Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's up at Maybe Logic Academy?

Does anyone know what's up, if anything, at Maybe Logic Academy? Activity there seems to have gone from spotty (last year) to nothing at all (this year). All of the "current courses" listed on the site are from last year. (The Cosmic Trigger course was cancelled. The Eric Wagner course was suddenly canceled and then suddenly revived. Toward the end of Eric's course, the forums malfunctioned and were never fixed.)

Maybe Logic Academy seems inactive, the official Robert Anton Wilson estate never seems to announce anything and the official RAW site never seems to change. (The latter probably makes sense. The logical step would be to use the official site to announce news, and there's never any news.)

It would be good for any and all of the above to become active, but that's not something that RAW fans can count on. Given that fact, it seems to me that ongoing unofficial efforts to keep RAW's legacy going at the various fan sites, Twitter accounts, Web sites and so on seem more important than ever.



Monday, April 29, 2013

'I Have America Surrounded'

I'm trying to do my "homework," reading the Prometheus Award ballot (I've just started Sarah Hoyt's Darkship Renegades) but this month I also plan to treat myself by reading JMR Higgs' biography of Timothy Leary, I Have America Surrounded.

The promotional Web site for the book includes a FAQ. I liked this question and answer:


Why is the book called 'I Have America Surrounded'?

A friend sent me the rushes of one of Leary's last filmed interviews (with World of Wonder LA). He was very close to death at that point, very drawn and frail and clearly in a lot of pain. When the interviewer asked him about Nixon calling him 'the most dangerous man in America' he nodded solemnly and replied in a completely deadpan tone, "It's true. I have America surrounded." It just struck me as quintessentially Timothy Leary, very funny, utterly absurd and yet guaranteed to wind up anyone who doesn't get the joke. I can't imagine anyone but Leary coming up with that sentence, so it had to be the title.

In the FAQ, Higgs says it covers Leary's ideas such as imprinting, reality tunnels and the 8-circuit model, so it seems like the book would be good background for understanding many of RAW's ideas.





Sunday, April 28, 2013

A few links

PQ on "The Boston Mess and Finnegans Wake." Roman Tsivkin comments, "For Wake mystics like myself & @PQuadrino, Finnegans Wake 'predicts' many things, including the recent "boastonmess":

Twitter observation from Kevin Carson: "Anyone who thinks Miranda rights are something read to 'killers' because they 'deserve  it' is a fucking asshole. Miranda rights are read to the ACCUSED because we don't trust the government to say who's guilty and who's not." Carson is very active on Twitter.

Tweet from Justin Amash, the  "new Ron Paul."

News about the KLF paperback by John Higgs. But no announcement for publication in the U.S., at least not yet.

Gene Healy on the minimalist president, Calvin Coolidge. (Healy complains that the Amity Shlaes book was too long; I was more bothered by her writing style, which often included abrupt changes of topic in mid-paragraph. But like Healy, I was glad I read the book.)








Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

I've been reading through the novels on the Prometheus Award ballot, and one of them is good enough I wanted to let you know about it; somebunall of you RAW fans must share RAW's concerns about the the  national security state.

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez is set in the present or near future. A series of terrorist attacks have taken place on U.S. soil,  blowing up computer scientists, a human rights activist, and others. These are passed off by the  government as bombings, but the truth is scarier: They are drone attacks. Eventually it is revealed that secret elements of the U.S. government are behind the attacks, and that those elements seek to unleash drones that aren't controlled remotely but are programmed to make kill decisions on their own. The technology obviously is about to spread to other countries, too. Suarez obviously is concerned about our endless wars foreign policy and the dangers of an out of control national security state. His book works as a fast-moving, well done thriller, but it is also quite disturbing.

On a related note,  can any of you point to anyplace where RAW wrote at length about the National Security Act of 1947?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Michael Johnson on conspiracy theories

Michael Johnson takes on conspiracy theories and the Illuminatus! trilogy in a new post, and refers the reader to a number of books on conspiracy theories that he's read. (How does he find the time to read so many serious books?)

Michael suggests that one reason for the persistence of conspiracy theories is that they are fun: "With further and further connections and deeper, hidden orders uncovered, there's a quite-human neurobiological buzz of adrenaline...and "wonder and awe." And let's face it: delight. Conspiracies are exciting."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Unmasking 'Masks'

In one sense, the Masks of the Illuminati discussion is coming to a close, but it another sense, it's still there, and will continue to be there. If you have gotten behind, or if you never started, there's nothing to keep you from cracking the book open, reading the comments from everyone, and perhaps adding your own comment. I'll continue to keep the links up for the online discussion. And, if you like, you can read Quantum Psychology and still participate in that online discussion, too.

A couple of commenters have asked if there will be a discussion of another RAW book, perhaps this time an essay collection. Is anyone else interested? I'm certainly open to it, but not right now; I'm very busy trying to read through the Prometheus Award ballot.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

PQ on Dick and Joyce

PQ is a very good blogger who often writes about baseball (his contrarian prediction that the Cleveland Indians would not be all that great despite all of the team's off season acquisitions seems spot on -- the team's currently 8-10) and hip hop. For the purposes of my blog, however, PQ stands out as someone who is good at writing about fiction. In his post "Retracing Recent Ramifications of Thought, Part 1 (VALIS, Duality and Finnegans Wake)," PQ talks about duality, tying together thoughts about Finnegans Wake and Philip K. Dick's Valis to a passage in Masks of the Illuminati.

The post is from PQ's A Building Roam blog, although the content overlaps with his Finnegans, Wake! blog

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Posts on the last few days

Robert Anton Wilson on karma:

“We should all try to give out as much good energy to other human beings as we possibly can. I honestly believe that every bit of bad energy we put out has adverse effects that go on forever. This is the Buddhist doctrine of karma. The Buddhists believe that every bit of anger, resentment, hate, and so on that goes out passes from one person to another, without stopping. The same is true of good energy: every bit of good energy one puts out makes someone else feel a little bit better. I think if people were really conscious of this psychological fact, they would try very, very hard to put out nothing but good energy, no matter what happened to them. They would certainly not be so casual about passing on bad energy. All the bad energy in the world builds up like a giant snowfall, until we have a huge war. Nowadays, it can mean a total nuclear Armageddon. This is traditional Buddhism, as I say, but I think it's materialistic common sense, too. One only needs to study human behavior to realize it. I regard those people who make a career out of being nasty as emotional plague carriers.”

(Citation).

Related — at least in my mind — is this very good Michael Johnson post about good things and bad things that people have made happen in April.

Steve "Fly" Agaric has also weighed in on the last few days with a very different post.

A few sentences:

"At least with Alex [Jones] you get something different to the BBC and CNN FOX network dribble that would never entertain the idea of secret government interference and manipulation of events, due in part to their keeping in step with their corporate and/or government bosses. But I’ll leave the mainstream media critique for another blog. Here it’s Alex Jones, and the somewhat overly paranoid tone of his sensational claims of a hidden-hand behind many events of a significant terror factor to warrant a mention.

"Alex Jones and his team hit all the buttons, but, I think, hits on them so hard that the keyboard breaks and the noise becomes unbearable. If you can apply some surgical ‘maybelogic’ gloves when handling Alex and infowars, there is lots of good mental exorcise and deconstructive scenario-games to play. If you enjoy that sort of thing, which I do, due to my attention to the writing and side-steppt’ thinking of Dr Robert Anton Wilson, who i suspect a proper master craftsperson, creating good information mosaics that inform and delight."


Monday, April 22, 2013

Masks of the Illuminati, Part 10

Pages 317-355 of the Dell edition; original Pocket Books edition pages 263-294; about 90 to 100 percent of an ebook. In other words, Part Five.

This is a chapter that seems to heavily parody Joyce, although I will let the Joyce scholars explicate in the comments.

Note that the final initiation in this section takes place under the influence of a hallucinogen, and that as I mentioned earlier, it has been suggested that the Eleusinian Mysteries were carried out with the help of a mind-altering drug. The connection between the ancient Greek rite and what happens to Joyce, Einstein and Babcock is made explicit in the text: "One night in the caves of Eleusis is enough for a lifetime, as the Greeks knew." (Page 352.)  Note also that the initiation into finding new ways to see is the heart of Wilson's literary efforts. See, for example, the first sentence of his last book,  Email to the Universe: "This book intends to change your way of perceiving/conceiving the world, without drums or drugs or Voodoo, simply by using words in certain special ways."

General Cambronne (page 330, and elsewhere) refers to an alleged incident at the Battle of Waterloo.

"I never knew just breathing could be so marvelous" Page 337. Possible double meaning, e.g. being alive is marvelous. But also meditation involving breathing is important in the East; there is yogic breathing, the awareness of breath meditation that is the most important practice in Vipassana, etc.

"hell to be the child of a genius," page 343, I have wondered if minding the children was mainly Arlen's job.

"He is like a refiner's fire," Malachi 3:2. Quoted in Handel's "Messiah." Handel was a favorite composer of Beethoven, as RAW no doubt knew.

"Beethoven probably explains it better than physics," and a reference to the "quantum symphony," Page 334. Beethoven, again, appears as a artist who represents the ecstatic experience. Note also that the list of the Secret Chiefs, pages 322-324, include three composers, two real, one satirical: Beethoven, Mozart and PDQ Bach.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

O'Neill's space colony book free for Kindle this weekend

The High Frontier by Gerard K. O'Neill, a book advocating space colonies, is free as a Kindle book this week. (If you don't own a Kindle, you can download a Kindle app for whatever device you do use.)

As for why some of y'all might be interested, I will allow Eric Wagner to explain, from an entry from his An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson (still in print!).

O'Neill, Gerard (1927-1992). A scientist who suggested that planetside civilization didn't seem like the ideal location for a post-industrial, information-age society. He suggested instead self-supporting space colonies. Both Wilson and Leary have enthusiastically supported this idea. Wilson includes such colonies in Schroedinger's Cat.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

News of the day

At the end of the day Friday, I was startled by the news that the FBI wasn't going to read the captured Boston bombing suspect his Miranda rights. Isn't the evidence of guilt kind of overwhelming? Are we so terrified of terror that we can't observe the legal niceties anymore?

I don't mean to sound like the cliche libertarian, but with (1) The "war on terror" (2) the "war on drugs" and (3) the war on "hackers" and "pirates," I really wonder sometimes where this country is going.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Reading lists!

1. Michael Johnson's Overweening Generalist blog had a recent posting, "What's a Generalist Good For?" which characterized his "favorite writers and intellectuals" but didn't name them. So, in the comments, I asked for examples. Michael obliged me:

Robert Anton Wilson, Philip K. Dick, Terence McKenna, Marshall McLuhan, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Robert Hass, Peter Lamborn Wilson/Hakim Bey, Tom Robbins, HP Lovecraft, Joseph Campbell, Raymond Chandler, William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Clifford Pickover, Rudy Rucker, Thomas Pynchon, Douglas Hofstadter, Gregory Bateson, Colin Wilson and Giambattista Vico, Montaigne, Herodotus, Shakespeare, Freud and Lucretius as a mere start. 

For "straight" or academic writers: Korzybski, Chomsky, Lakoff, Damasio, Peter Berger, Randall Collins, E.O. Wilson, Mark Monmonier, Oliver Sacks (recently come out in a big way as not all that "straight"!), Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Robert Sapolsky, and Elaine Pagels.

There's a very readable yet hardcore academic book by a colleague of Lakoff's at Berkeley: From Molecule To Mind, by Jerome Feldman. I read that over and over and over. I find it very trippy and totally wonderful...and I always wonder what he'd say if I told him this. I think the ideas about how language actually works is finally - probably - "right." And I consider this work an ideal extension of Korzybski. But it's only one boook. And yet: more than enough for me. Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow is becoming sort of like that for me, too. Nick Herbert's Quantum Reality has functioned like that for me for a long time.

I'm leaving out some people, but this is me typing an answer quickly...

I'd put my team up against the New York Intellectuals, any day, any time, any place.

2. Another RAW fan, Roman Tsivkin, is fluent in both Russian and English. I mentioned that I'm jealous he can read Nabokov in both Russian and English and he replied, "With Nabokov, there's no reason for jealousy. His Russian pales in comparison to his English (he admitted as much himself)." So I switched to being jealous that Roman can knowledgeably compare Nabokov's Russian novels with his English ones.

Anyway, I asked Roman for his favorite Russian writers, and he humored me, too:

The usual suspects: Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Bely, Bulgakov, Ilf and Petrov, Babel, Lermontov, Mandelstam, Mayakovsky. The unusual suspects: Krzhizhanovsky, Shalamov, Pelevin, the Strugatsky bros. Mikhail Shishkin is my current fave.

Oh, almost forgot the wonderful Daniil Kharms. Russian-style Dada. Or, I suppose, Yesyes. Some examples.

3. Robert Anton Wilson's recommended book list (toward the bottom of the page.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Various links

1. Review of new Arnold Kling book on the various political "reality tunnels."

2. Bryan Caplan on how to make yourself happy by putting yourself in a bubble.  I can't follow all of his advice; I doubt I could do my job if I ignored all national and world news. On the other hand, this blog (and my Twitter account) have helped with suggestion number 7. If interested, see more recent posts on the topic at the same blog.

3. Three lessons from the Boston bombing coverage, by Jesse Walker. Somewhat related: Jeremy Weiland: "Thought experiment: imagine what explanation for the #bostonmarathon attack would be most disturbing to your personal political biases."

4.  What your taxes pay for (other than entitlements).

5. Rudy Rucker's Turing and Burroughs, available free.




Wednesday, April 17, 2013

'The Devil's Masquerade'?

Arthur Hlavaty has advanced in the theory (in the comments, in this previous blog entry) that Masks of the Illuminati's original title was The Devil's Masquerade. Arthur wrote, "One thing I noticed again is that the original title was probably The Devil's Masquerade, which I like. Presumably changed for commercial reasons." I asked Arthur if he could offer a citation, and he said, "That's a guess. There's the poem where each quatrain ends with the phrase, and it's an obvious theme in the discussion on the train."

Arthur's theory is attractive, because as he notes the phrase recurs in the novel. It also makes sense that the name might have been changed to remind readers that RAW is the "Illuminatus!" guy, although the Masks of the Illuminati title would seem to be hampered by the fact that the Illuminati are not very much in evidence this time. I like the alleged original title better, too.

Speculation is not proof of course, and it appears that proving that Masks originally had a different title is going to be difficult. I wrote to David G. Hartwell, the prominent science fiction editor who was the the editor for Masks of the Illuminati, and asked about Arthur's theory. Hartwell wrote back, "I don't know. But I would guess that Masks is the title Wilson put on it when he sent it in."

When I interviewed Hartwell about his interactions with Wilson, Hartwell didn't remember making a lot of changes to Wilson's books. Note the anecdote, by the way, about the time RAW met Philip K. Dick in Hartwell's hotel room.




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

John Higgs has a big new book project

John Higgs seems awesome to me,  and many of this blog's readers seem to agree. Now the rest of the world gets a chance to find out.

A British publisher has announced that it has signed Higgs to write an alternative history of the 20th   century. The press release explains, "In the book, Higgs argues that while the 19th century gave birth to concretely intelligent developments, such as the steam engine and electricity, the 20th century produced by contrast theories and ideas such as quantum entanglement, cubism, relativity, psychedelics, postmodernism and chaos maths." (Alas, Higgs hasn't really won a BAFTA, which is apparently a British Oscar.)

I was coming off a bad weekend and really, a tough last few days, when I got up Monday morning and read the press release. Made me feel better. When I read the topic, I thought, "Yes, of course!"

John looks rather serious in the publicity photo illustrating the press release, as if he's thinking about how he'll be constantly recognized on the street by beautiful women once he become ubiquitous on the BBC chat shows.

Here's how Higgs himself explained the project in a blog post: "For years I have been wanting to write an alternative history of the 20th Century. Why? Well, almost all 20th Century histories are written by politicians or political journalists who, unsurprisingly, attempt to understand the period through the actions of the political class. Yet the ideas and innovations of the 20th Century - relativity, cubism, quantum mechanics, postmodernism, psychedelics, DNA, The Somme, video games, cosmology, the subconscious, moon landings, Dada, chaos maths, Hollywood and so on - don't make any damned sense from that perspective. Surprisingly, though, those things make far more sense together than they do when studied separately, because a few key ideas run through 20th century science, art and culture which are, I think, the key to unlocking the whole period. Hence my stupidly-ambitious intention is to write a book that will be a fun, easy read and which will casually make sense of the entire brainmelting, fascinating period. In less than 100,000 words."

Higgs wrote a biography of Timothy Leary. His more recent book KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money is both a satisfying account of particularly unusual pop stars who drew attention by publicly burning a large amount of cash and an account of some of Robert Anton Wilson's ideas and how they influenced musicians and other artists in Britain.

Like the upcoming Jesse Walker book on the history of paranoia and conspiracy theories in the U.S. (out August 20), the new Higgs book sounds like the perfect marriage of the big idea and the perfect guy to write about it. Higgs' ability to discuss strange ideas (and strange people) in lucid prose no doubt got the publisher's attention.

Speaking of the KLF book, there is also going to be a new expanded edition. The book was so startling and interesting in its ideas that Higgs actually had a brief failure of nerve and considered not publishing it. (I cannot recall ever reading another nonfiction book that has alternative endings.) But the book has turned out to be quite a success.

We'll just have to see if expanded means "even more Robert Anton Wilson references," "even more weird insights" or a third alternative ending for readers who didn't like the first two.

My interview with Higgs last November is here; note that the sequel to The Brandy of the Damned  mentioned in the interview has been completed, according to Higgs' Twitter account.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Masks of the Iluminati, Part Nine

Pages 280-316 of the Dell Edition; Pocket Books pages 231-261 (e.g.,  end of Part Four of both editions); about 90 percent of an ebook.

Isn't this a beautiful resolution of Robert Anton Wilson's mystery plot?

As I mentioned earlier, Wilson explained in an interview, "I can't write a formula book. I tried once, that was Masks of the Illuminati. I started out to write an ordinary detective story, and then my imagination ran away with me and out came Masks Of The Illuminati which is a detective novel but hardly an ordinary one."

It's hardly ordinary, as RAW writes, but he conforms to the requirements of the detective novel by explaining what has happened and he even follow the convention of the detective who solves the case explaining his reasoning to an assembled group of all of the participants. In this case, Crowley is supposedly absent, but Joyce suggests that he "has been hiding in the garden listening to us all evening."  (One of my favorite mystery writers, Lawrence Block, always parodies this plot device in his popular "Burglar" series.)

Page 281, "The Rites of Eleusis." The Eleusinian Mysteries were an important feature on ancient Greek paganism and required initiation. From Wikipedia: "some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries came from psychedelic agents." Wikipedia article is here. In Illuminatus!, it is stated (Page 123) that participants were given a magic mushroom and then told the secret of the mysteries, "Osiris is a black god!" The Rosicrucian Digest discussion of Eleusis is here. 

Page 284, Mansour-el-Hallaj, Sufi mystic who traveled to India and China. 

Page 292, "the tale is this," the archetypal tale of returning to a magic place that has vanished is something I've encountered in fantasy novels, but where? I think I saw it in Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy. In his memoir, This Is Me, Jack Vance! Vance recalls a wonderful time with an exotic Latin American girl who he never saw again, perhaps offering a psychological key to the archetype.

Page 298, "a puzzle-book," Wilson uses Joyce to state RAW's own artistic philosophy. In Masks, perhaps to reward more conventional readers, Wilson explains much of the puzzle.

Page 314, "I have trained myself not to judge but to understand." Good journalists have to learn to understand rather than judge, as I've noticed in my career in the business. This also relates to paying close attention, so that you can be fascinated by other human beings and what's happening around you.

Page 316, "The worship of sex is, to an objective observer, no more absurd than any other form of worship." Bloomsday, June 16, commemorates a memorable sex act (a handjob) that Nora Barnacle performed upon James Joyce. Wilson worked for Playboy magazine, a publication which arguably worshiped sex.

I am grateful to each and every one of you who have contributed comments to the Masks discussion, and I mean each of you, but I would feel remiss if I did not particularly thank Oz Fritz for sharing his knowledge of Aleister Crowley and related matters. Oz's blog is here.  And don't miss the time Oz gave a book to Sting.










Sunday, April 14, 2013

Various links

The Electronic Frontier Foundation on CISPA, the latest threat to Internet freedom that's been rolled out by Congress. (The measure makes it easy for the government to spy on everyone by vacuuming up information collected by private companies, a loophole that invites the usual abuse.) Via Julian Sanchez' Twitter account, a must-follow if you're interested in Internet freedom issues.

The Many Lives of James Joyce by Ted Gioia. 

New Irish coin misquotes James Joyce's Ulysses. (Via Ted Gioia).

A 24-year sentence for building secret compartments in cars. (Via Radley Balko.)

Arthur Hlavaty will miss words when they all go away.






Saturday, April 13, 2013

G. Spencer-Brown's 'Laws of Form'

A post by Bogus Magus at the Maybe Logic blog notes that G. Spencer-Brown, author of The Laws of Form, has turned 90.  The post reminds us that Robert Anton Wilson's Schroedinger's Cat trilogy frequently quotes Brown's book.

The Laws of Form  is philosophy and mathematics, but is it alchemy? A paper, "An Esoteric Guide to Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form," asserts that, "the work can also be read with an esotericeye, which is to say, with a sensitivity to the form and nature of spiritual experiences." He adds, "What I would like to do in this commentary is show that within the LoF are a number of coherentrelations to principles that are rightly considered esoteric: they are hidden, but very important whenconsidering actual spiritual development. Of course as a whole LoF can be taken as a cosmologicaltreatise, and in this sense could be read alongside works such as those by Ibn Arabi, Nagarjuna, LaoTzu, or Eckhart, among many others." The paper is here, and I thank Arthur Hlavaty for pointing it out to me.

Friday, April 12, 2013

See the RAW art


Via the Maybe Logic blog I stumbled into Weirdoverse, a repository for much of Bobby Campbell's art. RAW fans will want to look at the RAW Art section, but they'll also want to look at much else, too. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A cup of coffee from RAW

An excerpt from Spiritual Business: The Amazing And True Story of Magical Blend Magazine contains an anecdote about an allegedly magical cup of coffee Robert Anton Wilson shared with the author of the book. I don't know what to make of the anecdote but I'm passing it on to you to. There are a couple of misspellings in the first couple of graphs, including the names of Antero Alli and Arlen Wilson.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Robert Anton Wilson in Spin magazine

Here is another cool find: An article by Robert Anton Wilson, "Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven," about the P2 gang in Italy and its connections to the CIA, published in Spin magazine in July 1989.  You can read it here. My thanks to Jesse Walker for uncovering it and sharing it with me.

Spin's editors unfortunately missed some mistakes -- it's Carl Oglesby not "Carl Ogelsby," and the National Security Act was passed in 1947, not 1948. Still, many of the facts in the article appear to be accurate, and it's fascinating. (I looked up some of the characters mentioned in RAW's article on Wikipedia. "Colorful" is not a sufficient description. Apparently it is impossible to make an assertion about Italian politics that is too wild to be believable.)

Related: Jesse Walker encounters the Knights of Malta.



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Prometheus Award nominations released

The Libertarian Futurist Society has released its list of nominees for the Prometheus Award and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Here's the list of finalists for the Prometheus Award:


* Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell (TOR Books)
* The Unincorporated Future, by Dani and Eytan Kollin (TOR Books)
* Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow (TOR Books)
* Darkship Renegades, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books)
* Kill Decision, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton - Penguin)


And here's the list of finalists for the Hall of Fame Award:


* "Sam Hall", by Poul Anderson (a short story, published 1953 in Astounding)
* Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold (a novel, published 1988)
* "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", by Harlan Ellison (a short story, published 1965 in Galaxy)
* Courtship Rite, by Donald M. Kingsbury (a novel, published 1982)
* "As Easy as A.B.C.", by Rudyard Kipling (a short story, published in London Magazine in 1912)
* Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (a novel, published 1999)


I'm a member of the LFS and served on the Hall of Fame nominating committee but left the Prometheus Award nominating committee last year because I was too busy. So I share credit/blame for the Hall of Fame list, along with the other judges, but the Prometheus Award nomination list is not my fault/not to my credit.

I've read all of the Hall of Fame nominees and nominated two of the pieces on the final ballot: The Harlan Ellison and the Neal Stephenson. I hope Cryptonomicon wins; it's one of my all-time favorite novels. Incidentally, Cryptonomicon is on sale as an Amazon Kindle today for $1.99.

I've only read one of the Prometheus Award nominees, The Unincorporated Future; I enjoyed it, but it probably needs to be read after you've read the other three books in the series.

If you've been patiently reading this blog posting and wondering why it's in a blog about Robert Anton Wilson, I'll note again that Illuminatus! won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1986; Robert Shea's acceptance speech is here.

Here is more from the press release for those who want more information:


The Libertarian Futurist Society will present its Prometheus Awards ceremony Labor Day weekend at the World Science Fiction Convention. Winners for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) will be presented in San Antonio, Texas at LoneStarCon3, the 71st Annual World Science Fiction Convention to be held from August 29th through September 2, 2013. We are happy to announce the finalists for the Prometheus Best Novel award and for the Hall of Fame award.

The finalists in the Best Novel category of this year's Prometheus Award, for the best pro-freedom novel of 2013 are (in alphabetical order by author):

* Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell (TOR Books)
* The Unincorporated Future, by Dani and Eytan Kollin (TOR Books)
* Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow (TOR Books)
* Darkship Renegades, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books)
* Kill Decision, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton - Penguin)

The finalists for the Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction are:
* "Sam Hall", by Poul Anderson (a short story, published 1953 in Astounding)
* Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold (a novel, published 1988)
* "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", by Harlan Ellison (a short story, published 1965 in Galaxy)
* Courtship Rite, by Donald M. Kingsbury (a novel, published 1982)
* "As Easy as A.B.C.", by Rudyard Kipling (a short story, published in London Magazine in 1912)
* Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (a novel, published 1999)

"Arctic Rising", by Tobias Buckell (TOR Books) is about a near future in which global warming has made the Arctic region livable and allowed an economic boom based on its nearly ice-free ocean. The treatment of the effects of global warming appears realistic, showing some of the benefits, and that even the negative effects are not the total disaster that supposed authorities are presently using to scare us into giving up freedom. While the protagonist works for the UN Polar Guard, which  enforces what little law exists in this mostly ungoverned region, the novel depicts government organizations as either corrupt or completely ineffective. The story shows (a little too briefly) many ways to organize society on a voluntary basis. Buckell makes this potential pro-government authority setting into a very libertarian story.

"The Unincorporated Future", by Dani and Eytan Kollin (TOR Books) covers a fateful fight for liberty and the tragic consequences of tyranny and war, with casualties on a staggering scale, marks the sobering conclusion of this suspenseful and intricate four-novel series about a solar-system-wide war between statist Earth and the more libertarian human traders (and A.I. intelligences) in the asteroid belt and outer planets.

"Pirate Cinema" by Cory Doctorow (TOR Books) educates the audience on current issues of copyright and government surveillance; advocates for a change in policies and attitudes toward transformative works; and explain ways in which the next generation can work around current obstacles and agitate for change. In a young adult novel that's unapologetically optimistic and political, Doctorow gives his characters, led by the young pirate filmmaker "Cecil B. DeVille," the opportunity to make a difference and fight back against entrenched interests and outdated forms of control. Audiences have been given a particular view of art and intellectual property day-in and day-out for many years from the government, and the media industry; in "Pirate Cinema", Doctorow spins an often charming and compelling story around a different perspective, and in doing so he offers a challenge to all lovers of personal expression and artistic freedom.

"Darkship Renegades", by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books) is an enjoyable sequel to the fascinating story begun with "Darkship Thieves", involving a  virtually government-free society, Eden, hidden among the asteroids from tyrannical Earth. When an unexpected problem erupts in the small community on Eden, a heroic foursome flees coercive forces on Eden to seek data on Earth that can reduce the power wielded by the cabal running Eden. Well-drawn, interesting characters and lots of clever action plotting keep the reader turning pages.

"Kill Decision", by Daniel Suarez (Dutton - Penguin) delivers an international, multi-ethnic thriller that's remarkably relevant to current developments in technology and policy, and well grounded in compelling science - not just about unmanned, weaponized drones and what they might mean for future warfare, but also about key characteristics of ant behavior (and how they might be used as a basis for warrior drones). In so doing, Suarez acknowledges that contemporary governmental power ultimately rests on coercive force and discusses how modern technology undermines and skews the democratic dialogue and process. "Kill Decision" stands as an action-packed adventure of particular interest to those interested in potential threats to human liberty that are disguised as protection and defense.

Twelve novels published in 2013 were nominated for this year's Best Novel category. The other nominees were Hydrogen Sonata by Iain Banks (Orbit Books), In the Lion's Mouth, by Michael Flynn (TOR Books), Rob Seablue and the Eye of Tantalus by Russell Hasan (Amazon Kindle), AI Apocalypse, by William Hertling (Liquididea Press), Chimera, by T.C.McCarthy (Orbit), Constellation Game, by Leonard Richardson (Amazon Kindle), and Midst Toil and Tribulation by David Weber (Tor Books).

"Sam Hall," a short story by Poul Anderson. A regimented future American obsessed with security faces a revolution aided by cybernetic subversion.

Falling Free, a novel by Lois McMaster Bujold. An exploration of the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

"'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," a short story by Harlan Ellison. A satirical dystopia set in an authoritarian society dedicated to punctuality, where a lone absurdist rebel attempts to disrupt everyone else's schedules.

Courtship Rite, a novel by Donald M. Kingsbury. A novel portraying an exotic human culture on a harsh desert planet, founded on applying optimization to biology, political organization, and ethics.

"As Easy as A.B.C.," a short story by Rudyard Kipling. An ambiguously utopian future that has reacted against the mass society that was beginning to emerge when it was written, in favor of privacy and freedom of movement.

Cryptonomicon, a novel by Neal Stephenson. Linked narratives set in World War II and the early 21st century trace the development of computation and cryptography and their implications for a free society.

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners.

The Prometheus awards honor outstanding science fiction/fantasy that explores the possibilities of a free future, champions human rights (including personal and economic liberty), dramatizes the perennial conflict between individuals and coercive governments, or critiques the tragic consequences of abuse of power--especially by the State.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in three categories, visit www.lfs.org. Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.





Monday, April 8, 2013

Masks of the Illuminati, Part Eight

Pages 247-280 of the Dell Edition; Pocket Books pages 203-231; about 80 percent of an ebook.

As I get further into this, it appears to be clear that we're in territory that Oz Fritz understands much better than I do. Nonetheless, I will press on and do my best.

"Ordinary people, are in a sense totally asleep and do not even know it; those who persist in asking the questions can be described as struggling towards wakefulness." Pages 267-268. All of Robert Anton Wilson's novels describe people engaged in trying to figure out what's going on.

"I prefer to call it Nothing -- since anything we say about it is finite and limited, whereas it is infinite and unlimited." Page 269.

This sounds like a description of the Buddhist conception of Nirvana. There are several descriptions of Nirvana in What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula, here is one: "It is incorrect to say that Nirvana is negative or positive. The ideas of 'negative' and 'positive' are relative, and are within the realm of duality. These terms cannot be applied to Nirvana, Absolute Truth, which is beyond duality  and relativity."

"he was even more afraid of appearing a public coward," Page 273. In the "Clerical Career Proposed" chapter of Cosmic Trigger Volume Two, RAW writes how he began to make friends at school after he bravely withstood a beating from a nun -- he was no longer a "teacher's pet."

"The first rule of our Magick is: never believe anything you hear and doubt most of what you see." Page 274. Compare with Robert Anton Wilson's quote, "Doubt lasts longer than faith and provokes thought rather than discouraging it." Source is this interview.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Listening to RAW's music

As I write today's post, I am listening to opening tracks of an album called Bigger Bach Set. It has more than 14 hours of Bach, it has 293 tracks, and it set me back 99 cents.

It's put out by an outfit called the Bach Guild, a venerable record label which has been putting out reissues of its back catalog. If you wanted to build up a big collection cheaply of the music that RAW loved,  buying the Bach Guild's stuff would be the way to go, and the outfit currently has a big sale on Amazon.

As RAW seemed to prefer Beethoven over any other composers (I do, too) the 99-cent Big Beethoven Box is as good a way as any to explain these compilations. It has four symphonies (#3, #5, #6, #7),  a bunch of piano sonatas, five cello sonatas,  "Egmont" incidental music, several late string quartets, The Creatures of Prometheus (e.g., ballet music) and a bunch of other stuff. All of these collections seem to be similar compilations of well known and more obscure pieces.

Sometimes these big box sets of MP3 sets are as much as $9 or so, but currently a bunch are on sale.  Among the ones I own that currently are 99 cents apiece are the Big Beethoven Box, the Big Mozart Box, the Big Mahler Box, the Big Baroque Box, the Big Bach Set, the Bigger Bach Set and the Big Christmas Box.

One nice feature of these MP3 sets is that when you buy one from Amazon, the album automatically goes into the site's cloud player. I haven't bothered to download much of my music yet -- I just stream it

Probably for reasons involving copyright, the Bach Guild doesn't offer these amazing bargains for more modern composers; I assume I'll never get my Big Shostakovich Box, my Big Prokofiev Box or my Big Stravinsky Box. But for older composers, these are cheap ways to obtain lots of music.

I should not that I'm not an Amazon Associates member; I don't have any financial incentive to get anyone to buy anything there.  I'm just talking. I do allow advertising at this site, although I've yet to receive a check from Google.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fans are everywhere

Two recent deaths highlight the presence of science fiction fans in the larger culture. Paul Williams'   fannish background in mentioned in the obituary in the new issue of Ansible, which says, "US author, editor and fan best known outside sf circles for inventing rock journalism in 1966 with Crawdaddy (using his fanzine publishing experience from the 1962-1963 Within).

The same issue of Ansible notes the death of Roger Ebert: "Roger Ebert (1942-2013), leading US film critic and Pulitzer prizewinner who fondly remembered his early days in sf fandom (see for example his introduction to The Best of Xero ed. Pat and Dick Lupoff, 2004), died on 4 April; he was 70." (Jesse Walker has a very nice Roger Ebert tribute here.)

There are many intersections between science fiction fandom and RAW's world, hence my post; for one such, see my Golden Apa piece.

Speaking of fandom, can anyone offer some perspective on how often RAW went to SF conventions? He met Philip K. Dick at a convention held conveniently nearby in California and a friend, Brett Cox, remembers seeing him at another convention, but I get the impression he wasn't an inveterate conventiongoer.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Hugos and other 'artistic judgments'


Artistic judgments are silly if expressed as dogmas, at least until we get an "artometer" which can measure objectively how many micro-michelangelos or kilo-homers of genius a given artifact has in it.

-- Robert Anton Wilson
(Context for the quote is here.)

Yesterday, I griped about the fact that Iain Banks has never won a Hugo award, and then today (via Arthur Hlavaty) I ran across this long blog posting by Cora Buhlert about the controversy stirred up by the just-announced Hugo nominations list. 

Buhlert's own opinions include these sentences: "Basically, he is enraged that Lois McMaster Bujold has won as many Hugos as Robert Heinlein, when the two of them shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence, let alone placed on the same level. I actually agree with that point, since Lois McMaster Bujold is lightyears better than the grossly overrated Heinlein." I think Buhlert's full of it. No doubt she would regard some of my opinions as equally bizarre.

Buhlert also writes, "I’d have thought that this year’s Hugo shortlist was pretty much uncontroversial. I mean, we have a healthy representation of women and writers of colour, most of the nominations went to works and writers that are popular or at least talked about, there are very few 'What the Fuck?' nominees compared with other years (e.g. last year’s nominees included a filk CD and a Hugo acceptance speech from the previous year)." 

This certainly seems true of the best novel nomination list, which doesn't have any of the unpleasant surprises of past Hugo nominations; I'm not well-enough informed to talk about some of the other categories.

l've griped at this blog about how Robert Anton Wilson never won any literary awards, except for a Prometheus Hall of Fame award. I don't think he ever got a Hugo nomination. 

One of my other favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, never won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He never won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. And — get ready for it, folks, this is the biggest outrage of all — he never won a Hugo!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

'I am officially Very Poorly'



How's your favorite British novelist doing? Mine has terminal cancer.

I've been coming to grips with the fact that Scottish writer Iain M. Banks has announced that he has terminal cancer.  (He is "officially Very Poorly.")

Banks writes science fiction (as "Iain M. Banks") and mainstream novels (as "Iain Banks," no "M" in the middle.)

Banks began publishing in the 1980s (his first, The Wasp Factory, came out in 1984), so I came to his fiction late when I read The Algebraist in 2005. (It was on the Hugo ballot, and I was reading all of the novels on the ballot). The Algebraist was a vivid science fiction novel set in the far future, although it was independent of most of Banks' far future novels set in the future imagined universe known as the Culture. I was amazed at how good The Algebraist was, surprised that I had somehow missed such a good writer, and determined to read more. I've read seven of his books since 2005, trying to play catch-up.

There's no better space opera writer than Banks. His books are utopias, but they also have exciting thriller plots. They wrestle with important political and moral issues. They are smart, but the fun aspects of space opera are not omitted; when I read last year's The Hydrogen Sonata, I was struck by how satisfying the explosion in one of the fight scenes was. Excession is perhaps my favorite Culture novel so far (I have a few left) but they're all good. They stand alone nicely and don't have to be read in any particular order.

The Culture is depicted as an anarchist society that believes in leaving other societies in peace. Banks has never been as big in the U.S. as I believe he ought to be. (I would argue that he is quite obviously the very best SF writer to have never won a Hugo Award, or a Nebula.) He's very big in the United Kingdom, as far as I can tell. I like to think he'll become as famous in the U.S. as he deserves to be. I do seem to spend quite a bit of my time crusading for neglected writers, as perhaps you have noticed.

The official site is here.

By the way, I don't know what it is about Scotland, but it seems to have an interesting science fiction scene. Ken MacLeod is a very good writer, too, and Charles Stross is no slouch, either.

Update: A site has now been launched where fans can leave messages, Iain can provide updates, etc. It is here.



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Quote of the day and links

"Doubt lasts longer than faith and provokes thought rather than discouraging it."

-- Robert Anton Wilson

I like that quote. After Bill Trumpler posted it on Facebook, I asked where he found it and got a surprising answer.

Bonus link: Gary Acord's Easter eggs. April 1, by the way, was the Feast of St. Eris Day in the Church of the Subgenius.

Bad news: Iain M. Banks, one of my favorite authors, has terminal cancer.

Free music, in honor of Aaron Swartz.






Tuesday, April 2, 2013

SubGenius and SuperGenius

I've finished Carole Cusack's book, which also had an interesting chapter on the Church of the SubGenius.  I particularly enjoyed the explanation on that chapter of Hakim Bey's concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones, which I had not understood before. (Robert Anton Wilson, in his unfortunately out of print collection Chaos and Beyond, has a rave review of Bey's TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchism, Poetic Terrorism. Wilson concludes, "In sum: Anarchists who fail to read this book have lost track of the cutting edge of their own philosophy. Any disciple of Freud or Nietzsche or Wilhelm Reich who doesn't read it, has missed a chance to see their own beliefs in a new and Apocalyptic light. And any Sufi who ignores this Vision deserves twenty years imprisonment in a 'respectable' white collar job with no access to any implements of suicide."

Cusack says that many people consider the Church of the SubGenius as an offshoot of Discordianism. Another arguable offshoot is the Church of the SuperGenius, promulgated by the Discordian Pope Guilty I (e.g., Arthur Hlavaty.) (When I wrote this post and linked to Hlavaty's bio I was startled to see that Arthur went to Swarthmore, the same school as Paul Williams, although Williams apparently showed up after Arthur left.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Masks of the Illuminati Part Seven

Pages 213-247 of the Dell Edition; Pocket Books pages 173-203; about 70 percent of an ebook

Page 216, "The victims of the worst tragedies...." I thought of Luna Wilson when I read this.

Page 232, The King in Yellow, Robert Chambers, available here.

Page 237, "perfectly trustworthy and rather formidable." A name check for the Ken Campbell who mounted the theater production of Illuminatus?

Page 242, "Great-grandfather was a bit odd," the John Babcock of the Historical Illuminatus chronicles?

UPDATE II: Blogger has been fixed, and links are now up again for the Masks Discussion.