As I've done in past years, I've listed all of the books I read during the year. Some of these were consumed as audiobooks, but most were actually read. I haven't tried to distinguish between books I read for the first time and books I re-read.
1. Retribution, Max Hastings.
2. The Claw of the Conciliator, Gene Wolfe.
3. The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead, Charles Murray.
4. The Byzantine Republic, Anthony Kaldellis.
5. How Rome Fell, Adrian Goldsworthy.
6. In Our Hands, Charles Murray.
7. No Score, Lawrence Block.
8. The Golden Apple, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
9. O Is For Outlaw, Sue Grafton.
10. Season of the Witch, Peter Bebergal.
11. The Most Dangerous Book, Kevin Birmingham.
12. A History of Byzantium, Timothy E. Gregory.
13. The Janus Stone, Elly Griffiths.
14. The Story Hour, Thrity Umrigar.
15. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie.
16. Death of Yesterday, M.C. Beaton.
17. When Books Went to War, Molly Guptill Manning.
18. Death of a Policeman, M.C. Beaton.
19. The Death of Caesar, Barry Strauss.
20. Invisible City, Julia Dahl.
21. The Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kurt Behrendt.
22. The Blues, a Visual History, Mike Evans.
23. The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber.
24. Behind the Smile, Bobbi Phelps Wolverton.
25. Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett.
26. Wheels Within Wheels, F. Paul Wilson.
27. A Better World, Marcus Sakey.
28. Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon.
29. Trailer Park Fae, Lilith Saintcrow.
30. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie.
31. Days of Rage, Bryan Burrough.
32. The Dead Key, D.M. Pulley.
33. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson.
34. By the People, Charles Murray.
35. Leviathan, Wilson and Shea.
36. Lost Sandusky, M. Kristina Smith.
37. The Sword of the Lictor, Gene Wolfe.
38. Words Without Music, Philip Glass.
39. Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie, James Proffitt.
40. Elon Musk, Ashlee Vance.
41. Pause, Play — A Higher Consciousness Handbook, K.P. van der Tempel.
42. Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves.
43. Information Doesn't Want To Be Free, Cory Doctorow.
44. Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson.
45. We Believe the Children, Richard Beck.
46. Stonemouth, Iain Banks.
47. The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu.
48. Armada, Ernest Cline.
49. The Island Worlds, Kotani and Roberts.
50. Now Wait for Last Year, Philip K. Dick.
51. The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
52. Browsings, Michael Dirda.
53. The Day of Wrath, Sever Gansovsky.
54. The Wright Brothers, David McCullough.
55. Hosts, F. Paul Wilson.
56. The Lonely Shadows: Tales of Horror and the Cthulhu Mythos, John Glasby.
57. The Billion Dollar Spy, David E. Hoffman.
58. Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, Elvis Costello.
59. The Mirror Maze, James D. Hogan.
60. Dick Kinzel, Roller Coaster King of Cedar Point, Tom O'Brien.
61. The Girl Who Owned a City, O.T. Nelson.
62. On Russian Music, Richard Taruskin.
63. The Miskatonic Manuscript, Vin Suprynowicz.
64. Manna, Lee Correy.
65. Stranger Than We Can Imagine, John Higgs.
66. The Castle of the Otter, Gene Wolfe.
67. My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency, Doug Henwood.
68. The Citadel of the Autarch, Gene Wolfe.
Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
My favorite books of 2015.
I agree with this "Star Wars" article.
On the Tamir Rice case.
Hillary Clinton, "author".
Chad Nelson on 2015 year end "biggest story" recaps.
What got Tyler Cowen's attention in 2015?
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Wilhelm Reich in Hell Kickstarter fails
The Kickstarter project by 2 Pomme D'Or 3 Productions to stage a version of Robert Anton Wilson's Wilhelm Reich in Hell has failed. By the time the deadline has expired Monday, the project had raised £464 in pledges toward the £6,000 goal. Because Kickstarter has "all or nothing" rules, none of the 24 backers who had pledged support actually were charged any money. (I was one of the 24 backers, but unfortunately I was in no position financially to provide the kind of support they really needed.)
I haven't seen any word yet on Twitter on what comes next, but if you follow my link, you can probably get the latest.
Monday, December 28, 2015
'The Early Discordians' has launched
Tim Wheeler, aka Harold Lord Randomfactor, with his wife Mary Wheeler, aka Hope Springs.
There are several groups on Facebook that might interest readers of this blog. A partial list: Robert Anton Wilson Fans (a public group), Discordian Libertarians (a closed group, and Jake Shannon is trying to transition to FnordU.com) and now, a new group, The Early Discordians, a new public group, focusing on Discordian history and lore. Many of the posts so far have been from Adam Gorightly, who I believe is the founder of the group, but Antero Alli and others also have been contributing material.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
John McAfee a Libertarian candidate for president
The 2016 presidential campaign already seemed pretty weird to me, with the rise of reality TV star and obnoxious rich person Donald Trump to be the Republican front runner, and the insistence of many Democrats, against all evidence, that the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton, is a progressive. (I'm currently reading My Turn by Doug Henwood). But now comes the word that software mogul John McAfee is planning to run for president as a Libertarian.
Here is his interview on cyberware with ISIS. He has an official campaign site and a Twitter account.
Hat tip, Chad Nelson.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
One more Gene Wolfe quote
Cover for the first half of Gene Wolfe's BOOK OF THE NEW SUN
I quoted Gene Wolfe the other day, and I'm going to do that one more time, again from The Castle of the Otter:
A good story is one in which a sympathetic and three-dimensional protagonist has absorbing and unusual adventures against a varied and interesting background. A great story is one a cultivated reader can read with pleasure and later re-read with increased pleasure.
-- Gene Wolfe
It seems to me that Wolfe's definition of a "great story" would include almost all of the fiction of Robert Anton Wilson, Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, James Joyces's Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Richard Powers' The Gold Bug Variations, among many other books that could be named. These books are my personal choices of course — they are all books I had read and re-read — but I'm sure many of you reading this have your own personal list.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Ted Gioia (photo by Dave Shafer)
RAW on the pagan origins of Christmas.
Arthur Hlavaty on solstice.
Ted Gioia's 100 best albums of 2015.
What they wanted for Christmas in 1977. (Sears catalog).
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Christmas Eve links
It's Christmas Eve. Where are the lobster telephones on the store shelves, then?
One of my favorite Tweets ever. But I guess we can eliminate Atlanta as the headquarters of the Illuminati. Maybe.
Little-known bits of history.
December Eris of the Month.
Arthur Hlavaty reviews John Higgs' Stranger Than We Can Imagine.
Year end best books lists. Mine, when I finally do it, will include Stranger Than We Can Imagine, which I finally just finished.
Are women ripped off on pricing, or do they just buy better stuff?
Tyler Cowen: "I would offer the following (speculative) generalization. Guys are more likely to 'just buy any usable sock,' whereas women are more likely to want 'the right socks.' Therefore socks for guys end up being cheaper, because male price elasticity is higher.
"Yet guys are more likely to spend a lot to buy the most expensive stereo system, or the most expensive car, or make the biggest charitable donation. There may not be coexisting 'male' and 'female' versions of these goods, as with pink vs. blue razors, but still the men pay big compared to the women.
"The now-famous WaPo Danielle Paquette piece oversamples 'regular goods' and undersamples the goods where males end up paying more. Therefore it looks like women are getting ripped off, but in reality we don’t know the net effect."
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Quote of the Day
Every writer worth his two-cents-a-word hopes, in some little corner of his mind at least, that somewhere out there, there are a few people who will do more than read his book, pitch it away, and reach for the next one -- people who will read and re-read, study the cover, perhaps, in search of some clue, shelve the book and later take it out again, just to hold. There was a time when I could put the palm of my hand flat on the front of a tattered paperback called The Dying Earth and feel the magic seeping through the cardboard: Turjan of Miir, Liane the Wayfarer, T'sais, Chun the Unavoidable. No one I knew had so much as heard of that book, but I knew it was the finest book in the world.
— Gene Wolfe, The Castle of the Otter
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Pause, Play — A Higher Consciousness Handbook
A couple of years ago, a couple of the usual suspects pointed me to a Dutch-Canadian "philosopher and mystic," Klaas Pieter van der Tempel, who maintains a High Programming website.
Eventually, I got around to reading Klaas Pieter's Higher Consciousness Handbook, essentially a collection of different ways to alter your reality. As he explains in the interview below, he went looking for such a book on the Internet, could not find it, and decided to write it himself.
"I decided to write things out for myself: a compendium of the many techniques, tricks, and disciplines I had learned or come up with during those first four, post-psychedelic years, to alter my own state of consciousness," he says. "In that sense the book was me writing to myself, encoding the simplest wake-up calls to wake myself up on a daily basis, with or without psychedelics. To get high every day, at work, on the train, in the supermarket, just by using my brain."
Klaas Pieter put out the book himself and also made it available for download. I found it and enjoyed reading it, and wondered if other people would like it. Klaas Pieter isn't very active with social media and on the Internet, and I thought it was a shame that only a relatively few people would have a chance to find out about the book, much less read it.
I've tried to fix that by publishing an inexpensive ($2.99) ebook edition for Amazon Kindle, in collaboration with my publishing partner Gary Acord. You don't have to have a Kindle tablet to read it, just a free Amazon app for your web browser, smartphone or tablet. In fact, I've put a copy on my smartphone, so that when I have a spare moment I can re-read the entries and practice the recommendations. (You can also buy the collection of antiwar essays by Randolph Bourne that Gary and I put out for 99 cents.)
And with that commercial announcement out of the way, here is my interview with Klaas Pieter, to introduce him and his book to you.
RAWILLUMINATION: Can you say something about what you were trying to do with your book? Who do you think will find it useful?
KP van der Tempel: "Pause, Play" was written four years after I'd had my first mind-shattering experiences with psilocybin mushrooms. Those experiences were so powerful, and so alien, that I looked all over for people who could relate to what I'd been through. I suppose I was looking for confirmation that I wasn't insane for having unlocked the realms of higher consciousness, and that I wasn't alone. There was plenty of information online about how to use psychedelics, and even more about enlightenment, illumination, and so on, but it was all so fragmented and replete with all kinds of dogmas and religious moral values that I was kind of put off by it. The result was that I decided to write things out for myself: a compendium of the many techniques, tricks, and disciplines I had learned or come up with during those first four, post-psychedelic years, to alter my own state of consciousness.
In that sense the book was me writing to myself, encoding the simplest wake-up calls to wake myself up on a daily basis, with or without psychedelics. To get high every day, at work, on the train, in the supermarket, just by using my brain. And then to use that high for fun, creativity, transformation, love, and above all for an active participation in the co-creation of my reality tunnel.
The book was intended for anyone like myself who has experienced higher consciousness and wants to integrate into their daily life. To live not just as a human, but as (a) god or as the trickster. And of course, anyone who has read RAW will quickly see how much he's influenced my writing — hopefully for the better. For those who want to dig deeper, my master's thesis provides a background for "Pause, Play" by comparing the works of RAW, Joseph Campbell, Leary and others. It's available online, and it's called "How To Go Out of Your Mind And Come Back Again." Somehow I managed to graduate with it even though my professors hated it. They just wanted to get rid of me.
RAWILLUMINATION: Your writings show that you obviously were influenced by Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary. Can you say something about how you encountered their writings, and how they influenced you?
KP van der Tempel: I "met" RAW on the internet, I'm sad to say, only a few months before he died in 2007. At first, my interest in him was because of his conspiracy talks. One of my earliest reactions to taking psychedelics was an increase in paranoia; I figured that if I could discover these incredible insights into reality, language, and power, then somebody (or some group of people) must have done the same a long time ago. They must have started a secret club and initiated followers.. gained power in society.. and honed their skills and extended their influence over the millennia. And so I ended up deep inside conspiracy territory. Bloodlines, reptilians, Rockefellers, the works. And somewhere in this world of fear and control I saw a quote that said that there was this guy, Robert Anton Wilson, who was the King of Conspiracy Theory. I had to check it out. And thank jah I did, because he helped me pull myself right out of that shithole. I read Illuminatus! first; then Cosmic Trigger, and then every other book, article, and online video I could get my hands on. I wrote a RAW reference bible, for personal use, and started incorporating his ideas into all my academic papers. Bought a ring with a little swirly thing on it, grew a goatee and a potbelly... Just kidding. I guess you could say that he became the grandfather I never had; a wise teacher, hilarious, and weird. I wish I'd had the chance to meet him.
Of course RAW put me on to Timothy Leary, through the Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness that they'd worked on together. Leary is still such a controversial character, and so many people think he was a buffoon. But there would be no RAW without Leary. And I'm glad to keep the legacy of their ideas alive. Leary said somewhere that he considered himself the reincarnation of every great author he'd ever read. Their ideas became his ideas, shaped him, determined his behavior. And now I'm one of the many reincarnations of Tim and Bob. Spaghetti!
RAWILLUMINATION: Could you tell my readers a little bit about yourself? You are a Dutch scholar and teacher, but you also are something of a citizen of the world.
KP van der Tempel: People sometimes tell me that I'm good at thinking, and I've recently been told I have an important brain because I'm good at asking questions. I think that last bit is right: asking questions is pretty much the only skill I've developed any expertise in. For the rest I'm kind of an intellectual idiot with two left hands.
Genetically, I'm fully Dutch, or rather Frisian, which is a distinct ethnic group in the Netherlands that predates the Dutch. But my mother emigrated to Vancouver, Canada, right after she was born after the war, so even though I was born in the Netherlands I have two nationalities. My father is a diplomat, which means I grew up all over the globe; we spent four years in one country, then moved to the next, and the next, and the next. I went to middle school in Chile, high school in Washington, D.C., college in Toronto, and university in Utrecht. We just upped and left everything behind over and over again. I'm sure it's scarred me in some ways. But it's also taught me many different perspectives and made me a cultural relativist before I ever read RAW. That's not to say that I get black people and their social plight in America; or that I know what it's like to be a poor fisherman in Sri Lanka. But I do get that I don't get it, and don't make assumptions about why other people think or behave the way they do. Not even about Donald Trump.
Being a diplomat's kid also got me into some pretty elite schools and communities, along with the children of politicians, CEO's, bankers, and what not. I even dabbled in a secret society in college, but I quit that. All along, as a voracious reader with an analytical mind, I kept looking for answers to the big questions in life. I was raised a Christian, but when I started asking questions in Bible study about all the strange contradictions in the great book I quit that too. I'm allergic to bullshit. That's probably why I got into philosophy and anthropology. I wanted to really understand reality, truth, and how other people understand it and express it. There is such an endless supply of opinions about reality out there, so many great books other than the one great book; but none of them satisfied my questions. It just seemed like an endless stream of bs. Or at least, that's how I used to think before psychedelics. I was an absolute nihilist and I dreaded life amongst the civilized apes. And then I changed. There's a Hallmark quote coming up here, I can feel it: something about how RAW, drugs, and philosophy saved my brain. Or as Leary put it, I went out of my mind to come to my senses. And now I work at an engineering university in the Netherlands, corrupting the youth, or at least the ones who dare cross paths with a young bearded mystic who babbles on about Satan, drugs, E-Prime, and synchronicity. And it keeps me happy.
Monday, December 21, 2015
The best movie of 2005, according to Jesse Walker.
Jesse Walker has begun his annual year-end movie top ten lists. I must be really out of it, I haven't seen any of his top ten for 2005. Looking forward to seeing what he lists for the earlier decades.
Just bomb them already, I don't want to worry about all of the details.
The online surveillance provisions slipped into the new budget bill.
New John Higgs interview.
Not everyone loves the new "Star Wars" movie. Tyler Cowen says he agrees with the review. No spoilers in that review, but there are some in Tyler's review.
Locked out of Twitter for wrong opinions?
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Libertarians have no one to vote for
Scott Sumner, one of the contributors to the excellent EconLog blog, has a good post up, "Libertarians have nowhere to turn," highlighting the futility of libertarians supporting anyone in either of the two major parties.
Sumner is an economist, so his particular complaint this time is the two year delay in the "Cadillac tax" in the just-passed omnibus spending bill. "The one good policy reform in Obamacare has been delayed for another 2 years. Does anyone seriously believe that it will then be implemented?"
As Sumner implies, the tax is supported by a wide range of economists. Here's a backgrounder.
My pet example is the peace issue -- try finding a member of Congress who will state clearly that we should get out of the Mideast instead of ramping up our war activities.
One of my local senators, Sherrod Brown, actually put out a press release bragging about delaying the tax.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Adam Gorightly on 'Imaginary Sources Creating Imaginary History'
[Back in 2014, I ran across an interview with one Richard Marshall at kerrythornley.com. It made a number of startling claims about the early history of Discordianism, such as a claim that the Midget character in Illuminatus! based based upon a real person, named in the interview.
I must have been bothered by running across so much "information" that didn't seem to match what I head read elsewhere. So instead of doing a blog post about it, I wrote to Adam Gorightly, the author of Historia Discordia and two biographies of Kerry Thornley, and asked whether I should trust the interview. Adam replied, "No, you should not trust the interview...it's totally made up."
Adam has now written a piece about Marshall, and about other odd pieces of misinformation that are out there on the Internet, purporting to be Discordian lore. Although Adam is an interesting person — he is a self-described "crackpot historian" who lives in California and is an ardent fan of David Crosby — he probably did not, in fact, meet Edward Snowden while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and put out a newsletter with Mr. Snowden called I've Got a Secret.
At least the Gorighly biography is pretty obviously made up for fun. Other articles such as the Richard Marshall interview purport to be factual. Adam has now penned an article about made-up Discordian facts and has even given me permission to publish it here!
— The Management.]
"Crackpot historian" Adam Gorightly, left, with Robert Anton Wilson.
Imaginary Sources Creating Imaginary History
By Adam Gorightly (Special to RAWIllumination.net)
Recently, a mildly amusing bio of yours truly
that is almost 23 percent accurate and presumably written by someone identified as Miley Spears, who in reality is most likely a somewhat notorious Discordian named Reverend Loveshade who — it appears — has not only adopted this Miley Spears persona on occasion, but also a number of other Discordian non de plumes such as Pope Hilde,
among others, all of whom pop up occasionally at 23 Apples of Eris,
not to mention a certain Johnny Shellburn (the same name of the protagonist in Kerry Thornley’s Idle Warriors) who operates KerryThornley.com where you can find an imaginary interview conducted—in typical Discordian fashion—by the aforementioned Pope Hilde with a supposed early Discordian named Richard Marshall
who also probably never existed—or at least never existed in the sense that the interview suggests.
Richard Marshall — it so happens — also has a Discordia Wikia page
which is also probably 23 percent accurate (at best!) although there actually was a real Richard Marshall
who lived in San Francisco during the same period as Discordian Society co-founder Greg Hill although none of the real early Discordians I’ve talked to have ever heard of the guy.
According to Richard Marshall’s Discordia Wikia page (written by Miley Spears), Marshall contributed to Principia Discordia and The Illuminatus! Trilogy although I’ve never come across anything in the Discordian Archives
to even remotely suggest that these claims have the slightest relation to reality or if there’s any other evidence to support that Marshall ever knew Greg Hill or Robert Anton Wilson or Kerry Thornley—let alone Michael Arthur Quinn (aka The Midget)
who is another imaginary character (based on an Illuminatus! character) apparently cooked up (once again) by Rev. Loveshade, who — it should be noted — also has a Discordia Wikia page
submitted by (you guessed it!) Miley Spears,
who — as previously noted — is actually the one and only Rev. Loveshade.
In 1970s — according to Loveshade — his mother was friends with Robert Anton Wilson’s murdered daughter and because of this Loveshade and his hippie mom supposedly became acquainted with RAW (or at least corresponded with RAW) who he affectionately referred to as ‘Grandbob’ and along the way Loveshade “became obsessed with meeting the original Discordians” and that inspired him to (supposedly) track down Greg Hill in the 1990s at a San Francisco watering hole, an account of which appeared in Loveshade’s Ek-sen-trik-kuh Discordia: The Tales of Shamlicht.
Some might suggest that a shaggy dog story about meeting Greg Hill is perfectly acceptable from an Operation Mindfuck standpoint, as a form of pranking and modern myth making. On the one hand–being a card carrying Discordian–I can appreciate this type of culture jamming. On the other hand—with Historia Discordia and related projects — I’ve taken seriously the task of chronicling, as accurately as possible, the early days of the Discordian Society and its influence on the 60s counterculture and onward. So when imaginary sources create imaginary history, it certainly leads us down a slippery slope.
In early 2012, I was contacted by an enterprising Australian lad named Brenton Clutterbuck who informed me that he was working on a book project about modern day Discordianism entitled Chasing Eris.
While discussing with Clutterbuck different latter day Discordians during a 2012 midnight skype session, he informed me that as part of his Chasing Eris project he was planning a tour of the U.S. to interview prominent Discordians, including someone going by the name of Gypsie Skripto who had been introduced to him by Johnny Shellburn of KerryThornley.com, who — as previously noted — is another one of Loveshade’s alter egos.
Using the email given to him by “Johnny Shellburn”, Brenton started a correspondence with Gypsie Skripto who claimed that she had been friends with Greg Hill and part of the early Discordian scene in San Fran in the 1970s. In response, I told Brenton that I thought someone was yanking his chain, that the Gypsie Skripto in Greg Hill’s Principia Discordia afterword was a literary device, and that this person posing as Gypsie Skripto had basically co-opted Hill’s imaginary character as a way to troll the internet and create phony Discordian street cred.
Ultimately, Brenton’s planned meeting with Gypsie Skripto in Austin, Texas failed to materialize when s/he stood him up, using the pretext that s/he had to attend some last minute political activist hippie rally fundraiser (or somesuch) and Brenton soon came to the realization that I was correct in my assumption that “Gypsie Skripto” was just one among a host of other spurious Discordian personas that all probably originate from the same IP address.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Masonic leader Licio Gelli has died
Propaganda Two grandmaster Licio Gelli is dead, age 96.
Details of the BBC obituary should sound familiar to anyone who has read many of RAW's books:
"He joined the freemasons in the 1960s and founded the P2 lodge in 1970. A list of alleged members was later discovered by Italian police - and included one Silvio Berlusconi, the future prime minister.
"Gelli was sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud linked to the collapse of a bank with ties to the Vatican - but never served significant prison time.
"The bank's boss Roberto Calvi - known as "God's banker" for his ties to the Vatican - was found hanged under a bridge in London in 1982, and prosecutors later said they believed he had been murdered."
Hat tip, John Merritt and others on Twitter.
UPDATE: Michael Johnson sent me the obit from the Telegraph.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
'Wilhelm Reich in Hell' poster released to promote Kickstarter for play
The folks staging Robert Anton Wilson's "Wilhelm Reich in Hell" have released a poster. You can get one by contributing to the project's Kickstarter campaign. It's available for most tiers of contributions.
You can join me in following these guys on Twitter.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Tibetan Buddhist Afterlife Comics (at Ultraculture, hat tip, Arthur Hlavaty.)
Arthur on Muslims vs. Catholics. Recommended, this is a more thoughtful take than you'll find in most places.
The war in Afghanistan is worse than you think.
British tomb allegedly is a time machine.
Bobby Campbell on the butterfly effect.
Model railroad set in Arkham.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Spoiler: This blog post is about spoilers
Janet Leigh in "Psycho." Is she worried about being hit with a spoiler?
Years ago, my old friend Julianne Chatelain, a science fiction fan and one of the smartest women I know, remarked in a fanzine that she has little tolerance for suspense and that her custom is to read the end of a book before reading the rest of it.
That seemed like a unique reading technique to me, but I see now that Julianne is not alone. Arthur Hlavaty, on his blog, writes, "Spoilers are one of those great emotional issues. Now, a study shows, unsurprisingly, that some people love surprises and suspense, and they hate spoilers, while others (me, for instance) find story suspense a discomfort no more edifying than excretory urgency, and they like spoilers."
I am personally not a fan of spoilers. Years ago, shortly after I had started reading Anna Karenina, my ex-wife asked, "Has she thrown herself in front of the train yet?"
It seems to me that one of the tests of a good book is that you know how it's going to come out, and you are willing to read it again, anyway. Certainly, re-readings of Pride and Prejudice can't be driven by wondering if Lizzie and Darcy are going to get together. It seems to me most mystery novels work by being only partially suspenseful. You may wonder quite how things are going to work out, but in a series about a particular detective, you don't normally worry whether the hero is going to solve the crime or manage to avoid being killed. Perhaps "Psycho" provides one of the biggest movie shocks of all time, because the view assumes he's going to follow the female lead's story all through the movie. You don't expect her to be stabbed to death early in the story.
I would think that for most of Robert Anton Wilson's books, the pleasure is in the journey, rather than worrying about how the plot will come out. Surely that helps make Illuminatus! easy to re-read. The exception I think would be Masks of the Illuminati, which is really a detective story with two unusual detectives.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Timothy Leary and the Beatles
Tim and Rosemary Leary, John Lennon and Yoko One, at Bed-In for Peace, 1969.
There's probably a pretty good book that could be written on Timothy Leary's influence on pop culture over the years. If you are curious about his influence on the Beatles, you can consult a new book, The Complete Beatles Songs by Steve Turner.
I have mostly quit reading books about the Beatles, because by now I have read so many there are few surprises left for me. Still, Turner worked hard on this book, and I enjoyed gleaning bits about the origins of Beatles songs when my wife brought this home from the library and I flipped through it.
I already knew that The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner provided the inspiration for "Tomorrow Never Knows." That's where John Lennon got the "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream" lyric.
It's pretty well known, also, that John Lennon originally began writing "Come Together" as a campaign song for Leary's campaign for governor of California. Leary also sang in the background on Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."
But I didn't know that Leary has played a role in George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass," the title song of George Harrison's most famous and most successful solo album. The song was written while Harrison was a Beatle and finally released in a Beatles version in Anthology 3.
See if you can spot what made me smile in this bit from Turner's book:
The lyric was based on a poem from Timothy Leary's Psychedelic Prayers After the Tao Te Ching (Poets Press, New York, 1966.) The poem was a "translation from English to psychedelic" of part of the 23rd chapter of the Tao that Leary has titled 'All Things Pass': 'All things pass/A sunrise does not last all morning/All things pass/A cloudburst does not last all day ... " As George was to admit, "I remembered one of these prayers and it gave me the idea for this thing."
Saturday, December 12, 2015
A psychedelic novel from a libertarian author
In my duties as a member of the Libertarian Futurist Society, I received an advance review copy of a new novel, The Miskatonic Manuscript, by Vin Suprynowicz, the second in a series of novels about rare book dealers Matthew Hunter and Chantal Stevens, two gun toting, psychedelic drug taking adventurers who find lost manuscripts by famous authors and who travel through space and time. The book came out Friday and is available as a signed, numbered limited edition and as a $5.99 Kindle ebook.
There's plenty of action in the book, including sequences in which Stevens gets to blast away with her firearms at dinosaurs and giant spiders, and a lot of heartfelt discussion about the evils of the war on the drugs and the merits of psychedelics. Large passages are quoted from the writings of Terence McKenna and Alexander Shulgin. I have never read either, but many of the sentiments will sound familiar if you have read Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson.
There's quite a bit of violence in which the pro-drug forces murder authorities involved in the war on drugs. I was put off by much of this, and also thought the writing could have been better. The book evidently is self-published, but it says it was prepared for publication by Invisible Order, a "libertarian publishing solutions" company. The folks at Invisible Order chose to do nothing with the many passages in which Mr. Suprynowicz ties together sentences with a comma, and in general the quality of the prose is not the best part of the book.
Anyone interested in the war on drugs and in psychedelic drugs will likely find the book interesting. The book moves along at a good clip, and Suprynowicz is interested in many of the same topics as I am and seems to know a lot.
The author has a website.
Thomas Knapp's review is here.
Friday, December 11, 2015
I got a notice from Google Adsense this week that I need to remove "adult content" from one of my old posts (it was one about John Higgs.) There was no adult content in the actual post, but I had a bunch of tasteless spam ads put on the page as comments that I had to laboriously remove, one by one; it took me about 15 minutes. Does anyone have any advice on how to mass-remove spam comments, or to keep them from being posted?
Thursday, December 10, 2015
More on Finland basic income guarantee
It seems that the initial reports on Finland moving toward a basic income guarantee, such as the ones I cited in Sunday's blog post, got an important fact.
Finland is not immediately scrapping all welfare programs in favor of a basic income guarantee, but is carrying out a pilot project, with an eye toward adopting the basic income guarantee if the experiment works out. That's according to this Vox.com piece by Dylan Matthews, who is a basic income guarantee advocate and follows the issue closely. Matthews talked to a Finnish officialsand posted a slide show about the pilot program that was shared with him. The Matthews article is really good and deserves your attention if you are interested in this issue.
He also wrote a recent piece on whether cash transfers discourage people from working (apparently they don't).
Matthews is generally one of the more interesting Vox.com writers; even his stuff I disagree with shows a genuine interest in facts.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
The most popular composers
Ludwig van Beethoven
I'm going to justify today's blog posting by contending that Robert Anton Wilson, classical music fan, would have been interested in the article I'm pointing to today.
I've just written a piece for my paper on the most popular classical composers, based on performances during the 2015-2016 performance year by major and regional orchestras. Be sure to click on the infographic that accompanies the story, which has a great deal of information.
The graphic lists the top ten most popular composers, but I obtained a list of the top 20 and included it in my piece, written as a blog post for my paper's website. The guy I interviewed for the piece was surprised Ravel did so well; Eric Wagner, who found my article on Facebook, was surprised by the omission of Debussy and is surprised at how much airplay Dvorak gets on the Los Angeles classical radio station he listens to. I have heard that one of my favorite composers, Prokofiev, is perhaps the most popular 20th century composer, based on the number of performances of his work. This appears to be an exaggeration, although he does come in at No. 11.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
So much to read, so little time!
Via Arthur Hlavaty (and others) is a new BBC list of the 100 best British novels of all time. And the winner is Middlemarch by George Eliot, which of course I haven't read, and now I need to read it. And I still haven't read Virginia Woolf! Though I have my doubts about a list that puts Pride and Prejudice only at No. 11.
Speaking of reading, I heard from Ben Turpin, who mentioned that he had just re-read the essay "Hidden Manna and the Holy Grail: The Psychedelic Sacrament in Arthurian Romance." That's by Dan Merkur, a psychoanalyst and writer whose works are new to me (and which include a book called The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible. ) He certainly sounds interesting; have any of y'all besides Ben read him?
Monday, December 7, 2015
I really liked Gore Vidal's novel about the last pagan Roman Emperor, so I was pleased to see Sean Gabb likes it, too.
Richard Blake's five favorite historical novels of ancient Rome. (AKA Sean Gabb's five favorites.)
Counter culture conference in England featuring Alan Moore, John Higgs and Robin Ince.
I note Scott Weiland's death.
"I still check every time to make sure it's not a parody account."
How they voted, by party, on Britain bombing Syria. Had to look up the Plaid Cymru party. Welsh, it seems.
A guide to visiting Cuba for Americans.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Finland moving toward basic income guarantee
Discussion of a basic income guarantee has moved beyond talk in Finland, according to an article at Quartz:
The Finnish government is currently drawing up plans to introduce a national basic income. A final proposal won’t be presented until November 2016, but if all goes to schedule, Finland will scrap all existing benefits and instead hand out 800 euros per month—to everyone.
It sounds far-fetched, but it’s looking likely that Finland will carry through with the idea. Whereas several Dutch cities will introduce basic income next year and Switzerland is holding a referendum on the subject, there is strongest political and public support for the idea in Finland.
At least in its broad outlines, the proposal seems to follow the suggestion by proponents such as Charles Murray: To scrap other benefits and replace it with the basic income guarantee.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Threatened with prison for passing out pamphlets?
Robert Anton Wilson's Chaos and Beyond includes an essay discussing jury nullification as an important right in defending liberty in America. When I was in journalism school years ago, I was taught about the John Peter Zenger trial, a landmark in the battle for a free press in America in which a jury acquitted a newspaper publisher in defiance of the wishes of the judge.
It came as a shock to see that in Michigan, a state that's next to where I live, in Ohio, a man named Keith Wood has been hit with a "jury tampering" charge and faces five years in prison for passing out pamphlets in front of a courthouse that discuss jury nullification.
Here is another article on the arrest. Here is Popehat weighing in.
I could not find anything about the case at the Michigan ACLU website, which disappoints me. I've Tweeted the state chapter to ask about its silence.
The judge in the case, Peter Janklevic, is a former prosecutor.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Wait, Aleister Crowley was what?
According to the piece by Charlie Jane Anders, the claim is maybe true, but probably not.
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Frankie Boyle, RAW fan
I have a hard time keeping up with American pop culture, let alone British pop culture, so forgive me if I don't know a lot about Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle. But I do know he's a Robert Anton Wilson fan.
Nick Helweg-Larsen attended a recent event called BAM Live at the Southbank Centre in London hosted by Akala and Frankie Boyle & special guests ("Being A Man addresses the challenges and pressures of masculine identity in the 21st century.")
Nick reports, "In his serious speech he kept mentioning the phrase 'reality tunnels.'I asked him in the Q+A session about Wilson and he spoke passionately for about 5 minutes.
He talked about E-prime for a while during this."
I don't know who Akala is, either, but Nick says, "I highly recommend Akala's music, such as."
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Did Joyce's 'Wake' span the globe?
Peter Quadrino is always an interesting and perceptive writer, although sadly, his prediction that my Cleveland Indians would fare well last season did not turn out to be correct. I'm expecting better luck for his backing of a new suggestion about James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. In a new post, PQ says he is convinced by a new theory that the Wake attempts to represent the geography of the globe. You also learn something about Ulysses in reading PQ's post.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Reality catches up with science fiction novel
Cover art for The Unincorporated Man by the brothers Kollin
Alex Tabarrok has a post up at one of my favorite blogs, Marginal Revolution. His piece, "Venture Capital to Buy Equity in Purdue Students," is about a company that plans to invest in students by lending them money and then taking a percentage of the student's income after graduation, for a set number of years. It's an interesting idea because it raises risk for the people making the loan but lowers risk for the students. (If the student doesn't make a lot of money, well, too bad for the investor, but at least the young person doesn't have a massive debt.)
Professor Tabarrok doesn't mention it in his posting, and I could find no mention when I checked the comments, but the scheme is reminiscent of a rather good science fiction novel, The Unincorporated Man, by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, that came out in 2009. It is largely about a future society in which every new baby is "incorporated" by investors who pay for the kid's education, with the understanding that they will get much of his or her future earnings. The investors get much of the say in what the person will major in, for example, and where he or she will study; citizens seek to become so successful that they can buy up shares in themselves and gain majority control, thus gaining control over their lives.
The system is sold as a way to make sure everyone will get an education and a chance to be successful, but in the end it prompts a revolt from people unwilling to be owned. The protagonist of the novel is a man who has been cryogenically revived. He's from the past, so he isn't owned by anyone.
The Unincorporated Man won the Prometheus Award and is the first in a series of four books, which continue the story with The Unincorporated War, the Unincorporated Woman and The Unincorporated Future. I enjoyed the series very much. They are novels of ideas, but with lots of action and very vivid characters.
The brothers Kollin have been a bit quiet of late, but there's a new anthology with a novella set in the same universe as the novels.
UPDATE: After I wrote this, I noticed it's on sale for $2.99 for Kindle.
UPDATE II: Professor Tabarrok did read the book, and posted about it back in 2010.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Haven't done links for awhile:
Fourteen reasons for Britain not to bomb Syria.
November 2015 Eris of the Month.
It is now legal in the United States to own an asteroid.
Is it worse if foreigners kill us? This sentence (from Tyler Cowen) sounded like RAW: "Due to our heritage as African primates, we are programmed to fear violent attacks by outsiders more than we actually need to today."
A quote from the man himself.
Police officers took more property from people than burglars last year.
Fourteen reasons for Britain not to bomb Syria.
November 2015 Eris of the Month.
It is now legal in the United States to own an asteroid.
Is it worse if foreigners kill us? This sentence (from Tyler Cowen) sounded like RAW: "Due to our heritage as African primates, we are programmed to fear violent attacks by outsiders more than we actually need to today."
A quote from the man himself.
Police officers took more property from people than burglars last year.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Wilhelm Reich in Hell to be staged
A newly-formed theatre company in West Yorkshire in England,2 Pomme D'Or 3 Productions, is putting on a production of "Wilhelm Reich in Hell," originally written by Robert Anton Wilson, and there's a Kickstarter for it. They are describing it as a "re-imagining of the original play." You can watch a video at the Kickstarter page.
Hat tip, John Higgs.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
New documentary needs support
A Kickstarter campaign is under way to promote SecureDrop, a tool for anonymously uploading documents to journalists; see the video, above, for information, and this website. Lisa Rein, who made the movie that this campaign is attempting to promote, is a digital librarian for the Timothy Leary Futique Trust and involved in all sorts of interesting things. Hat tip, Nick Helweg-Larsen.
Friday, November 27, 2015
A Zenpundit writer on RAW and PKD
Philip K. Dick
At Zenpundit — a group blog written by four bloggers — blogger Charles Cameron watches a documentary on Philip K. Dick, listens to the Robert Anton Wilson interview in the movie, and then compares it to a quote from Chuang Tzu. There are also some nice thoughts about Dick fandom. Hat tip, John Merritt on Twitter.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Robert A. Heinlein
Today, a national holiday devoted to gratitude, I am thankful for the friends I've made through this blog and the many gestures of kindness and support from its readers.
I am certainly thankful, also, for the literary culture of the modern world that offers readers many fine writers; I read a lot of Robert Anton Wilson, many of the authors he admired, and many others he likely did not read or had even heard of. There are many more good writers than anyone can keep up with. One writer I know he did like was the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. The famous SF writer Theodore Sturgeon certainly was thankful for Heinlein's friendship; here's a wonderful anecdote. (Via Justin Raimondo on Twitter.)
Sturgeon, by the way, was a RAW fan.
Bonus: Check out Arthur Hlavaty's Thanksgiving message.
And here's a piece on the importance of gratitude to happiness.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
RAW on why antiwar sentiment toward U.S. foreign policy makes sense
If you want a dose of Robert Anton Wilson's antiwar thoughts these days, as the world seems to be becoming more violent and dangerous, Chad Nelson has a pointer. He has a new posting up at the Center for a Stateless Society, "Robert Anton Wilson on Blowback, Anarchy, and Optimism." I listened to the 15-minute clip of a RAW interview he pointed to as I started my day. As Chad writes, "Among the topics discussed in this segment: 9/11 and Pearl Harbor as blowback from American Empire; the 'despised' (aka revisionist) historians Wilson was warned by high school teachers not to read (Harry Elmer Barnes, Charles Beard and James J. Martin); libertarianism, anarchism and contract-based societies; Wilson’s favorite anarchist influences (Tucker, Tolstoy and Kropotkin); globalization, corporatization and the transformative potential of the internet; and how Wilson remains optimistic despite never-ending war."
For more on the revisionist historians that RAW and Chad mention, see Jeff Riggenbach's Why American History is Not What They Say.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Adam Gorightly on Principia Discordia's anniversary
Adam Gorightly, who works really hard in researching Discordian history, marks an apparent anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of the Principia Discordia. I say apparent, because as Adam makes clear in his carefully-researched post, pinning down some of the details on the history of the Principia is no easy task.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Preserving the Timothy Leary archives
Timothy Leary archivist Michael Horowitz
I posted earlier on the struggle to preserve the Timothy Leary archives, and now I can report that more information has become available. Lisa Rein is doing a long interview with Leary archivist Michael Horowitz, and a Part 2 has been promised. Hat tip, John Merritt, who is on Twitter.
The whole interview is a great read. Excerpt:
LR: Tim ran for governor of California?
MH: Yes. He was stoked by the Supreme Count ruling in his favour on the Marijuana Tax Act (later reversed, but that didn’t faze him—few things did). He knew that attacking the power structure would be at great personal cost and he would lose battles along the way, but any time he saw an opportunity to spark a cultural evolution, why not give it a shot?
The most radical proposal in his platform was legalizing marijuana and taxing it appropriately. It was a lot like the model adopted by Colorado and Washington 45 years later.
LR: And John Lennon wrote his campaign song?
MH: Yes. John Lennon did compose his campaign song, “Come Together, Join the Party,” when Tim and Rosemary joined John and Yoko at the Montreal Bed In to end the war. After it was clear that Tim’s felony conviction had knocked him out of the race, John repurposed the song into the Beatles’ hit, “Come Together.”
Sunday, November 22, 2015
'Woman Finds Out Boyfriend of Six Years Is Undercover Cop Spying on Her and Her Friends'
Police officer Mark Kennedy in his role portraying a radical environmentalist.
The story is here. There's also a sidebar from the Guardian about how this was common practice, and the British police saying they are really sorry.
One oddity of the articles, at least for me, is that I could not find any explanation for why police were spying on environmental groups in the first place. In the U.S., lip service is given to the idea that people have the right to engage in peaceful political activities under the Bill of Rights, and police would have to come up with some sort of excuse for engaging in this type of conduct (which is hardly unknown over here.)
Via Jake Shannon at Discordian Libertarians on Facebook.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
H. P. Lovecraft roundup
The World Fantasy Award will no longer be in the likeness of H.P. Lovecraft.
My "social justice warrior" credentials can sometimes be shaky, but I'm fine with this. An award doesn't have to reflect a particular cult of personality, and it makes sense to make everyone at the World Fantasy Convention feel welcome. I doubt if Lovecraft's legacy will suffer.
Also, Arthur Hlavaty finds a surprising quotation.
Friday, November 20, 2015
Oz Fritz on the Paris attacks
The Eagles of Death Metal performing at the O2 Institute in Birmingham in the UK, a few days before the band's Paris show. I did a double take on the near synchronicity while pulling the photo to illustrate my piece on Oz's post — I thought for a moment it was at the "Oz Institute."
Oz Fritz has responded to the Paris attacks with a new post on his blog, "Freedom vs. Fascism."
Alluding to the attack on a club where the Eagles of Death Metal were performing, Oz writes, "About six weeks ago I wrote: 'The amorphous violent war/jihad of terrorism from any kind of ideological fanaticism also declares a war against music.' The attack on music is now as direct and literal as it gets."
In the comments, Tony Smyth mentions Riane Eisler, a writer that Robert Anton Wilson greatly admired.
On the band's Facebook page, which I linked to above, fans who were at the Paris show comment on the band's latest posting. Claude Pfeiffer writes, "Hello I was there in The Bataclan, I have the chance to be just wounded, some friends are dead, it's hard to realize that horror ... " Maxime Douriens writes, "They tried to kill me and my wife while dancing in front of our favorite band, thankfully they failed."
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Celebrate these Discordian holidays!
Humphrey Bogart, in whose honor Bogey's Day is celebrated.
Adam Gorightly has performed a public service by publishing a list of Discordian holidays created by Camden Benares, and when I say "public service," I'm not trying to be funny or sarcastic. Many of these holidays sound like great ideas; when I get a little time, I've going to enter them on my Google Calendar.
May 23 is celebrated as Buddha's Birthday. "Although the evidence that Buddha was a Discordian is circumstantial and anecdotal, Discordians celebrate Buddha’s birthday by saying 'Happy Birthday, Bud'.”
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Another reason to consider a basic income guarantee
If you want to know why some of us think a basic income guarantee might be the best way to help the poor in the U.S., consider the above chart, which shows the more than 80 federal programs to help low-income Americans. (Source).
Consider that each program has bureaucrats attached to it to figure out which people are "deserving" and that it's difficult for many poor people who might be reached by these programs to even know that they exist. It's pretty likely that mistakes will be made, and some people will be missed. Why not get rid of as many programs as possible and give people money, while making sure basic health coverage is included?
I read Charles Murray's book on the basic income guarantee earlier this year and can recommend it.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Suing the Illuminati doesn't work
Apparently, when you file a lawsuit against the Illuminati you should not be too surprised when you lost. In Foy v. The Super-Rich Members of the Illuminati, Foy lost. Via the Volokh Conspiracy; when Eugene Volokh posted it, he wrote in the header, "Guess who wins."
Monday, November 16, 2015
Sean Gabb on the Paris attacks
Sean Gabb tries to get everyone to calm down and think things through:
There have been large Moslem communities in this country since the 1960s. In this time, fewer than a hundred people have died in specifically Islamic terrorist attacks. I know that I am ignoring the death toll in New York and Madrid and Paris. But I am discussing my own country, and, even if there is a large attack in London, it will not compare in its nature with the Sinn Fein/IRA insurrection.
Doubtless, the large number of Moslems settled here brings other problems. But they have no territorial demands against us. They remain attached to their countries of origin. Many retire to these countries. They often see their stay in this country as temporary. Their religious leaders are more forthright in condemning terrorism than the Irish Catholic hierarchy ever was. Most of them do not want to kill us. Those who want to convert us believe they are doing us a favour. By the standards of our own recent past, the Moslem threat – so far as it really exists – is trivial.
Read the whole thing. He explains why imposing universal surveillance won't work.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
My reaction to Paris
I agree with this Tweet. Also, resisting the impulse to drop even more bombs in Muslim countries. My own modest proposal is that we quit dropping bombs and stop making war over there.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Illuminatus! on Jeopardy quiz show
Eric Wagner, who trained for the Jeopardy quiz show by becoming an expert on Robert Anton Wilson.
Illuminatus! question on Jeopardy. "Pyramid," of course.
Illuminatus! was involved in the answer to a question on the Jeopardy! quiz show in the U.S., on a show that aired on Thursday. (Under "Literary Structure." Hold your cursor over the prize amount to see the answer.)
Hat tips, Bobby Campbell (who kindly made the graphic that I used to illustrate this blog post) and Michael Johnson.
Speaking of Jeopardy!, I can now offer definitive evidence that reading the works of Robert Anton Wilson makes you smart. How smart? Smart enough to win a quiz show!
We know Jeopardy champ Eric Wagner as the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, but he's also a guy who walked away with $12,001 as a Jeopardy champion. The Jeopardy archive identifies Eric as "a high school English teacher from Corona, California." Eric won on Nov. 30, 1999, but lost on the next show, probably to another RAW fan. I wish I could see the shows.
Friday, November 13, 2015
John Higgs talks about his new book — and what's he's writing next
One of the great pleasures that has resulted from putting out this online publication has been getting to know the writing of British author John Higgs. One of his British friends once wrote on Twitter about his soft spoken speaking style. In his books, Higgs is always clear and precise, but his straightforward prose transports the reader into some very interesting and different places.
His new book, Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century, chronicles the last century by focusing on ideas, rather than wars, economics and political events.
His other books include two works of nonfiction: The KLF: Chaos, Magick and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds and I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary and two novels: The Brandy of the Damned and The First Church on the Moon. He lives in Brighton with his family.
When I asked John if he would describe the book to my readers and tell me what he's working on next, he immediately agreed.
JOHN HIGGS: There are a fair amount of accounts of the 20th Century, that’s true. Most were written in the late 1990s, but society has changed so much since then that they already seem like products of another time.
Most of those books take the view that it was politicians that shaped the 20th Century so, in order to tell the story of that era, you tell the story of politicians and the great geo-political shifts of those years. They tell a story that goes from World War One to the great depression, World War Two, Hiroshima, the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But strangely, that story doesn’t seem to lead into the modern networked world we’re in now. It’s like we’ve skipped a groove and are already in a different story, with the old one already feeling academic and almost irrelevant. Those books explain the point of history when David Hasselhoff performed on the remains of the Berlin Wall, and the delighted German people went ape in response. Which is all for the good, but understanding German appreciation of the Hoff doesn’t really feel that relevant anymore.
So this book is an attempt to make sense of the present, and to do that the focus shifts to the science, art and culture of the 20th Century. This tells a very different, and I think more useful, story. It also allows me to tell the story of those years through the people who are largely missing from other histories, be that Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons or Benoit Mandelbrot.
RAWILLUMINATION: Did signing a contract with a big commercial publisher for "Stranger Than We Can Imagine" allow you to take your time and thoroughly research the new book?
JOHN HIGGS: I think it was a number of contracts with a bunch of different publishers around the world that allowed me to do it justice – foreign rights sales do seem to be the only way for someone who writes non-fiction to keep a roof over their head, and you can only do that with good agents on your side. Having a big publisher did give me some perceived credibility, though, which was absolutely invaluable. I’m not accustomed to being taken seriously, so I’m making the most of it while it lasts.
RAWILLUMINATION: Why will fans of Robert Anton Wilson want to read your book?
JOHN HIGGS: I really hope they do, RAW was so integral to the thinking that went into the book, and you’ll find a lot of people who influenced him in there, from Einstein and Crowley to Korzybski, and even Emperor Norton I, which is probably pushing it a bit for a book on the 20th Century.
Bob was all over earlier drafts – one of which used the word ‘sombunall’ throughout, for existence, but weirdly, when the book was eventually done, he had fallen out of it. Which was odd for me, because I’m hardly shy of talking about RAW. It was as if the book had fully absorbed him and his insights, until he wasn’t there anymore. The final draft argues that multiple-model agnosticism was the logical conclusion of the 20th Century – and by that point talking about Bob had become repeating myself.
Bob was the scaffolding that this book was built around. It’s tidied away when the thing’s presented to the public, but it couldn’t have been built without him.
RAWILLUMINATION: Will you be doing a book tour of the U.S. to promote your new book?
JOHN HIGGS: I would love to, but there’s not one on the cards at the moment alas. I had a great time in Spain and Canada when the book came out over there, and I always love going to America. I’ll have to find some other excuse to come over – perhaps tied to the burgeoning plans to bring the Cosmic Trigger play over.
RAWILLUMINATION: You just finished visiting an "an unconsecrated graveyard for medieval prostitutes" as research for your new book. Nothing to see here I guess, so we'll move along. Seriously, what is the new book about, and when will it be out?
JOHN HIGGS: That was on Hallowe’en – and the graveyard was Crossbones in Southwark, London, near Shakespeare’s Globe. For 500 years the Bishop of Winchester was in charge of the prostitutes of that area, who were known as Winchester Geese. They were given unconsecrated pauper’s burials, despite working under the protection of the church, and there are 15,000 forgotten souls in that particular mass grave. Their story has been brought to light by a remarkable poet and visionary called John Crow, who’s 20-year-long campaign has led to an apology and blessing from the church.
It’s one of the stories that will be in a book about Britain I’m now writing, called Watling Street. Whereas Stranger Than We Can Imagine was my attempt to make sense of the time that made me, this is my attempt at understanding the place that made me. It’s a book that started growing when I realised that the original Star Wars films were shot, at Elstree, on the same road where Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales takes place. There’s something amazing about that, and the more I explore it the more amazing it becomes. That will be out in 2017.
RAWILLUMINATION: Will you have a new work of fiction out soon?
JOHN HIGGS: There’s one on the go, but ‘soon’ may be optimistic. I won’t say too much about it now, but yes there will be another novel at some point. Possibly before Watling Street – but that’s not a promise! It’s currently called The Next World.
For more, see John's website.
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