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

Friday, August 31, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson's 'Wild sex freaks'

One of the illustrations from "Wild Sex Freaks of History."

Martin Wagner has uncovered yet another (probable) Robert Anton Wilson piece, "Wild Sex Freaks of History."

For context, this is one of his "schlock" pieces (see this essay, "The Anatomy of Schlock"), but as Martin points out, the article does have this rather Wilsonian observation: "While some of these sexual eccentrics are distinctly ugly and even dangerous, some of them, there is no denying, are rather attractive, and history would have been duller without their presence. Except for those of sadistic inclination, these people did less harm that the average politician; and even the sadists actually caused less bloodshed than many an idealistic statesman. Although we could do without another Messalina, it is to be hoped that the future will not cease to provide Cleopatras and Eleanors."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Literary tastes change

Over the years, literary tastes tend to shift. This was brought home to me a few weeks ago when I was hanging out with Bobby Campbell and Gregory Arnott at Confluence in Pittsburgh, and Gregory remarked that he expects interest in Ezra Pound to fade in university English departments. Pound's interest in fascism just doesn't play well, Gregory explained.

I've been reading a new book about an obscure modernist-surrealist poet, Charles Henri Ford (1908-2002) who I've long been interested in. (The book is Charles Henri Ford: Between Modernism and Postmodernism (Historicizing Modernism) by Alexander Howard, and so far, I think Howard is doing a great job.)

I've noticed that although Ford has never had a big following, the way he is "marketed" by the people who are interested has changed. He used to be billed as America's first surrealist poet. Nowadays, the focus tends to be more on The Young and Evil, an experimental novel originally published in 1933 in collaboration with Parker Tyler which depicts gay life in New York City, and on Ford's early role in publishing queer literary works. This fits, I guess, with the general tendency now to give more space to marginalized groups.

So the question I would pose is this: Are there any current trends that could be used to promote renewed interest in Robert Anton Wilson and/or Robert Shea?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Roman Tsivkin's 'Feeling Bookish'

Roman Tsivkin, currently active in our Beethoven discussion group, has launched a new podcast on Soundcloud, "Feeling Bookish." The first episode is devoted to Tao Lin's new book on psychedelics, Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation and Change. Roman is joined on the show by book critic Robert Fay. 

Topics covered include Terence McKenna (Roman says the book is a good primer on McKenna), James Joyce, raw milk and how cannabis affects dreaming. It was very interesting.

There are two more episodes of the show that have been released so far. You can stream it for free fro Soundcloud's website or smartphone app. I'm hoping that at some point there will be a downloading option somewhere.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bobby Campbell's Patreon account

Via Steve "Fly" Agaric's Patreon efforts, I discovered Bobby Campbell's Patreon account. 

Just $1 a month gets you access to a bunch of comix, with a promise of more to come.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Beethoven Quartet and Kerman reading group, Week Three

Kerman Week 3 – Op. 18, No. 2 – The Second Half of Chapter 2

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

Joseph Kerman

[If you arrived late, Eric is leading us in a discussion of Joseph Kerman's book, The Beethoven Quartets. Not too late to get caught up and join in! -- The Management.]

This week please read section three of chapter 2 (pg. 44 – 53) and listen to Op. 18, No. 2. Please comment on this week’s chapter and continue to comment on previous weeks’ chapters.

Pg. 44 – 45. Kerman refers to Haydn’s Op. 33 string quartets.  These quartets play an important role in Charles Rosen’ The Classical Style. Maynard Solomon’s Late Beethoven has a interesting survey of attitudes towards Beethoven and the Classical and Romantic periods. Some see Beethoven as a protoromantic. Rosen convincingly shows how Beethoven’s music remained rooted in the classical language of Haydn and Mozart even as he stretched that language to its limits in his late music.

Please post your musical biography this week.

I learned to play piano in third grade, acoustic bass in fourth grade, and flute in fifth grade. I wish I had continued with flute, especially when carrying around acoustic basses for decades. I started guitar in ninth grade, and I played viola de gamba a bit in college. In first grade a teacher played us the slow movement to Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, and I loved it. I grudgingly liked Beethoven because he had studied with Haydn. In fourth or fifth grade I discovered Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” in a collection of light classical music my parents owned. I liked that he had the same last name as me. In junior high I had an eight-track tape of famous Beethoven piano sonatas.

The summer after my first year of college I had a cold and stayed home from work one day. I put on Toscanini’s recording of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. I don’t think I’d ever heard it before, and it blew me away. That fall I started hanging out a lot with pianist Jai Jeffreys, and he really deepened my understanding of Beethoven. A year and a half later I started reading Robert Anton Wilson, and his writings on Beethoven changed me forever.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Steve Fly launches Patreon account

Steve Fly's fine video, above, an illustrated reading of Robert Anton Wilson's "Tale of the Tribe" outline at the back of TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, is a "free sample" for his new Patreon account. Lots more goodies from Mr. Pratt if you throw him a few bucks, including books and music.

There's also a Patreon account for Bobby Campbell, which I'll write about soon. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A Discordian podcast

Jo Sims (Facebook photo) 

Eris Radio recently did a podcast on "Music For Discordians- Stylings Of Jo Sims."  The host, Sean Lawless, read quotes from Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea and played Sims' music. She is a singer and has performed with Planet Nine and Dorothy's Ghost, which I believe is her current group.

I liked her voice and the songs. My favorite tune was "Close To Me" by Dorothy's Ghost, available here. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson on Frank Capra

Frank Capra (Columbia Pictures public domain photo, via Wikipedia)

Young people supposedly don't like old movies, but those of us who enjoy classic cinema love Frank Capra, who directed It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life and many other well-remembered films. 

Jesse Walker -- author, pundit, Reason magazine editor and serious film buff -- recently went through his emails looking for something and ran across a Robert Anton Wilson comment on Capra, which he is kindly sharing with us.

This quote dates to 2004, and RAW is reacting to an article Jesse that sent him called "The Two Capras -- and My Capra" by Ray Carney. 

On 'tother hand, my Capra combines both sides -- a genuine love for American/Jeffersonian ideals and an urgent, at times terrifying clarity about the reality of fascist power in this country... That 'dialectical' vision gives his films their unique intensity, I think...his 'villains' really scare me and I really love his embattled heroes...

Perhaps SILENCE OF THE LAMBS comes closest to Capra in our time. Remove Clarice and it becomes merely depressing; remove Dr Lecter's super-powers and it becomes sentimental. But,  like Capra, Demme sees both sides: wise  innocence and intelligent evil...

-- Robert Anton Wilson

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Hugo Award news

N.K. Jemisin (Creative Commons photo) 

As there is some associational interest in science fiction at this blog, I thought I'd pass on some interesting news: N.K. Jemisin won for best novel for The Stone Sky. She had also won for the previous two novels in the trilogy, which as I understand it as unprecedented. (I really liked The Fifth Season, but I got kind of tired of them with The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky.)

Full Hugo results here. (I didn't read any of the other "best novel" finalists.) You can read some of Jemisin's reflections on Twitter. 

Anyone who is paying attention will notice the prominence of women in the current wave of emerging science fiction and fantasy authors. Ann Leckie is obviously a major writer, too, although my favorite new writer (of any gender) is Ada Palmer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Brenton Clutterbuck news update

Brenton Clutterbuck, author of Chasing Eris, has released a free new mini ebook, United We Fnord: More Discordian Stories from the UK and Ireland that's a supplement to Chasing Eris. It won't be around forever.  Brenton explains,

When Cat Vincent was kind enough to write a review for my book Chasing Eris, he said one thing that stood out to me; my UK chapters focussed on history and were notably lacking in the kind of in-depth description of the people and scenes that are the lifeblood of other chapters.

While it was very neat to wrap up some of the more historical elements of Discordianism in quick succession by following the KLF from England to Scotland, and dealing with Robert Anton Wilson just outside of the UK, in Ireland, I always felt a little bad for not including more of the more personal interviews I completed while in the United Kingdom. So, here’s a short collection of the UK stories published previously in blogs, magazines or not at all.

More news: Chasing Eris has become more widely available. Originally only offered through in a paper edition and also as an ebook (ePub format), it's also now available from Barnes and Noble, from Apple iTunes and from Amazon (but no Kindle, and not if you live in the U.S.). There's also a Barnes and Noble ebook. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Kerman's 'Beethoven Quartets' reading group, Week Two

Portrait of Beethoven as a young man by Carl Traugott Riedel (1769–1832)

Kerman Week 2 – Op. 18, No. 1 – The First Half of Chapter 2

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

Rest in peace, Aretha Franklin.

This week please read sections one and two of chapter 2 (pg. 30 – 44) and listen to Op. 18, No. 1. Please comment on this week’s chapter and continue to comment on last week’s chapter.

Pg. 34. Kerman refers to Mozart’s Symphony in E flat, also known as Symphony 39, K. 543, one of Mozart’s great three final symphonies. Mozart did not give his works opus numbers. A scholar named Köchel (1800 – 1877) catalogued Mozart’s works and originated the K numbers. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

I tend to think of Beethoven’s quartets by their opus numbers. When Kerman refers to them by their keys, I usually have to double check the table of contents to figure out which quartet he means. On classical radio they might refer to a quartet as “Quartet X”, as in one through sixteen. This would confuse me, except they mostly play the early six quartets Op. 18, making it easy to figure out which quartet they mean.

Pg. 37. Casta diva refers to an aria from the opera Norma by Bellini.

I listened to this quartet while following along with the score on Thursday, which I hadn’t done for years. It helped me hear the different personalities of the four parts. In classical quartets the first violin usually has the melody, and the second violin often plays this role as well. As a bass player, I often gravitate to the cello part. The viola part fascinates me more and more as I get older. The viola rarely gets the melody, and when it does, it usually only gets it briefly. The novelist Edgar Pangborn said of Bach, “Listen to the inner voices.” I think that also holds true for Beethoven.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Prometheus winner accepts his award

Travis Corcoran

Travis Corcoran won the Prometheus Award this year for his novel, The Powers of the Earth.

When I read the book, I not only enjoyed it, I was sure he would win. I haven't had that experience since Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. 

Corcoran received his award on the ongoing Worldcon in San Jose. He could  be there, but sent an acceptance speech posted on the Libertarian Futurist Society's blog. 

It's an interesting piece which argues (among other things) that leftists have largely taken over science fiction, to the exclusion of other voices.

My feelings about "PC culture" in fandom are more mixed than Mr. Corcoran's. I actually think it's mostly a good thing. I'm not a fan of racism and sexism.

I think it's good that women can come to conventions with an expectation of safety. I don't pine for the "good old days" when women had to be warned not to get into an elevator with Isaac Asimov.

At the same time, I do sometimes see signs that Corcoran has a point, that fandom and SF publishing is not exactly in a "let 1,000 flowers bloom" mode.

Mary Robinette Kowal, a science fiction writer (I don't believe I've read her yet), recently published a Twitter thread on how to do proper programming at conventions.

Although the ostensible subject is "inclusion," she also is obviously concerned with making sure wrong thinking people aren't allowed to take part.

It's necessary to have a "strong and appropriate moderator" who can weigh on on panelists "who would be good fits." If someone volunteers for a panel and they aren't known to the organizers, it's important to vet them to prevent doubleplusungood thought from wandering in: "Sometimes no one on the committee knows them, but research solves that."

Some people simply should "never get on programming":

"We also, honestly, have a Red Flag and Caution field. Red flags will never get on programming. Caution means that we are very careful about the topics that person can go on because they've gone off the rails before, but with the right moderator have things to contribute."

Is this sort of vetting common at conventions? I don't really know.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Status update

The inevitable selfie; Ted Hand, left, and me. 

Google's Blogger site has been out of order for weeks, but now, I am finally getting email notifications for comments that need to be moderated and approved on the blog. This should allow me to post comments more promptly, which is useful when a new online reading group has launched.

Ted Hand came to town, and we had lunch in Sandusky. It's always good to meet someone with similar interests; we talked about RAW, Terence McKenna and Robert Shea, among other topics.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Arthur Hlavaty, fiction critic

[Arthur Hlavaty (aka Supergee) is, among other useful qualities, a rather good book critic.

He recently dug through his voluminous back pages to produce a new ezine, Archive I: Down by the Old Slipstream, which reprints past writings about many interesting authors. Arthur should consider putting enough of these writings (or any of his other writings) together to put out a book. Maybe an ebook, maybe also a paper book. Any such volume presumably would include Arthur's writings on Robert Anton Wilson.

It's the best zine I've read in awhile (I can't give you the best example without providing an unforgivable spoiler -- just read it), and you can get your copy here, in a nicely-formatted PDF. 

Here is Arthur's short piece on Barrington J. Bailey, a writer I apparently ought to get to know.

--The Management]

Barrington J. Bayley

By Arthur Hlavaty

Philip K. Dick is dead. No, he’s outside, looking in. A friend called up the other night to announce that he’d heard that Dick had checked out of consensus reality with a stroke.
    I mourn him as the inventor of what is now my favorite kind of sf­the philosophical kind. The emphasis on him as a drug writer has always been a misleading form of sensationalism. I suspect that none of the many people who describe The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (perhaps his masterpiece) as “the ultimate acid book” have ever tried acid. Dick’s subjects are more like metaphysics and ontology. There is little agreement as to which of his books are the best--indeed, I do not always agree with myself on this matter--but Time out of Joint, Ubik, Eye in the Sky, and A Maze of Death remain in my mind.
    Dick leaves a couple of heirs to his tradition. One is my old pal Rudy Rucker, whose Software I recommended last installment. The other is a man who gets a whole lot less recognition than I for one think he deserves: Barrington J. Bayley.
    Bayley is an unusual writer in a variety of ways. One can see him as a strange sort of amphibian, in that he has been most published by New Worlds and by DAW. He is not a writer one seeks out for literary merit, characterization, elegant prose, adventure, or sex. If anything, he can be compared with writers such as Clement, Niven, and Hogan,* who seek to do only one thing in their sf. But while the others speculate scientifically, Bayley deals with philosophical and spiritual questions, matters of the essence of reality.
    Bayley has been largely concerned with the nature of Time in his writings, and perhaps his two best books until now, Collision Course and The Fall of Chronopolis, presented new approaches to this problem. More recently, he has incorporated such occult studies as Gnosticism, alchemy, and the Tarot in his work. A recent collection, The Knights of the Limits, offered a variety of remarkable inventions.
    His latest, The Pillars of Eternity (DAW pb), may be his best. He pulls together a number of themes from his past writing, adds some new and startling possibilities, and ties them all together into a satisfying resolution. If you like philosophical sf, don’t miss this one. [1982]

*In 1982 James Hogan was considered a hard-science writer, rather than a crank.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Shea's 'Saracen' books

I've finished Robert Shea's second "Saracen" book, Saracen: The Holy War. 

The two novels, Saracen: Land of the Infidel and Saracen: The Holy War, are really one work The first Saracen book ends with an exciting scene while setting the reader up for the second book, which ends with a big battle scene. The books offer a very vivid picture of medieval Italy.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the Saracen books feature a sympathetic character, Lorenzo Celino, whose name is similar enough to Hagbard Celine's to suggest a possible link. At the end of the second Saracen book, the reader learns that Celino is related to Roland, the troubadour hero of All Things Are Light

There's also an explicit reference to Illuminatus! in the second book. One minor character is killed by a large dog, his throat "torn out by the fangs of some enormous beast." This echoes the death of the person in Illuminatus! whose throat is "torn as if by the talons of some enormous beast."

Both Saracen books are available as free downloads from the Robert Shea section of Project Gutenberg.  For more free Shea ebooks, see this posting. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Notes and links

Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

Years after Robert Anton Wilson's adventures with the Guns and Dope Party, marijuana legalization is making inroads in much of the U.S. So far, it's been mostly on the east and west coasts, but as my article reports, Michigan will consider legalization this fall. My article also offers a snapshot of the current state of legalization across the U.S.

PQ, seeking distraction from the strain of being a Mets fan, reports that Finnegans Wake has possible references to baseball. 

Tyler Cowen is about to publish a new book, Stubborn Attachments "Think of this book — due out in October — as my attempt to defend and explain why a free society is objectively better in terms of ethics, political philosophy, and economics.  No punches are pulled, this is my account of what I strongly believe you should believe too.  My bottom lines, so to speak."

Memoir of Wayne Kramer. His band, the MC5, is mentioned in Illuminatus!

Love at 23rd sight. Via Daniel Duvall on Twitter. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A bit on 'Prometheus Rising'

On Facebook, Rasa published the above meme and offers the following text:

RAW's original sub-title for Prometheus Rising was going to be "How to use the human brain for fun and profit." I see the book as a crucial navigational tool.
~ ~ ~

RAW: The Berkeley mob once called Leary and me “the counter-culture of the counter-culture.” I’m some kind of antibody in the New Age movement. My function is to raise the possibility, “Hey, you know, some of this stuff might be bullshit.”

JW: You don’t seem to take very much of it very seriously.

RAW: Some of it I do take seriously. In Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology I’m definitely trying to teach the reader how to change their own consciousness so they don’t need a guru to do it for them. I’m very definitely a spiritual anarchist.

– Robert Anton Wilson interviewed by James Wallis

Monday, August 13, 2018

Week One, Kerman's 'The Beethoven Quartets' reading group

This week's illustration is Robert Anton Wilson's "Classic Cowboys" Beethoven T-shirt, which Joshua Hallenbeck purchased during last year's auction of Wilson's personal items. Photo courtesy Joshua Hallenbeck.

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

Kerman’s The Beethoven Quartets – Week 1: Chapter 1

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome.

The game plan:

8/13 Week 1 Chapter 1 Op. 18, No. 3

8/20 Week 2 The first half of Chapter 2 Op. 18, No. 1

8/27 Week 3 The second half of Chapter 2 Op. 18, No. 2

9/3 Week 4 The first third of Chapter 3 Op. 18, No. 5

9/10 Week 5 The second third of Chapter 3 Op. 18, No. 4

9/17 Week 6 The final third of Chapter 3 Op. 18, No. 6

9/24 Week 7 Chapter 4 Op. 59, No. 1

10/1 Week 8 The first half of Chapter 5 Op. 59, No. 2

10/8 Week 9 The second half of Chapter 5 Op. 59, No. 3

10/15 Week 10 The first half of Chapter 6 Op. 74

10/22 Week 11 The second half of Chapter 6 Op. 95

10/29 Week 12 Chapter 7

11/5 Week 13 The first half of Chapter 8 Op. 127

11/12 Week 14 The second half of Chapter 8 Op. 132

11/19 Week 15 Chapter 9 Op. 133

11/26 Week 16 The first half of Chapter 10 Op. 130

12/3 Week 17 The second half of Chapter 10 Op. 131

12/10 Week 18 Chapter 11 Op. 135

12/17 Coda

Please read chapter one this week and listen to Op. 18, No. 3.

Former members of the Illuminati in Bonn in the 1780’s formed the Reading Society. They included Beethoven’s important early teacher Neefe, and they commissioned the young Beethoven’s Emperor Joseph Cantata which Robert Anton Wilson repeatedly praised. I think of this reading group as our contemporary Reading Society.

Joseph Kerman’s book appeared in 1966, 52 years ago. Germany existed as two countries then, with Bonn, Beethoven’s home town, as West Germany’s capital.

Pg. 8 of my edition: Maecenas acted as a patron to Horace, Virgil and other poets in Rome during the reign of Augustus. Maynard Solomon has pointed out the importance of the classical world of Greece and Rome to Beethoven. (Please let me know if my page numbers work for any other editions of Kerman’s book.)

Pg. 11 – I disagree with Kerman about considering Haydn’s piano trios as secondary works. Charles Rosen has a great chapter about those trios in his book The Classical Style which didn’t appear until 1971 or 1972. (Kerman loved that book).

Pg. 27 – The use of the generic pronoun “He” for a composer shows the changes in the English language since 1966.

Pg. 28 – The discussion of Tovey’s writing here makes clear his huge influence on Joseph Kerman.

Please post your comments on this chapter and this quartet. See you next week.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bobby Campbell's RAW coffee talk

Here is Bobby Campbell's "RAW Coffee Talk," recorded on July 28, 2018. Bobby gave a riveting talk, and you will be doing yourself a favor if you listen to it. A little over an hour long. The first few seconds are cut off, but you'll be fine if you realize he starts by talking about the republication of Robert Anton Wilson's "Historical Illuminatus" books by Hilaritas Press.

You can also listen to Apuleius Charlton and I interview Prop Anon, listen to or read my Robert Shea talk, and listen to Apuleius' "RAW and magick" talk.

Bobby's intro:

Enclosed please find an A/V presentation of my RAW COFFEE TALK, given at the Anchor & Anvil Coffee Shop in Coraopolis, PA :)))

Topics discussed include the secret origins of my Discordian initiation, creating the artwork for the new editions of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, and a deep dive into the Noid, the Domino's Pizza demon.

This talk was part of a weekend of exploring the lives & ideas of Robert Anton Wilson along w/ fellow RAW enthusiasts Tom Jackson & Gregory Arnott at the Confluence Science Fiction Convention.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The new book about the Leary manhunt

I recently published an article at my newspaper on The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD. I strongly recommended the book:

"The book, penned by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis, is the best nonfiction book I’ve read in months, an oddball adventure story and vivid slice of American life during a difficult period of American history."

Readers of this  blog will want to read the book to find out more about Timothy Leary, but I recommend the book to everyone.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Gregory Arnott on RAW and magick [link fixed]

Apuleius Charlton gave a talk at Confluence on Robert Anton Wilson and magick, and now you can listen to an MP3 file of his presentation. (Sorry about the bad link -- it's fixed now).

Apuleius  has a strong interest in magick in the Aleister Crowley tradition and also influenced by figures such as Wilson and Alan Moore. He is currently a student at West Virginia University. He led this blog's online reading group discussion of the Hilaritas Press edition of Email to the Universe and has served as a volunteer copyeditor for Hilaritas. 

About the talk, Apuleius says, ""I would like to note that many of the ideas in this talk are derived directly from points made by Alan and Steve Moore (no relation) as well as Robert Anton Wilson, naturally, in their interviews and published works. I merely synthesized their ideas and have had some experiences inspired by their lives."

About 42 minutes long, recorded July 28.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Robert Shea talk

Robert Shea and his son. (From 

[A few days ago, I posted my interview with Prop Anon, recorded during Confluence. This is my talk during Confluence about Shea, which I wrote out for delivery in a coffee shop on July 28. If you prefer, you can listen to a recording, about 19 minutes long  which is pretty close to the below, although the first couple of sentences are missing, and I  threw in a few additional remarks. I'll have Gregory Arnott's and Bobby Campbell's talks available soon.  -- The Management]

Robert Anton Wilson's posthumous career, and the struggle to make sure his works are not forgotten, has been sustained by a worldwide network of fans. This network was described in the "Foreword" by British writer John Higgs to Brenton Clutterbuck's new book, Chasing Eris, which describes Brenton's adventures in traveling the world from Australia to meet with Discordians. Higgs says that thanks to the efforts of fans, authors such as Adam Gorightly,  and the publishing work by Robert Anton Wilson Trust, "I no longer worry that Robert Anton Wilson will be forgotten."

I have been a part of that grassroots effort, particularly since I began my blog in 2010. I've been doing daily postings to the blog since then. So I obviously have devoted a lot of time and energy to the project of keeping Robert Anton Wilson's name alive.

I am part of a network that would be worth talking about sometime in another discussion. Robert Anton Wilson fandom isn’t driven by interest in colleges and universities. He isn’t getting a lot of backing from large commercial publishers. He doesn’t have enough of a reputation for libraries to keep his books on the shelves. His reputation is sustained by a decentralized, grassroots network, and I think that’s interesting.

But the Illuminatus! trilogy, which is still Wilson's best-known work, was co-written by Robert Shea, and particularly since I began reading Shea's historical novels, I have felt that Shea also deserves not to be forgotten. There aren't many web sites, blogs or Twitter accounts to devoted to him. I do also write about Shea on my blog and I want to talk about him today.

Perhaps you may not know that it was Robert Shea who came up with the idea of Illuminatus! Or you may not know that Shea was the one who obtained a book contract for it.

The original mass market paperback originals for the  Illuminatus! trilogy were issued by Dell in 1975.  Shea's first solo novel, Shike: Time of the Dragons came out in 1981. His last published novel, Shaman, came out in 1991. Shea died of cancer in 1994, about 13 years before Wilson died in 2007. Shea’s novels have gone out of print, but can easily be obtained as used books, and his novels also are widely available as ebooks, including ebooks that can legally be downloaded at no cost.

I want to begin my discussion of Shea's fiction by quoting a short snippet from his 1986 historical novel, All Things Are Lights, that is printed at the front of the book as a kind of brief prologue:

“How much jousting have you done?”

“A little,” replied the young troubadour.

“A little!” the Templar said ironically. “In tournaments all over Europe, Count Amalric has bested hundreds of knights. Many times he has killed men. Of course, it is against the rules. But he is a master at making it look like an accident.” He looked at Roland with an almost fatherly kindness. “Indeed, Messire, the best advice I could give you would be not to enter the tournament at all.”

Roland laughed. “Such cautious advice from a Templar?”

“We fight for God, Messire. Have you as great a motive?”

“Yes, I do,” said Roland, seeing Nicolette’s eyes shining in the darkness before him. “I fight for love.”

In just a few sentences, you get an idea of what Shea is about in his historical novels. His work is emotionally direct and written in straightforward prose, and pulls you into the concerns of his characters. There are no modernist experiments in prose -- his sentences are very clear and transparent.  His work is based on knowing a lot about the history of the time he is writing about.

 And in many of his books, you learn a lot about secret societies and hidden knowledge, which links Shea's work to Illuminatus! In All Things Are Lights, for example, you learn a lot about the Templars and the Cathars,, and there are references to the Freemason and to esoteric sex knowledge.

Robert Shea was born in 1933 and he died in 1994. He worked as a magazine editor for much of his life but became a freelance writer and published seven books, including six novels, before he died. He was a magazine editor in New York and Los Angeles before going to work for "Playboy" magazine in Chicago, which is where me met a fellow editor named Robert Anton Wilson, who became a lifelong friend. The two editors both became involved in Discordianism. According to Adam Gorightly's book, Historia Discordia, Shea's Discordian names were Josh the Dill and Alexander Eulenspiegel.

Illuminatus! apparently began as a Friday night joke by Shea when he and his friend Wilson were drinking in a Chicago bar. On payday, they had a ritual of going out for drinks

Playboy had a section called the Playboy Forum which consisted of readers writing in to discuss various topics, including conspiracy theories of the day. Wilson described in an interview how those letters were turned into the idea for Illuminatus!

STARSHIP: Can you discuss the genesis of Illuminatus!? How did the idea originate?

WILSON: It started with the Discordian Society, which is based on worship of Eris, the Greek goddess of confusion and chaos. Actually, the Discordian Society is a new religion disguised as a complicated joke, although some skeptics think it’s a joke disguised as a religion. We [Robert Shea, his coauthor] felt the Society needed some opposition, because the whole idea of it is based on conflict and dialectics. So, we created an opposition within the Discordian Society, which we called the Bavarian Illuminati. We got the idea from the John Birch Society and various other right-wing groups who believe that the Illuminati really run the world. There were several Discordian newsletters written in the 1960s, and several Discordian members wrote for the underground press in various parts of the country. So, we built up this myth about the warfare between the Discordian Society and the Illuminati for quite a while, until one day Bob Shea said to me, “You know, we could write a novel about this!” The rest is history.

Another account comes from author Lewis Shiner's interview with Wilson. Wilson said, "Bob Shea and I used to go out for drinks every Friday evening after work and solve all of the problems of the world over a few Bloody Marys. We were talking about all of these kooky conspiracy theories and Shea said, 'Why don't we write a book about all the craziest conspiracy theories.' And eventually the Illuminatus trilogy developed out of that."

According to an interview of Shea by Neal Wilgus, it was Shea who got the pair a book contract to write Illuminatus! 

Wilgus: Since you and Wilson were both editors at Playboy at the time ILLUMINATUS! was written, I'm wondering why Playboy Press didn't publish it. Or was that too close to home?

Shea: At the time we got the idea for ILLUMINATUS!, Playboy Press wasn't publishing original novels, and a very good friend of mine, Bob Abel, was an editor at Dell. I was looking for an opportunity to write paperback fiction, so I wrote Bob a letter briefly sketching about half a dozen ideas for books, of which a book about the Bavarian Illuminati was one. He thought that one had the most possibilities, so Wilson and I did three sample chapters and an outline and sent it in. On the strength of that we got a contract and began writing the book.

As Wilson writes in Cosmic Trigger, he quit his job as a Playboy editor because he was determined to make it as a writer, but Shea continued to work at Playboy magazine. In 1980 or so, Shea lost his job at the magazine. It may not have been anything personal against him. The magazine hit a peak of circulation in 1975 and has been losing circulation ever since. It could have been one of the magazine's periodic attempts to halt the slide.

According to a chapter about Shea in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger Vol. 3, Shea began sending out novel proposals when he was looking for work. His first historical novel, Shike: Time of the Dragons came out in 1981. So something good came out of the personal disaster, at least for Shea's readers.

At one of his talks at an Association for Consciousness Expansion event in Cleveland, Shea described how he had tried to break into fiction writing many years before when he was in college, sending out short stories to men's magazines such as "Playboy" and its competitors, to science fiction magazines and to literary magazines. He collaborated on a story called "Scarlet Panties," which was offered to Playboy and other "girlie" magazines. In spite of the excellent title, it did not sell.

Shea was a lifelong science fiction fan. He knew science fiction writers, editors and fans, and attended science fiction conventions. But none of his novels are science fiction. All of them are historical novels. The two Shike books are set in medieval Japan. All Things Are Lights is set in medieval France, while the two Saracen novels are in medieval Italy.  Shaman is about Native Americans in Illinois before the Civil War and concerns the Black Hawk War

I've read three of the novels so far, and my favorite is All Things Are Lights. I have referred to it on my blog as a "thematic prequel" to Illuminatus!,. The hero of the novel, a troubadour named Roland, takes an agnostic attitude toward belief systems. He lives in a Catholic society, but he is sympathetic toward the Cathars and believes that Moslems are no better and no worse than Christians.  The title comes from a saying by John Scotus Eriugena, a ninth century Irish theologian, who made a statement that is translated in Illuminatus! as "All things that are, are lights."

The late Patricia Monaghan, Shea's last wife, also told me that All Things Are Lights was her favorite of Shea's books.

She wrote to me, "What drove Bob as an historical novelist was an interest in the underdogs of history, the people who were 'lost' from a historical point of view.  (I keep thinking that Saracen should be made into a movie, now, with the rise in interest in the Islamic world--but of course Bob's Muslim characters weren't terrorists!  Well...they were...sort of....)  The Cathars were persecuted in what was really a land-grab by the French against the Spanish--in Languedoc today, you can still see, in bars, maps of France before and after the 'Albigensian crusade,' which make very clear that France exploded in size after grabbing that land.  Bob's last published book, Shaman, looked at the Black Hawk War from the Indian side.  That was his way--always to focus on the ‘other’ in any historical situation."

Many of Shea's books have gone out of print, but you can easily obtain used copies from sites such as Amazon. They are available on Amazon as inexpensive Kindle ebooks.  In addition, his novels have all been released as free ebooks by his son, Mike Shea, under a Creative Commons license. I have a blog post at my blog,, on how to find the free ebooks. You can find the post by searching for it, or by finding the link under the Robert Shea Resources section on the right side of my page.

Patricia Monaghan, by the way, was an interesting writer in her own right. She wrote more than 25 books, including poetry, women's spirituality, a "complete guide" to meditation, Celtic culture and mythology, even a book about wineries in Minnesota and Wisconsin. She was a professor of interdisciplinary studies at DePaul University, reflecting perhaps her many interests. She was unfailingly kind to me when I emailed her to ask her questions about Robert Shea.

My last email from her was in May 2012, and she died of cancer in November, 2012. She wrote me an email on March 10, 2011, the 17th anniversary of Shea's death. She wrote, "Although I am very happily remarried, I still think of Bob virtually every single day, and am grateful for all that he gave me and the world."

For the last few years, I've had a couple of obsessions that I've pursued on my blog. I wanted to know who the editor was who acquired Illuminatus! for Dell books, and I wanted to find out what happened to the years of correspondence between Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

I did finally get an answer to my first question. The Dell editor who bought Illuminatus! was named Bob Abel.  He was an assistant editor for Paul Krassner at “The Realist”, was a book editor and author and worked in magazines, and was a friend of Shea. My article about Abel posted on my blog a few days ago, July 23, Robert Anton Wilson Day.

Figuring out what happened to the Shea-Wilson letters has been harder.

In his chapter about Robert Shea in Cosmic Trigger Vol. 3, Wilson wrote that he and Shea wrote letters back and forth for 23 years. "We wrote about every important idea in the world and we filled enough paper for several volumes," Wilson wrote. "I hope some of that will get published someday."

I hope so, too, but I don't know if that can ever happen. On Robert Shea's side, I asked Patricia Monaghan and Shea's son, Mike Shea, about it. I've asked Rasa, and, through Rasa, Christina Pearson. I've also written about it on my blog, hoping that someone might have a lead. I've had no luck so far.

If you decide at some point you are interested in Robert Shea, I would invite you to check out the links under "Robert Shea Resources" which you can find on the right side of  my blog if you scroll down a little. You'll find links to the official Robert Shea website, the Wikipedia biography, my article on finding free ebooks of Shea's novels, the text of Shea's acceptance speech when he won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for Illuminatus! and everything else of possible interest I have been able to find so far.

To quote from my favorite Robert Shea novel, “All things that are, are lights. The light shines in each man and each woman.” Thank you for listening to me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The poetry of RAW

Yet another interesting discovery from Martin Wagner: Several poems by Robert Anton Wilson. 

I particularly liked "Two Laments." The second of the two, "Ode to a Segregationist," sounds like a depiction of a modern Trump fan.

Also was interested to see RAW express interest in John Cage; in general, he didn't talk too often about modern composers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

RAW on Arthur Miller

Perhaps someday all (or at least much) of Robert Anton Wilson's literary criticism will be collected into one place. When that happens, perhaps it will include this new Martin Wagner find: RAW writes about Arthur Miller's The Misfits. 

Wikipedia has an article on the movie. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

'Prelude' for Eric Wagner's new online reading group

[Guest blogger Eric Wagner's online reading group for Joseph Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets begins next week. Here is his preview blog post. Eric is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson.  He is a schoolteacher (teaching high school English and Latin) who lives in Corona, Calif. Eric also is a James Joyce scholar hard at work on his next book, Straight Outta Dublin.  — The Management]


By Eric Wagner

I love bookstores. I fear they will soon become nearly as rare as record stores and video stores. In the early 1980's I found myself browsing at the Arizona State University bookstore, and I came across Erich Leinsdorf's The Composer's Advocate: A Radical Orthodoxy for Musicians. It looked fascinating, so I went over to the library to see if they had a copy. They did, and the book blew me away. I read it a number of times over the next few years, as well as Leinsdorf's autobiography Cadenza.

In the winter of 1990-1991 I found myself looking at classical music in a new way after I began taking ballet classes. I decided to reread The Composer's Advocate, and I also decided to follow up on the nice things Leinsdorf had to say about Joseph Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets. The wonderful ASU library also had a copy of the Kerman book, and the book floored me. At the time I only had cd's of the late quartets, but through the nineties I read the book over and over again and bought cd's of the other quartets as well as the scores of the quartets. I read all of Kerman's other books and loved them, but The Beethoven Quartets has a special place in my heart.

I look forward to reading the book again starting next week and discussing it here at Tom's wonderful blog. Please join in. The book has some technical musical points, but I suspect you will enjoy the book even if you can't read music.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

John Higgs: Blake's grave, new book

Dante and Beatrice from the Divine Comedy, as depicted by William Blake. Source. 

A couple of interesting bits from the latest John Higgs newsletter:

William Blake's grave location was recently found again,  and Higgs will show up for the scheduled unveiling of a new gravestone for the poet: 3 p.m. Sunday August 12, Bunhill Fields, 38 City Road, London EC1Y 1AU.

The William Blake Society lists Philip Pullman as president and Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore as patrons.

Higgs also reports delivering the manuscript of a new book to his publisher, but he coyly omits any details, promising news at a later time. Meanwhile, if you haven't yet, read his Watling Street book, which talks about writers such as Blake, Alan Moore and Steve Moore (read my review.) 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Special Ken Campbell event; more 'Pigspurt's Daughter' dates

Ken Campbell 

Daisy Eris Campbell has announced a new event about her famous father, the British theater great Ken Campbell, whose production of the Illuminatus! play attracted so much attention to the trilogy.

The School of Ken: What I Learned from Ken Campbell is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 1 at The British Library in London. "A celebration of theatre maverick and 'antic visionary' Ken Campbell hosted by The British Library. A day of conversation, performance and rarely-seen film with some of those who worked with Ken."

Daisy also has announced further dates for her acclaimed Pigspurt's Daughter show.

More details and links to buy tickets here.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Starting this month: Eric Wagner's online reading group

Eric Wagner (Facebook profile photo) 

Eric Wagner's online reading group, to discuss Joseph Kernan's The Beethoven Quartets (and listen to the quartets) will begin August 13. Eric's "Prelude" reminding you about the group will post on August 6, but I also wanted to remind everyone to hunt up a copy of the book. I already have my library copy checked out.

Robert Anton Wilson was very interested in Beethoven (see for example the "Beethoven as Information" essay in The Illuminati Papers), so this is another opportunity to explore RAW's influences and ideas.

Eric is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. Sources report he is also a basketball fan.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

'Hogan's Heroes,' the RAW connection

Werner Klemperer (right) as Commandant Klink from "Hogan's Heroes." 

Some of my older readers will likely remember the TV show "Hogan's Heroes," a comedy set in a prisoner of war camp during World War II. The camp's commander was played by Werner Klemperer, a native of Germany who despised the Nazis and was happy to play the German officer as an idiot. Klemperer won Emmy awards twice. His father, BTW, was the famous orchestra conductor Otto Klemperer.

Yesterday, after I posted my Prop Anon interview, Jesse Walker listened and noticed that Prop mentioned that RAW's sister-in-law was actress Janet Riley. I hadn't gotten around to looking up Janet Riley, but Jesse was on the case and announced his results on Twitter: 

           If you're playing Six Degrees of Separation: Bob Crane > Werner Klemperer > Janet Riley >               Arlen Riley Wilson > Robert Anton Wilson > Kerry Thornley > Lee Harvey Oswald

Klemperer's Wikipedia bio doesn't mention the connection,  but Riley's IMDb bio does.

Addendum: Here is a link to the Billboard announcement Jesse mentions in the comments.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Audio: Prop Anon on his new RAW biography

Logo for the Confluence SF convention. 

Some audio that may well interest some of you: My interview (with Gregory Arnott also participating) of Prop Anon about his upcoming new biography of Robert Anton Wilson: Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson. I expect you will learn quite a bit. Topics covered include the circumstances under which RAW and Arlen met, why RAW's family moved around so much, what are the best sources of documents about RAW, whether he really was a member of OTO, and much more. 

Prop was not able to be physically present at Confluence in Pittsburgh this past weekend, but through the magic of Skype, he showed up anyway.