Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When Bob met Phil

The 30th anniversary of Philip K. Dick's death was on Friday, and marked by this blog posting by David Gill at his Total Dick-Head blog.

Dick and Robert Anton Wilson were great fans of each other's work. I believe they met for the first time at Octocon II, a science fiction convention in Santa Rosa, Calif., in October 1978. RAW recalled the encounter, here.

Science fiction book editor David Hartwell also recalled the encounter when I interviewed him:

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.

Frank Herbert's Wikipedia bio says he was the featured speaker at Octocon II in October 1978 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Hartwell later recalled to me in an email that it was an Octocon that featured a Robert A. Heinlein blood drive, and I later tracked down a fan, Thom Stark, who apparently confirmed via e-mail that the encounter RAW and Hartwell described was at Octocon II:

I can confirm that I met PKD at Octocon II, at which he was, if I'm not mistaken, one of two GoHs. I can also confirm that RAH was the featured attraction at a Red Cross bloodmobile there. (I was lucky enough to work door security for RAH's day-long autograph session. He and Theodore Sturgeon sat at a table in the back of the bloodmobile for eight hours signing autographs, the only requirement for which was that the autograph seeker had to have at least tried to donate blood. Virginia Heinlein spent the entire time standing behind RAH's shoulder.)

Stark did not remember RAW at the convention, but he remembered Frank Herbert being there, so the details seem to match up. Here is a link to someone named Ward Griffiths who recalls meeting RAW at that convention.

UPDATE: Griffiths confirms that PKD was a guest of honor at that October 1978 Octocon and RAW was there: "Not sure how your email got to me, but I do recall attending Octocon 2 and briefly meeting RAW there. I don't know whether RAW and PKD were on any panels together, as I rarely attended programming in those days ... but I do know RAW was there and PKD was the GOH. If RAW says they met, they had the opportunity and I'll take him at his word."


Unknown said...

I remember attending and getting Heinlein's autograph. It was late in the day and there were only two of us in line. The adult in front of me (I was 14) had two grocery store bags filled with hardcover editions for Heinlein to sign. And though the great author looked more than a little perturbed about it, he signed them all. When it was my turn, I sheepishly handed Heinlein's wife (who wrote all his salutations) my just-purchased paperback copy of Starship Troopers. She and her husband seemed relieved and grateful that I only had the one book, so were very nice to me, both engaging in a bit of small talk with me, but not the man before me. I sold that signed paperback on eBay in 2014 when I was desperate for money and got nearly four hundred dollars for it. It makes me wonder what that fellow's hardcover books, all first editions as I recall, are worth now.

Patrick Marshall said...

I had a similar experience at that convention. I donated blood to get Heinlein's autograph on two books I had picked up just before (I was still new to SF and didn't have much of RAH's work at that time). He was quite friendly although I can't remember much of the coversation from being a bit woozy from the first time donation. He should have counted me as a sucess since I have donated more than 10 gallons since. I also met PKD in the huckster room and quickly grabbed the 1st book I could find which was "The Preserving Machine".

Unknown said...

My my, how peoples' memories play tricks on them! In the interest of historical accuracy: I attended Octocon II in Santa Rosa in 1978, accompanying my friend Robert Anton Wilson and to perform some interviews. Phil Dick showed up uninvited--hardly as a GoH--simply because he was living in Santa Rosa at that time with a lovely woman named Joan Simpson. Kevin Briggs, my late friend and collaborator ("Science Fiction: An Oral History") and I had interviewed Phil a few months earlier, and I brought him up to Bob Wilson's room and introduced them. (The full story, including RAW's take on the event, can be found in my book "Philip K. Dick: The Dream Connection." The book also contains a very funny story of how we introduced Phil to Leigh Brackett that weekend.) While the esteemed editor David Hartwell might recall a party in his hotel room that ended up with RAW and PKD, I recall the events very differently: the PKD/RAW meeting was private, save for Briggs and me; Hartwell may be thinking of a party I attended that ended up with PKD and Theodore Sturgeon deeply in conversation--a conversation that began with Ted saying to Phil "I've waited 15 years to have this conversation with you..." In our interview with Ted later that same day, he explained, "It was a fascinating experience, when you three [Phil, Briggs and me] walked in here and I launched into this." Hope this clears up a few of the misconceptions in previous correspondents' recollections of the event.