Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Interview with Kevin MacArdry

As I've noted a few posts ago, Kevin MacArdry's new novel, The Last Trumpet Project, is a new novel that explores many themes Robert Anton Wilson was interested in, such as immortality, libertarianism and rapid advances in technology.

I enjoyed the novel, and as I mention in the interview below, there is a chapter in the book which could be read as a reference to the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy. I thought it might be interesting to ask about that and to find out a bit more about MacArdry himself, an interesting person who resembles some of the oddball anarchist characters who populate ILLUMINATUS!

My interview with MacArdry was concluded on Feb. 3, when he returned his answers to my e-mailed questions. For more on his book (including how to obtain a copy), please go here.

Mr. MacArdry's book has been nominated for the Prometheus Award. A panel of judges will decide which five novels will go on a final ballot to be voted upon by members of the Libertarian Futurist Society. (Disclosure: I'm one of the judges.) One of the other books being considered is Ceres, by MacArdry's mentor and friend, L. Neil Smith.

When I wrote to Kevin and asked for the interview, he wrote back, "Glad to know that some RAW fans enjoy my book. I remember playing Steve Jackson's Illuminati card game that was based on his ILLUMINATUS! trilogy; it was a real hoot to play."

RAWIllumination.net: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, i.e, where do you live and what is your "day job"?

I've been a software guy for more than 25 years now. I put in some 15 years working for corporate America, after which I "saw the farm," as Stefan Molyneux would put it. For the past decade I've been a professional agorist, still doing software but working on projects calculated to assist other livestock in getting off the farm as well.

What kinds of projects? Well, in the early 2000s I did a secure webmail service which was hosted on Sealand. I've always considered that the control of money and payment systems was the linchpin of farm control mechanisms, so following that I became involved in the digital gold
currency (DGC) industry. For the past several years I've been involved with a project related to the virtualization of stored value using cryptographically signed digital bearer certificates, aka vouchers.
This project (see http://www.voucher-safe.org) is now in beta test and will be deployed later this year.

Since you've read my book, you know that Aurumnet and DR.OS are what I see as the destination which we must reach if sustainable human freedom is to be achieved. The projects on which I work professionally are baby steps toward those goals. While we're pretty limited in what we can do today, as squishy moshes with only the current internet available, we
can at least move the ball a few inches in the right direction.

Due to the agorist (1) nature of my work I'm not terribly interested in discussing in detail where I live, though I will admit that I'm presently somewhere on the North American continent. I don't consider national boundaries or identities particularly important. Fences and ear tags.

RAWIllumination.net: Chapter 39 of The Last Trumpet Project takes place in the virtual world of Erisia, which has a capital city of Kalliste. Was that a reference to the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy?

Not directly, though quite possibly indirectly. To elaborate, the references to Eris and Kalliste were intended as a sort of homage to Doug Casey's Eris Society, whose annual meetings I used to attend in the '90s. As you can see here:

http://www.erissociety.org/about.html

no mention is made of RAW or his books. However the Eris Society was started circa 1980, so it is quite possible that Casey was influenced by the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy, which appeared some five years earlier. I suppose I could email him and ask, if you are curious.

In using Kalliste I was also thinking of the website formerly run by the late Orlin Grabbe.

RAWIllumination.net: Do you hope that a commercial publisher will become interested in your book and reprint it, or are you satisfied with the self-published approach?

I haven't regularly kept up my author's blog, but the first post from 8 July '08 should explain my thinking on this. I did revise the book and add a trade paperback option two years later, based on reader feedback that physical books were still preferred by many. The approach
I've chosen is probably the only one that makes sense for an agorist.

RAWIllumination.net: Have you read any of Robert Anton Wilson's books?

Robert Anton Wilson is one of those writers whose ideas came to me through third parties. There's a kind of circulatory osmosis which obtains in the freedom movement generally, as I'm sure you're aware. I knew about the Church of the Subgenius, Pope Bob, and understood what
friends meant by "Hail Eris!" even without reading his stuff directly. I do seem to remember reading Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy. If memory serves, there was a reprint in Loompanics magazine, and at the time I was buying a lot of books from their
catalog, as well as Laissez Faire Books'.

It may interest you to know that Ayn Rand was another such author for me. Although familiar with the tenets of Objectivism, and having read some of her non-fiction essays and numerous quotes and excerpts, I never actually read Atlas Shrugged cover-to-cover until the 50th anniversary edition appeared, in what, 2007? Anyway there are some things you don't really feel compelled to read, because you've already gotten the gist as it were. Or at least I find it so. I'm more likely to pick up something I know nothing about, than something I've already heard about in detail. Which doesn't mean it's not still good once you actually
break down and read it, though. ;-) Maybe one of these days I'll do
that with von Mises' Human Action.

RAWIllumination.net: Which libertarian thinkers have most influenced your own thinking? Who are your favorite SF authors (or for that matter, favorite authors?)


As far as The Last Trumpet Project goes, unquestionably the greatest influence at work was The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil, which I read in 2005. Kurzweil is a non-fiction writer, a futurist and philosopher who speaks and writes about technology, as well as a noted
inventor. He's recently done a documentary film called "Transcendent Man," but I haven't seen it yet. The idea of the Singularity is of course central to my own book.

An actual SF author whose work I respect a great deal is L. Neil Smith. (2) I've met El Neil a few times, even went shooting with him once -- must have been 20 years ago. Neil is a master of incorporating radical libertarian ideas into the plot of a novel, in such a way that those ideas appear to be the natural outgrowth of the characters and situations in the story. No 70-page radio monologues for him, just a compelling story with believable characters and a clear message. This is a methodology I've consciously attempted to adopt.

What I was trying to do in LTP is show that the only way that a philosophy of individualism, peaceful anarchy, and voluntary exchange can take hold and replace statism is if human beings become smarter; and that as soon as humans *do* become significantly smarter, the emergence
of such a dominant philosophy is inevitable. Kurzweil says: "Humans are going to merge with their technology and augment their intelligence." I agree, and add: "And in that case, church and state are both doomed."

Other authors I would list as favorites or who have been influences to some extent would include, in no certain order:

J.R.R. Tolkien
Henry David Thoreau
Frederic Bastiat
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Glen Cook
Ursula LeGuin
Murray Rothbard
Fred Saberhagen
Lysander Spooner
Roger Zelazny

Hmm, looks like the clear majority of my favorite writers are dead, how sad!

Footnotes:

(1) According to the Wikipedia article I link to here (at MacArdry's recommendation), Agorism was developed by Samuel Edward Konkin III. Konkin is one of the targets of RAW's Natural Law Or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy , which criticizes the "Natural Law cult."

(2) Apparent references to ILLUMINATUS! recur in Smith's work. For example, the email list that he uses to send out articles is called "Group 523."

2 comments:

Jesse said...

L. Neil Smith is definitely an Illuminatus! fan, and J. Orlan Grabbe definitely saw himself as a Discordian.

I always assumed that the name of the Eris Society was inspired by Discordianism, though the group itself draws more heavily on the rightish hard-money investment-newsletter side of the libertarian milieu. But I've never confirmed that connection.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Jesse,

I agree. I don't have any additional information beyond the interview, but it's hard to believe that someone would create an "Eris Society" of libertarians in 1980 and be unaware of the connection. "Hail Eris" was a pretty well known expression among libertarians.