Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wilson's influence on SF authors

Although he cannot be narrowly categorized as a science fiction writer, Robert Anton Wilson liked science fiction and has been popular with science fiction readers and fans. He also is explicitly acknowledged in books by at least two genre SF writers.

L. Neil Smith, a libertarian science fiction writer, won the Prometheus Award in 2001 for THE FORGE OF THE ELDERS, an omnibus of three novels that is really, like ILLUMINATUS!, meant to be read as a single work. Most of the plot takes place on 5023 Eris, an asteroid whose name alludes to the goddess featured in ILLUMINATUS! ("Hail Eris!") and to the numerology in the book concerning the number 23 and the Law of Fives. Mister Thoggosh, part of an ancient race, is reminiscent of the shuggoths that feature in ILLUMINATUS, although Mister Thoggosh is a much nicer entity.

When I read PROPHETS, a space opera published in 2009 by author S. Andrew Swann, I noticed that some of the chapter headings featured quotations from Robert Celine (1923-1996), identified in the appendix as an "American lawyer and anarchist." When I could not find any references to the mysterious Mr. Celine on the Internet, I wrote an e-mail to Mr. Swann, asking if his name is a reference to Hagbard Celine. Swann kindly wrote back, "You made a good catch w/ Celine, he is actually a subtle shout out to the Illuminatus! trilogy."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'Rare' Robert Anton Wilson video interview available

Via Punchkids.net, comes the news that a "rare unearthed interview" of Robert Anton Wilson video interview, in three parts, has been found and posted on You Tube.

A Google search reveals that the videos were posted to YouTube in 2008. Still, I couldn't find them when I looked at the video archives at rawilsonfans.com, so maybe they are "rare," or at least overlooked.

In any event, the videos are quite good and can be watched here. They offer a good discussion of the Illuminati, and why Wilson sees them as a "fascinating metaphor" for his interests. Wilson also endorses Frank Zappa's campaign for president (in the third of the three videos).





We add links

I've added links on the right side of the page to what I believe are some of the best places on the Internet for finding out about Robert Anton Wilson. No doubt there are great sites that I have missed, and I will be making additions as I find out about them.

Monday, June 28, 2010

John Dee opera announced

Via alt.fan.rawilson, I learned that that there's an opera in the works about John Dee, the 16th century alchemist. Collaborators on the project are Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett of the band Gorillaz (Albarn also was the brains behind Blur) and Alan Moore of "Watchmen" fame.

Here's an interesting sound bite from the Broadwayworld.com article I linked to: "He brings a wide range of influences to his work, such as William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Anton Wilson, and Iain Sinclair, New Wave science fiction writers like Michael Moorcock and horror writers like Clive Barker."

Wilson fans will have other reasons for being interested. The first COSMIC TRIGGER book, there are seven references to John Dee listed in the index. In one of them, Wilson links Dee to other members of the Illuminati, which in that context Wilson describes as "an underground mystical movement using sexual yoga in the Western world," thus linking Dee to other shamans in history, including by implication Wilson. In that theory, the secrecy was necessary to hide from the Inquisition.




Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wilson and Buddhism

I've been interested in Buddhism for many years, and I mention this because RAW also was very interested in Buddhism, peppering his writings with references to it.

Many examples could be offered. For example, Wilson said that COSMIC TRIGGER 2: DOWN TO EARTH was a Buddhist book that gives different sides to his personality (citation, the chapter "Books by Robert Anton Wilson" in AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO ROBERT ANTON WILSON by Eric Wagner).

The last chapter of CT 2 discusses Shinran Buddhism and explains that Wilson's marriage to his wife, Arlen, was performed in 1959 in Brooklyn in a Shinryan Buddhist ceremony.

Buddhists in all traditions often recite a vow in which they express their allegiance to the Buddha, in the Dharma (i.e., the Buddhist teachings) and the Sangha (a word that means "community." In Asian countries, the Sangha usually means Buddhist monks. In the more lay-oriented U.S., it sometimes means the community of believers).

Wilson's marriage ceremony asked his wife and himself to place their trust in these three pillars of Buddhism. Wilson knew who the Buddha was and the Dharma, but he admits that the couple asked each other later afterward, "What the hell is the Sangha?" He later learned.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wilson and The Realist

If you enjoy reading Robert Anton Wilson, perhaps you should take a moment to thank Paul Krassner.

Before he began publishing books in the 1970s (he actually published before before ILLUMINATUS!), Wilson wrote a variety of short pieces. Many of them were published in The Realist, the satirical counterculture magazine put out by Paul Krassner.

In an introduction to "Three Articles from the Realist" in Wilson's essay collection, COINCIDANCE, Wilson explains, "Paul Krassner's iconoclastic journal, The Realist, has published more of my writings than any other American magazine, and there was a period in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I might have given up writing entirely if Paul had not gone on publishing my work. I think everybody in the 'counterculture' owes a great debt to Paul Krassner, but I perhaps owe him more than anyone else."

There's an Internet archive site for The Realist here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Amazing library of RAW music from Amsterdam

DJ Fly Agaric 23 (aka Steve Fly) has created a great deal of music that draws from Robert Anton Wilson's work. "I have been using RAW samples for over 12 years, in various music settings," he explains.

Listen to, and download, his RAW music here. His information rich blog post on connections between RAW and VJ/DJ culture (I learned a lot) is here. More on this down the road after I've had time to absorb the music and links.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Artwork for new RAW book editions

Artist Bobby Campbell reports that he is doing the artwork for several new editions of Robert Anton Wilson's books. His work for NATURE'S GOD is here. Look here to see what he did for WILLIAM REICH IN HELL. The art is a good fit for Wilson's words, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The history of ILLUMINATUS!

Here is a short article by Robert Anton Wilson that goes into the curious history of ILLUMINATUS!, which has never been a best-seller but has continued to sell since it was published in the 1970s.

Particularly interesting in Wilson's discussion about the apparently audience for the book. He says the readers "tend to be youngish" and are "a very motley group indeed — political libertarians, sci-fi buffs (Shea and I never thought of the book as science fiction while we were writing it), neo-pagans, witches, Futurists, space colony advocates, longevity and vitamin freaks, and (among the more 'mature') a lot of psychologists, psychiatrists, radical M.D.s, and other professionals concerned with the illnesses of our nation. There are also a lot of people who don't want the Feds taking their dope away, and an assort ment of anti-IRS 'cranks'."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson and 'Lost'

The number '23' came up a lot in the "Lost" TV series, and not coincidentally, one of the executive producers cites Robert Anton Wilson as an influence.

"My father was into the Illuminati and the number 23, so he was a big
reader of Robert Anton Wilson. So there was some intentionality behind
it, but we had no idea, no grand design behind the Numbers. But
suddenly, the No. 1 question stopped being ”What is the Monster?” and
went to being ”What do the Numbers mean?” This isn’t to say that the
Numbers don’t mean anything. We just had no idea it had this potential
to get totally out of control," says Damon Lindelof in this interview.

"The only number was always sort of a key number was 23, and anybody who knows anything about Robert Anton Wilson or any of his writing can read into that what they will. That’s an important number in terms of the scheme of the show." Another Lindelof quote, cited here.

(Via Buddhafart.org, which notes that "Lost" is available on Hulu.com)


Monday, June 21, 2010

Editions of ILLUMINATUS!

Robert Anton Wilson's most famous book is ILLUMINATUS!, written with Robert Shea. It has been available in several different editions.

It was originally published as three separate novels, but since 1984 has been sold in an omnibus trade paperback.

When the books were first published, Wilson and Shea wrote a synopsis each for the second and third volumes.

The synopses were omitted when the omnibus edition came out, which I always thought was a shame because they contained bits not found elsewhere in text -- for example, a clear explanation of the self-destructing mynah birds, birds taught to say "Here, kitty kitty kitty!" and turned loose in New York City to freak out anyone who might be watching.

I raised the matter with Shea the one time I met him, and he told me he and Wilson were unable to convince the publishers the synopses were little literary works in themselves.

ILLUMINATUS! also is available as a series of audiobooks, performed by multiple readers.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An excellent resource

The fervency of Robert Anton Wilson's fans reminds me of the old joke about the first album put out by the Velvet Underground rock band. Supposedly, it only sold a few hundred copies, but everyone who bought it went out and started their own band.

Wilson seems to have a similar effect upon people. People collect his books. They launch blogs devoted solely to his writings. And they create Web sites. I have a found quite a few places on the Internet devoted to Wilson.

A particularly good one is the Robert Anton Wilson Fans site, obviously a labor of love, that has a huge cache of interviews, letters that he wrote over the years, a bibliography, video and other goodies.

The official Robert Anton Wilson Web site is here.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wilson's pantheon in THE HOMING PIGEONS

"The Bachs' Box," a chapter in SCHROEDINGER'S CAT: THE HOMING PIGEONS, has an amusing couple of paragraphs about the efforts of a group called the Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Society to manipulate the literary canon:

"Next, the W.F. Bach cabal financed a new literary journal, Passaic Review, which they advertised so widely that everybody with any pretense to being an intellectual had to read it.

"The Passaic Review heaped scorn and invective on the established literary idols of the time -- Simon Moon, the neo-surrealist novelist; Gerald Ford, the 'country and western' poet; Norman Mailer; Robert Heinlein; Tim Hildebrandt; and so on. They also denounced all of the alleged 'greats' of the first part of the century, like H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, T.S. Eliot and Robert Putney Drake.

"They established their one pantheon of 'great' writers, which included William Butler Yeats (an obscure Irish schoolteacher nobody had ever heard of), Olaf Stapledon, Arthur Flegenheimer and Jonathan Latimer."

Many of Wilson's allusions and jokes here require no explanation, but a few notes: Simon Moon and Robert Putney Drake are characters in ILLUMINATUS! Tim Hildebrandt (part of the "Brothers Hildebrandt") was an artist specializing in fantasy and science fiction. Arthur Flegenheimer was the birth name of gangster Dutch Schultz, whose famous last words while dying form part of the plot of ILLUMINATUS! Jonathan Latimer was an American writer who specialized in crime fiction and wrote novels and screenplays.

James Joyce is missing from Wilson's list because in THE HOMING PIGEONS he decides to become a priest rather than a novelist and winds up as the reformist Pope Stephen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

RAW: The original 'liberaltarian'?

There's been some discussion in the blogosphere lately about "liberaltarianism," attempts to forge an alliance between libertarians (or "classical liberals") and the more common left-wing liberals. This would involve, as I understand it, making common cause over civil liberties and foreign policy. The libertarians would agree to government policies that make provisions to aid the poor and the liberals would agree to support free trade, the free market and economic literacy in general. One of the leading proponents of this fusion is Will Wilkinson.

In an essay, "Ecology, Malthus and Machiavelli," reprinted in the book RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW, Wilson explains how he wound up voting for John Anderson, the independent candidate. "Ideologically, of course, I should have voted for Ed Clark, the Libertarian Party candidate; but I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people."

I didn't understand what Wilson meant when I first read that, but I think I do now; he was generally a libertarian, but he also was concerned for all of his life with civil rights for unpopular minorities and with the plight of the poor, two concerns which don't often resonate with many libertarians.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wilson's influence on SF writers

Although he cannot be narrowly categorized as a science fiction writer, Robert Anton Wilson liked science fiction and has been popular with science fiction readers and fans. He also is explicitly acknowledged in books by at least two genre SF writers.

L. Neil Smith, a libertarian science fiction writer, won the Prometheus Award in 2001 for THE FORGE OF THE ELDERS, an omnibus of three novels that is really, like ILLUMINATUS!, meant to be read as a single work. Most of the plot takes place on 5023 Eris, an asteroid whose name alludes to the goddess featured in ILLUMINATUS! ("Hail Eris!") and to the numerology in the book concerning the number 23 and the Law of Fives. Mister Thoggosh, part of an ancient race, is reminiscent of the shuggoths that feature in ILLUMINATUS, although Mister Thoggosh is a much nicer entity.

When I read PROPHETS, a space opera published in 2009 by author S. Andrew Swann, I noticed that some of the chapter headings featured quotations from Robert Celine (1923-1996), identified in the appendix as an "American lawyer and anarchist." When I could not find any references to the mysterious Mr. Celine on the Internet, I wrote an e-mail to Mr. Swann, asking if his name is a reference to Hagbard Celine. Swann kindly wrote back, "You made a good catch w/ Celine, he is actually a subtle shout out to the Illuminatus! trilogy."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

News for remixers

The bulk of the new Robert Anton Wilson spoken word album, "The Lost Studio Session," mentioned in my last post is available as a commercial purchase.

But one of the tracks, "Namu Amida Buddha," which nicely captures Wilson's generosity of spirit and agnostic attitude toward nearly everything, has been licensed under Creative Commons rules for remixing and distribution. (Please see this if you are unclear on the rules.) You may download the track here.

If anyone has any cool remixes to publicize, please write to me at the e-mail list listed in the "About" area.





Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New RAW material released

There's a new spoken word release of Robert Anton Wilson's musings, "Robert Anton Wilson: the Lost Studio Session," put out by Original Falcon. From the liner notes: "First recorded in Chicago in 1994, this previously unreleased audio session with the renowned Robert Anton Wilson has been stored away for fifteen years … and almost lost entirely." Full liner notes are here.

I've downloaded it and am enjoying it so far (haven't made it all the way through yet.) It's available as a digital download at iTunes, Amazon, Napster and Emusic.com. Those of you who are old school may purchase the audio CD from Amazon instead.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Joyce classic -- in comic book form

It's a shame Robert Anton Wilson is no longer with us, as it would have been interesting to hear what he thinks of the online comic adaptation of Joyce's "Ulysses," which is referenced at the end of THE HOMING PIGEONS (i.e., SCHROEDINGER'S CAT, part III) and likely is alluded to in many of Wilson's other books.

There's already a kerfuffle over censorship of an image of Molly Bloom.






Sunday, June 13, 2010

Keeping up with Robert Shea

While this blog is devoted to the work of Robert Anton Wilson, let's take a moment to discuss a useful resource devoted to Robert Shea (1933-1994), Wilson's collaborator on ILLUMINATUS! It is Shea who is credited with coming up with the idea behind the novel. Both men worked in the 1960s as editors at Playboy magazine. Shea suggested, as the two sat in the Chicago bar, that taking the crazy conspiracy theories circulated in the Playboy Forum section of the magazine could be the basis for a novel.

Shea's work has been preserved and made available by his son, Michael Shea, at an official site. Many of Shea's books may be downloaded for free at the site, under the Creative Commons license.

My interview with Michael Shea, which sheds light on ILLUMINATUS and other matters, is here. My memories of the one time I actually got to meet Robert Shea (I never met Robert Anton Wilson) is here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson, Buckeye

Robert Anton Wilson lived in a number of places during his life, including Chicago, Ireland, New York City and California. But as this humble blog is being written in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, I want to note that he also was an Ohioan.

During the early 1960s, Wilson lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It's a small town, but also was something of a countercultural enclave, owing to the presence of Antioch College.

Wilson's sojourn there found its way into ILLUMINATUS!, where it is revealed that Simon Moon went to school in Antioch, as in this passage on page 62: "The next stop was Antioch in dear old Yellow Springs where I majored in mathematics for reasons you will soon guess. The pot there grows wild in acres and acres of beautiful nature preserve kept up by the college. You can go out there at night, pick your own grass for the week from the female of the hemp species and sleep under the stars with a female of your own species, then wake up in the morning with birds and rabbits and the whole lost Thomas Wolfe America scene, a stone, a leaf an unfound door and all of it, then make it to class feeling really good and reading for an education."

Antioch College has closed for money reasons, and as of this writing, it's not clear that supporters will succeed in reopening it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson and the Prometheus Award

RAW was known more or less as a science fiction writer. ILLUMINATUS!, still in print, usually is found in the science fiction section of the bookstore. And yet, despite the success of the book, Wilson never won any of the major science fiction awards.

He did win one award. The Prometheus Award, given by the Libertarian Futurist Society, is awarded to works of science fiction that deal with themes that are of interest to libertarians. There are two awards — the Prometheus, for a novel published in the past year, and the Hall of Fame, for older classics.

ILLUMINATUS!, by Wilson and Robert Shea, won the Hall of Fame Award in 1986. The same award also was given that year to THE SYNDIC by Cyril Kornbluth.





Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hagbard Celine's name — a Joyce reference

I just finished reading Robert Anton Wilson's COINCIDANCE, which includes four essays on James Joyce and articles on various other topics. Reading it made me realize that the protagonist's name in ILLUMINATUS! apparently contains a James Joyce reference.

You could argue that ILLUMINATUS! does not have a protagonist, as it shifts in viewpoint to many different characters. The two main characters who are used to transmit the author's viewpoints, however, are Hagbard Celine and Simon Moon, and of those two, it's my impression after reading the work several times that Celine is the most important character in the book.

With me so far?

Wilson, a longtime James Joyce fan, writes in COINCIDANCE about HCE, the protagonist of FINNEGANS WAKE, which Wilson called his favorite book.

Now look at Hagbard Celine's name: Hagbard CelinE.