on genetics opens the possibility of rewriting the genetic Code and really becoming free masons, cocreators of our destiny.

If this is plausible, then any use of such sciences for other purposes, i.e., for more efficient conditioning, for more rigid imprinting, for the production of genetic drones, etc., is part of the general trend to increase our robothood.

Moral: Today is the first day of the rest of history. Are we becoming more efficient self-programmers or are we drifting along in our old programs or passively allowing the many skilled Head Mechanics around to program us into their trips?

Which brings me to Buck Coulson's question in DR 9: What do we do with all the dumb people? As a libertarian, I find the only acceptable answer is: give them a chance to get smart. Fortunately, the chance to get smart is becoming more pragmatic and operational. The current OMNI has an article about intelligence-raising drugs already known; the majority of psychopharmacological researchers, in the latest McGraw-Hill poll of expected breakthroughs, believe the intelligence-raising drug industry will be in full flower by the 1990s.

In passing, quietly as it were, I might mention that this subject, and my previous remarks on self-programming, and the general H.E.A.D. Revolution (Hedonic Engineering And Development--using the brain for fun and profit) are the main themes of my next book, The Illuminati Papers, to be published by And/Or Press in December. End of advertisement

What about those who won't nohow noway never do nothing to increase their intelligence?

Perhaps they will be seduced by the general trend toward brightness that I foresee in the next two decades. After all, intelligence is the most powerful of all known aphrodisiacs...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wilson: the Diagonal Relationship letters

In the late 1970s, science fiction fan Arthur Hlavaty began to publish a series of fanzines called Diagonal Relationship. The custom for science fiction fanzines was to send a copy to anyone who was willing to write a letter of comment.

Robert Anton Wilson wrote a series of letters of comment to Diagonal Relationship. Beginning today, I will serialize them, with one letter for each blog entry. When I have finished running them, I will then publish the letters as one block of copy and link to it in the Feature Articles and Interviews section.

Here is the first letter:

The Diagonal Relationship 9, 1979

Concerning "Again, Dangerous Fuck": Words have both denotations, which can be found in the dictionary, and connotations, which vary from one nervous system to the next.

Words like fuck, cunt, etc. became "obscene" when Puritanism took over the English-speaking world. They are gradually becoming de-obscenified in various segments of the population, but are still charged with heavily obscene connotations for other large segments. Thus, their use is fraught with psychological ambiguity--which makes them fascinating for writers of a certain cast of mind; namely, those who are convinced that ambiguity is the essence of the human situation.

Joyce broke through two centuries of Taboo to bring these words back into literature. in Ulysses, because they are present in the human psyche (even in Puritanical Ireland in 1904), and the psychological truth he was seeking could not be attained while tacitly submitting to the then-prevalent hypocrisy by pretending the words were not there. As used by Joyce, none of these words are obscene, anymore than a laboratory report is obscene. Joyce eliminated obscenity from his world view, as he eliminated anger, pity, sentimentality, and all other subjectivities; he simply observes, with Zenlike detachment, and reports what he sees.

D. H. Lawrence, on the other hand, attempted by brute force, or the poetic equivalent of brute force, to transform obscenity into tenderness and beauty; to cure Puritanism by artistic "persuasion." He invented a whole new way of writing about sex, which has been so universally imitated that we now assume it is the only way to write about it. In the course of the alchemical transformation of obscenity into loveliness, Lawrence rediscovered a childish innocence in so-called "dirty" words. Just as Mellors lapses into his lower-class dialect as his intimacy with Connie increases, so both lovers lapse into "obscene" language as their passions mount;

Lawrence obviously realized that the semantics of love is a reinfantilization in some ways.

When Mellors rhapsodizes about Connie's cunt in working-class argot, he is deliberately rejecting his educated self and returning to the first language he imprinted as a child, with all its sensory, numismatic, emotive connotations. In short, as Kenneth Burke noted in A Rhetoric of Motives, Lawrence's use of these words is a species of baby talk, which was necessary to get down to the primordial level below and before the point where obscenity and shame are learned.

William S. Burroughs, on the third hand, uses obscenity with full obscene connotations intended. He is exploring those areas of the psyche where obscenity (sex hatred) and murder (life hatred) are bred. When he gives the formula for Nova as "Before I give an inch, the whole fucking shit-house goes up in chunks." he is clinically precise. The place from which nuclear holocaust comes is the place where every bodily function is charged with rage and fear.

Thus, fuck has three markedly different connotations in three of the major stylists of our century--and as many other connotations as there are writers and readers.

Test question: How is Ezra Pound using fuck in the following lines from Canto 39, describing Circe's enchanted island?

Girls talked there of fucking,

beasts talked there of eating,

All heavy with sleep,

fucked girls and fat leopards.

Second test question: In Canto 46, Pound asks, "Hast 'ou found a nest softer than cunnus?" What happens if we replace the Elizabethan and Latin and modernize the line to "Have you found a nest softer than cunt?"

If we ever have a totally post-Puritanical and post-obscene society, calling a man "you prick" or a woman "you cunt" will be the highest form of praise, since it will imply that they are delightful, lovely, exciting, creative, and cute.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An anthology for peace

When the Music's Over, a story anthology edited by Lewis Shiner, has a good short story by Robert Anton Wilson, "Von Neumann's Second Catastrophe," which has never been reprinted anywhere else. But that's not the only reason for a RAW fan to hunt up a copy.

The May 1991 Bantam Spectra science fiction anthology, dedicated to presenting alternatives to war, goes against the usual SF convention of marketing war fiction. Shiner donated all of his proceeds from the book to Greenpeace.

It's a natural anthology for Wilson to appear in, because RAW often wrote against violence. For example, in the essay "Left and Right: A Non-Euclidean Perspective," reprinted in Email to the Universe, Wilson writes, "I would never kill a person or employ even minor violence, or physical coercion, on behalf of capitalized Abstractions or Governments (who are all damned liars.)" The dedication to Cosmic Trigger II, in part, says the book is "AGAINST the makers of war, in anathema."

Still, I sensed that because Wilson was not normally part of the SF scene, he might have been recruited to the project, so I wrote to Mr. Shiner to ask about that.

Shiner explained that he met Wilson at a dinner set up by his friend, Rick Shannon, publisher of a magazine named "Trajectories" (not the Wilson zine of the same name).

"I talked to him about the anthology that night and he expressed interest--we corresponded a bit, and he sent me the story. I had specifically said that I didn't want any negative example stories, and his crossed the line a bit. But I really liked it and made an exception for him. As I remember I had a few minor edits, which he was very cool about."

Unusually, for an American SF anthology, the book has an international flavor. It includes stories by a Russian and a Japanese writer.

Shiner had meant an even more diverse book.

My goal when I started the book was to get stories from all over the world, with a complete balance of gender, nationality, religion, etc. Ha. It was impossible. I spent almost as much time trying to find a single Russian story that I could use as I did on the rest of the book, and even then I had to take something that had already been published. As for gender balance, I begged and pleaded with female writer friends like Karen Joy Fowler, Lisa Tuttle, Pat Murphy, on and on, and they all let me down. While white male US writers kept sending me one great story after another.

The title, by the way, is WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER, after the Doors song. I can't explain why that title worked for me (more than a few people were puzzled by it), I just know that it seemed right.

When the book finally came out, it was right in the midst of the first Gulf War--probably the worst time for a peace anthology since World War II. It was a minor hit in San Francisco, and was completely ignored everywhere else.

Perhaps now, with the U.S. embroiled in seemingly endless wars in Asia, it might be time to give the book a second look.

In not unrelated news, I've decided to include a link to in the collection of site links. I hope Mr. Wilson would have approved.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

RAW video from Ill Propaganda

The guy who does the Ill Propaganda channel at You Tube, a mashups specialist, did a short video which marries comments by Robert Anton Wilson to footage of high school girls in California playing volleyball. If you search his channel, there are a couple of other RAW videos. I found the video via a recent posting at That Doesn't Even Make Any Sense. There's a couple of other Robert Anton Wilson videos if you search the Ill Propaganda area.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A few RAW mysteries

I've been sharing what I've learned so far about Robert Anton Wilson with readers of this blog. I thought I would take a moment to share what I don't know yet, and see if anyone can help.

1. Who bought ILLUMINATUS! ?
While I have certainly tried to give props to editors such as Jim Frenkel and David Hartwell who published Robert Anton Wilson's later novels, all of those decisions follow on the biggest one of all: The decision to purchase a very large, very unusual novel (split into three parts for initial paperback publication) by two then-unknown writers, Wilson and Robert Shea. I've talked to three Dell editors so far — David Harris, Frenkel and Fred Feldman — but I haven't learned yet who acquired the book. (Feldman, my most recent prime suspect, says the book had been been acquired by the time he came aboard to work on the editing of the work. My article based on my interview with Mr. Feldman will come out soon.)

2. Who did the cover for The Trick Top Hat?

The cover of the original Pocket Books paperback of the second Schroedinger's Cat book shows an attractive woman with red hair, dressed in a sexy costume, sitting on a lion. The book does not provide a credit for the cover artist. Editor David Hartwell believes the artist may have been Bob Pepper, although to my eye, the cover does not look like Pepper's other work.

3. Where is the Wilson-Shea correspondence?

Robert Anton Wilson and his ILLUMINATUS! co-author, Robert Shea, corresponded for many years; Shea continued to live in the Chicago area, but Wilson left to live in places such as California and Ireland. Wilson expressed the wish that this correspondence would be published as a book someday. In Chapter 4 of Cosmic Trigger 3, Wilson wrote that "for 23 years we wrote about every important idea in the world and filled enough paper for several volumes. I hope some of that will get published some day."

An obvious title would be The Illuminatus! Letters, or something of the sort. I would like to see such a book, but I have not been able to locate the correspondence yet.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some Nietzsche pointers

My recent immersion into Robert Anton Wilson's writings have helped make me realize how important the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was to Wilson's own writings.

For anyone who is curious, Michael Johnson over at is offering a couple of pointers: A new article by Jonathan Ree at,uk and a piece by Wilson himself.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A look back at the Golden APA

Before Maybe Logic Academy, before Right Where You Are Sitting Now, and before many other attempts to carry Robert Anton Wilson's work forward, there was the Golden APA, an amateur press association founded by Arthur Hlavaty back in 1979.

An amateur press association is a group of zine writers who agree to put their zines together in a common mailing; the zines are sent to a person who assembles them all into one bundle and mails them back to the apa members. This might occur every other month. Members typically have "minac" requirements -- they have to provide a "minimum activity," perhaps at least one zine every other mailing. Although there is usually no formal obligation, members generally are encouraged to do "mailing comments," about zines in a previous mailing.

Discussions on apazines are often quite personal in nature, with the understanding that the comments will not be circulated to the world at large. That was certainly true of APA-50, the apazine I belonged to for many years, and Mr. Hlavaty is still quite protective of the privacy of his apa's former members.

Apas in some cases can last for decades, although that is uncommon. (One particularly famous apa, FAPA, the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, was founded in 1937 and is still going.) Like other forms of fanzine fandom, however, apas have taken a hit in the age of the Internet, because it is easier to write for a blog or a Web site than to produce a zine.

I asked Hlavaty a few questions about the apa he founded:

Q. When did you found the Golden APA? Is it still with us, or has it ceased publication?
A. I started Golden APA in1979. I put out 100 issues, then (mid-90s) turned it over to others while remaining a member. It lasted a few years longer, but the Web killed it, as it did most apas.

Q. So when did the Golden APA come to an end?
A. I think the last Golden APA mailing was 2003.

Q. What was your motivation in founding the Golden APA?
A. I read Illuminatus! in 1975, volume by volume as it came out, and it blew my mind; Stranger in a Strange Land is the only other book that influenced me anywhere near as much. I wanted to talk with others about sex, dope, sedition, conspiracy, self-programming, guerrilla ontology, etc. For that and other reasons, I started doing a zine, first called The Diagonal Relationship, in 1977. I then learned about apas, and took to them immediately. Tossing out quick comments on what I read was fun back then and still is, though I now mostly do it via livejournal.

Q. When was Robert Anton Wilson an active member of The Golden APA? Did he interact with the other members, i.e., did he do mailing comments or otherwise demonstrate that he read the zines of the other members?
A. Wilson was an active participant from the early 80s through somewhere in the 90s. He did mailing comments as well as essays. Note for scholars: A number of Golden APA zine titles appear in the list of groups at the end of The Homing Pigeons; mine was the Bloodshot Pyramid. Also a quote about Wilson that appears on the covers of several of his books ("Stupid") comes from the apa.

Q. As we are providing information to scholars, can you give me other examples of zine titles that turn up as the names of bands in The Homing Pigeons?
A. Other zines mentioned are Seeds of Discord, the Benton Harbor Rat-Weasel, and Wascal Wabbit.

Q. I met Robert Shea at a Golden APA room party in 1989 in Boston. (You were nominated for "Best Fan Writer," and when you came into the room, the others applauded.) Was Shea a member of the Golden APA, too, and if so, did he apparently read the other zines?
A. Shea likewise appeared in the apa from the early days through the mid-90s (when he died), doing mailing comments.

Q. Did the Golden APA operate according to the usual apa rules, i.e. were there minac requirements and dues?
A. It was pretty much a standard apa. Shea & Wilson were ex officio members; others were expected to participate in at least every other mailing, and pay for their postage & printing. There was no membership fee or dues as such.

Q. Did the Golden APA draw many members from the ranks of fanzine fandom, or did it draw in many "mundanes" attracted by an interest in ILLUMINATUS! ?
A. I tried to recruit people whose minds seemed in tune with the trilogy wherever I found them, but those without a zine/apa background tended to lack staying power.

Q. Has there been any discussion of digitizing issues of the Golden APA? Are any copies of the mailing publicly available, i.e, in a fanzine collection at a library, for example?
A. I know of no public digital or print archive of the apa and have no interest in starting one. It was an apa, and thus ephemeral and private (though not secret).

Q. Is there a particular Wilson book you'd recommend to someone who wanted to try him? And what is your personal favorite RAW work?
A. I'd suggest starting with Illuminatus! because that's how I did it. Not sure what nonfiction I'd recommend. Maybe Prometheus Rising. I would not recommend starting with The New Inquisition, because that shows much of Wilson's flaws of argumentativeness and pig irony, though there's good stuff if you can get past that. Schrödinger's Cat is my favorite, though if he'd completed the Historical series, that might have passed it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some inspirational RAW thoughts

Lately, I've felt discouraged about the possibility of moving forward through political change. As I mentioned in a recent post, I saw little encouraging news in the latest election results. I have lately been thinking that perhaps politics seems like poor method for effecting change, and that energy and effort would seem to be better directed elsewhere.

Last weekend, I sat down with a copy of The Illuminati Papers and read Arthur Hlavaty's review of the book. I spotted Hlavaty's remark that Part Five of the Conspiracy Digest interview provides an "Inspiring answer to those who believe that the political reality tunner is the important one," as it seemed to directly address what's bothering me.

It seems to me Arthur referred to this question and answer:

CD. As a conspiracy theorist, I certainly do not try to "define others as in control." Despite my wishes, whoever is in charge around here, it certainly isn't me! Don't we have to discover the realities of power before we are likely to be able to improve the situation?

WILSON: As Mong-Tse said, "A man must destroy himself before others can destroy him." Perhaps you put too much energy into resentment, anger, denunciation, and similar negative energy states, and don't have enough positive energy surplus to achieve your goals. Perhaps you are too inpatient and expect "freedom to drop into your lap as a fairy's gift," as Nietzsche said. Perhaps you are looking on too small a time scale to see the grand evolutionary pattern of higher consciousness and higher intelligence ever emerging. Perhaps you are too attached to the superficial and temporary, and regard each setback as a total defeat, without seeing that intelligence always wins in the long run. Copernicus couldn't publish in his lifetime, Bruno was burned at the stake, Galileo was condemned and placed under house arrest, etc., but the new astronomy finally triumphed over Catholic orthodoxy. Dr. Reich died in prison of a broken heart, because he believed that those who jailed him really were in control and, hence, saw himself as a victim of injustice. Dr. Leary stayed high (through a sentence nine times as high as Reich's) because he knew that, even in prison, even in the solitary-confinement cell at the bottom of the maximum building at Folsom, he was more in control than his persecutors. He knew that because his ideas were creating the future; whereas the gang who locked him up can't even control the present, which is, in fact, falling apart all around them.

As I said earlier, the path of intelligence is all hard work, low pay, and a high probability that the fanatics of all ideologies will gang up on you. If a person can't accept that cheerfully, he or she should give up such a dangerous occupation, and join one of the coalitions of true believers or Establishmentarians. If any of the conspiracies really are as all-powerful as you think, it certainly would be a wise choice to join them, if comfort or status are your main concerns. We i the SMI2LE organization accept that we are living on the Planet of the Apes and that, as Charles Fort said, it doesn't steam-engine until it comes steam-engine time. The stupidity, brutality and banditry around us are what one should expect on a primitive planet with low technology and only a few hundred years of science. (As Gurdjieff said, "Fairness? Decency? How can you expect fairness or decency on a planet of sleeping people?")

Frankly, I'd find life a bore if I wasn't playing for very high stakes in a very high-risk situation. We do have the chance, now, for Utopia and even for immortality. If we who see this opportunity aren't smart enough, adroit enough, and fast enough to seize the chance, then we don't deserve to initiate the next stage of evolution. In that case, the age of the mammalian predators isn't ending, and we are deluded visionaries seeing a future that can't happen yet. The order of nature is nothing to be angry about. Meanwhile, until they shovel me under, I still think our side is winning, and that the power brokers you worry about are a bunch of dying dinosaurs.

Wilson seems guilty of being inpatient himself when he suggested that by this time, the time I write these words, we might have immortality, be migrating to cities in space, etc., but I still suspect that in a little bit longer run, many of his ideas may win out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A moment of RAW synchronicity

Wednesday, the day that part two of my David Hartwell interview ran, I was listening to podcasts as I drove home from work. One of them was a Cato Daily Podcast interview with William Patterson, author of an important new biography of SF great Robert Heinlein.

Now, in my mind, the Patterson book is connected with Robert Anton Wilson. The editor of the book was David Hartwell, and if Hartwell didn't actually co-write the book, he at least did some very heavy editing. I was only able to get to finally interview Hartwell because we both were present at this year's World Fantasy Convention, and I only got to attend the convention because my old friend, Brett Cox, offered to let me stay in his room. To pay Brett back, I wanted to buy him a book in the huckster room. Brett is a huge Heinlein fan (and a real scholar of Heinlein's work.) I wanted to get Brett something I knew he would enjoy, so I bought him the Patterson biography and got Hartwell to sign it.

So as I say, the Patterson book is connected to RAW in my mind, but I'm rational enough to understand that's not a connection anyone else would make. So I was really freaked out when the interviewer in the podcast, Caleb Brown, suddenly brought up Robert Anton Wilson and Wilson's ILLUMINATUS! trilogy in the middle of the interview.

The podcast would likely interest any SF fan. It can be listened to or downloaded here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

David Hartwell interview, Part II

Q. David, you mentioned that you thought Schroedinger’s Cat would do well. How well did it do, not just in terms of sales, but did it get the kind of reviews and kind of reception you were hoping for?
A. Actually, unfortunately, it didn’t. It got some favorable attention, it got some good reviews, it had decent sales. Obviously, not for me to continue. But by the end of the several book publishing program, it didn’t look economically feasible to buy further books. So we ceased with that one.
I remember particularly liking the covers. Maybe I was wrong, maybe they weren’t commercial enough, I don’t know. But I liked them myself. I thought they were attractive books. (1)
Q. When you say, it wasn’t economically feasible to continue, would there have been more Schroedinger’s Cat books if the books had done well?
A. He was able to spin things out when he wished. If they were not Schroedinger’s Cat books -- my memory may fail me here — there may have been more Babcock books in the pipeline, possibly. [I believe Dr. Hartwell is referring to the Historical Illuminatus series, which was indeed left unfinished. -- TJ]
Q. Schroedinger’s Cat has stayed in print since then, as an omnibus edition where some of the original material was cut. Did you have anything to do with the shaping of that edition?
A. I did not. It was done after my time.
Q. Let me ask about your other two books.
Masks of the Illuminati, some Robert Anton Wilson fans think that is the best introduction to his work, since it is a relatively “normal” book. What is your opinion of Masks of the Illuminati, and what do you remember about it?
A. I’m embarrassed to say that I remember very little about it at this point, simply that I liked it and I was pleased to publish it at the time.
Now, when I say that we couldn’t continue to publish him, there was a particular moment in the history of mass market publishing that was called the romance boom. The war between Silhouette romances and Harlequin romances consumed the attention of the mass market distribution system for nearly two years, during which time, the distribution on all other genre fiction was cut, sometimes significantly, in some wholesale areas.
Mass market books as you know used to be sold predominantly on racks in drugstores and places like that up until the early 90s. Now, that’s not true anymore. It used to be that the huge majority of those books were sold in small accounts. Now they’re sold in large accounts.
When the romance boom was happening, the shelves of the wholesalers were filled with cartons of romances that were their higher priority in distribution items. We were sometimes getting unopened cartons of returns of other books.
I’m not blaming this specifically on Robert Anton Wilson or his public appeal. I’m talking about a market condition that obtained at that moment.
Q. I guess you’ve explained to me why some of the science fiction paperbacks that have meant the most to me, I was able to find in a rack of the supermarket, and I can’t find those kinds of things anymore.
A. That’s correct. There have been continuing changes in the distribution systems of mass market books. The most revolutionary and to my mind, unfortunate one, happened in the mid-90s when under pressure from supermarket chains, the distributors had to consolidate from approximately 400 nationwide to approximately six. This caused the remaining very large distributors to consolidate their attention on a very few successful books per month, rather than the entire range of the publishing industry. The feedback loop that created made us publish fewer and fewer mass market titles. And that is the case today.
Q. Let me ask about the other Wilson book, Cosmic Trigger, the Final Secret of the Illuminati. Charles Platt kind of had some fun with that when he interviewed Robert Anton Wilson for “Dream Makers,” and went so far as to imply that perhaps Wilson was crazy. Do you remember anything about that book, and what did you think of the book at the time?
A. That’s another of the books that I don’t have an opinion on that may actually have been in production at a time before I was fully in charge of the line. I’m not sure I actually read that book. (2)
I do remember Charles and Dream Makers. One of the things that Charles, who is a good journalist, used to do is question people on the things that other people, particularly unsympathetic other people, had gossiped about. (3)
Q. To give them a chance to reply.
A. And give them a chance to reply.
My wife and I are old friends of Charles Platt, and my wife described Charles as our only friend who will come up to you and as an opening line, ask you about the worst thing anybody said about you in the last six months. Once you’ve gotten past that conversational opening, everything’s fine, but some people are completely blown away by it.
Q. You’re a big Philip K. Dick fan.
A. Yes.
Q. Philip K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson liked each other and were both kind of oddballs that didn’t look at things maybe the same way as other people. Was your interest in Dick something that made you be more open to Robert Anton Wilson’s writings?
A. Yes, I believe so. I do believe so.
I mean, I’d read Charles Fort, too. I guess I’d have to say a little of Fort goes a long way. 200 pages of Charles Fort is not any better than 100 pages of Charles Fort But the first 100 pages are cool.
Q. When you were editing Pocket Books and publishing Robert Anton Wilson, you were already a pretty well known editor.
A. I was.
Q. You had edited Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Philip Jose Farmer. Did Wilson show any interest in you, and ask you any questions about yourself, or about the other writers you had edited?
A. You know, he did not. He did not show a whole lot of interest in being a social member of the science fiction field, and part of the science fiction community of writers.
It wasn’t an antipathy. It was just that a lot of his interests simply were elsewhere.
As I say, I first met him at a [science fiction] convention. He had been invited by that convention, along with every other writer in the Bay Area, and in northern California. Since he had no antipathy to it, he came. He got together with Phil Dick and they would talk. He was around all weekend. It was fine.
Q. Do you have any suggestions on other people I can interview to find out about Robert Anton Wilson, and his relationship with editors? I have interviewed David Harris, I’ve interviewed Jim Frenkel, I’ve interviewed Teresa Nielsen Hayden. I’ve tried to call Al Zuckerman and I’ve tried to call Henry Morrison’s wife, and they didn’t get back to me.
A. Was Henry Morrison his agent at one point?
Q. No, but Henry Morrison’s wife may have been the acquiring editor for ILLUMINATUS! I have not been able to pin down who at Dell actually bought the book.
A. I remember the fellow, but I don’t remember his name anymore. I remember his physical appearance, the editor before David Harris, who had acquired that and other things.
Q. Was it the guy who basically disappeared from the publishing business? I have his name in one of my interviews. [In a follow up email, Dr. Hartwell confirmed that he was referring to Fred Feldman, who now lives in Massachusetts and became an author himself. Feldman says, however, that although he helped edit ILLUMINATUS! he did not buy it for Dell and in fact inherited the project.]
A. He was a nice enough guy, but he [Feldman] was not somebody who liked genre science fiction very much, so he tended to buy things that were somehow outside it. This was a viable short term strategy in the early 70s, because the field was pretty wild then. It was not a viable long term strategy.
Q. Obviously, you have edited a lot of books. And you have edited more good books than I would have time to read for the remainder of my life. Are there four or five books that come to mind that you published that you wish you could get everybody to read, or everybody to try?
A. That’s an interesting question. I guess the easy answer is really the true answer.
I would like people to read the collected stories of Alfred Bester that I did in two volumes for Berkeley. I think everybody should read that. They vary in quality, but the best are superb.
I wish everybody would read Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer. Many people have. Nevertheless, I think everybody should. I think it’s a marvelous and unique book of fiction.
I think Gregory Benford’s Timescape, the book that I finally I named my imprint after, is a science fiction novel, and a work of contemporary fiction, that everybody would profit from reading, that they would have a higher estimate of the potential of science fiction, especially hard science fiction, if they read that book.
Those are easy and old examples, but those three I can pick out of the air.
There are many more books that I’ve done that I like very much. I wouldn’t have done damn near any of them if I didn’t want people to read them.
Q. I’m glad you mentioned The Book of the New Sun, because I’ve read most of Gene Wolfe, but those particular four books, to me, they were the ones that he was born to write, and they have had a huge impact on me.b
A. I love them myself. I am a great personal fan of his writing.
I think that, in his own way, he is the most important science fiction writer since Ted Sturgeon, simply in terms of the craft examples he gives to other writers, which is one of the things Sturgeon did. [The next section of the recording is particularly noisy and difficult to transcribe word for word, but Hartwell added that Wolfe had shown the ability to write fiction of great “complexity and complication and detail, but that nevertheless has great impact.”]
Q. Are you a fan of Iain Banks? I can’t figure out why he isn’t as huge over here as he is over there?
A. I am.


(1) Cover credits for the three original Pocket Book editions of the "Cat" novels are as follows: The Universe Next Door, "Cover photo by Janet Belden Beyda from Cher Amis;" The Trick Top Hat, I cannot find any credit anywhere for the illustration of a woman with red hair, dressed in a sexy outfit, sitting on a lion -- can anyone help? The Homing Pigeons, "Cover photo by Janet Belden Beyda from Cher Amis"



Janet Belden Beyda with Frank Beyda. Chers Amis. New York: Pomerica Press Limited, 1977. [First edition; "photographs and text by Janet Belden Beyda"; introduction by Nicholas Meyer; illustrations consists of anthropomorphic photo-composites (animal and human montages) in full color, and accompanied by narrative statements which are often of the "tongue-in-cheek" variety; hardback, 72 pages, 29 cm., 75/100] "

(2) Cosmic Trigger was copyrighted in 1977. The first printing by Pocket Books was in March 1978. Hartwell did not take over at Pocket Books until 1978.

(3) Dream Makers Volume 2: The Uncommon Men and Women Who Write Science Fiction by Charles Platt (Sept 1981), ed. Charles Platt, 1983. pp.141-150. Citation taken from

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The David Hartwell interview, Part I

Five of Robert Anton Wilson's most important books -- Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, Masks of the Illuminati, and the three Schroedinger's Cat books (The Universe Next Door, The Trick Top Hat, the Homing Pigeons) were published by Pocket Books from 1978 to 1981. Prominent science fiction editor David G. Hartwell served as editor of Pocket Books from 1978 to 1983.

Publication information and Hartwell's own recollections suggest that he played little role in the editing and publishing of Cosmic Trigger, but he apparently was an active editor with the other four.

When he became Robert Anton Wilson's editor, David Hartwell already was an important science fiction editor. As the editor of Berkley Putnam's science fiction line from 1973 to 1978, Hartwell edited and published books by such authors as Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Philip Jose Farmer, Roger Zelazny and others.

Hartwell is arguably the most important science fiction book editor of his time. Along with editors such as Terry Carr and Jim Frenkel (a great champion of Robert Anton Wilson whom I interviewed earlier), he is inarguably an important figure. At age 69, Hartwell is still a very busy editor at Tor Books (he published and edited the new Heinlein biography), and has continued to publish the monthly journal The New York Review of Science Fiction, which was founded in 1988 and since then has maintained an incredible monthly publication schedule.

My interview with David Hartwell was recorded on August 30, 2010, in the dealer's room of the 2010 World Fantasy Convention held in Columbus, Ohio.

Q.When I looked at my Robert Anton Wilson shelf, I noticed five books published by Pocket Books — the three Schroedinger’s Cat books, Cosmic Trigger, the Final Secret of the Illuminati, and Masks of the Illuminati. Are those the books that you acquired and edited?

A. In fact, I inherited the books. The books were acquired by the Pocket Books editor just previous to me. And there was a lot of inventory at Pocket Books when I arrived, and I found out that I was going to be the publisher of Robert Anton Wilson.
Now, I was aware of the Illuminatus trilogy at Dell, and that it had been successful and popular.
I can’t remember the order at this late date at which I scheduled them, but I scheduled the Schroedinger’s Cat books.
I was a fan of Phil Dick’s at that point and was just about to become Phil Dick’s editor as well. I thought, this was kind of Phil Dickian. I liked kind of Phil Dickian.
I didn’t know Wilson personally at that point. I had heard of him, had not been at the same place at the same time.
About the time the first of the books came out, I went to a convention called Octacon, in California, Santa Rosa. And Wilson was there and I met him. And Phil Dick was there.
And I had a small party in my hotel room, and there were six or seven people. It got down to Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick talking. And at a certain point, I could not follow what they were saying, and so I just left and went out and got a beer and came back later. They were still talking. [I corresponded with a Philip K. Dick fan, Thom Stark, about this, and I believe the convention was in October 1978 -- Tom]
Q. Who was the editor at Pocket Books who acquired these five books that you inherited?
A. I believe it was Adele Leone. Adele Leone became an agent after she left Pocket Books and is deceased. She died in her forties, unfortunately. Nice lady.
Her first significant job was editor at Pocket Books. She was an office assistant. In those days, an office assistant could be promoted to editor of science fiction, just by being the only one in the pool who liked and read it. This happened more than once in the 1970s. But this was what happened to Adele.
At a certain point, Adele really felt she was getting over her head, and had to leave the job. But she became a pretty good agent.
Q. David, had you read the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy and were you familiar with that when you were working on Wilson’s other books?
A. I was not. I had not read it at that point.
I had some friends — at the time, a distant acquaintance, Arthur Hlavaty — I know Arthur much better now — but he was very high on it, and I read some fanzine stuff by Arthur.
I was interested in the kind of secret history aspect. I think secret histories have now been perhaps been overdone in fantasy and science fiction, but at the time, they were scarce on the ground.
I also liked the kind of oddity aspect of it. I am having a kind of half senior moment, there’s a familiar name there, the fellow who wrote the books about odd coincidences, several volumes of them — Charles Fort. I saw Wilson in the tradition of Charles Fort.
Q. So you eventually got around to reading the ILLUMINATUS trilogy?
A. I never read it carefully. I just skimmed it. There are many fine books that I intend to read some day. I have 40,000 of them in my house.
Q. We are all like that.
Did you have the authority when you became the Pocket Books guy to say, ‘No, I am not going to publish these Wilson books.”
A. Oh, yes! Certainly!
Q. So you liked them, too, or you would not have —
A. Yeah, oh no, I did like them. There were four or five books when I got in where I said, “Sorry, no way.” I was not going to publish them. And I got permission to write off the initial advance that was paid and did that. I wasn’t going to do that with Wilson.
Q. Let me ask you about Schroedinger’s Cat. It’s an unusual body of work. Those are in my opinion some of the most radical and unusual of his books. What did you think of those three novels?
A. This is going to sound kind of old-fashioned hippie, but I thought they were psychedelic. The pleasure I had was kind of the pleasure of the play of the text. I found them playful and interesting.
I thought they were outrageous. I thought they were making connections that were artificial, and that would not hold up to actual scientific examination, but were intriguing. Which is the kind of thing Charles Fort did. Charles Fort was intriguing and provocative. They tended to shake you out of your normal thought patterns. His process of association was what entertained me.
Q. There is very unusual plot line in Schroedinger’s Cat about a severed penis called Ulysses that travels around the world and then returns to its owner. And so alludes both to Homer and to James Joyce. Did this aspect or any other aspect of the novels make you think, “What am I doing publishing this as part of my commercial science fiction line?”
A. I would not have published it if I didn’t think it would sell.
And in fact, that kind of sexual play was uncommon in fantasy and science fiction at that time. And while it was risky in terms of mass market distribution systems in some parts of the country, it was also a big advantage in other parts of the country. And I thought that balanced itself out.
The head of sales I recall — I was trying to explain what these books were like — the head of sales borrowed the manuscript for one of them.
“My God! This is all about fucking!,” he said. “It will sell!”
OK, all right, you know?
Q. Do you remember if you requested any major changes in Schroedinger’s Cat, or anything about the process of getting it prepared for publication?
A. In fact, I found them loosely structured, and I therefore did not feel I had to make any suggestions to correct the structure. As I say, it was done by a kind of process of association, and you don’t criticize somebody’s process of association, you simply follow it. So I didn’t feel that needed that kind of editorial work. I’m perfectly capable of doing that but I didn’t feel it was necessary in that case. In other words, I didn’t think something I would suggest would particularly improve the work and therefore I didn’t want to tinker.
Q. What was Wilson like to work with?
A. He was perfectly cooperative and pleasant. He was kind of distracted. He was not intimately personally interested in the publishing process. He just wanted his books out.
[At this point, literary genius Gene Wolfe arrives with his wife, and the interview pauses so that Hartwell can greet them and put Wolfe to work autographing books. Part two of the interview, which resumed an hour or two later, will run tomorrow.]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I interviewed David Hartwell

My two part interview with science fiction editor David Hartwell starts tomorrow.

I thought it might be interesting to share an anecdote that illustrates why I spent several weeks obtaining the interview. I am telling the story from memory, from a public interview of Hartwell conducted during the last weekend of October at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

From 1973 to 1978, Hartwell was the science fiction editor for Berkley/Putnam, where he edited Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, etc. (In the last years of his life, Heinlein would not allow his books to be edited, so don't blame Hartwell if you think Time Enough for Love, for example, could have stood a little editorial pruning and weeding.)

When Berkley/Putnam was taken over by another company, the management offered Hartwell a big hike in salary but asked him to edit fewer books, concentrating on potential best sellers. Hartwell refused (he's in it for the literature, not the money) and took a new job at Pocket Books.

Hartwell's boss told him he could take one writer with him, and then told Hartwell apprehensively that it could not be Frank Herbert. Hartwell replied that he wanted Gene Wolfe, and the puzzled publishing executive said "Who?" Hartwell explained that Wolfe was a real up and comer, and the executive said sure, take him away.

Within a few years, Hartwell published Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, which established Wolfe as a star of fantasy and science fiction.

My point here is that Hartwell is an important talent spotter, and that RAW fans can take pride that Hartwell chose to publish five of RAW's books at Pocket Books, at about the same time that The Book of the New Sun was coming out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Arthur Hlavaty on The ILLUMINATI PAPERS

(Editor's Note: The following article is a reprint of Arthur Hlavaty's review of Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminati Papers. It was published in 1981 in The Golden Amateur Press Association, a consortium of fanzines devoted to Illuminatus!-related topics that Hlavaty founded. If the term "amateur press association" is unfamiliar to you, you may consult this for background.

Mr. Hlavaty will not need an introduction for readers such as myself who are involved in science fiction fandom, a "conspiracy" fully as weird and wonderful as any chronicled in ILLUMINATUS!, but for outsiders I should explain that science fiction fandom has been an organized literary and social activity since at least the 1930s, with publications, conventions, its own jargon, its own social conventions and so on. Hlavaty has been a BNF ("big name fan") and well-known fan writer for decades and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for "best fan writer" from 1980 to 1991. He blogs here. -- Tom Jackson)

The Bloodshot Pyramid

By Arthur Hlavaty

Thus is an experiment of sorts. What I am doing is taking The Illuminati Papers & going through it as if it were an apa, and I were writing mailing comments. No effort will be made to make these comments intelligible to those who have not read the book.

Glossary. The first few definitions seem operational to the point of confusion, if such is possible. If "consciousness"="information received & decoded by a structure," then. all radios are conscious. 1,# These are interesting definitions. They include presumed empirical data (e.g., the Leary 8-circuit model of the brain), and thus must be discarded or modified if the data turn out, to be incorrect.

At this point, I think I'll make a couple of general statements:

1) I will from time to time, put in a quote from the book, followed by *****". That means "I agree," "I like."

2) I do not like the layout of the book, specifically the funny shape and the subliterate practice of putting parts of the book in

big letters

to emphasize them.

The Abolition of Stupidity. "This goal [the abolition of starvation] is rational, practical, and desirable; so it is naturally denounced as Utopian, fantastic, and absurd." *****

"There is nothing rationally desirable that cannot be achieved sooner if rationality itself increases. [Therefore,] Work to achieve higher intelligence is work to achieve all of our other goals.'" This is an inspiring thought to me, since one of the things I am most interested in is the improvement of communications, and an awareness of how language can be either implement or handicap.

What I like about this article is that it points out that "brainwashing"/"psychedelic"/"deprogramming"/"reprogramming" tools are just tools, and that the use of them, rather than their inherent nature, determines their value. What I question is the assumption that we now have, or soon will have, tools of a precision far higher than generally known today.

Some further thoughts (tentative) on reprograming, metaprograming, etc. We can consider 2 approaches to this—as a science, and as a Craft. A fully developed science is one in which the data can be gathered, and the treatment applied, by anyone capable of reading dials. A Craft requires a practitioner who can receive & decode information in ways that cannot be fully explained (by intuition, etc.) Throughout history there have been advances in the science of intelligence increase (Aristotelian logic, General Semantics, and many others, some of which are mentioned here). There have also been Craft.persons (Zen masters, dervishes, and now psychiatrists).

Advances in the sciences of communication will make it easier for more people to use the Crafts. I am, however, very suspicious of any statement that we can ever reduce all of this to a science—for instance, the supposed far more precise & predictable neurochemicals. I hope to see such chemicals, but I remain skeptical. The history of psychochemicals (such as heroin) indicates that they are always liable to have side effects and unpredictabilities. Let me put it this way: I am convinced that LSD, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, is an enormously effective metaprogramming tool. In the hands of a well-intentioned bungler, it is a menace. I would like to think that we have psychochemicals which are easier to use for their desired goals, but I very much doubt that we will ever have foolproof ones. (Analogy: rote teaching of arithmetic was practically foolproof; it could be done by anyone above the imbecile level. The catch is that it was tiresome & oppressive, and anything that could be learned by it can now be done better & faster by a $10 machine. The "new Math" can teach the child how to think much better, but the teacher has to teach it creatively, responding to the individual student. Any attempt to impose it mechanically produces nonsense.

Eight Circuits of the Nervous System. The first four strike me .as a most useful map. I like 4-part divisions, such as the Jungian functions, and the theory in Chapter 4 of Thompson's At the Edge of History. I am insufficiently acquainted with the higher circuits (if any) of my mind to comment on the second four at this time.

Conspiracy Digest Interview 1. "Most conspiracy buffs are adrenaline freaks and really get off on frightening the blue daylights out of themselves (and others). This is the same weird imprint that makes people go to sadistic horror movies." This refers to a theory that I don't recall seeing in print, but is discussed by Wilson in a cassette made for Gnostica. The idea is that people learn a particular response to bad situations—rage, fear, stoic suffering, etc.—and that the response becomes imprinted at the neurological level in the form of a chemical addiction. Thus at some level, we are programmed to get into situations in which we can react in our chosen way. Since my own reaction of choice tends to make me sick (asthma), I would like to find some way to reprogram that part of me.

Throughout the interview, we see Wilson transcending both the naive view in which things in the public sphere "just happen" or respond to the will of the people, the invisible hand of the free market, or the commandments of God, and the overly paranoid view that things are really & truly run by a tiny little clique who actually know all.

The redefinition of "Power Elite" is most interesting, and an implicit rebuke to these who think that we must change the world/change society" by political means.

Neuroeconomics. I question the assumption that the first human tribes lived in perfect pack-bonding love until the conquering State arose (from where?) and "created" poverty. Here is my own conjecture: The first human packs were run in a thoroughly dictatorial manner by the 'gest & meanest bucks, who beat the shit out of anyone who stepped of line. I would assume that our ancestors, being at least as smart as wolves, had built-in controls that kept them from fighting to the death, but it was not the most loving of situations. I postulate that after a while, some of the smarter women (& perhaps some smart but puny males) discovered that food gathering & preparation were at least a supplement to the hunt, and created a revolution that brought about a matriarchal society. This lasted for a while, until the males (or some of them) realized that such a society was still vulnerable to poverty in case of crop failures, bad weather, etc. The patriarchy that came from this had 2 approaches to poverty: 1) Science—figuring out ways to get more from the environment; and 2) The conquering State—beating the shit out of neighboring tribes to whom we weren't all that closely bonded anyway. The conflict between these 2 methods remains to this day.

My other quarrel with this approach is that I believe the pack bond, by its very nature, applies to a limited number of people. There is a very human trait of dividing the world into Our Pack and THEM (niggers, commies, furriners, mundanes, etc.). Today we live in a mass society in which we are influenced by millions if not billions of others, and it is quite natural not to be able to extend one's love & trust quite that wide. The answer is decentralized arrangements. If we can return to a setup where we can live in somewhat similar-thinking tribes, we will have a true alternative to both rugged individualism and anthill collectivism.

These are tangential arguments. The idea that money is the biosurvival imprint strikes me as a Truth. One additional evidence of this is the warm feeling that many people (including me on occasion) get from spending money, almost independent of what is purchased.

Coex! Coex! Coex! Excellent literary analysis. If Life Extension does come about, and I get in on it, I hope to give Finnegans Wake a proper study.

From: The Order of the Illuminati. Interesting. I don't know chess well enough to know how good it is.

Hey, Man, Are You Using Only Half Your Brain? "Wouldn't you like to learn the secrets of the West, previously known only to the adehts at the esoteric Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies?" *****

Conspiracy Digest Interview 2. Excellent analysis of the USLP smear of Joel Fort.

Top Secret. A very plausible theory.

Ten Good Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Morning. It has always seemed to me that the self-fulfilling prophecy effect doesn't work if you believe in it; in other words, if you do something because it will work by itself, the self-fulfilling prophecy may take place; but if you do it because of the self-fulfilling prophecy, then you don't really believe in the thing itself, so it doesn't work.

Beethoven as Information. It will surprise some people to learn that I have a tendency to shut up when I know absolutely nothing about the subject under discussion. That tendency predominates here.

Incident on Cumberland Avenue. I remember seeing this in The Realist when it was first published. Wilson was already one of my favorite writers, and so I looked forward to reading it, and was a bit disappointed when it turned out to be mere reportage. (Well done, but not of that much interest to me.) Now it is reprinted and I'm not sure why. (Except perhaps as a further display of the awesome Wilsonian versatility.) Since I do operate in the Paranoid mode from time to time, I will point out just for the record, that I myself have never seen any outside verification that the incident took place.

Conspiracy Digest Interview 3. The game continues: The unnamed interviewer grimly pushing for his view of a world totally controlled a little clique of Bad Guys; Wilson doing the psychic judo and guerrilla epistemology intended to flip him into a more interesting open-ended reality (in vain, I fear).

According to the Everett-Wheeeler-Graham model, there exists at least one universe where Vlad impaled the honest monk and at least one where he impaled the dishonest one.

Beyond Theology. This is the OUI article on the new problems in !ntum physics & good stuff like the collapse of the state vector. (How marvelously anarchistic! That's even better than those free radicals in Chemistry.) Anyway, before I forget, I'd like to mention that if you want to go deeper into this sort of thing, there's a new book out called Mysticism and the New Physics by Michael Talbot (Bantam pb, $3.50).

I am suspicious of the extent which I welcome & believe this sort of thing. I've always wanted believe that Mind is (in its final essence) real, and Body (in its final essence) is not. This .is partly because I have an excellent mind & a mediocre body. Contrary to people who use ad hominem arguments, the fact that I very much want to believe this sort of theory does not necessarily make it false. It does, however, mean that I would be well-advised to guard against my tendency to believe insufficient evidence.

I have noticed that the more uptight I am, the more I tend to feel that "I" am hunkered down in a tiny space directly behind my eyes. In better moments, I feel that my consciousness is at the back of my head or a bit behind it. I am sometimes able to move my consciousness back there, whereupon I feel better. This positive feeling goes with a feeling that the world is my body. I believe this sort of thing, but I am not yet ready to live as if I believed it.

The Goddess of Ezra Pound. I was raised to despise Pound (and his poetry) for his anti-Semitic oinkings; there predictably came a time when appreciating the poetry would prove what a noble & forgiving person I was, or somesuch. I hope I am now beyond both of those. As with Finnegans Wake, it would take the hope of Life Extension to turn me to a full study of The Cantos. Thus I do not know whether this analysis is the True Meaning of Pound, or merely the work of a man clever enough to be able to prove that the Hidden God was really Bugs Bunny. .

Conspiracy Digest Interview 4. The hardcover edition of Colin Wilson's The Occult said that Hubbard was involved with the O.T.O. in California, witnessed at least one act of sex magick, and later claimed to have been "investigating for Naval Intelligence." In the paperback, this became "Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics has described how he was sent in to investigate by Naval Intelligence, and caused the group to disperse." At the time of these publications the Church of Scientology was notorious for suing anyone who said a disagreeable word about them.

Conspiracy Digest Interview 5. Inspiring answer to those who believe that the political tunnel reality is the important one.

Infinite Cruelty. At Bob Wilson's suggestion, I read a couple of Chandler's books a few years ago. I enjoyed them, but was not as impressed, perhaps because I'd read so many of his imitators that the effect of the original was diluted. (But then I'm the one who thought of Kafka as a second-rate Pynchon.)

Stupidynamics. I have no particular comments on this essay, but I find it fascinating & filled with useful insights. Incidentally, I should perhaps point out that some of these essays are things I've read years ago, and some (like Beyond Theology) have already reprogrammed me to some extent. Others, like this stupidity essay, are still being processed.

Paleopuritanism & Neopuritanism. A good essay, except for one omission. There is a feminist (not Women's Liberation) element which opposes what they call pornography, not out of neopuritanism, but because they have redefined pornography. Paleopuritans are against porn because it glorifies fucking (or sucking or whatever) & treats it as a good thing. I see nothing wrong with that. But there is a kind of writing that glorifies sex that a man takes from a woman thru fear, fraud, or status. Some feminists carefully define "pornography" to mean only this kind of writing. I disagree with their belief that this writing (loathsome as I consider it) should be censored, but they are not the kind of neopuritans Marvin Gardens is talking about.

(Second thought on the glossary) Leary's 8-circuit model is a map, rather than an empirical statement. As such, it cannot be disproved (even as Freud's & Berne's maps of the mind cannot). It may, however, someday be superseded by a more productive or more interesting map, and if Dr. Leary is a true scientist, he hopes that it will be.