Saturday, March 31, 2018

Those dangerous Discordians and transhumanists!


David Livingstone

Thanks to a tip from Jesse Walker, I have made the acquaintance of David Livingstone, a conspiracy theorist and the author of the article "The New Occultism: Chaos Magic, Discordianism and Transhumanism."

It's a rather well-researched article, exploring ties between Discordians, transhumanists, the occult, etc., with name checks for familiar figures such as Robert Anton Wilson, R.U. Sirius, Rudy Rucker, Peter Thiel, etc. BUT (and it's a rather big "but"), Mr. Livingstone is not interested in weighing evidence. He is interested in conspiracy theories that put everyone in the worst possible light. So, for example, whereas Adam Gorightly has written entire books that explore Kerry Thornley's ties to Lee Harvey Oswald, and ultimately concluding that Thornley had nothing to do with JFK's assassination, Livingstone is all in with Jim Garrison and says Thornley "was deeply implicated in the strange and murky world of the assassination of JFK, which has often been suspected by conspiracy theorists as representing the ancient pagan right of killing the 'sacred king'.”

Scholarship, alas, relies upon the ability to weigh evidence. Livingstone's allegiance throughout the essay is to sensationalism.

Here is a biography of Livingstone:

David Livingstone was born in Montreal in 1966 of a Jamaican-Canadian father (a school teacher) and French Canadian mother. At age seven, he asked his parents who Plato and Socrates were. Told they were truthseekers, he was shocked. "You mean people don’t know what the truth is?" He resolved to find it out.

Livingstone studied history as an undergraduate but dropped out in 1992 when he realized he was being indoctrinated. "When I read that the Indo European [Aryan] race emerged from the Caucuses, out of nowhere, I got suspicious, and began the 13 years of research that led to my first book, The Dying God: The Hidden History of Western Civilization." 

While writing that book, Livingstone paid his bills by planting trees in British Columbia and upholstering furniture in Montreal. Raised as an agnostic, he accepted Islam in 1992 after making a study of the major world religions. He married in 2000 and has three children. 

Livingstone's books include Transhumanism: The History of a Dangerous Idea, Terrorism and the Illuminati: A Three Thousand Year History and The Dying God: The Hidden History of Western Civilization.

Friday, March 30, 2018

New John HIggs newsletter



John Higgs

I'm a few days late on reporting on this, but wonderful British writer John Higgs  has issued his second email newsletter. If you still haven't signed up and you missed it, you can read it here. 

Lots of news about John's speaking engagements and about events that I'd like attend if I lived in Great Britain. Also, John's defense of Elon Musk's decision to sacrifice the first Tesla car:

It's worth stressing the historical importance of that particular car. It was the very first Tesla to roll off the production line. It is hard now to remember just how much Tesla Motors were mocked when they were established in in 2003, but electric cars were then considered a joke, both by the industry and customers, that would never match the speed, range or desirability of petrol cars. Fifteen years later, and electric cars are now seen as not only possible but inevitable. The UK parliament has banned production of new petrol or diesel cars after 2040, Scotland is aiming to achieve this by 2032, Jaguar Land Rover plans to end production of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2020 and Volvo by 2019, and the European Parliament has drawn up laws to reduce emissions and incentivize electric vehicles because its electric vehicle industry is far behind China’s. Electric cars are the future, which is great news for the climate.

None of this would have happened without Tesla or Elon Musk, and this makes that first Tesla roadster a car of great historical importance. It makes the car hugely valuable and it would almost certainly have ended up in the Smithsonian, securing Musk's legacy for generations to come. What, then, should we make of his decision to fling it away, out into the coldness of the void?

To my eyes, it was an act of sacrifice. Sacrifice is when something of value is killed, burnt, thrown into a lake or otherwise given back to the cosmos. It is the giving up of something in a manner that offers no rational expectation of material reward, just a momentary glimpse of grace. The concept of sacrifice is found in all cultures around the world and seems to be hardwired into our psyche, regardless of how modern or rational we claim to be. We shouldn't be too surprised to see it continually being re-enacted, even by people who seem bewildered by their own actions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday links


Jordan Peterson. Sage giver of personal advice, right wing troll, or both? 

Twitter discussion of Robert Anton Wilson. "Wilson's 'Guerilla Ontology' would only appeal to those privileged enough to never be the targets of suppression," it's contended. This statement seems wrong to me.

The Slate Star Codex guy, Scott Alexander, likes Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life. (Apparently the book has little of the notorious right wing troll side of Peterson).

Amazon plans to adapt The Three Body Problem.

Ezra Klein on the Charles Murray controversies.  I read Murray but have shunned The Bell Curve, and I think Klein makes a good case and tries to be fair. You can also read a response from Sam Harris. 

"French waiter says firing for rudeness is 'discrimination against my culture'." Reality tunnels! Sometimes the headline seems like enough, but if you like, here's the link. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Tao of Ursula K. LeGuin


Ursula LeGuin (with another writer I like, Harlan Ellison). Creative Commons photo. 

Sombunall of you would likely be interested in Taoism. Here is an article on "The Tao of Ursula K. Le Guin," about the late science fiction writer, much admired by both Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.

Via the reliably interesting Supergee blog.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week 11


Mont Blanc (public domain photo).

This week, a bit shorter read: Commentary for Line 741 to Commentary for Line 949, pages 170-183 in my old paperback.

Line 768: I'm assuming this is one of the letters to his queen that gave away Kinbote's location in the U.S.

Line 782: Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a famous poem about Mont Blanc, but it doesn't have the lines that Kinbote remembers; is there another poem that Kinbote could have in mind?

Line 803: Does this anecdote about a Russian translation offer an anecdote about who Kinbote really is?


Franklin Knight Lane (public domain photo). 

Line 810: Letters of Franklin Lane. A real book! And if you want to act on Kinbote's recommendation, you can get an ebook from Project Gutenberg. 

Franklin Knight Lane (1864-1921) was a prominent Democratic politician. He wrote the lines quoted in Pale Fire when he knew he was going to die soon.  

Commentary to Line 894: The origin of Kinbote's alias, and an admission that the author of Pale Fire is the V. Botkin mentioned in the index?

"He was a so-called Pink": This sounds like Nabokov's own sarcastic opinions. He didn't think much, for example, of Dr. Zhivago.

Line 929: Nabokov thought Freudianism was ridiculous.

Next week: The end is in sight! Please finish the commentary and look at the index.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Zach Leary on his famous father


Timothy Leary during the recording of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." (Creative Commons photo).

Just a normal American life: "I grew up in what appeared on the outside to be a somewhat normal upper-middle-class household in Beverly Hills, California. Every morning my mom or dad would take me to school, my dad would toss the baseball with me in the backyard and on most nights they would make sure I did my homework."

The "dad" being talked about by Zach Leary is Timothy Leary, and the article, "Having Timothy Leary as a Father Was a Trip," describes what Zach learned about his father after discovering that he was famous.

The article is the excerpt from the forward to a new book, The Timothy Leary Project: Inside the Great Counterculture Experiment by Jennifer Ulrich, a collection of Leary's selected papers and correspondence. The book will be out on April 17.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Another 'lost' RAW article found



An article by Robert Anton Wilson, "Why I Am a Right-Wing Anarchist," is available here. The document is mostly a collection of Robert Shea material, but the first piece has the byline "Ronald Weston." Someone has written "Robert Shea" next to the byline, but Jesse Walker notes, "It is on the Shea site, and John Zube has penciled in Shea's name as the author. But Weston was one of Wilson's pseudonyms, and anyway I'm 90% sure I saw this article attributed to Wilson elsewhere."

Thanks, Jesse!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Interview with Sylvia Beach


What was it like to open a bookstore in Paris in its heyday, frequented by James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway? Ask Sylvia Beach!  (The above is a still image, follow the link.)

A fascinating video interview (about 24 minutes) with the woman who published Ulysses, after her pal Joyce complained "My book will never come out" and "sat there with his head in his hands."

Good on you, Steve Pratt, for posting this at Only Maybe. Steve writes, "I find Sylvia's voice unique and strangely soothing, while her conversation on the tale of the tribe proves illuminating.  That it was mostly women who were determined to help get Ulysses published reinforces, to me, the importance of Joyce studies within gender/identity politics in 2018."

So many great writers Sylvia Beach hung out with, at a time when books were king. Such a cool writer.

Oh, and Joyce was nice to everyone. He was a popular guy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Are they really bad books?


Moby Dick, doing his thing. 

Something for readers: Via Supergee, a list of 10 "literary classics" that many readers hate, from Literary Hub. Supergee comments:  "Any list of overrated classics that includes both On the Road and Catcher in the Rye can’t be all bad, but did we need two Hemingway books?"

I would tend to echo Supergee. I don't like On the Road and Catcher in the Rye either, and I liked the two Hemingway books when I read them years ago (A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises.) I liked Animal Farm as a teenager, but the review I disagree with most  is Alicia Kroell dissing Moby Dick. I know Herman Melville is a dead white male, and Literary Hub is a rather PC publication (that also runs many interesting articles), but come on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Meme I liked


No time for a long blog posting today, but here is a meme I liked on Twitter. Source. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week 10


Oz Fritz in the recording studio. Like Nabokov, Oz wants you to pay attention. (Photo by John Tabor).

This week: Commentary to Line 579 to commentary for Lines 734-735 (pages 153-170 in my old paperback, but your mileage may vary).

Commentary to Line 596: "As many people of little culture, Gradus was a voracious reader of newspapers, pamphlets, chance leaflets and the multilingual literature that comes with nose drops and digestive tablets..." Perhaps the modern Gradus would be those who consume social network posts to the exclusion of reading books.

Here is one of my favorite passages: "How much happier the wide-awake indolents, the monarchs among men, the rich monstrous brains deriving intense enjoyment and rapturous pangs from the balustrade of a terrace at nightfall, from the lights and the lake below, from the distant mountain shapes melting into the dark apricot of the afterglow, from the black conifers outlined against the pale ink of the zenith, and from the garnet and green flounces of the water along the silent, sad, forbidden shoreline."

Compare Nabokov talking about the virtue of being "wide-awake" with Robert Anton Wilson's remarks in his essay "How to Read/How to Think" in Coincidance. See also Oz Fritz's remarks about paying attention in his classic "The Art of Listening" blog post, which was part of a series.

I liked Oz Fritz's comment in the last installment: "Deleuze says that writers of what he terms "minority literature" write for a "people to come." Their audience doesn't exist when they write, their literature has to find readers who will grasp it. This seems similar to Nietzsche's philosophy. Joyce wrote for readers of the future. You have to become smarter and broaden your awareness to comprehend his later works. Nabokov teaches how to be such a reader. He creates a bridge for the current reader to become one of those "people to come" who will understand and appreciate Joyce and perhaps realize Nietzsche's or Crowley's philosophy. Twice already, through Kinbote, Nabokov explicitly expresses an intention to teach, putting the word "teach" in a sentence by itself or with one other word to emphasize this intention."

Compare with the famous anecdote about Beethoven: "Legend has it that when the Italian violinist Felix Radicati complained that Beethoven’s Opus 59 Quartets were 'not music', the composer responded: 'Oh, they are not for you, but for a later age'.” (Source).

And I do think that whether he was in the classroom or in the pages of a novel, Nabokov was teaching us to read carefully, and to re-read.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

My interview with R.A. Lafferty




R.A. Lafferty in his library By Keith Purtell - "Okla Hannali", CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1387810

[Robert Anton Wilson is not the only "cult writer" I've tried to promote over the years; I've also been a longtime fan of R.A. Lafferty, who actually hailed from my hometown, Tulsa. I recently noticed that a link to my interview with Lafferty, first published online in the Sandusky Register, did not work. (The links at my newspaper always seem to become broken when we switch content providers.) I am reprinting the interview here, with only slight changes, because I want it to remain available on the Internet. BTW, I noticed recently that a new collection of Lafferty's early stories, THE R.A. LAFFERTY FANTASTIC MEGAPACK, is available for just 99 cents on Kindle. I haven't read the book yet, but judging from the stories I remember, it's worth reading.  -- The Mgt.]


Although science fiction and fantasy writer R.A. Lafferty died in 2002, he's retained his cult following. His fans include Neil Gaiman, who says that at one point, Lafferty was the best short story writer in the world. (Gaiman once posted a photo on his blog, reprinted here, of himself holding one of Lafferty's best books, short story collection "Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add?")
Although much of his work has gone out of print, Lafferty has retained a stubborn following and an Internet presence. There are R.A. Lafferty websites and Twitter accounts. The Science Fiction Encyclopedia has a long entry devoted to him.
I've always been a big fan of Lafferty, and I interviewed him more than once. This interview with Lafferty originally was printed in the 39th issue of science fiction fanzine "Lan's Lantern" in 1991. I've taken a PDF of the interview and reproduced it here with a new introduction to make it easier for fans to find it and for new readers to find out about  him. I think the interview captures a bit of Lafferty's originality and humor.

Tom Jackson:  What are some of your short stories and novels that you especially like? Are there any which you think have been overlooked?

R.A. Lafferty: Short stories of mine that I particularly like are "Selenium Ghosts of the 1870s," "You Can't Go Back," "Continued on Next Rock," "All Pieces of a River Shore," "Narrow Valley," "Configuration of the North Shore," "Golden Gage," "Old Foot Forgot," "Rainbird," "Faith Sufficient," "Bird-Master," "One-Eyed Mockingbird," "Great Tom Fool or the Conundrum of the Calais Custom-House Coffers" "Snuffles."
Novels of mine that I particularly like are "Okla Hannali," "The Fall of Rome," "Half a Sky," "Archipelago" (none of these four are science fiction), "Past Master," "Reefs of Earth," "Space Chantey," "Fourth Mansions," "Arrive at Easterwine," "The Three Armageddons of Enniscorthy Sweeny." The most overlooked of the novels is "The Three Armageddons." It was published as the second novel of a two novel book "Apocalypses," and it may have been that many readers stopped after the first novel and never got back to the second one. The most neglected of my favorite short stories is "Bird-Master." The reason for this is probably that it was published in a Chris Drumm booklet that maybe reached 500 readers, whereas many of the other stories published in magazines reached one hundred times as many readers.

Tom Jackson: Have some of your novels been inspired by books of theology or philosophy? Haven't some of  your novels been inspired by the works of writers such as Thomas Aquinas and St. Teresa of Avila?

R.A. Lafferty: Several of my novels have counterparts to specific works of theology, yes. The book "Aurelia" (Donning-Starblaze Books, 1982) has parallels with the "Summa Theological" of Thomas Aquinas. The fourteen-year-old girl student Aurelia (in the bottom half of her classes) is completing her tenth form schooling, The last item of her tenth form is "World Government" in which the students must literally go out from their "Golden World cultus" to an inferior world and take control of it and govern it for a period. If a student should fail to master and govern a world, that student would die, of course, and would also fail the course. Aurelia comes down (more by accident than competent navigation) on the world Gaea (sometimes confused with Earth.) There she quickly becomes a cult figure, believed by some to be a girl messiah. She does give striking and reasoned homilies or orations or sermons that make her sound a little like a messiah. In fact, they form a mini-outline of the great (3011 double column pages in my edition) "Summa" of Aquinas. But is is only a coincidence that the balanced sanity of the "Golden World Cultus" of Aurelia's home world should parallel the "Summa" of the Angelic Doctor. Aurelia was no messiah, but she was a very nice girl, and I regret that my story line required her failure and death.

And then there is the book "Fourth Mansions" (Ace, 1969) which I worked into the context of "Las Morada" ("The Mansions") of Teresa of Avila (the English translation is usually called "The Interior Castle.") There are seven sets of Mansions or steps to perfection, but the Fourth Mansions is the perilous step, the midpoints where the devil and his principalities counter-attack with all their fury. And that counter-attack, really the scenario of today's world, is the theme of my book.

Tom Jackson: I noticed that the ending of "Old Halloweens on the Guna Slopes" is different in the original magazine version from the reprints in your anthologies. Did you revise it after publication, or did the magazine editor change it? Have you made changes in other stories between first publication and reprinting in your anthologies? Have editors changed  your stories very often?

R.A. Lafferty: I revised "Old Halloweens" after the first publication and before its printing in the anthology "Austro and the Men Who Knew Everything." I revised it to give a little more zoom to it, and no editor had anything to do with it. I have made minor changes in other of my stories between first printing and anthology printing, but editors haven't been involved. The only editor who changed many of my stories was Pohl, and none of his changes was fatal. He just had a fetish of leaving his mark on every story he edited.

Tom Jackson: Terry Carr bought several of your early books. What effect did he have on your writing? How much voice did he have in selecting which stories would be published in "Nine Hundred Grandmothers," your first collection?

R.A. Lafferty: Terry Carr taught me that a story must begin with a bang. As a consequence, the first book of mine he edited and published, "Past Master," has in its first paragraph:

... There was a clattering thunder in the street outside ... the clashing thunder of mechanical killers, raving and raging. They shook the building and were on the verge of pulling it down. They required the life and blood of one of the three men ... now ... within the minute.

Well, maybe all stories don't have to begin with a bang, but all Terry Carr stories had to begin with a bang of some sort. Terry also told me that, 'You can lose a reader, completely and forever, in fifteen seconds. Never leave him even a fifteen-second interval without a hook to jerk him back.' Anything else Terry told me is contained in those two very good pieces of advice.

On "Nine Hundred Grandmothers," Terry gave me his preferences of the stories to go in the book, and asked me if I wanted to make any changes. They were all good stories, and I didn't make any changes.

Tom Jackson: Who are your favorite editors? Who do you think have been the most perceptive critics of your work?

R.A. Lafferty: My favorite editors were Horace Gold of "Galaxy," Terry Carr of Ace and of his "Universe" series, and Damon Knight with  his "Orbit" series. They are my favorite editors because they bought more of my stories than any other editors did. I guess it's a quirk of my make-up that I remember the least perceptive of my critics (those who panned me) more than the most perceptive of my critics (those who praised me.) The least perceptive of my panners were James Blish, Christopher Priest (in England), Thomas Monteleone and Spider Robinson. I got back at the Spider a tad in an obscure booklet ("True Believers" by United Mythologies Press) with the stanza:

He cannot write nor yet apprize
He ladles with a rusty ladle
He's neither talented nor wise.
But spider bites are seldom fadle.

Tom Jackson: What was it like winning the Hugo Award for "Eurema's Dam"? What effect did it have on your career?

R.A. Lafferty: Winning the Hugo Award for "Eurema's Dam" puzzled me completely, and I'm still puzzled by it. It was a pleasant little story, but I had four or five better stories published that year. And moreover it was tied by a story by Fred Pohl, which out of common decency I will not name, which was one of the worst stories ever written by anybody, anywhere. Still, I was glad to have a Hugo. I don't believe it had much effect on my career. I think the effect of Hugos is greatly exaggerated. And I've heard four or five different writers express puzzlement over winning Hugos with stories that were pretty ordinary and being passed over on stories which they really believed were earth-shaking.

Tom Jackson: Chris Drumm's "An R.A. Lafferty checklist" indicates that you published four stories in 1972: "Eurema's Dam," Rangle Dang Kaloof," "Dorg" and "A Special Condition in Summit City." Can you clarify which stories you thought were better than "Eurema's Dam"?

R.A Lafferty: My memory was confused about stories published in 1972, and about everything else of 1972, which was probably the worst  year of my life. I was sick that year, and I did not write anything at all in 1972. Some good things were published that year ("Okla Hannali," for instance), but they were written and sold earlier. I had only one short story published for the first time that year, other than those you name. "Once on Arenea," in the book "Strange Doings," had never been published before. But it, and "A Special Condition in Summit City," were my only stories published that year that were better than anything. What I had in mind, I guess, was the spate of really good stories which I had published in 1970 and 1971, the best run of good stories I ever did, that didn't attract any notice at all. Seventeen of them, in that two-year period, were quite a bit better than "Eurema's Dam," and were better than almost anything else around: "Ride a Tin Can," "About a Secret Crododile," "Been a Long Long Time," "Entire and Perfect Chrysolite," "Continued on Next Rock," "Old Foot Forgot," "All Pieces of a River Shore," "Interurban Queen," "Frog on the Mountain," "The Man Underneath," "Encased in Ancient Rind," "Boomer Flats," "Bubbles When They Burst," "Groaning Hinges of the World," "Ishmael Into the Barrens," "Nor Limestone Islands" and "Sky."
"Eurema's Dam" (which was written in 1964 and bounced around to all the markets) simply wasn't in it with this group, although it was a nice little comic story. I cancelled out on the 1972 Worldcon in Los Angeles, although I had fallen in love with the worldcons with my first two (St. Louis in 1969, and Boston in 1971), but I wasn't able to travel in 1972. When I began to write again in 1973 I gradually began to write some pretty good stories again: "And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire," "Mud Violet," "The World As Will and Wallpaper," "By the Sea Shore," but I never again put together a consistent string of superior stories as I had done in 1970 and 1971. At the Toronto Worldcon in 1973, which gave the awards on stories published in 1972, I was well again, and felt it ironic that I had won a Hugo for "Eurema's Dam."

Tom Jackson: Do you read much science fiction these days? Did  you ever read much? Are there any current SF writers  you especially like?

R.A. Lafferty: No, I don't reach much science fiction these days. I never did read very much except for a four month period when I read several hundred of what were supposed to be the best science fiction books ever. This was when I first decided to major in science fiction, as it was selling for me and other things weren't. Well, it was a good crash course, and I was glad that I absorbed it. And I read quite a bit of science fiction during several of the golden ages or "little golden ages." But the present time is not a "little golden age" and I do not read much science fiction.
Of the current SF writers I probably like Gene Wolfe the best. And Gregory Benford, David Brin, Greg Bear (the three busy bees), John Shirley (I don't like his opinions or the movements he attaches himself to, but he can write), Madeleine L'Engle, Robert Bloch (he's been doing it for more than 50 years, but he's still good), James Hogan (I think of him as a young writer, but he's forty-eight), Michael Bishop, Ed Bryant. And Ray Bradbury who is still at the top of whatever it is that he writes. I have no idea why so many writers on this short list have names beginning with "B." I had nothing to do with naming them.

Tom Jackson: Do you think you should be getting more attention from mainstream book reviewers?

R.A. Lafferty: No, I don't think I should be getting more attention from mainstream book reviewers. I've never written any mainstream books, and I'm always surprised when the mainstreamers notice me at all.

Tom Jackson: What do you think of the artwork publishers have put on  your books? Are there any book covers you especially loved or hated?

R.A. Lafferty: The only covers of my books I really hated were those on "Arrive at Easterwine" (Ballantine Books, 1971) and on "East of Laughter" (Morrigan Publishing, 1988).  One I especially liked was on "The Devil Is Dead" (Avon Books, 1971).

Tom Jackson: I liked the cover for "The Devil Is Dead" too, but I couldn't tell by looking at the book who the cover artist was. Can you help me?

R.A. Lafferty: No, I don't know who was the artist of the cover of "The Devil Is Dead." I have wondered, too, but I never found out.

Tom Jackson: Is Bertigrew Bagley in the novel "Fourth Mansions" a self-portrait of yourself?

R.A. Lafferty: No, Bertigrew Bagley, the Patrick of Tulsa, is not a self-portrait, consciously at least. But quite a few people have asked me if he wasn't myself, so I must have some resemblance at least to that shabby old bum.

Tom Jackson: Some of your stories include dream sequences. Would you describe some of your writing as Surrealist?

R.A. Lafferty: I don't regard myself as a Surrealist in the sense of the "Surrealist Manifesto" published by Andre Breton in 1924. To me, that Manifesto is somewhat dated, being a recoil from World War I, and being too heavily Freudian. My own unconscious is more Jungian than Freudian. But if Breton hadn't staked claim to the name, I would probably call myself a Surrealist in the "Remembrance of Things Within" sense, but not in the "world of dream and fantasy joined to the everyday rational world, becoming 'an absolute reality, a surreality'." I suppose that I believe in another sort of a surreality or super-reality, but it would have to be on a wider basis than the encounters of myself and me. As often as not, it is the subconscious that supplies the rational element, and the exterior world that supplies the dream and fantasy feeling.

Tom Jackson: Is it true that you have retired from writing? When a baseball player retires, he is usually asked what his biggest thrill was. What's been your biggest thrill as a writer?

R.A. Lafferty: Yes, it's true that I've been retired from writing, except for a little bit of revision when old and unsold books finally push themselves into the "accepted" category.

Yes, when a baseball player retires he is usually asked what his biggest thrill was. But most of them are uncomfortable with the question, unless they have won the seventh game of a World Series with a homer. And I've never done that. I am reasonably happy with what I have written and with the reception it has had. But I can't think of any work or event that makes it to the "greatest thrill" category. It's a little bit like asking a man who has loved his breakfast eggs for 60 years to name the most thrilling egg he ever ate. He might hesitate a bit and come out with something no better than:

"Oh, there was a really superior egg on June 9 of 1932, and another on Feb. 8 of 1947. And in 1951 (it was either April 4 or April 5) I had two absolutely perfect eggs. But no, it would be presumptuous of me to name the most thrilling egg I ever ate. They were all so good!

(Other interviews with authors also are available.)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Jordan Bates on Robert Anton Wilson


Jordan Bates

"Robert Anton Wilson, if you’re unaware, was something of a countercultural Gandalf, a white-haired wizard of skepticism and subversion. Wilson lived a remarkably diverse life, becoming, at various times, a novelist, essayist, philosopher, polymath, psychologist, editor, playwright, psychonaut, futurist, civil libertarian, Discordian Saint, and self-described agnostic mystic. A mouthful, I know—the man got shit done."

From an essay, "Reality Tunnels & E-Prime: A Taste of Robert Anton Wilson," by Jordan Bates that came out in 2014. I missed it at the time, so I'm linking to it now. 

See also his "12 Books That Destroyed and Rebuilt My Mind," which includes Cosmic Trigger. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Music news from Britain



The British rock band Gnod are releasing a new album, Chapel Perilous, on May 4.

"The forthcoming album Chapel Perilous takes its name from the philosophically cosmic writing of Cosmic Trigger author, Robert Anton Wilson and is a follow up to their excellently caustic Just Say No The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine and stormingly heavy Radar Men From The Moon collaboration and trepanation concept album, Temple Ov BBV from last year," says the Quietus. More here, where you can listen to the opening track, "Donovan's Daughters."


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tyler Cowen on conspiracy theories

I have a cold and am taking a sick day, but I thought sombunall of you would enjoy Tyler Cowen's column on conspiracy theories. He offers his own answer to the question of what is the most plausible and underrated conspiracy, and it strikes me as a quite plausible theory.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wanna meet up at Confluence?


Confluence guest of honor Catherynne Valente (public domain photo by Koldun)

As I wrote on Feb. 1, I plan to attend the Confluence SF convention in Pittsburgh the weekend of July 27-29. I'm hoping other Robert Anton Wilson fans will attend so that we can meet each other.

Gregory Arnott (who led the Email to the Universe online discussion group at this blog and has helped Hilaritas Press with volunteer copyediting for the upcoming new edition of The Widow's Son) and I have been working on programming about RAW. We're hoping the convention will let us use some of its space. If that's not feasible, we'll think of something.

I've asked the convention if it would consider allowing a "Robert Anton Wilson in 2018" panel exploring why a writer who died more than a decade ago and who had few bestsellers remains largely in print, with a devoted cult following. There is a section of the website for suggesting panels; my suggestion apparently has not been reviewed yet.

Gregory and I also have ideas for talks we'd like to give. Gregory is planning to give a talk on Robert Anton Wilson as a magician. "I believe I have some insight in how to make this a dialogic seminar about our collective personal experiences with the numinous a la Cosmic Trigger," Gregory says. He is also interested in talking about Wilson as a predecessor of the surging marijuana legalization campaigns that have been winning in one state after another.

I am planning to give a talk on Robert Shea, and to conduct an interview (via Skype) with RAW biographer Prop Anon, whose biography of Wilson has been completed and should be out soon.

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). If I hear from anybody, I will put together an email list.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

'Guns and Dope Party' British edition


Jesse Walker spots a website, http://www.gunsanddopeparty.com/, purportedly a website for a London cleaning service, Guns and Dope Party, that tidies up after parties. I think it's "real," but I can't say that I'm sure. Any word from our British friends?


Monday, March 12, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week Nine


                            Terra the Fair, an orbicle of jasp. (Line 558 of the poem). See below

This week: Commentary to Lines 433-434 to Commentary to Lines 557-558 (pages 136 to 153 in my old paperback, but your mileage will likely vary.)

Commentary to Lines 433-434: The sentences about the cruelty of his marriage to the queen seem very moving to me: "Her image, and she entered and re-entered his sleep ... forever remained exactly as she looked the day he had first told her he did not love her." "...the groaning dreamer perceived the disarray of her soul and was aware that an odious, undeserved, humiliating disaster had befallen her ... "

[On what Charles plans to do in America]: "Teach. Examine literary masterpieces with brilliant and charming young people. A hobby he could now freely indulge." As a description of Nabokov's own life at Cornell this sounds like either sarcasm or an idealization, or both.

There has been discussion in the recent entries about how Nabokov's protagonist is not a sympathetic character, and Shade seems to endorse this view when he refers to the "rather appalling king." Nabokov was hard on his characters and referred to them as "galley slaves." The "galley slaves" comment seems to be echoed in Shade's comment that "One can harness words like performing fleas and make them drive other fleas."

Martin Amis says, “When I taught fiction, as I did for a few years, I told my students, ‘When you read Pride and Prejudice, if you’re a woman, don’t identify with Elizabeth Bennet, and if you’re a man, don’t identify with Fitzwilliam Darcy. In both cases, identify with Jane Austen. Identify with the author, not the character, think ‘what’s the author trying to do?'" (Source.)

Commentary to Line 470: Negro: Nabokov despised prejudice and in fact was married to a Jewish woman.

"Shade said that more than anything on Earth he loathed Vulgarity and Brutality, and that one found these two ideally united in racial prejudice." I love the sarcastic line about the "jasmine-belt lyncher and the mystical anti-Semite."

There's a lot in The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov about his experiences with anti-Semitism, and with open racial prejudice in the South.

Commentary to Line 493: The discussion of suicide seems to offer a clue to Kinbote's plans when he finishes his book.

Lines 557-558: " 'Jasp' is the old name for the semi-precious stone now known as "jasper". A quartz of varied and intense colours, it was highly valued in the Middle Ages; almost as highly as the diamond is today." (Source). 

I want to "reprint" some of Michael Johnson's comment from last week on Nabokov vs. Joyce:

"Big difference between Joyce and Nabokov for me (and I've hardly read Nabokov, while Joyce has been with me for 20+ years): Look at the personalities of Bloom, Molly, and Stephen. I'm very much with all three of them, humanistically and politically. This sort of warmth seems completely absent in Nabokov. The only one I feel affection for is Hazel, but it's pathetic. I like John and Sylvia Shade, but not like I love Leopold and Molly and Stephen.

"But as for prose pyrotechnics: Nabokov is up there with Joyce, imo. Just. WOW!"

Those who favor Nabokov would argue that he is easier on the reader. Here is Martin Amis on the two:

"If you go to Nabokov’s house, metaphorically speaking, you get his best chair, in front of his fire, with his best wine. If you go to James Joyce’s house, you come into this big drafty edifice, and there’s no one there. And then you find him tinkering around in some scullery. And he offers you two slabs of peat around a conger eel, and a glass of mead. This not loving the reader, that’s the real thing. Henry James fell out of love with the reader. His early stuff, up to about Portrait of a Lady, is full of love for the reader. Then, I think out of sheer disappointment at not getting the kind of audience he wanted, the size of audience he wanted, he fell out of love – it was separate beds, then separate rooms, then separate flats. James never gave a damn for the reader in the first place, partially because perhaps he had patrons and never had to think about it. But it’s not that you want sales or anything like that, it’s that you want to do the right thing by your readers, and you want readers. Because a story is nothing without a listener."

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Audiobook of John Higgs' KLF book released [UPDATED]


John Higgs' brilliant book on the KLF is not your typical pop music biography -- it is is about Robert Anton Wilson almost as much as the book's ostensible subject. And now it's an audiobook, narrated by the author. It's out new in the U.K. I'm trying to clarify its status in the U.S.

UPDATE: When I asked John about an audiobook in the U.S., he said, "You know, I'm not sure. I'll have to check the contract, it may just be UK and Commonwealth. I don't think US publishers have much interest in books about the KLF!"

UPDATE, UPDATED: It IS available in the U.S. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Adrian Reynolds radio play on the power of language


Michelle Darkin Price 

Adrian Reynolds, British writer and RAW fan,  wrote to me to tell me about his audio play (what we would call a radio drama in the states), about the power of language, called "Breaking In." Robert Anton Wilson could call it a drama about the reality tunnels of the two characters, a man and a woman. Anyway, I thought it was really good. I've posted a photo of the actress, Michelle Darkin Price. The actor is Mark Tunstall.

Adrian says, "I've put up an audio play, 37 minutes long, which may be of interest. It's called Breaking In, and was written in 1997 for performance at Nottingham Playhouse. They wanted it to be about the power of language, and I wrote the first two thirds, then did a course with NLP co-creator and friend of Robert's, Richard Bandler. The end of the play, featuring two characters speaking at the same time, uses some of what I learned from him, and takes the form of what's called a double induction - a technique used sometimes in hypnosis and magic to overwhelm the conscious mind and get to somewhere else. There's also Fortean content in the play, concerning the setting - a hotel where, despite being inland, there's a lighthouse in the grounds, built by a ship's captain who believed he saw a mermaid. Very different reality tunnels for the two characters, Greg and Jill, which raises the question of how their relationship will play out."

Listen to it here. And don't miss his great "Press When Illuminated" illustrated talk at the same link.

Adrian is also a trainer and coach as well as a writer, find out more at his website. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tyler Cowen's top ten in science fiction




Olaf Stapledon

Blogger (and author and columnist and economics professor) Tyler Cowen recently asked for requests for his blog, so I posted a question: "Top ten favorite science fiction novels. Also, have you ever read the Wilson-Shea Illuminatus trilogy?"

He didn't answer my second question but this morning I found a posting, "Ten favorite science fiction novels."

I've read most of the books he recommends. I still have not read any Olaf Stapledon, I haven't gotten to Ringworld yet (I've read other Niven), I haven't read Embassytown (but I've read other Mieville, Perdido Street Station is great) and I haven't gotten to the third book of the Liu Cixin trilogy yet. I've read everything else on his list, and much of the honorable mentions.

I have a few book suggestions in the comments.

Here is a quote from Robert Anton Wilson on Stapledon. (Source)

Basically, I like Lovecraft and Olaf Stapledon better than any other writers in the areas of fantasy, sci­ence-fiction and “speculative fiction.” This is because I think HPL and Sta­pledon succeeded more thoroughly than anyone else in creating truly “inhuman” perspectives, artistically sustained and emotionally convinc­ing. That HPL makes the “inhuman” or the “cosmic” a frightening and depressing thing to encounter, while Stapledon makes it a source of mys­tic awe and artfully combined trage­dy-and-triumph, registers merely that they had different temperaments. Each succeeded in his own way; each managed to jump beyond humanity and see further than mere humanism. The “animal” perspectives in my books – the gorillas and dolphins in Eye in the Pyramid, the “six legged majority of Terrans” who comment so cynically upon the behavior of us “domesticated primates” in The Uni­verse Next Door – derive from eth­nology and sociobiology, of course, but they also derive from the “inhu­man” or “trans-human” perspectives I learned from HPL and Stapledon.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

New book out soon about Luna Wilson


One of the young girls on the cover of this new book apparently is Luna Wilson. 



Author photo of Rebecca Fish Ewan, author of 'By the Forces of Gravity'

By the Forces of Gravity is a new nonfiction book that tells the story of Luna Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson's daughter, and her best friend, author Rebecca Fish Ewan. The book will be released June 19, but presales have begun. Luna's tragic life story will be familiar to many RAW reader from the first Cosmic Trigger book. 

From the press release by Hippocampus Magazines and Books LLC:

Feb. 22, 2018 (LANCASTER, PA) – In what’s been called a genre-breaking
debut memoir, Rebecca Fish Ewan’s illustrated coming-of-age story is told
through drawings and free verse. Set in 1970s Berkeley, California, By the
Forces of Gravity reflects on a childhood friendship cut short by tragedy. In an
era of laissez-faire parenting, Rebecca drops out of elementary school and
takes up residence in a kids’ commune, and we follow her, bestie Luna, and
their hippie cohorts as they search for love, acceptance, and cosmic truths. Full
of adventure and heartache, By the Forces of Gravity promises to pull you in.

The mystical and larger-than-life Luna was the daughter of Robert Anton Wilson, cult author of Cosmic Trigger, The Illuminatus! trilogy and other works. “...Over the years, Luna’s story was reduced to a sad footnote in her father’s more illustrious biography. So, I sat down to write a different story, one that celebrated her life...” said Fish Ewan. The result is an inventive memoir of love, friendship—and resiliency—one that captures the counterculture movement vividly. Inside, readers will find more than 200 pencil-drawn illustrations that help “Me-Then Rebecca” bring their tragically beautiful story to life.

Buy the book early, get a signed print.

Author bio: "Rebecca Fish Ewan is a poet/cartoonist/writer and founder of Plankton Press, where small is big enough. Her writing, cartoons and hybrid-form work has appeared in Brevity, Punctuate, Under the Gum Tree, Mutha and Hip Mama. She also creates zines and teaches in The Design School at Arizona State University (her creative writing MFA home). She has two books of creative nonfiction: A Land Between and By the Forces of Gravity: A Memoir. Rebecca grew up in Berkeley, California, but now lives in Arizona with her family."

You can view her website and follow her on Twitter. You can also read more about the book.

Hat tip: RAW biographer Prop Anon/Gabriel Kennedy. I don't have a publication date yet for Kennedy's new biography but when I get that (or any other news about the book) I will of course share it here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"William Reich in Hell: A Punk Rock Opera by Robert Anton Wilson"



Cat Vincent spotted this and shared it on Twitter. He says it has the text of the complete play; I haven't had time to watch it yet. If you know something about this production, please share. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

News from Britain


Follow this lady on Twitter for news of events in Britain. 

British fans of RAW have done a commendable job in recent years of having "find the others" gatherings. Here is some of the latest news, which I wish I could have BBC radio read to you:

1. Festival 23: Propagation of Wonder has been postponed from 2018 to 2019.

"In the meantime though we will still be bringing you an incredible Discordian party on the weekend already announced. On Saturday 7th July 2018 Festival 23 presents CATCH 23: a 14-hour indoor event in a multi-room venue in Sheffield." More information here. 

2. Another reading has been scheduled March 25 for The Sentence by Alastair Fruish. Recommended by Daisy Eris Campbell. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week Eight




Photo of Robert Frost published in 1941

This week: From Commentary on Line 347 to Commentary on Line 431 (pages 123 to 136 in my old paperback).

Commentary to Line 376: The poem Shade is attacking is "Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot, as I found when I Googled the words that Hazel Shade asks about: "chthonic semipiternal grimpen." 

Commentary to Lines 385-386: If our unreliable narrator can be trusted, the most dramatic event in the poem Pale Fire turns on a misunderstanding. Compare with "white fountain" versus "mountain," lines 750-802 in the poem.

Commentary to Line 426

Was it really true once, or is it true now, that every American knows Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," as Kinbote asserts? I don't have that much faith in American schools. (But Eric Wagner, who is an English teacher, says many students know the poem -- see his comment below. So maybe I just don't know.)  I encountered the poem when my father pulled out one of his old college textbooks and showed it to me. And I agree with Kinbote that it is "one of the greatest short poems in the English language." For your convenience, here it is:

Whose woods these are I think I know. 
His house is in the village though; 
He will not see me stopping here 
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 

My little horse must think it queer 
To stop without a farmhouse near 
Between the woods and frozen lake 
The darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake 
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound’s the sweep 
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.

Andrew Pitzer, in her The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov,  writes that Nabokov did readings with Frost, "once being in the unenviable position of opening for him in Boston." She says Edmund Wilson despised Frost.





Sunday, March 4, 2018

A guerrilla ontologist


Peter Heft

Thanks to a recent Tweet from Steve Pratt, I've discovered a blog that is new to me,  Guerrilla Ontology, the product of Peter Heft, a philosophy student at an Ohio University.

The About section explains that the term was coined by Robert Anton Wilson, and quotes from RAW (excerpt with the emphases added by Heft, see link for full quote)

 My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind. It’s only possible to see people when one is able to see the world as others see it. That’s what guerrilla ontology is–breaking down this one-model view and giving people a multi-model perspective. 

Heft explains, "For my own nefarious purposes, I am appropriating Wilson’s view of guerrilla ontology to describe not only the theme of my posts, but also the epistemic model of my writing and thought. I have adopted the ideology of anti-ideologism as 'worldviews' necessarily pigeonhole thought into nicely packaged systems where deviation is squashed. As noted above, I do not want to tell anyone what to think nor do I want to say that 'X is the right thing to believe.' Both nothing and everything are certain, and that is what makes the world so interesting!"

See also Heft's recent post, "Against Ideology."

His most popular post takes on the various articles giving a huge death toll to Communism by pointing out that a big death toll for capitalism also can plausibly be assembled. Interesting in its own right, but also in light of the fact that Heft often is identified with the right.

His Goodreads account shows that he reads a lot of Gilles Deleuze, an Oz Fritz favorite.





Friday, March 2, 2018

The Starseed Signals


Another Robert Anton Wilson piece brought back on the Internet by Martin Wagner: The Starseed Signals: A Scientific-Occult Mystery, reprinted from Gnostica, July 1975. It's about how Robert Anton Wilson became fascinated with Sirius after apparently getting a message on July 23, 1973, "Sirius is very important." So yes, there's quite a bit of overlap with Cosmic Trigger. I liked these two self-descriptions: "(Being both a skeptical magi­cian and an experimental mys­tic, I am never quite sure what I believe about anything.)"

To get Martin Wagner's latest discoveries, follow the Robert Anton Wilson Archives on Twitter.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

McKenna and RAW


Terence McKenna 

Saturday's post on the crowdfunding effort for the Terence McKenna Archives has drawn a comment from TK archivist Kevin Whitesides. I wanted to make sure everyone saw it, because Kevin's comment draws attention to a long article he did, in reaction to last year's' RAW day, which discusses connections between Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna.   I knew about some of this, such as the movie they made together in Portugal, but not all of it. See his comment also for an update on the crowdfunding campaign.