Bobby Campbell's cover for The Widow's Son
I've been wondering for awhile why Robert Anton Wilson didn't finish his "Historical Illuminatus" series. Three came out. I thought The Earth Will Shake and The Widow's Son were excellent. Nature's God has many fine moments, but seemed to me to have a bit of an unfinished feel.
In any event, as this Wikipedia entry relates, there were supposed to be five books in all, and the name of the fourth had been released — The World Turned Upside Down.
So what happened? The Wikpedia entry gives the accepted answer: Wilson never got around to writing them.
But Philip Brett, a member of the Robert Anton Wilson Fans Facebook group and a California resident, has come forward with another version of the story. According to Mr. Brett, Wilson completed the books, but lost the manuscripts.
I wrote Brett asking for more information after I saw a brief posting on Facebook, and he wrote back:
"I first asked him at a book signing for Everything Is Under Control. I was the last person on line. He politely blew me off. I knew someone who was roommates with Rosemary, Timothy Leary's widow, so I met and talked to him at a memorial party. I wound up being part of a group that would watch movies and read his books. I think it was a little while before I asked him. I'll say it was 1999. The third volume had an excerpt of the fourth which never came out. He explained to me the publisher went out of business. He got another but the book didn't sell well since he was a cult author and most people who were interested bought them the first time around. The publisher didn't want to continue. He had finished the fourth and the fifth needed some editing. They existed on a computer as manuscripts. He said all of it had been lost in moving around and by mistakes. I had the impression he wasn't blaming anyone else. He said it was the biggest heartache of his professional career. He was sad telling me this. I felt bad. He talked about bad editors and having trouble getting royalties from some publishers after that. That's about all I remember but I would try to answer any questions you might have."
As a follow up, I wrote back to Mr. Brett: "I'm confused about how the books could have been lost if they were on a computer. Was the computer itself lost? Because if he had a hard drive crash, it's possible that there could have been some way to recover it.
"It's sad if important work was lost. I've noticed that he didn't make any provision, either, for the preservation of his literary papers."
Mr. Brett wrote back:
"I am speculating that they may have been deleted by mistake; he was not the most computer literate person in the world, or it may have been damaged. I also think it may have been one of his kids but he left that out when describing it to me. The fact remains that they are lost. As for his papers I think that anything that he had done that he wanted to be released went into Email to the Universe."
He suggested a couple of other people I could write to for more information. I'll see what I can find out, but does anyone reading this have any information?