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Friday, August 31, 2012

Robert Shea on Larry T. Shaw

[This is an essay from Issue No. 9 of Robert Shea's anarchist fanzine, No. Governor, which I am reprinting here to make it easier for people to find and read. Larry Shaw was a well-known science fiction editor and fan -- he was the first magazine editor to buy a short story by Harlan Ellison -- but I did not know he was a major influence on Robert Shea until I read this. He helped prepare the way for Shea's career as a magazine editor, his career as a writer and his interest in anarchism, as you are about to read. Intriguingly, Shaw also was an editor at Dell Books, according to this entry in the Science Fiction Encylopedia. -- The Mgt.]

Larry T. Shaw: An Appreciation

By Robert Shea

I met Larry Shaw at a gathering of the Hydra Club, a science fiction professionals' association, in 1959. I mentioned that I was looking for a magazine editorial job. He said there was an opening where he worked, a place called Magnum Publications, and suggested I apply for it. I did, and got hired to assist Larry with the two automotive hobby magazines he edited. So Larry gave me my start in the magazine business.

Larry was a soft-spoken, shy man who smoked a strong-smelling pipe and liked extra-dry martinis. He never finished college, but he had educated himself better than many a college graduate I've known. He said little unless he was feeling thoroughly comfortable, but behind those thick glasses his mind was always working, often brilliantly.

Larry was the first person to teach me anything substantial about magazine editing. What it came down to, for Larry, was giving the readers their money's worth. This was a pretty radical idea in the publishing industry. Still is. Most of the publishers and many of the editors we knew preferred to treat magazines as a racket, the idea being to separate the suckers from their money with a minimal investment of one's own. Larry's approach, which he practiced as much as his employers would allow him on the various magazines he edited -- Infinity, Custom Rodder, Car Speed and Style, Cars -- meant trying to create the best magazine his resources would permit.

A lot of publishers and editors don't like the magazines they work on. Some don't like magazines, period. Larry believed an editor should like magazines in general and especially his or her own magazine. Editors should also genuinely like the subject matter of their magazines. Larry edited a number of automotive magazines, and he really was interested in cars. He liked cars. Even though he wasn't anything like the Fonzie types who bored and stroked their engines and painted raging flames on their hoods, he could relate to them and respect them.

When I first went to work for him I knew nothing about cars and didn't care about them. By example as much as anything else Larry taught me to develop an appreciation for the complex and weird-looking machines that filled the pages we edited. I discovered that you can learn to care about a subject you've never thought of before, and I learned how to break through some of the intellectual barriers I'd been hiding behind.

Working together, Larry and I rather rapidly became good friends. We lunched together almost daily at the Mansfield restaurant on 43rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, where they made good hamburgers and decent drinks. It was a hangout for many people who worked in what we call called the schlock magazine business -- the poor man's Algonquin.

Larry also believed that magazines, even schlock magazines, were meant to be read, and that an editor's main job was to fill the magazine with good writing. Good writing, as Larry saw it, should be clear, entertaining, easy to read, grammatically sound, useful and honest.

"I work very  hard on transitions," he once told me, a remark typical of his craftman's approach. A lot of editors worry about leads and endings, but an editor who worries about transitions really cares about his readers. He thought that flashy, chic-looking artwork was secondary in importance to reading matter in magazines, that too much visual dazzlement might even detract from readability.

Honesty was central to his concept of good editing. He hated such common schlock magazine trickery as misleading cover lines, disguising articles that had nothing new to offer with extravagant promises, plugging shoddy products in editorial pages to attract advertising -- paying, in general, more attention to the package than to its contents. In line with that he believed a magazine's contributors, writers, artists, photographers, should be paid as much as the publisher could possible afford, thereby enabling the magazine to get the best available work into its pages. This was another radical idea. Since it's easier to find contributors who will work for next to nothing than it is to get bargain prices out of paper manufacturers, printers or typesetters, most publishers thought last of all about paying contributors.

Larry helped me, not just with my magazine writing, but with my fiction in general. As always, I was writing fiction on the side, and Larry gave me the benefit of  his advice and criticism. He lent me a copy of The Mystery Writer's Handbook. I still have it. Though it was compiled in the 50s, it's full of wisdom, particularly an article on plot construction by Lester Dent, one of the great pulp masters, every word of which is pure gold.

Through Larry I met another good friend, who also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to teach me to write better fiction, Algis Budrys -- A.J. A.J.'s home was in the wilds of New Jersey and he needed a place to stay to be close to the publishing action in New York. While he was a house guest of the Shaws he wrote his masterpiece, Rogue Moon, which is dedicated, in tribute to Larry's devotion to craft, "To Larry Shaw, Journeyman Editor."

Every so often Larry would come out with pithy utterances, which, with becoming lack of modesty, he would refer to as "Shaw's Laws." They were not the Oscar Wilde sort of one-liners, but they would state a useful observation in a clear and memorable way. Probably the noblest of these was, "People are all we have to work with." He said this in defense of anarchism, but the more I think about it the more profound and all-embracing it seems to me. Another, in reference to fanzines, was, "Short and frequent is better than long and infrequent." I still try to be guided by that one. One time in the early 60s after a rash of short-lived humor magazines, including Hugh Hefner's Trump, appeared and then quickly folded, Larry said flatly, "Humor magazines fail." Of course, that was before the National Lampoon. Indeed, there might be exceptions to a Shaw's Law, but you ignored it at your peril.

Besides Shaw's Laws, Larry knew all sorts of other important things. For instance,  it was he who first pointed out to me that the Green Hornet is the Lone Ranger's grandnephew.

Larry was the first person I ever met who called himself an anarchist. This came as a surprise, because a gentle, rational person like himself didn't fit the bomb-throwing stereotype at all. His anarchist grew out of his trust in people and his belief that most of the harm in institutions came when people were unwilling to trust one other.

He introduced me to other gentle, rational anarchists. It was from Larry that I learned about the Industrial Workers of the World. He was an I.W.W. member. He didn't convert me, or even try very hard, but he prepared the ground for my adopting anarchism some  years later. Another mental barrier breached. Again, by example as much as by argument.

Larry was a quintessential science fiction fan. He had come to New York City from Schenectady in the 1940s and had been a member of that legendary science fiction fan club, the Futurians. He was editor of Infinity, a respected magazine that flourished and perished along with the sf boom of the late 50s. He was always working on one fanzine or another.

Larry and his wife Noreen were among the members of the Fanoclasts, and with their encouragement I boldly went deeper into fannish realms than I'd ever gone before. He introduced me to the fascinating people who were active in New York fandom in the 60s and got me to read fanzines from the stacks he kept on his coffee table. He even inspired me to start a publication of my own, a mimeographed literary magazine called The Scene, ancestral to the journal you hold in your hands.

I spent a lot of time visiting with Larry and Noreen in their homes in and around New York City -- on the Lower East Side, on Staten Island, then Westchester, then Long Island. I watched their family grow with the birth of Mike and then Steve.

Our careers took us out of New York to different destinations, me moving first to Los Angeles, then to Chicago and the Shaws moving first to Chicago, then to Los Angeles.

Neither one of  us was all that great a letter writer, and when I heard from the Shaws it was most often a birthday card from Noreen. Sometimes even a St. Patrick's Day card. Then in 1984 I got a letter from Noreen telling me that Larry had cancer of the throat. I  started writing longer letters, more frequently. I thought of writing Larry to tell him what an influence he'd been on me -- something like what I'm writing here --but I felt such a letter might read too much like a farewell to a dying friend and be depressing or discouraging to him. Anyway, I was glad that Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg arranged for Larry to hear at the 1984 Worldcon in Los Angeles how much people appreciated his contributions to science fiction.

In April, 1985 Noreen called to tell me that Larry had died. Something of him lives on in the many people whose lives and minds he touched.

And I've thought many times since then how important it is never to miss a chance to tell people what they mean to you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Science Fiction Encyclopedia a good resource

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia is online. It's a good resource with entries directly relevant to RAW fans. Here's the entry on Robert Anton Wilson. Robert Shea is covered, too. There's also an entry for libertarian science fiction.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Search continues for Illuminatus! editor

Longtime readers of this blog know that I think it is important to track down the Dell editor who purchased Illuminatus! by Wilson and Shea. With all due respect to the editors who published Robert Anton Wilson's and Robert Shea's solo novels — and there have been some great ones, among them David Hartwell and Jim Frenkel — those later editors were dealing with a known quantity. Given the success of Illuminatus!, any publisher who was careful to put the words "Illuminatus" or "Illuminati' on the cover could be guaranteed an audience. The Dell editor who bought Illuminatus! purchased a very long, very weird literary work by two virtual unknowns. We are all in his or her debt.

On Wednesday, I worked up the nerve to try again to call literary superagent Al Zuckerman, literary agent for Ken Follett, Stephen Hawking, Michael Lewis, and many others. I succeeded in getting Zuckerman on the phone and explained that I wanted to know who the editor at Dell was who bought Illuminatus!.

"Fred Feldman," Zuckerman replied.

This was bad news. I explained that I had interviewed Feldman, and that he had told me that manuscript was already there when he came on board at Dell.

"Then I don't know," Zuckerman said.

Feldman got Zuckerman involved in representing Wilson and Shea. Zuckerman told me that he sold all of Wilson and Shea's subsequent novels, but that the two had sold Illuminatus! on their own, without using an agent.

I'd still like to get my question answered. Does anyone have any leads?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jury nullification

First, a bit of context. RAW's Chaos and Beyond, a pretty good book which the RAW estate has inexplicably allowed to go out of print, includes a RAW essay, "Jury Nullification: Freedom's Last Chance." The lead paragraph says, "An old idea has resurfaced that may have major potential to slow or even reverse the terrifying erosion of the Bill of Rights under the Reagan-Bush Team and their right-wing Supreme Court. I refer to the revival of the ancient Saxon doctrine of Jury Nullification which has not become a projected Constitutional amendment under consideration in 22 states." (The book, dedicated to Robert Shea, was published in 1994).

From Reason's Web site: A jury in Kansas rebels against a marijuana prosecution and forces the dismissal of the case. (I missed the original posting, so thanks Nick Helweg-Larsen.)

In that 1990s essay, Wilson urges his readers to write to an organization in Montana named FIJA that backs jury nullification rights. An Internet search reveals that the Fully Informed Jury Association is still going strong and still maintains a headquarters in Montana, although it offers contact information for supporters in other states.

UPDATE: In the comments, anonymous notes that the RAW essay I mention is available online.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Quantum Psychology, Chapter 10

[For this chapter, I thought it would be most convenient for folks who don't have a copy of the book handy to quote the last two paragraphs of the chapter and then the exercise. Duality of objects will return next week, using Eric Wagner's suggestion in the comments. -- The Mgt.]

Perhaps Zen Buddhism can enlighten us. After all, Zen has promised us enlightenment for several hundred years now.

A Zen koan of long standing goes as follows: The roshi (Zen teacher) holds up a staff and says, "If you call this a staff, you affirm. If you say it is not a staff, you deny. Beyond affirmation or denial, what is it?"


I suggest that readers reflect on what has been said so far, about the Seven Forbidden Words and the "fussy mutt" and the killings in Northern Ireland. Reflect on "the map is not the territory" and "the menu is not the meal." Close the book, close  your eyes, sit quietly, and think about this Zen riddle. Wait a minute and see if a light slowly dawns on you.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What happens to Timothy Leary's ashes?

I guess I didn't follow the articles about the death of noted film director Tony Scott closely enough. Nick Helweg-Larsen wrote to me to point out that Scott kept Timothy Leary's cremated ashes in a bathroom.

I ran searches to confirm the tip found several references to that. For example, here is an article in a British newspaper: "He kept his friends close, sometimes even after death. Tony inherited the ashes of long-time pal and LSD guru Timothy Leary, keeping them in the toilet of his Beverly Hills home."

So what happens to the ashes now?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Why do 'hard' novels give pleasure?

Over at Ask Eric, Eric Wagner tackles a question posed by Michael Johnson: ""I wonder what you'd say about the role of difficulty in reading books like The Cantos, Finnegans Wake, Ulysses, Zukovsky, Gravity's Rainbow, WSB, The Wasteland, the S-Cat Trilogy, even Illuminatus! (Just today someone on Internet labeled Illuminatus! as 'unreadable.')?"

Eric chews on this, remarking, "I don't think I have a very good answer." But he does pretty well, I think.

I don't have a very good answer either. If a book is too hard, i.e. I can't get much out of it, I don't tend to like it. At the same time, there's no question that my taste in fiction often favors fairly difficult books, i.e. I've always loved Vladimir Nabokov, who isn't exactly a pulp writer, and I love ILLUMINATUS!

I think that part of the answer is that dumb, silly fiction seems flat and lifeless to me, and fiction which is complex seems particularly vivid, as it seems to work for me on more than one level. It is denser with information. I think that's part of what RAW meant, in a quote that Michael includes in his comment on Eric's post, that RAW liked works that were "inexhaustible." He liked books that were so  dense with information there was always more to be retrieved.

Michael's question inspired an interesting blog post of his own.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another 'Principia Discordia'

Jesse Walker has sent along a link to the original Principia Discordia, which differs from later versions, as a follow-up to my earlier post.  Mr. Walker remarks, "A better link, with lots of old Operation Mindfuck correspondence at the end."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Assorted links

The BBC explains who this "Ayn Rand" person was, and discusses the popularity of her work (thanks, Nick Helweg-Larsen.)

A Tumblr blog devoted to James Joyce (hat tip, Steve Bellitt.)

Eric Wagner answers my question about his favorite classical writers.

Michael Johnson discusses Edward Luttwak, who is mentioned in ILLUMINATUS!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Robert Anton Wilson in 1956

(Photo credit: Estate of Alfred Korzybski).

The photograph, above, is reprinted on this blog with the permission of Bruce Kodish, literary executor for the late Alfred Korzybski. It depicts a 1956 seminar workshop on General Semantics, almost certainly in the New York City area. And at this point, I'm guessing that many of you have figured out why I have the picture posted here. Mr. Kodish says that Robert Anton Wilson is the gentleman sitting on the ground, on the far left. (Click on the photo to make it bigger.)

Korzybski had a very strong influence on Wilson's own philosophy, as we know from reading his books. My thanks to Jesse Walker for passing this on. (Mr. Walker is hard at work on the RAW-related chapter of his upcoming new book, The United States of Paranoia, available next year. More on the book here.)  And thank you to Mr. Kodish for letting me post the photo.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quantum Psychology, Chapter 9

(I enjoyed Chapter 9, and I will simply reproduce the exercizes here; if you think any of them are hard to do on the Internet, just skip the ones you don't like -- Tom)

1. Try to explain the difference between a Playboy centerfold and a nude by Renoir. Discuss among the whole group and see if you can arrive at a conclusion that makes sense when stated in operational-existential language.

2. Perform the same delicate semantic analysis upon a soft-core porn movie and a hard-cover porn movie. Remember: try to keep your sentences operational, and avoid Aristotelian essences and spooks.

3. When U.S. troops entered Cambodia, the Nixon administration claimed this "was not" an invasion, because it "was only" an incursion. See if anybody can restate this difference in operational language.

4. The C.I.A. refers to certain acts as "termination with maximum prejudice." The press describes these acts as "assassinations." Try to explain to teach other the difference.

Also, imagine yourselves as the victims. Do you care deeply whether your death gets called "termination with maximum prejudice" or "assassination"?

5. In the 1950s, the film The Moon is Blue became a center of controversy and actually got banned in some cities because it contained the word "virgin." How does this seem in retrospect? Discuss. (If anybody finds Mr. Carlin's paraphrased jokes offensive let them explain why the above film no longer seems offensive.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Origin of Principia Discordia manuscript

Keen-eyed John Merritt looks carefully at the Principia Discordia noted by Jesse Walker (see Friday's post) and notices something interesting:

"Reference copy, JFK Collection HSCA (RG 233)" along right edge of each page. Thornley served w/ Lee Harvey Oswald in USMC.

This apparently refers to the files of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, from the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records in the National Archives.

Doesn't this sound like something from the pages of ILLUMINATUS?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Enrique Freeque on 'Masks of the Illuminati'

Blogger Enrique Freeque -- who seems to be rather widely read in fiction -- discusses Masks of the Illuminati and marvels at RAW's ability to convincingly portray characters such as James Joyce, Carl Jung and Albert Einstein. Excerpt:

That Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) could make so many disparate historical icons sound humorously real on the page is mystifying. Did he journey back in time and tape record them? That he could accomplish such a chameleon's feat without sinking toward what could've been easy-cheesy parody for writers gifted with lesser wit and talent than he, is a minor miracle. That he could meld so many writer's voices, styles, syntax, biographies, world views (whether faux or fact) and have enough creative chutzpah left to make the farfetched narrative, in its entirety, coalesce into a plot that's wild yet cogent, always compelling, tells me he could've conceptualized launching a land rover to Mars and then nailed its impossible landing. With his eyes closed. He's that good.

I've been meaning to re-read Masks of the the Illuminati. I'll probably take it on after I finish with Quantum Psychology.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Early 'Principia Discordia'

On Twitter, Jesse Walker shares this link, remarking, "The original 1965 edition of the PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA. Basically a different book than the one that circulates now." I can't seem to figure out how to see more than the first couple of pages; am I doing something wrong?

UPDATE: Jesse explains in the comments how to access the rest of the document.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

'Lost' Timothy Leary manuscript

Boing Boing founder, guru of cool and in-house Robert Anton Wilson fan Mark Frauenfelder reports that an unpublished Timothy Leary manuscript is being made available for auction.

Fraunfelder writes, "Timothy Leary wrote The Periodic Table of Energy while he was in Vacaville state prison in 1974. "The work explores 'correspondences among the Periodic Table of Elements, the Neurogenetic Theory of Evolution, the Tarot, the I Ching, [and] the Zodiac.' The 203-page typescript is profusely annotated and edited in manuscript, and illustrated with images, advertisements and articles clipped from newspapers and magazines."

Auction house press release is here.

Boing Boing's Robert Anton Wilson posts (lots of good stuff) is here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The 'Atlas Shrugged of historical revisionism'?

World War II revisionism is a fertile topic for folks of the antiwar persuasion (such as RAW) and I thought I would put in one more observation before Gore Vidal's death becomes yesterday's news. head honcho Justin Raimondo's obituary for Gore Vidal called my attention to Raimondo's earlier review of Vidal's The Golden Age, where Raimondo wrote, "Ironic, idealistic, world-weary and, in the end, optimistic, Gore Vidal has, in The Golden Age, cemented the capstone of his historical saga with what is truly a crowning achievement. A novel that works as history, that breaks fresh (if not entirely new) ground historically: here, at last, is the Atlas Shrugged of historical revisionism, a fictional but all-too-true retort to the court historians who peddle the Disney-ized mythology of the 'greatest generation' to a nation that has lost its memory, and, therefore, its conscience."

Raimondo's article also pointed out to me a book that I had not heard of before, Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States: 1939-44, by Thomas Mahl. Says Raimondo, "Mahl’s 1998 book is based on declassified documents that tell some of the story of how British intelligence agents permeated the political and social elites in Washington and New York, pushed a reluctant 'isolationist' America into war – and put us on the road to empire."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Buckminster Fuller's lectures

The excellent Open Culture Web site has posted "Everything I Know," 42 hours of lectures by Buckminster Fuller. (I have an interview of Fuller by RAW that I will post when I manage to find time to transcribe it.)

Pipzi Williams chips in with a haiku:

bucky fuller spoke
and other dimensions leaned
to listen closely

UPDATE: In the comments, Bogus Magus notes that transcripts are available here. I'll be loading some into my Kindle.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Quantum Psychology, Chapter Eight

[I really enjoyed RAW's lucid exposition on Maybe Logic. The exercizes would seem to work well for an Internet discussion, so here they are. -- Tom]

Classify the following propositions are true, false or maybe:

A. In 1933,  Franklin Roosevelt became president of the United States.
B. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt became president of the United States.
C. On Jan. 18, 1932, Cary Grant had his 28th birthday.
D. The river Necker flows through the city of Frankfurt.
E. The river Necker flows through the city of Heidelberg.
F. Humanity evolved from Old World apes.
G. Force always equals mass multiplied by acceleration.
H. Francis Bacon wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare.
I. Sex education leads to an increase in sex crimes.
J. In the  years in which sex education increased in the U.S., reported sex crimes also increased.
K. The census of 1890 showed 4,000,000 inhabitants of New York City.
L. An ordinary pack of cigarettes contains 20 cigarettes.
M. Ronald Reagan knew about the Iran-Contra guns-and-cocaine deals of North, Secord and Hull.
N. Ronald Reagan did not know about the Iran-Contra crimes until he heard the news on TV.
O. All the differences between men and women result from cultural training.
P. Sombunall of the differences between men and women result from cultural training.
Q. All differences between men and women result from genetic factors (testosterone, estrogen, etc.)
R. Sombunall of the differences between men and women result from genetic factors (testosterone, estrogen, etc.)
S. The lost continent of Atlantis exists under the sea near Bermuda.
T. The lost continent of Atlantis never existed.
U. Hitler had only one testicle.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Would Ayn Rand approve of Paul Ryan?

I  usually shun the topics of the day, but wanted you to see Roderick Long's post at the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog ; Ayn Rand's comments about Ronald Reagan are quite amusing. Incidentally, while libertarians tend to emphasize their differences among themselves, the Rand quotations would serve as an example of where they agree. I doubt that Robert Anton Wilson, or many other people who have sometimes call themselves libertarians, would disagree with Rand's Reagan comments. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Academic publication has RAW article

The Brill Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production has an article entitled "Making the Donkey Visible: Discordianism in the Works of Robert Anton Wilson" by David G. Robertson. This would appear to be an episode of Wilson being featured in an academic publication. Mr. Robertson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Edinburgh; his Ph.D. research project is entitled, “Aquarian Conspiracies: Extraterrestrials as discursive unit between New Age and conspiracist milieux.”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Today's best correction

From the New York Times ArtsBeat blog:

An earlier version of this post, citing the translation from Folha de S. Paulo, the newspaper that published the interview with Mr. Coelho, imprecisely rendered a quotation. Mr. Coelho said, "If you dissect 'Ulysses,' it gives you a tweet," not, "Stripped down, 'Ulysses' is a twit."

If you follow literary news, you'll know what the post is about: Paulo Coelho gave an interview in which he said James Joyce damaged the 20th Century novel by reducing it to pure style. As the Times post reveals, his comments generally have not been well-received. I haven't read anything by Coelho, so I can't express an opinion on his work.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Arthur Hlavaty's Nice Distinctions

Prominent SF fan (and RAW and Robert Shea fan) Arthur Hlavaty has released Nice Distinctions 23, his latest fanzine. Old school fans apparently can still receive a copy printed on paper but it's also available at a PDF download from this archive. If you like it, email Mr. Hlavaty at the address given in the zine and he'll email you the next issue.

Much of the zine consists of "greatest hits" from Arthur's blog. (Today's attack on Yoda made my day.) Arthur is always looking out for the underdog, a pursuit that sometimes takes him into surprising territory. I particularly liked this look back at Arthur's school days, fed by a news report:

 From 1954 to 1960 I attended Horace Mann, a boys' prep school in NYC. I didn't like the unisex aspect, but I admittedgrudgingly at the timethat I was getting an excellent education. Now that I have accepted my geek nature, I am grateful, and I particularly remember the great teachers I had, such as one English teacher, a small, gentle Asian man named Tek Young Lin.
        Horace Mann has been in the news lately. A few weeks ago there was a New York Times Magazine report revealing that 20 years after I left, at least three teachers were sexually abusing their students. Now there is a follow-up story reporting that Tek Young Lin had sex with some of the boys in his classes.
        I never knew, or even suspected, that he was gay, but in retrospect I am not entirely surprised. What also does not surprise me is that he appears in this story far less abusive than those usually reported on. We read of a couple of people who do not feel harmed by what happened, and one who reports that Mr. Lin took No for an answer. Where the earlier story brought tales of traumatized lives, this one has textbook material about "unequal relationships."
        When I was at Horace Mann, everyone knew that same-sex relations were bad; the only question was whether the perps should be imprisoned or just cured. Now everyone knows that adult-teen relationships are bad, particularly in schools, which I have to admit is a lot less irrational. (In the 50s we were told that heroin and marijuana were unthinkably awful drugs. Failing to distinguish between them led to problems. In the 50s we were told that gay sex and teacher/student sex were unthinkably awful….)
        So maybe Mr. Lin harmed some of those he was involved with. And maybe he was good for some. There are a number of men my age who are deeply grateful that when they were teens, an adult man showed them that they were not The Only Homosexual in the World, and gave them ways to express their forbidden feelings. I am told that the current relative sanity in these matters means that such adults are no longer needed. It would be nice to think so.
        But I also believe that in many cases it didn't make that much difference. In I Will Fear No Evil and later books, Robert A. Heinlein noted that a lot of teenagers experiment with same-sex acts (sometimes with a teacher or scoutmaster) and most are neither traumatized nor converted.
        For a long time I felt guilty that I had never written to Mr. Lin to express my gratitude for the knowledge and inspiration I acquired from him. I have now done so.

My interview with Mr. Hlavaty on the Golden APA is here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Free Rudy Rucker books

Many Robert Anton Wilson fans will be interested in Rudy Rucker. They were in a movie together, as this fascinating article recalls (Mr. Wilson was not at his best at the time). Rucker gained fame as an important cyberpunk author.

I mention this because Rucker's acclaimed Ware Tetralogy (four novels, the first two won the Philip K. Dick Award) is available free at Feedbooks.  Rucker also has put a complete collection of his stories online as an HTML page.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oz Fritz on Gnostic agnosticism

Oz Fritz's entire post on Musical Gnosis and Philip K. Dick is worth a careful read, but I particularly liked this passage on Gnostic agnosticism:

Taking a gnostic approach to agnosticism indicates a willingness to experientially seek out the truth of deeper philosophical matters, like 'Who am I' and 'Why am I here' despite never reaching a final conclusion.  A good example of this in play occurred at a RAW Q&A session when I asked Wilson what he thought about the Secret Chiefs.  In the Thelemic system, the Secret Chiefs represent the enlightened masters who supposedly guide human destiny.  They have corollaries in other occult systems such as Theosophy. "The Secret Chiefs," RAW replied, "are a useful metaphor."

I suspect that "Gnostic agnosticism" also could be a way to describe the attitude of Robert Shea. His zine No Governor No. 7 (available from the "Resources" links at this site) includes a newspaper article about him from the "Glencoe News" newspaper, Jan. 3, 1985. It quotes Shea as saying that he had been interested in mysticism for years and meditates for 20 minutes a day.

"I got involved in mysticism thinking it would give me some practical benefit," Shea says in the article. "But once you get into it, you lose that motivation. Writing becomes a way of getting closer to mysticism."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quantum Psychology, Chapter 7

As the exercizes for Chapter 7 of Robert Anton Wilson's Quantum Psychology do not seem practical to me for an Internet discussion, I will beg your indulgence this week and pose a question which I invite sombunall of you (those who find it interesting) to join me in answering. Incidentally, there are many chapters left in the book, and the chapters are small, so if you have not taken part so far, there's plenty of time to get a copy of the book and "catch up."

Q. Robert Anton Wilson suggests in Chapter 7 that we think of possible outcomes in terms of probabilities rather than a rigid yes/no, i.e. "that will surely happen" vs. "that will never happen." Please give two example of how adopting this probability system consciously might affect your behavior, or how you think about an issue.

Here are my two.

(1) I have been about to come up with a blog entry for Quantum Psychology every Monday for six weeks in a row so far, and since I began this blog I have maintained a schedule of putting up a posting every day. I would estimate that my probability of posting today was 95 percent, i.e. there was at least some possibility I would fail because I was sick, I encountered an overwhelming emergency, I simply refused to do it, etc.

It seems to me that because I realize the people who read this blog have been "trained" to check for something every day, it is more likely that I will post -- because I don't want to disappoint them.

(2) I would guess that the possibility I will get into an automobile accident during my commute to work tomorrow is about .1 percent. (I have commuted to work for several years; I had to have my car repaired a couple of years ago when I hit a dead deer that suddenly loomed in front of me as I drove down the highway. I was not hurt.)

I try to remember to put on my seat belt when I get in the car. Although the possibility of an accident is low, it is definitely there. And the possibility that I might get hurt in an accident, if one took place, is probably quite high. Since much of my driving by necessity is at a high speed on a highway, perhaps the possibility is 40 percent. So it is worth my time to take a second or two to buckle up.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A 'Renegade History'

I have been reading A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell, and I am surprised this interesting book has not attracted more attention. This is a book that any libertarian, anarchist or civil libertarian would want to read. Russell's thesis is that much of our freedoms today come from folks who simply refused to accept rules that did not make sense to them, and that we owe much to those "renegades," including blacks, Irish immigrants, prostitutes and others.

Jesse Walker's interview with Russell is here.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Original Falcon issuing ebooks

Eric Wagner forwarded a newsletter to me from Original Falcon, a publisher of occult and esoteric books, which announces that Original Falcon is getting into ebooks in a big way. (Original Falcon was founded after a schism with the folks at New Falcon. I'm unclear on the details.) Original Falcon's catalog of ebooks is here.

New Falcon, unfortunately, is moving more slowly into ebooks, and since it is the publisher with much of Robert Anton Wilson's back catalog, it will have to get moving if more RAW books are going to be available for Kindle, Nook, etc. I just checked Robert Anton Wilson for Kindle, and I did not anything new.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Data's Cat has new album coming out

Data's Cat is the band name for an English musician who makes "slightly-delic prog space rock."

His album titles are suggestive. The first album was called Maybe Logic. The new album coming out this fall is called Cosmic Trigger.

More information here and here.

Maybe it would be logical to release these things as MP3s to make it easier for American fans to get a copy? The sound samples I've tried so far sound good.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gore Vidal, the RAW connection?

If you pay attention to the world of letters at all, you'll know by now that Gore Vidal died. (His historical novel Julian, about the last pagan Roman Emperor, was very good and very well-researched. Perhaps you have noticed my obsession with late Roman/early Byzantine history.)

Jesse Walker wrote an obituary for Reason and noted (in an email) that Vidal's Myron uses the names of Supreme Court justices to replace the names of sex organs in descriptions of sex acts, much as Wilson did in Schroedinger's Cat (presumably for the same reason, to protest an anti-porn decision by the high court.) "I suspect that's where Wilson got the idea," Walker writes. Walker thinks that Vidal's use of the justice's names may only have been in the first edition; Wikipedia appears to be silent on this.

Many of Vidal's criticism of U.S. foreign policy sound like Wilson. (Many of Vidal's obits mention his "isolationism," the favorite smear against people who speak out for peace.)

Update: Interesting Christopher Buckley essay on Vidal.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Robert Anton Wilson, a modernist classicist?

I've just finished reading Procopius of Caesarea: Tyranny, History and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity by the classicist Anthony Kaldellis, mentioned earlier in this blog. (Procopius is the major history of the sixth century Byzantine Empire and the Emperor Justinian.)

In much of the book, Kaldellis notes that Procopius is a heavily allusive writer who constantly echoes and refers back to other classical works. This is a recurring trait of Greco-Roman writers, Kaldellis notes:

"Classicism began immediately with the birth of the classical, in the eighth century B.C. The first known verse inscription, the famous Cup of Nestor, contains an allusion to Homer. The joke on the cup  cannot be fully understood unless one knows the text of the Iliad to which it refers. It is 'nearly the oldest example of alphabetic writing and, at the same time, Europe's first literary allusion, an extraordinary fact.'* The Greeks wrote like this throughout all periods of antiquity, and that Procopius did so should in no way be correlated with the fact that he happened to live in what is now called the 'later' Roman Empire." (Page 61).

It seems to me that Robert Anton Wilson could be described as a "modernist classicist," given that he read modernist writers very closely and often alludes to modernist writers such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, etc.

You don't have to pick up on Procopius' allusions to read his History of the Wars of Justinian; after all, he is describing exciting events, including wars on three continents, the Nika riots and an outbreak of bubonic plague that rivaled the medieval Black Death for its impact. Yet, his writing communicates much more to classicists such as Kaldellis who can appreciate Procopius' references to Herodotus, Thucydides, etc.

Similarly, I read ILLUMINATUS! in college without realizing that Hagbard Celine's name refers to the protagonist of Finnegans Wake, the multiple viewpoints echo Ulysses, the cut-up technique is indebted to William Burroughts who got it from Bryon Gysin, etc. But for those who can pick up on the references, the work picks up added depth.

Another passage of the same Kaldellis book illuminates something that RAW himself wrote about. Kaldellis notes that "Classical allusions could be used to subvert the surface of a text whenever authors wanted to express opinions that for various reasons could not be stated openly ... Only a few readers would see past the outer layer to the inner message that was carefully hidden from the gaze of kings." (Page 36).

One of the examples Kaldellis gives is the Empress Theodora's famous speech during the Nika riots, when she declares that "kingship is a fine burial shroud." This slightly misquotes a saying reported by several classical authors that "tyranny is a fine burial shroud," said by a companion to Dionysius, a notorious tyrant of Syracuse. This implies that Justinian was a tyrant, without saying so openly, which would have been very dangerous. (Historians sometimes compare Justinian to Stalin. It was Justinian, for example, who shut down the famous school of philosophy in Athens that had existed for hundreds of years.)

This observation is reminiscent of RAW's observation in Cosmic Trigger that alchemists had to disguise their meanings in their writings to avoid persecution by the church.

* Professor Kaldellis is quoting Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet, B.B. Powell.