Friday, January 4, 2019
Young Robert Heinlein sounds like RAW
Alec Nevala-Lee's Astounding is pretty exciting for a science fiction fan, but Robert Anton Wilson fans might be interested, too.
I hope you enjoy synchronicities, because I ran into one this morning after I got out of bed.
When Robert Anton Wilson was interviewed by New Libertarian Notes, he talked about his love for the work of Robert Anson Heinlein: "Heinlein has been an idol to me for more than 20 years. He can do no wrong, no matter how much he loves wars and hates pacifists. (I'm the kind of anarchist whose chief objection to the State is that it kills so many people. Government is the epitome of the deathist philosophy I reject.)" Wilson was well aware of the coincidence of their middle names; in The Universe Next Door, which features alternate universes, Wilson's byline is given variously as "Robert Anton Wilson" and "Robert Anson Wilson" and Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon is (approvingly) mentioned in the text.
I have been reading Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee. For an old science fiction fan like me, it's kind of like reading the backstory behind classic anthologies such as The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Vol. 1, edited by Robert Silverberg. And as you can tell from the title, it's not just about John Campbell Jr. and Astounding Science Fiction magazine -- the reader learns a lot about Asimov, Heinlein and Hubbard. ("Jack Parsons" appears many times in the index, but I haven't gotten to that part yet.) (When I was in high school, Asimov probably was my favorite author. I didn't know about his hobby of grabbing and manhandling every woman within reach at SF conventions until many years later.)
Yesterday, I read chapter 5, "The Analytical Laboratory 1938-1940," and I noticed several observations about Heinlein, early in his SF writing career, which might interest Wilson fans. Heinlein became interested in General Semantics and Alfred Korzyzski, Nevala-Lee writes, explaining that Korzybski is best known for his aphorism, "The map is not the territory." An early unpublished novel, For Us, the Living, was structured "around his interest in a proposal for a universal basic income." An early novella, "If This Goes On--" featured a character warning that Americans need to "wake up" from their conditioning: "The American people have been conditioned from the cradle by the cleverest and most thorough psychotechnicians to believe in and trust the dictatorship which rules them ... " (pages 110-114)
But getting back to what happened when I got out of bed. I had made up my mind to write about Astounding last night. When I got up and went through my morning ritual of moderating comments on the blog, I was "astounded" to see that "Alec" had left a comment to yesterday's post. He wrote:
Glad to hear that you're enjoying Astounding!. I'm not sure if you knew this, but I'm a big RAW fan:
For a while, I thought about writing his biography, but it sounds like someone else beat me to it—and I can't wait to see the result.
Well, I didn't know that. Mr. Nevala-Lee's blog posting deserves a separate posting here, but you can go read it now.
Addendum: On Twitter, Mr. Nevala-Lee writes, "Wilson doesn't turn up in the book itself, but I often thought about him as I was writing it. (Among other things, the epigraph from Crowley in Chapter 10 was taken straight from Cosmic Trigger.)"