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.

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