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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

'The Adventures of Acidman' looks interesting

Here is the blurb for The Adventures of Acidman: Psychedelics and the Evolution of Consciousness in Science Fiction and Superhero Comics from the 1960s Onward by Ian S. Garlington:

This research project explores the connections between psychedelics and the ways that SF and comics writers have envisioned superhuman or evolved human consciousness. More specifically it considers how the writing techniques associated with high literary modernism (Joyce, Pound and so on) would be employed in revolutionary new ways within an emerging sub-genre of SF of which the superhero narrative in its pure, non-ideological form, is but a single instance. The introduction will explain why this project is a cosmic imperative and the subsequent chapters will offer evidence for these absurd claims through in-depth textual analyses of the works of Thomas M. Disch, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Crumb, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. Lick the Leary epigraph to see if you are one of the lucky 23!

It sounds interesting; has anyone read it? I only heard of it when I saw Adam Gorightly's blog post, "Emails from the Acidman."

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week Seven

Mary McCarthy. Public domain photo  by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. Via Wikipedia bio of McCarthy. 

This week: Commentary for Lines 181-182 to commentary for Line 334. Pages 108 to 123 in my old paperback, but your mileage may vary.

Line 230 commentary: " ... his picture of Hazel is quite clear and complete; maybe a little too complete ... " Talk about an unreliable narrator, here is an unreliable commentator, actually complaining about the poem being about the poet's dead daughter, rather than the commentator!

Line 238 commentary: If you wondered what a cicada looks like:

Annual cicada: Creative Commons photo by Bruce Marlin. 

Line 247 commentary: "a king sized botfly." Could refer to Prof. Botkin, possibly Kinbote's real identity. Bot flies, also known as gadflies, have larvae that are internal parasites of mammals.

One of Poussin's Arcadian Shepherds paintings, e.g. "Et in Arcadio ego" paintings. 

Line 286 commentary, first paragraph: "Even in Arcady, am I, says Death." A translation of "Et in Arcadio ego."  Which is the title of a well-known painting.  Which connects to the work of Robert Anton Wilson. As the Wikipedia article I just linked to puts it: "The authors of the pseudohistory The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982), under the false impression that 'et in arcadia ego' was not a proper Latin sentence, proposed that it is an anagram for I! Tego arcana dei, which translates to 'Begone! I keep God's secrets', suggesting that the tomb contains the remains of Jesus or another important Biblical figure." The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail theory is referenced in RAW's work. See for example RAW's reference to the painting in "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" in Email to the Universe.

Readers of this blog also will enjoy a private amusement that this paragraph of Nabokov's has the number 23. It's also amusing that this famous modernist novel can be connected, however fleetingly, to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

I recently discovered that Mary McCarthy's famous review of Pale Fire is online. Read it here.  For a time, McCarthy was married to Edmund Wilson, once an important friend of Vladimir Nabokov.

"This centaur-work of Nabokov's, half poem, half prose, this merman of the deep, is a creation of perfect beauty, symmetry, strangeness, originality, and moral truth. Pretending to be a curio, it cannot disguise the fact that it is one of the very great works of art of this century, the modern novel that everyone thought dead and that was only playing possum." -- Mary McCarthy

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Fan art for Team Human

Team Human, a podcast created by Douglas Rushkoff, features folks such as R.U. Sirius.

Recently, one of the listeners to the podcast created artwork for the podcast. The listener was Bobby Campbell! Above, his rendition of Rushkoff.

More examples here, includes R.U. Sirius.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Crowdfunding effort launches for Terence McKenna archives

An effort has been launched at GoFundMe to benefit the Terence McKenna archives. There are several different projects that will benefit from the money, and the catalog of goodies you get if you decide to chip in is huge, so I won't try to summarize it here. Go look at the website.

One of the reward items, at $100, is "Robert Venosa's Illuminatus with text by Terence McKenna. Large, hardcover fine art book. "A fantastic journey into the canyons of the imagination." -T. McKenna"

On Twitter, @advantardeodus remarked to me (privage message), "The Venosa art book 'Illuminatus' could be the link to the H R Giger art piece called Illuminatus as he is mentioned in relation to the book on Amazon."

A $2,012 donation results in a bunch of goodies, but you also get to make "focused research requests" to the archivist. Are there any RAW fans out there with money? @advantardeodus also points out, "The $2,012 donation level could perhaps lead someone to ask for a deep look into any RAW connections."

It always stings a little when I hear about the McKenna or Leary archives. There's no comparable Robert Anton Wilson or Robert Shea archive, alas.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Finding free ebooks by Robert Shea

These days, Iluminatus! co-author Robert Shea is less well known and less discussed that his writing partner, Robert Anton Wilson.

From 1981 until his death in 1994, however, Shea was a successful writer of historical novels, including All Things Are Lights, a personal favorite of mine that I've described as a "thematic prequel" to Illuminatus! All of his books are worth reading.

Recently, while researching Shea for an upcoming project, I discovered that many of his titles have become available as free ebooks. His son and literary executor, Michael E. Shea, has been more interested in keeping his father's works and ideas alive than in trying to squeeze out the last bit of book royalties.

Here's a guide to what's available as free ebooks. Many of these books also can be purchased as modestly priced used books.

All Things Are Lights

Set in the 12th century, All Things Are Lights is about a knight and troubadour named Roland. He gets himself into many adventures, including participating rather against his well in Crusades against the Cathars in southern France and the Muslims of Egypt, and also has a complicated love life.

As I've implied, All Things Are Lights can be read as a straightforward action novel. But as I wrote earlier, "there is rather more material than I expected about secret societies and secret occult teachings. The Templars and Cathars feature prominently in the book, and Gnosticism, paganism, sexual tantra and the Assassins also are referenced. The book's hero, Roland de Vency, has a skeptical attitude toward authority and an agnostic attitude toward religions."

Simon Moon in Illuminatus! explains Shea's title: ""An Irish Illuminatus of the ninth century, Scotus Ergina, put it very simply— in five words, of course —when he said Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt:
'All things that are, are lights.' "

I've read quite a few historical novels, and All Things Are Lights is one of my favorites. You can download it as an HTML file, which formats nicely on a Kindle ebook reader. The opening of the book draws you in.


A frontier novel that focuses on Native Americans. Available as a free download in Various formats from Project Gutenberg. 

Saracen: Land of the Infidel and its sequel Saracen: The Holy War 

The son of the main characters in All Things Are Lights is one of the characters in these two related novels. Available as free ebooks at Project Gutenberg. 

Shike: Time of the Dragons and Shike: Last of the Zinja 

The two Shike books are available for purchase as Kindle ebooks. The reviews on Amazon complaint that there is text missing from Shike: Time of the Dragons. I called this to Mike Shea's attention and he promised to look into it.  He is unhappy with the publisher and will fix the situation in May, when he can reclaim the Kindle rights.

Although it isn't publicized on, the Wikipedia article on the Shike books has a link to a Creative Commons version of the two books. 

Unreleased book also lists an unpublished book, Lady Yang.

I asked Mike Shea about his plans for the book. It won't be available in the near future because it would require considerable work to get it ready for publication.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Interesting Twitter exchange

Bobby Campbell's illustration for his @RAWilson23 Twitter account 

More at the link.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'The Number 23' inspired by RAW

The Number 23 is apparently an infamously bad movie. The 2007 flick has picked up many bad reviews. But Val at the Butterfly Language blog has discovered something interesting: The screenwriter was inspired by Robert Anton Wilson.

Val had always suspected some RAW inspiration in the film but finally found proof when she found a report of an article originally published on Feb. 23, 2007, in the Sacramento Bee. Excerpt from Rachel Leibrock's article:

If there's an unofficial patron saint of the 23 set, it's novelist Robert Anton Wilson, whose 1977 book "Cosmic Trigger" explored the number in Burroughs' works as an attempt to connect the digits to the universe on a larger scale.

It was Wilson, who died in January, who inspired screenwriter Fernley Phillips to pen "The Number 23" script.

"I'd always been interested in numbers and math, and how they work together," Phillips says on the phone from L.A. "We all know about (the significance) of seven and 13 -- but we don't know about 23 and how it blends the weird with the scientific."

That's when 23 started popping up all over Phillips' world.

"I'd see it in newspaper headlines, clocks, license plates and street addresses," he says.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week Six

Cover of January 1964 issue of Playboy magazine, which included an interview with Vladimir Nabokov. 

This week: Commentary for Line 149 to Commentary to Line 181.

I read this particular section on my birthday, enjoying the sentences and the witticisms. There are so many good sentences in this book, and I particularly like this one: "I saw a world-famous old writer, bent under the incubus of literary honors and his own prolific mediocrity, arrive in a taxi out of the dim times of yore when Shade and he had been joint editors of a little review." (From the commentary to line 181).

Comments on some other bits:

Line 149 commentary: Kinbote seems to be repulsed by the sort of young women who delight most men and his artfully phrased repugnance is a recurring amusing motif in the novel: "A sleepy and sullen expression blurred whatever appeal her snub-nosed round face might have had for the local shepherds .... " Is it just me, or is the whole section about Garh an inversion of the old dirty jokes about the farmer's daughter?

Line 172, books and people: "Prof. Pnin....happily, Prof. Botkin..." Pnin is presumably a reference to Nabokov's novel, Pnin. Pay close attention to the references to Prof. Botkin.

Line 172, books and people: It seems to me that this is Nabokov speaking directly, under the guise of Shade -- the comments attributed to Shade sounds like the statements Nabokov made in his interview with Playboy magazine. 

A couple of bits from the interview:

Nabokov: I think my favorite fact about myself is that I have never been dismayed by a critic’s bilge or bile, and have never once in my life asked or thanked a reviewer for a review.

And also:

Nabokov: To return to my lecturing days: I automatically gave low marks when a student used the dreadful phrase “sincere and simple”—“Flaubert writes with a style which is always simple and sincere”—under the impression that this was the greatest compliment payable to prose or poetry. When I struck the phrase out, which I did with such rage in my pencil that it ripped the paper, the student complained that this was what teachers had always taught him: “Art is simple, art is sincere.” Someday I must trace this vulgar absurdity to its source. A schoolmarm in Ohio? A progressive ass in New York? Because, of course, art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex.

"Art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex." The credo behind his most "complex" and "deceitful" novel, Pale Fire?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

'Community' according to the Eight Circuit model

Bobby Campbell's rendition of the character Annie Edison from Community 

I don't pay close attention to TV, so I'm not familiar with the Community TV show, although apparently it was a well-regarded situation comedy. 

Bobby Campbell obviously knows the show, however, and has posted an analysis of the show, relating the characters to the Eight Circuit model of consciousness. I don't know the show, but admire Bobby's mastery of the model.

 Actress Alison Brie, who played Annie Edison. Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Online discussion group news

As the online discussion of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire continues, I have dates to announce for the planned online discussion of Joseph Kerman's book, The Beethoven Quartets.

The Kerman discussion will be led by Jeopardy champ Eric Wagner (author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson) and will focus not just on Beethoven and Kerman's book but on Robert Anton Wilson's interest in Beethoven and how Beethoven's music connects to Wilson's work.

"I plan to write weekly pieces on the Kerman Beethoven book starting August 6, with the official group beginning August 13 and running eighteen weeks until December 10," Eric says.

About the Kerman book, Eric says, " I gave copies of this book to both Robert Anton Wilson and Rafi Zabor. I took a copy of it with me when I appeared on Jeopardy."

Wait, what? I asked Eric the obvious follow-up question.

" I won $10,001 and the home version of the game when I appeared Jeopardy November 30 and December 1, 1999, and I got to talk with Alec Trebek about E-Prime and Aleister Crowley on national television. My Double Jeopardy categories included "Shakespeare" and "Movie Quotes". When my wife in the audience saw the categories, she turned to her son and said, "We're going to Paris."

Eric trampling his opponents. And he didn't even get any Beethoven questions!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Psychedelic Press announces Issue No. 23

Psychedelic Press in the U.K. has published issue #23, the Discordianism issue, available soon, order it now if you don't want to miss getting a copy, details here.  Lots of contributors who are familiar names to readers of this blog, such as Adam Gorightly and Adrian Reynolds. Here is Adam's blog post. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Join the Illuminati!

It turns out the Illuminati have a website. Would I lie to you? It's right here.

The "About Us" section helpfully explains, "The Illuminati operates various departments and programs for the benefit of all people, in all places, from all generations. By protecting the interests of humanity as a whole, our organization has ensured the ongoing dominance of the human species over every other creature and predator on this planet."

You can join simply by giving them your email address; I thought it would be a little harder to get in. Screenshot above is from the email I got Tuesday.

I'm not sure how you figure out if it's the real Illuminati, but the group does have a press contact. 

Via an article in the Independent by David  Barnett about Freemasons.  Barnett wrote to the press contact for the Illuminati, asking, (among other quesions), "can you let me know if all that stuff in the Robert Anton Wilson/Robert Shea books was true?"

No answer, alas.

Incidentally, the Illuminati's publicist is on Twitter, but the account is protected. Can't be too careful when you're a spokeswoman for the world's most powerful group!

Hat tip: @advantardeodus on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guest Post: Eric Wagner reviews 'The Miranda Complex, Volume 3'

The Miranda Complex Volume 3 by Barry Smolin

Fausto Marcon recently posted on the Facebook group Robert Anton Wilson Fans, “who's the contemporary RAW? seriously, any other like him? Who's spreading the verb nowadays?” I would like to nominate Barry Smolin, whose The Miranda Complex Volume 3 I just finished. I devoured this 378 novel in four days, much as I had volumes one and two. I found the novel hilarious and true, even though the protagonist experienced infinitely more sex and drugs in high school than I did.

On page 51 the protagonist Lance Atlas quotes Samuel Beckett, “But habit is a great deadener.” (I wonder if Beckett learned this from Proust?) Smolin’s novel takes the day to day activities of an LA high school student in the 1977-1978 school year and uses them to paint a cosmic canvas which brings readers alive, hopefully awakening them from habitual fear.

Volume 1 quickly made reference to the Miranda from Shakespeare’s Tempest. Smolin brings that up again in Volume 3 when Lance reads the play in his senior English AP English class, acting out the role of Prince Ferdinand. I imagine Smolin based Lance on his own high school self much as Joyce based Stephen Dedalus on his own youth. (And yes, Lance also reads Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in that English class.) If young Lance also corresponds with the youthful prince in The Tempest, perhaps the adult novelist Smolin plays the role of Prospero. Later in the novel Lance listens to a recording of a speech by Prospero read by Jonathan Frid who played Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. I love how Smolin incorporates so many cultural references that resonate for me, from Dark Shadows to Proust and, of course, the Grateful Dead. A Dead concert on January 10, 1978, plays a pivotal role in the novel.

I cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough. Please check it out

— Eric Wagner

Eric Wagner is a writer and teacher who lives in the Los Angeles area. He is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. See also Mr. Wagner's previous post on Barry Smolin. -- The Management. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week Five

This week we start by reading the commentary for line 130 and end by reading the commentary for line 143.

Line 130: As the New Zealander Brian Boyd remarks, the  discussion by Kinbote of the line in the poem "I never bounced a ball or swung a bat," in which the commentator remarks that he also was not good at soccer or cricket, is hilariously inept; an American poet would be referring to PQ's preoccupations, basketball and baseball. Kinbote cannot help making every passage about himself.  Contrast with Kinbote's fine discussion of lines 131-132 before he wanders again into his own concerns.

"The death of Oleg at fifteen, in a toboggan accident," the theme of the sudden death of all of Kinbote's close friends and relatives continues. But the trip through the passage that reminds Kinbote of Oleg is a kind of rebirth -- he is "born again" in the new world, and escapes the fate of the Romanovs after the Russian revolution.

I am curious what Oz will make of this section about a long underground passage. Boyd's book about the novel points to the repeated references to the color green, the number 1,888 mentioned twice, and the references to actress Iris Acht -- Acht is "eight" in German.

Line 137: A "lemniscate" is a figure eight curve (more here). See illustration, above, from Wikipedia, of the "Lemniscate of Bernouli." A bicycle's tires, as Shade's poem states, could leave a similar impression upon wet sand, so Kinbote's remark that the phrase "has no real meaning" is another failure by the commentator.

Next week: Commentary for line 149 to commentary for line 181.

Note: Readers are still posting comments to the earlier weeks of the online reading group. See for example, PQ's new comments for the first and second weeks (handy links at top right). The connection between Pale Fire and Blade Runner 2049 (comment to Week Two) was certainly news to me.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Online reading material

1. Martin Wagner has unearthed another Robert Anton Wilson article, "Werewolf Bridge," published in 1967. 

I liked this part:

Every tribe chooses to encourage certain games and discourage others. The head-hunting game is given great status and “religious” meaning in some tribes, and regarded as a worthless and evil pastime by other tribes. Some games are compulsory, like the witch-burning game in medieval Europe. Some games are not compulsory, but so popular that virtually everybody participates in them, like the Grand Opera game in Italy. Some games are discouraged, but not forbidden, like the pacifist game in America today. Some games are absolutely against the law, like the homosexuality game throughout Occidental civilization. Every game, then, exists somewhere on a scale between the sacred and profane. Those games which are most sacred become institutionalized into laws. Those games which are closest to this sacred end of the spectrum, but not completely sacred, are institutionalized as dogmatic mores and prejudices. Those games which are profane are left to the preference of the individual, who can play them or not, as he sees fit.

The eternal struggle between Authority and Liberty is a struggle for the desacralization of society.

2. "1,600 Occult Books Now Online, Thanks to the Ritman Library & Author Dan Brown."

3. Free book from the Cato Institute: The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America.  By Ted Galen Carpener. Via the Cato Institute Weekly Dispatch, an email bulletin worth subscribing to.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A physics note [UPDATED]

Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics by Paul Halpern looks like a good introduction to some of the physics concepts Robert Anton Wilson takes up in his books. And look who shows up in the index. Amazon won't let me see the passage in question, but I think it's about The Universe Next Door in Schroedinger's Cat.

UPDATE: Jesse Walker supplies the relevant passage, noting, "When Amazon's book search fails, Google Books will often pick up the slack."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Butterfly Language's new direction

Photo by Ahmed Saffu on Unsplash

The RAW fan who writes Butterfly Language, Val, has taken her blog in a new direction, emphasizing "life coaching" posts that are positive and attempt to empower and encourage the reader. The number of categories for posts have been reduced to just three -- "Life Coaching," "Metaphysics" and "Spirituality." There's no "About" section, although there is a "Contact."

I like the new direction. I enjoy getting away from the relentless bad news, and reading something that he helpful rather than a bringdown.

Here's a bit that I liked, from "Being Out of Step With the Times":

Take the Super Bowl. I can safely say that I feel…absolutely nothing about the Super Bowl. To be sure, there are aspects surrounding the pageantry and media tie-ins to it—the details of the Half Time show, the movie trailers—that are interesting to me in a cultural anthropology sort of way (as I believe that everything in the world is a “mirror” of everything else that’s going on).

But in general, I find a lot of these events and “cultural institutions” to be like remnants of a world that is quickly passing away. And that’s not a popular opinion to have. People don’t want to hear that. Many people want to hear that their cultural institutions, and the world that they are familiar with, are going to last forever. They don’t care if it’s not true.

But what is truth? I have my reality tunnel, others have theirs. In some real sense, it’s like we are living in different worlds; worlds that overlap here and there, but then settle back into their respective universes.

Speaking for myself, I deliberately skipped the Super Bowl, for the first time in many years. Here is why. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Historical Illuminatus up next from Hilaritas

Richard Rasa has a new post up at Facebook to publicize some exciting news: The three Historical Illuminatus! novels will be the next new publications from Hilaritas Press, the publishing arm of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust. I am particularly excited to see what Hilaritas will do with the first two, The Earth Will Shake and The Widow's Son.  Bobby Campbell is doing new art for the books, and I know that a lot of copyediting has been done (Gregory Arnott has been working on The Widow's Son.) 

In the meantime, as Rasa's new meme, above, illustrates, Hilaritas already has republished definitive editions of five core RAW books: Cosmic Trigger 1, Prometheus Rising, Quantum Psychology, Email to the Universe and Coincidance: A Head Test.  All are available in print and as ebooks.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Adam Gorightly news roundup

Adam Gorightly (photo from Historia Discordia website). 

California film actor and author Adam Gorightly is busy invading your reality in all sorts of popular communication mediums! A news roundup:

An article about his movie, The Hill and the Hole, based on a Fritz Leiber story! You can watch the official film trailer if you follow the link. The official website says only "coming in 2018."

"Sounds like they are making good progress on the film. They need to do a little filming in a couple months, to fix a couple of scenes. I think I might be involved in that. The rest now is post-production. They are still saying 2018 for release, so I'll keep you posted," Adam reports.

The film producers also plan to film a trailer for Adam's new UFO book. Check out a blog post by his coauthor, which links to a podcast. 

A recent posting on Adam's "Historia Discordia" blog about Eris Chardonnay.

Still no publication date announced for Starseed Signals, the "lost" Robert Anton Wilson book, but I will pass along any news when it becomes available.

Adam's official site. What a weirdo! Right up your alley if you read this blog.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group: Week Four

Want to learn about Vladimir Nabokov by taking classes from Professor Brian Boyd, the world's most important Nabokov scholar? All you have to do is move to New Zealand and enroll at the University of Auckland (pictured). 

This week, we cover about 15 pages, in my paperback, pages 61 through 76. In any edition, we are going from the discussion of line 62 to the discussions of lines 120-121.

When Oz Fritz began reading Pale Fire, he suggested that "this novel will have a bardoesque aspect to it," and explained that bardo spaces are "spaces that convey the mood of death or the bardo." (See the comments in the post for the first week.) 

Oz has been developing his theory that Pale Fire is "a classic of esoteric communication" (see the comments for last week's entry), but this time I want to go back to his earlier remark about death haunting the novel. We have yet to even come to John Shade's death, but I certainly think Nabokov's novel includes a sense that death can strike at any time. The poem Pale Fire is dominated by the suicide of the poet's daughter, and the passage that we cover this week is largely concerned with two sudden deaths: The farcical yet tragic death of the king's father in an airplane crash, just as onlookers have seen him "raise one arm in triumph and reassurance" after pulling his plane out of an apparently uncontrollable dive, and the sudden death of the king's mother, who was ill but had been "much better on the day before."

And in the beginning of this week's passage, the narrator describes his night terrors, haunted by "how given to regicide Zemblans are."

The careful reader cannot help but notice that the literary commentator must be the exiled king; how else could he know so much about the king's life?

Brian Boyd 

But is that all to the story? In his introduction to Nabokov's Pale Fire, Brian Boyd quotes the observation by Martin Amis that Nabokov, whatever else he is doing, "spins a jolly good yarn, with believable characters, a strong story-line, and vivid, humorous prose ... He does all the usual things better than anybody else." Boyd them observes that in a first reading, the reader can make out important elements of the plot, including figuring out the link between Professor Kinbote and King Charles II. (An aside, Martin Amis is himself is pretty great when he's at his best. See, for example, Money: A Suicide Note.)

But for Boyd, and Nabokov, part of the pleasure of reading is teasing out more. Boyd quotes Nabokov as telling his students at Cornell that "Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader."

It seems too early to discuss any spoilers, but Boyd says there are four major  interpretations about what "is" "really" going on in the book, and that he himself changed his mind, coming to a new interpretation that "contradicts all the others."

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Robert Shea on 'The Dispossessed'

Robert Shea

After author Ursula K. Le Guin died on Jan. 22, Reason magazine published an article by Victoria Varga on the debate that raged for years in the Libertarian Futurist Society over whether to give a Hall of Fame Award to her novel The Dispossessed. It finally received the award in 1993. The article mentioned that one of the LFS members arguing in favor of the book was author Robert Shea. I asked Varga if I could see Shea's article about the book, and she generously mailed me the newsletter it was published in, The Prometheus, along with other issues that showed me what Shea's piece was referring to. Here is Shea's piece, from the Fall 1987 issue. Illuminatus! also won the LFS' Hall of Fame award, in 1986, in a tie with The Syndic by Cyril Kornbluth. As far as I know, the Hall of Fame is the only literary award Illuminatus! ever received. -- The Management. 

Again, The Dispossessed

By Robert Shea

After reading the two commentaries on Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed in the Summer 1987 Prometheus, I had to offer my opinion. I was happy to vote for The Dispossessed for the Hall of Fame award this year. I think Le Guin does a remarkably good job of portraying a real live anarchist society.

The objections I've seen to this novel as libertarian science fiction seem to come from people I would call right-wing anarchists -- I can think of no more efficient way to describe them -- who believe that freedom is impossible without private property. If Le Guin had portrayed everything as hunky-dory in her anarcho-collectivist society their criticisms would be easier to understand, although The Dispossessed would in that case be a small, flat, banal, propagandistic book. But Le Guin's novel is primarily about the things that have gone wrong in this society.

The Odonians, banished to a world where everything is scarce, have managed to create a society that is, in many ways, quite attractive. It is non-violent, nonhierarchical, ascetic, sexually free. But in the generations since it was established, it has ossified. Shevek begins a rebellion against this ossification.

Annares has oppressive institutions, but not because Le Guin fails to understand the nature of freedom. She understands freedom quite well. The Annaresti, in their struggle to survive on an inhospitable planet, came up with solutions that later led to more problems. Le Guin knows that the business of any revolution -- perhaps especially an anarchist revolution -- is never finished.

Other sf novels advocating anarchism often show the society's problems as stemming from internal subversives. Everything would be just peachy were it ot for the small group of evil people who want to bring back the state. Odonian problems stem from their society itself, which makes for a far more subtle and profound thought experiment.

Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which deservedly won LFS's Hall of Fame award, describes an anarchist society on the Moon which many libertarians find attractive. But his more recent The Cat Who Walked Through Walls returns a few generations later to find it, like Le Guin's Odonian society, plagued by creeping archism. This does not mean Heinlein's view of freedom is flawed. Like Le Guin, he knows that freedom is never won once and for all and there is no perfect blueprint for a free society.

George Orwell pointed out in an essay on Gandhi that in an anarcho-pacifist society people would be subjected to the most pervasive tyranny of all, the unlimited power of collective opinion. Orwell, who created the archetype of tyrannies that rule by force and fraud, might have given us a novel about tyranny by guilt and shame had he developed his insight. What Orwell did not due, Le Guin has done.

The Dispossessed is a cautionary tale for anarchists. The people who hate it remind me of those who want Huckleberry Finn taken off bookshelves because they see it as a sympathetic portrait of a slaveholding society. Because Le Guin shows that life on Annares has its positive side, people who want their fiction to have a simple good vs. evil message are offended.

Le Guin is too fine a writer to appeal to people who insist on taking their propaganda straight. But that's why The Dispossessed deserves a place in LFS' Hall of Fame.

Robert Shea co-authored the Iluminatus! trilogy with Robert Anton Wilson.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

John Higgs launches email newsletter

John Higgs (photo from his website)

Author John Higgs released the first issue of his email newsletter Friday. You can sign up for future issues. 

Here is a bit that may interest some of you:

And finally, any Discordians of a philosophical bent should be aware of the work of Chris Bateman. I'm currently reading - and loving - his Chaos Ethics, a metamodern rescuing of the idea of morality with help from games design and the novels of Michael Moorcock - and which declares its debt to Robert Anton Wilson.

If the publishers were savvy they'd re-release it now, under the title Things That Jordan Peterson Doesn't Get.

John also reports he's recording an audiobook of his KLF book. It will be available in March.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Zach Leary on Timothy Leary's final days

Zach Leary

At Mondo 2000, R.U. Sirius interviews Zach Leary about Timothy Leary's final years, as Tim was dying of cancer.

Funny, interesting and sad. There's a lot about Leary's inspirational qualities, and also about the more difficult aspects of Leary's personality. "I’m glad the whole 'designer dying' idea of his found such strong footing and uncovered so many important topics for our culture, but I do wish there was a more sensitive way to offset the public celebration with some compassion for those close to him. Immediately after he died, my life fell apart very quickly — when that happens it’s no ones fault, but I was by no means prepared for life without him," Zach Leary said.

Zach Leary seems like an interesting person in his own right. He is a podcast host and I plan to try some of them. He's on Twitter. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Come to Confluence and find the others

See the entire Zen Pencils cartoon about Timothy Leary's "Find the Others" rap. 

I plan to attend Confluence, a science fiction convention to be held July 27-29 this year in Pittsburgh. I'm posting here to invite other RAW fans to come to the convention so that we can meet each other.

This blog has been active since 2010, and I've gotten to know many people via the Internet, but I have actually met only one person in the flesh that I know as a result of the blog — Ted Hand, who came through Cleveland last year.

It's a bit like science fiction fandom. When I got involved with fandom in high school, I would "meet" people via letters and fanzines whom I did not know in person.

In fandom, you usually get a chance to meet the folks you've corresponded with by going to science fiction conventions.

There have been "find the others" events for RAW fans in the United Kingdom and in California, but I live in the eastern U.S., and traveling to California or to the UK has not been easy or convenient for many of us.

I've wanted something that would be accessible for folks in the East and Midwest of the U.S. I live in the Cleveland, Ohio, area, and I've been having conversations about this with Gregory Arnott, who lives in Morgantown, W. Va. Gregory led our Email to the Universe online discussion group and has been doing volunteer copyediting for Hilaritas Press. You can read his Tumblr blog. Gregory knows a lot about magick -- not exactly my area of expertise -- so his interests complement mine.

Gregory's original idea was to organize a gathering in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a place where Robert Anton Wilson lived in the early 1960s and a location that is home to Antioch College. It's mentioned in Illuminatus! as the school that Simon Moon attended.

That's an attractive idea. A gathering there would allow for actual research, such as attempting to local jail records for when RAW went to jail for an integration protest (mentioned in Cosmic Trigger 2) and attempting to local places mentioned in Illuminatus! and other books.

I want to go there. But with everything else on my plate (a full time job, household duties that come from being married and owning a home, doing this blog, keeping the blog going for the Libertarian Futurist Society, etc.) I don't feel up to organizing a gathering.

Instead, I hit on the idea of asking folks to come to a science fiction convention. That provides a venue and the infrastructure for a meetup. It would be easy to have room parties, to meet for lunches and dinner, and perhaps also to have actual programming if enough people were interested in coming.

So I looked for a quality convention that would be in the area and would be going on several months in advance, so that anyone who would be interested would have time to plan. After looking at a bunch of conventions in the U.S. over the next several months, I picked Confluence.

I have never been to Confluence, but everything I've been able to learn about it convinces me it will be a well-run convention well worth attending, regardless of how many RAW fans show up, and how much opportunity there will be for RAW programming. The convention is not a big one, but it's been going for years. The folks in charge of programming. Laurie and Jim Mann, are veteran convention fans. The choice of a big name writer as the guest of honor, Catherynne M. Valente; the obviously well thought out Code of Conduct, even the already-posted detailed restaurant guide, all point to a convention that will be an enjoyable experience.

So in the worst case, even if organizing a lot of programming proves difficult (it's too early to tell), you will be able to meet and talk with other RAW fans at a good convention. I am anxious to have some programming, if it's at all possible. Gregory has agreed to work with me on this.

I bought a membership in the convention and I wrote the convention's programming email, asking if Robert Anton Wilson fans could be organize a panel or two, and if it would be possible to have the use of a small meeting room for part of the convention, so that we could at least organize our own events.

This is the response I got Tuesday morning:

Hi, we're in the process of organizing Program for this summer.

As Confluence is a small convention, we do all the panel organizing and
scheduling.  We'll be inviting participants and scheduling over the next
few months and will consider your idea.

Laurie & Jim Mann
Confluence Program

So I guess it's too early to know if the convention will work with us. I have some ideas for programming, and Gregory does, too.

In the meantime, my contact information is on the right side of the page, under "About." If you think you will be able to attend Confluence, please write to me at that address (with "Confluence" in the subject line) and I'll begin putting together an email list.