Monday, September 28, 2020

Robert Shea presents an early Prometheus Award

As the Libertarian Futurist Society puts more of its old newsletter contents online, more material connected to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea is becoming available. Today, when I read an article from the very first issue of the newsletter, I discovered that Shea had been the presenter when L. Neil Smith received the award for Smith's first novel, The Probability Broach:

“And the winner is …” Opening the proverbial envelope with his Swiss Army knife, author Robert Shea of Illuminatus! fame awarded L. Nell Smith the second Prometheus award for his novel, The Probability Broach. The presentation was made at a special event held by the Libertarian Futurist Society at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, September 9 [in 1982].

The Prometheus award is a half ounce privately minted gold coin bearing the likeness of F.A. Hayek, one of the intellectual giants of libertarianism. The award was created to encourage and reward outstanding tibertarian fiction. The award was revived this year after a two-year hiatus dlue to money and organizational problems. Credit for its phoenix- like rise goes to Michael Grossberg, the Austin, Texas libertarian who put together a new set of backers and made the Prometheus Award part of an ambitious new Libertarian Futurist Society. The purpose of LFS, in Grossberg's words, is “to cross-pollinate the worlds of libertarianism and science fiction.”

What do the two have to do with each other? Robert Shea, in his speech presenting the award, eloquently expressed the connection:

“From the days when Sir Thomas Moore wrote Utopia and Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels science fiction has used imaginary societies both to show how our society could be improved and to lampoon what is wrong with it. Libertarians are often asked how their ideas would work in practice, and one of the best ways to answer that question is to present fictional models of libertarian societies. Libertarians need science fiction because the idea of maximizing freedom is still so new and strange in the world that there are few examptes in the real worlds past and present, of how a totally free society would works So libertarians have to turn to the worlds of the future and the imaginations. Libertarian writers also like to use their imagination to demonstrate what is likely to happen to our world if certaln authoritarian trends, some of which may seem harmless or beneficial today, are allowed to develop unchecked. The results of these uses of the imagination to explore libertarian themes have been some classic science fiction novels, such as Le Guin's The Dispossessed, Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion, C.M. Kornbluth's The Syndic, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Ayn Rand's Anthem and Atlas Shrugged (which in my opinion is borderline science fiction), and Ira Levin's This Perfect Day.

More here. (One of the finalists that year was Samuel R. Delany.) Thanks again to folks such as Chris Hibbert and Anders Monsen who have been making these articles available. You can also browse other articles. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Robert Shea on 'The Dispossessed'

[Ursula K. LeGuin's novel, The Dispossessed, won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1993, but only after a long debate over its merits by members of the Libertarian Futurist Society. Robert Shea was one of the members who argued in favor of giving LeGuin the award. 

Thanks the efforts of LFS members such as Chris Hibbert and Anders Monsen, much material originally published in the LFS newsletter is now available online, including Shea's two letters about The Dispossessed. I have Shea's two letters below, but anyone who wants to follow the discussion also can read letters from Jim Stumm and Samuel E. Konkin III, There is also a letter from Joseph Martino, and also an editorial from Victoria Varga. 

I had an earlier post about this which only had one Shea letter. -- The Management.]

Volume 7, Number 2: Spring 1989

Dear Editor,

Jim Stumm's letter about Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed. In the Winter, 1989, Prometheus newsletter is a typical example of a libertarian going on at great length sermonizing other libertarians on their errors and expounding the One True Path to Freedom.

Jim calls The Dispossessed "socialist propaganda." I insist that the society descried by LeGuin is an anarchist, not a socialist, society. The difference between anarchism and socialism is quite simple. Socialist societies maintain their economic systems through coercion. Anarchist societies, whatever their economic arrangements, arrive at them through voluntary agreement.

I don't want to debate Jim on the role of private property in an anarchist society. I'm even inclined to agree with him that pockets of free market activity would probably appear rather quickly in a non-coercive anarchist society initially organized along purely collectivist lines. Where I do want to take issue with him is on his insistence that all awards given by the Libertarian Futurist Society pass his particular ideological purity test.

Jim writes that if The Dispossessed were to win the Hall of Fame award it would indicate to him that the LFS is dominated by people who are not propertarians. He's gotta be kidding. Look at the list of books that have won the Prometheus Award and the Hall of Fame Award already. Look at the persuasively propertarian defense of The Dispossessed put forward by Sam Konkin in the same issue of Prometheus.

Might not a Hall of Fame award to The Dispossessed indicate that a majority of LFS advisory members, unlike Jim, opts for a broad, rather than a narrow, definition of libertarianism?

I don't believe in concealing differences of opinion for the sake of outreach. My own philosophy is not identical with those of Ayn Rand, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, Cyril Kornbluth. But I respect all the authors who have received awards from the LFS. I've learned much from their works. I don't expect to agree with them point for point. For that matter my views differ in many respects from those of L. Neil Smith, yet I still feel honored lo have made the speech presenting the Prometheus Award to him for The Probability Broach in 1982.

Let the LFS Hall of Fame consist of a variety of novels. Let newcomers see that the freedom movement is large and generous, providing a home to many differing opinions. Surely the recognition and acceptance of variety of points of view must be one of the first principles of a free society.

I pledge that if The Dispossessed is not selected for the Hall of Fame this year I will not pick up my marbles and go home. I will stick with the LFS and continue to try to persuade it to give The Dispossessed the recognition it deserves. Surely an excellent novel describing the workings of an anarchist society deserves to be considered for the Libertarian Futurist Society's Hall of Fame award.

ls the society described in The Dispossessed an anarchist society? Yes.

Is The Dispossessed an excellent novel? Yes.

I rest my case.

—Robert Shea

Volume 5, Number 4, Fall 1987

Again, The Dispossessed

By Robert Shea

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

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

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

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

Other sf novels advocating anarchism often show the society's problems as stemming from internal subversives. Everything would be just peachy were it not for the small grop of evil people who want to bring back the state. Odonian problems stem from their society itself which makes a far more subtle and profound thought-experiment.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 26, 2020

This podcast sounds like it would be interesting

Podcast announcement for the F23 podcast: "Michelle Olley is host of Journey to Nutopia events, a member of the Cosmic Trigger production team, used to work for Skin Magazine and hosted the most famous fetish night of the 90's Rubber Ball. We talk about the first time we met, the works of Robert Anton Wilson, belief systems and much more. I can't recommend enough attending the (sort of) monthly Journey To Nutopia events and I'm sure after you've heard our conversation you'll want to be there.

"Find Michelle on Twitter @journey2_nu 


"Find me @Jimthediamond"

I will listen soon, I have not had a chance yet. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Devil's Masquerade

Back in 2013, I published a blog post which discussed Arthur Hlavaty's speculation that Masks of the Illuminati originally was titled The Devil's Masquerade. 

You can read the whole blog post, but here's a bit of it:

Arthur wrote, "One thing I noticed again is that the original title was probably The Devil's Masquerade, which I like. Presumably changed for commercial reasons." I asked Arthur if he could offer a citation, and he said, "That's a guess. There's the poem where each quatrain ends with the phrase, and it's an obvious theme in the discussion on the train."

I sometimes get interesting comments posted to old blog posts, and the other day, Photovore posted this comment: "Masks was originally titled The Devil’s Masquerade yes. Bob says so in an interview 'the man with the cosmic triggerfinger' (interview can be found at"

Here is the relevant bit from the interview (with Neal Wilgus in "Science Fiction Review," 1980:

SFR: I understand you’ll have a science fiction trilogy coming out soon and are working on an occult novel called THE DEVIL’ S MASQUERADE.

WILSON: The occult thriller will be published first and is now called MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI. It’s set in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1914 and the principle characters are Albert Einstein, James Joyce and Aleister Crowley. It should be in the bookstores early next summer. The sci-fi trilogy is called SCHRODINGER’S CAT and is a kind of quantum comedy, based on the most literal possible reading of the Everett-Wheeler-Graham multi-universe interpretation of the Schrodinger equations. That is, it’s the parallel worlds theme that’s been done and redone and al­most done to death in sci-fi, but I really think I have an unusually com­ical slant on it. That’ll be out in winter’ 79- 80, in some universe or other. The action or actions of SCHRODINGER’S CAT are set in various possible realities that might emerge by 1984 and, if the Eveiett-Wheeler­Graham theory is true, the publica­tion of the trilogy should cause the readers’ subsequent experience of 1984 to be more like my Hedonic pro­jections than like the masochistic projections of the doomsters. That is, the writing and publication of the trilogy is a magical and scien­tific experiment — an attempt to demonstrate the creation of an altern­ative reality. It’s very much like the old Marx Brothers routine: “There’s $1000 in the house next door”. “But there is no house next door”. “Then let’s build one”. I’m going beyond guerilla ontology to guerilla Futurism.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A new zine from Arthur Hlavaty

Lots of nice content can be found in "Nice Distinctions 33," the new zine (after three years) issued by Arthur Hlavaty. I'm on his email list, but you can go grab your own own digital copy easily enough. (If you get hooked, see the Hlavaty zine archive. )

Much of the zine has an kind of amusing grumpiness about it, as when he says "I  never liked golf. It's not a major problem for me, at worst taking up space on the sports page for some reason." Or when he says he stopped listening to new music 45 years ago. (Doing the math suggests he stopped in 1975. Is it too late to turn him on to 1980s Tom Petty and Elvis Costello? I knew a guy in Lawton, Oklahoma, who thought classical music went bad in about 1775.)

But the jokes also merge into thoughtful content, as when he reviews two books about the "golden age" of science fiction, or writes pithy obituaries, here are two I liked but the others are worth reading too:

Justin Raimondo quite seriously described himself as the #1 gay supporter of Pat Buchanan (he admitted there was not a lot of competition), but that was not the whole story. I have abandoned the hope of having a society without a few elements controlled by a legitimized armed gang, but I still have a lot of sympathy for libertarianism, not just sex&weed&dirty books but two other good ideas: 1) distrusting the cops. Radley Balko proudly upholds that one, now more liberals are noticing, and that may be the one element of vestigial libertarianism in Rand Paul's makeup. 2) staying out of Asian wars. Going back to Woodrow Wilson and continuing today there is the allegedly liberal doctrine that democracy is so wonderful that we must impose it everywhere no matter how many people we have to kill. Justin Raimondo and stood up to that idea. 

Paul Krassner was the first great corrupting influence in my life. _The Realist_ introduced me to Robert Anton Wilson and Albert Ellis, among others, and he himself commented incisively on the follies of our times. In the 70s he went through paranoia and came out the other side. I always sent him my zines, and one of the high points of my writing life was being quoted in _The Realist_.

Wednesday links

From @Kaosreigns23 on Twitter: "The Revelation parchment print by Alex Screen. Showing the birth of the Erisian Movement, when a simian herald of Our Lady of Discord appeared to Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley one night in a bowling alley and unveiled the sign of the hodge podge.

Latest John Higgs newsletter. I've covered some of his news but not all of it. 

Review from PQ: "The Interstellar Corridors of Killah Priest's Rocket to Nebula"

"1970 - The FBI opened a file on George Carlin after his first appearance on the Carol Burnett Show."

Interesting profile of Susanna Clarke, who has been ill and housebound for 15 years and finally has a new novel out. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

James Heffernan's new book


[A book announcement from James Heffernan, which he's been posting to the RAW groups on Facebook. I earlier did a posting on Heffernan's book on the Eight Circuits model, Nonlocal Nature: The Eight Circuits of Consciousness. -- The Management.]

I am a longtime follower of and contributor to this group, and so wanted to let you all know that I have just released a book called Unfolding Nature: Being in the Implicate Order, based on the ideas of David Bohm, who of course is featured prominently in many of RAW's books. Take a look if you're interested! Here is a brief excerpt:

I think in time we will find that reductionism doesn't make any sense.  The particles we reduce to are themselves abstracted from the unified  background. To say that these abstracted entities called atoms are  themselves the fundamental causal agents of reality is circular, you  see. And this is precisely the circle we find ourselves in when we try  to say, as almost everyone does, that atoms are the fundamental causal  agents of all of infinity. After thousands of years of scientific  development, and the quantum revolution in the twentieth century, we  have been able to infer, and then much later “photograph,” individual  atoms. 

But then, if atoms are the reason everything happens,  where do the fundamental forces come from? These forces are responsible  for how the atoms behave, but they are not “in” the atoms, are they? And  without these forces, the whole notion of an atom would be entirely  meaningless. So we have these mysterious forces which we just have to  throw up our hands and say are a “given.” We also know that atoms are  constantly shifting from matter to energy and back again. And then there  are nonlocal phenomena, which seem to transcend space and time  completely – the dimension in which our atoms exist. 

So we can  see that to suppose atoms are the whole story rather falls apart when we  consider how complex the situation is. And this is to say nothing of  the fact that it goes much deeper than just the atom. We have subatomic  particles, of which there are several hundred! And of course when we  posit phenomena like the quantum potential and the implicate order,  atoms are rather put in their place. So this ultimate reduction to atoms  seems to have some very serious problems indeed. And of course, it is a  primary theme of this book that there are very good reasons for this.

                                                                      -- James Heffernan on Facebook 

Monday, September 21, 2020

RAW Semantics on metaphor in language

RAW Semantics takes on what Robert Anton Wilson wrote about metaphors, and how metaphors are used in language. Excerpt:

When RAW writes that the principle software of the human brain consists of metaphors and disguised metaphors, he appears to be referring primarily to what linguists mean by conceptual metaphor.

Examples of poetic/’figurative’ metaphor

“Juliet is the sun” (popular metaphor relating to romantic love, from Shakespeare)

“The Scum” (popular metaphorical label for The Sun newspaper, from Liverpool)

Examples of conceptual metaphor

Right where you are sitting now, if you’re concerned that you might be wasting your time, then imagine the reality tunnel of a culture with no notion of time as a commodity that can be wasted or not wasted. (Such cultures have existed. The conceptual metaphor of time as a resource or commodity-like thing that can be squandered, utilized, saved, spent, invested, etc, isn’t universal, but owes a lot to the concept of work as it has developed over the centuries – particularly, but not solely, in modern Western societies.)

More here. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Ad for RAW's newsletter


The clever "why you should subscribe" advertisements used to be one of my favorite parts of the old Boing Boing magazine (which came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before the well-known website). 

It turns out that the ads for Robert Anton Wilson's "Trajectories" newsletter, put out by RAW and D. Scott Apel, were pretty interesting, too. Here is an ad from "Magical Blend," April 1991, posted on Twitter by Michael Clinton.  (Michael and Ken Condon are the folks behind the work featured at the website; if that doesn't ring a bell, go look at it.) And of course, much of the material for Beyond Chaos and Beyond, edited by Apel and published in 2019, as well as RAW's Chaos and Beyond came from RAW's newsletter. 

This would have been about the time I subscribed to Boing Boing, by the way. I never subscribed to "Trajectories" or even heard about it until years later; maybe they should have run an ad in Boing Boing. (Back issues of Boing Boing are available at the Internet Archive.) 

Boing Boing was put out by Mark Frauenfelder and his wife, Carla Sinclair; I currently subscribe to Mark's new newsletter, The Magnet. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Knights Templar church may have had crypts, secret tunnel


Saint Stanislaus chapel in the Polish village of Chwarszczany, built by the Knights Templars. 

Who doesn't enjoy a little bit of Knights Templar gossip? Smithsonian Magazine reports that crypts and a possible "secret tunnel" have been found beneath a Polish church built by the Knights Templars. 

A Knights Templars member is a major character in Robert Shea's novel, All Things Are Lights, they are mentioned in Illuminatus! and as the Smithsonian piece mentions they of course are featured in many other works, including Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. 

Hat tip, Jesse Walker on Twitter. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Brenton Clutterbuck on the Illuminati


Where is all began, or at least some of it. 

A multiple choice question, blog readers! When Brenton Clutterbuck poses for a photo at Theresienstra├če 23 in Ingolstadt, Germany, he is standing:

A. In front of Arthur Hlavaty's house.

B. In front of Angela Merkel's house.

C. In front of Eric Wagner's house.

D. In front of Adam Weishaupt's house.

I'll bet many of you know the correct answer is D (or at least can guess -- it has to be, with that address, right?). And many of you will likely enjoy Brenton's blog post at Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia web site, "The Illuminati Files, Part One: A Conspiracy is Born by Brenton Clutterbuck." (Mr. Hlavaty's current whereabouts probably are far from Ingolstadt, but you do get to see the "Anti-Illuminati Discordian business card" he designed.) 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

British Discordian news roundup


1. While the John Higgs play HG Wells & the Spiders From Mars, a one-man production that would have starred Oliver Senton, was cancelled because of the pandemic, the recent news that Venus may have life has inspired the release of one of the songs from the play, "Life on Venus" from Tim Arnold, and you can listen to the song on Bandcamp and also download it. Details from John Higgs. (The song will be up for 23 days but you can buy a copy.)

2. Daisy Campbell is teaching her online "Get Your Show Written" class for writing plays; if you didn't sign up in time for the sold-out course, you can go on a waiting list for the next class. 

3. "The multi-dimensional Michelle Watson - Cosmic Trigger producer/actor - as well as many other things (artist/poet/singer-songwriter) - has the most wonderful collection of poetry and spoken word out now under her Moksha poet moniker." More here. 

4. "Cosmic Trigger" actress Kate Alderton is pursuing her The Dreamfishing Society project: "I held our first sessions of ‘Dream Crossing’ also hosted by The Cockpit -back in August. It was a deep dive, fusing meditation with social dreaming, working with dreams as a complimentary map to waking reality and exploring how our dreams link and connect to create patterns of meaning."

More on all of this here, and see also Kate's signup page for her Dreamfishing Society newsletter. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Latest from Bobby Campbell, and John Higgs


A couple of new items that will be of interest to RAW fans.

Above, Bobby Campbell artwork, Bobby explains (on Twitter), "New commission! CAGLIOSTRO THE GREAT from  @RAWilson23's Schrodinger's Cat :)))" I have Bobby's art hanging on my walls, follow the link for more information. 

I also just listened to the new podcast interview with John Higgs by the comedian Young Southpaw.  I've have listened to or read quite a few interviews with Higgs (and done a couple myself) and this is a particularly good interview that discusses Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, the magicians' war against Hitler, James Bond and other topics of interest. The last few minutes focuses on the rock group Iron Maiden. John is apparently a heavy metal fan as well as a Beatles fan. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

This may be a good time to help the Robert Anton Wilson Trust

Rasa and the Hilaritas Press folks are hard at work on Starseed Signals: Link Between Worlds by Robert Anton Wilson, the "lost" RAW book from the 1970s. I believe it will be out soon, but I have no inside information on what "soon" means. It could be 15 minutes after I post this, it could be another couple of weeks.

I do know that Rasa has been working hard on the book, calling in extra copy editing, doing careful fact checking (he asked physicist Nick Herbert for help on a section that discusses interstellar travel at very near the speed of light), fussing over the cover to make sure it is right. Rasa wants to get the book out, but he wants to make sure it is the best possible book.

I suspect the reason for this is that Starseed represents a real opportunity, for the Robert Anton Wilson Trust and its publishing imprint, Hilaritas Press. By definition, Starseed is not a book that most RAW fans already own. We'll all have to buy it, so there might be some actual decent sales for Hilaritas. 

Starseed is also news. A cult author, whose work has been kept alive by an informal, unusual  network of literary activists, is being revived by the publication of an unexpected new book, even as efforts are being made to turn his best-known work into a TV series. 

So this is where RAW fans come in. It would be nice for the publication of the book got enough attention that readers outside of the usual RAW community got a chance to hear about Robert Anton Wilson, his new book, and his work.

If you have a social media account, or a blog, or a website, or if you know someone who writes about the literary world for a newspaper or a magazine, or if you know somebody who works at NPR, or if you can do something else I haven't mentioned here (suggestions welcome), please help publicize Starseed when it is released. Please help get the word out.  

Monday, September 14, 2020

Reminder: Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group starts October 12


The above is a graphic created by Rasa (it will appear in an Hilaritas Press newsletter soon) but I thought I would post it as a reminder to get  your copy of the book and join us for the new Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group.  Please consider joining us; it's not an opportunity that arises every day. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

I think I know where the yellow submarine in 'Illuminatus' comes from

A yellow submarine sculpture in Liverpool. Creative Commons photo 

In Illuminatus!, Hagbard Celine remarks that the "yellow submarine" he operates is "right out of a rock song."

Robert Anton Wilson never offered much evidence that he paid close attention to pop music. In John Higgs' excellent KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds, Higgs relates how he met Robert Anton Wilson while researching his book on Timothy Leary, and took the opportunity to ask RAW about the KLF, who of course recorded songs that referenced Illuminatus!, including "Justified & Ancient (Stand by The JAMs)" . Wilson claimed, "I've never heard of them."

On a hunch, I emailed Mike Shea about what kind of music his dad, Robert Shea, listened to and whether his father was a Beatles fan. Here is the relevant part of Mike's answer:

My dad listened to a ton of classical music while writing. He had piles of tapes recorded back to back with classical music. He found that any sort of dialog in his music hurt his ability to work with words on screen. 30 years later, I’ve found the same thing. I listen to video game music tracks. I have a playlist with 49 hours of video game music on it I listen to while writing. I bet he’d have loved that.

My dad was a HUGE Beatles fan (as am I!). My mom shared the story about how he waited and waited for the White Album to come out. He was the first to buy it, take it home, and listen to it non stop. It blew him away.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

John Higgs' Paul McCartney playlist, and mine

You probably know who this guy is. (Creative Commons photo)

John Higgs recently put together a "confused and obscure" Paul McCartney playlist, so I thought I would post it and post my own playlist of favorite Paul songs.

But first, a little bit on the individual Beatles. Was it Tom Robbins who said you could tell a lot about a person by asking the person to name his/her/their favorite Beatle? William Breiding recently mentioned (in his fanzine, Portable Storage) that his favorite Beatle was Ringo, which struck me as unusual, and it prompted this exchange between us in the lettercolumn of PS No. 4.

Here is our exchange:

ME: But I wonder how many people are like me. I have not a fixed favorite Beatle all of my life; my choice has changed over the years. As a teen, my favorite was George. He seemed to be kind of an underdog, only allowed a couple of songs per album, and "All Things Must Pass" was the first really good solo album. Then, too, the organized the charity concert for Bangla Desh, which coaxed a great live performance out of Bob Dylan.

Then John Lennon was a favorite for awhile -- he seemed like the intellectual of the bunch, the one who seemed the most interesting, and the one whose songwriting seemed to hold up the best after the Beatles broke up.

But as I aged, I decided Paul was my favorite. In many ways, he seems the most adult of the Beatles, the one who valued children and treated them well, the one who was loyal to women and seemed to treat them well, too, and the one who always seemed to be working hard at his art. He has been the one who has regularly toured, allowing fans to see him, and who has worked all the time on new recording projects, and gone out of his way to challenge himself with different approaches -- he even made electronic music albums that no one  noticed for a long time. I finally got to see him live in Cleveland a couple of years ago. 

WILLIAM: Ever since "A Hard Day's Night" I have identified with Ringo. As I became an adult, Ringo seemed to be the only Beatle that had a sense of humorous perspective. Upon rediscovering the Beatles in my 60s I came to realize that Ringo's drumming completely dominates the sound of the Beatles. Without him they would have been a different band. Your argument for Paul is not without merit. He is probably the nicest of the Beatles. I never liked John. He always seemed like a mean little man to me. George? A lost spiritualist. 

OK, here is John Higgs' Paul McCartney playlist, John explains, "I’ve done this playlist because I know I haven’t quite got my head around McCartney, in the same way that I ‘get’ John, George and Ringo. So this is a personal and idiosyncratic playlist of songs in which I find clues that help understand him."

1. Riding to Vanity Fair.

2. Monkberry Moon Delight.

3. Jenny Wren.

4. Watercolour Guitars.

5. Tomorrow.

6. Temporary Secretary.

7. Here Today.

8. Smile Away.

9. What Do We Really Know? 

10. Goodbye.

11. Letting Go.

12. This Never Happened Before.

13. I've Just Seen a Face.

14. Dress Me Up As a Robber.

15. Spin It On

16. You Gave Me The Answer.

17. Mr. Bellamy

18. Old Siam, Sir

19. Calico Skies

20. Blue Sway

21. Sing the Changes

22 The End of the End

John's Twitter thread discussing his selections is here. 

I was interested in this as a I have a personal playlist on YouTube Music of my favorite Paul songs, here is my list. Unlike John, I have no justifications, I just like the songs:

1. Jet

2. My Brave Face

3. Heaven on a Sunday

4. Did We Meet Somewhere Before?

5. Save Us

6. Jenny Wren

7. Traveling Light

8. Single Pigeon

9. Get On the Right Thing

10. Old Siam, Sir

11. Soily

12. Band on the Run

13. Bluebird

14. Another Day

15. Your Way

16. Live and Let Die

17. The World Tonight

18. Every Night (live performance)

19. Let Me Roll It

20. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

21. Maybe I'm Amazed

22. Friends to Go

23. Cut Me Some Slack

24. Junk

25. Mr. Bellamy

Footnote: Portable Storage, referenced above, is a fine genzine. Follow my link above to get PDFs! 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Cover from mailing of The Golden APA


I ran across this cover for the Golden APA by the artist Pyracantha and thought I would share. If the reference to "Golden APA" puzzles you, see this blog post.  You can also read Pyracantha's own memoir. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Shea nominates Illuminatus: 'I can always say I'm doing it for Bob Wilson's sake'

[I have mentioned before that the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award is the only literary award that Illuminatus! (that I know of) ever won; it won in 1986, in only the fourth year of the award, in a tie with Cyril Kornbluth's The Syndic, and Shea's acceptance speech is available on this website.  The award is given by a group called the Libertarian Futurist Society (disclosure: I'm a member of it.) 

But what I did not know until the other day is that Shea, a member of the LFS, is the person who nominated the work for the award! Once he made the nomination, his vote was only one among the members, so Illuminatus! won fair and square. The nomination letter is below, and then I will append some notes. My thanks to Anders Monsen, a member of the board of the Libertarian Futurist Society, for his working making this and other documents from past issue of the LFS-- The Management.]

I feel somewhat sheepish about having nominated my own novel. I am not claiming that Illuminatus! is as good as the novels that have already been chosen for the Hall of Fame. There are at least two books on this year’s list of nominees that I would vote for before voting for Illuminatus! But I do believe it deserves to be nominated and considered. Eventually, I feel, there will come a year when all the more deserving books will have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame and Illuminatus! will have its turn.

That it has not been nominated by anybody else must be due, it seems to me, to one or more of these five reasons: 1) It was just an oversight; 2) Everybody was expecting someone else to do it; 3) The Advisory membership of the Libertarian Futurists is not a representative cross-section of libertarian/anarchist science fiction fans; 4) the Goddess Eris wants me to know how she felt when she wasn't invited to the party on Mount Olympus; 5) It ls the work of a Conspiracy.

While liberal Gimps might consider it bad form for an author to toot his own horn like this (one can imagine what Ellsworth Toohey would say). I am sure the individualists. egoists, objectivists, libertarians and anarchists who make up the L.F.S. will applaud it as an act of rational self-interest and healthy self-esteem.

Besides, if I need a more altruistic motive I can always say I'm doing it for Bob Wilson's sake.

Robert Shea

Glencoe, Illinois

[Notes: This letter appeared in Volume 4, Number 3 of the LFS newsletter, Summer 1986. The "novels already chosen for the Hall of Fame" Shea mentions are "The Moon is a Harsh Misstress," Robert Heinlein; "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand; "Nineteen Eighty-Four," George Orwell; "Fahrenheit 451," Ray Bradbury; "Trader to the Stars," Poul Anderson, and "The Great Explosion," Eric Frank Russell. I don't know what else was nominated that year. For more on the LFS and its awards, see this website.]

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

.net magazine interview with RAW


Isn't this a nice photo?

At RAW Semantics, Brian posts an interview with RAW that originally ran in .net magazine, a British magazine, in January 1998. Given the nature of the magazine, there are interesting thoughts about the internet: 

“The Internet helps you get used to the fact that we’re living in a world where everything is being torn down and rebuilt continually. The Buddha understood that, but very few people since Buddha have understood it.”

More here. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Leary's 'Starseed Transmissions' and Reich and Lilly, too

With the impending publication of Robert Anton Wilson's "lost" Starseed Signals book by Hilaritas Press, it is interesting to read this 1974 article from Gnostica obtained by Martin Wagner, "Angels and Extra-Terrestrials." We'll soon see how much of an overlap there is between the article and the book. 

Among other bits -- there's a lot of offbeat stuff, even for a RAW article -- there's a summary of the interstellar messages Timothy Leary received in prison and this paragraph:

As for the possibility that all this is auto-suggestion, Dr. Leary typically states this without back-tracking a bit on the mind-blowing implications of the message: “If the Starseed transmissions are hallucinations, it does not matter. Since they are the most logical and practical and optimistic hallucinations available, they can be accepted and acted upon until more amusing, hopeful hypotheses come along.”

More here. 


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Eric Wagner on the new 'Prometheus Rising' exercise and discussion group


A quarter stuck to the sidewalk with a piece of gum by someone near my home in Berea, Ohio. So long as no one removes the coin from the "Prometheus Rising Sidewalk," I can easily complete one of the exercises early in the book. -- The Management. 

[Yesterday's blog post announced plans for an exercise/discussion group for Prometheus Rising. Here is Eric Wagner, with a guest post on our plans.]

By Eric Wagner, special guest blogger

Prometheus Rising holds a unique place in Robert Anton Wilson’s output. He points back to it over and over again in his later books, essays, and introductions. Over and over again he said that if you want to make positive changes in your mind-body system, do the exercises in Prometheus Rising. I own the Hilaritas edition, but I do not have it at hand right now. On page 28 of the New Falcon Second Revised Edition, it says,

"Sad as it is to say, you never understand anything merely by reading a book about it. That’s why every science course includes laboratory experiments, and why every consciousness-liberation movement demands practice of yogas, meditations, confrontation techniques, etc. in which the ideas are tested in the laboratory of your own nervous system.

"The reader will absolutely not understand this book unless he or she does the exercises given at the end of each chapter."

Tom Jackson had the idea to host a “Do the Exercises” action and discussion group for Prometheus Rising at facilitated by Tom, Gregory Arnott, and myself. We will begin on Crowleymas, October 12. The group will last for at least 23 months. In preparation I reread the opening pages up until the first exercise in chapter one. I finished reading that at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2020, and I began visualizing a quarter.

The first edition of Prometheus Rising came out in 1983, and I first saw it and immediately bought a copy in March 1985. I have spent a lot of time doing the exercises over the last 35 years. In the early 90’s Bob wrote a lot about E-Prime, and I learned to write, speak and think in E-Prime. In 1997 I decided to translate Prometheus Rising into E-Prime. Shortly after I started I ran across the Revised Second Edition at Borders. To my mind, Bob radically improved the book. He did not put it entirely into E-Prime, but he brought to bear on the text all he learned in the thirteen years since the book had first come out. I highly recommend you get either the Hilaritas edition (based on the Revised Second Edition) or the New Falcon Revised Second Edition.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Announcement: Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group

With the conclusion of the Nature's God reading group a few weeks ago, it's time to talk about which book we'll be concentrating on next. The next one will be Prometheus Rising, and after discussing the matter with Eric Wagner, I have agreed to take a new approach.

The group will begin on Oct. 12, Crowleymas, a date that has been chosen to give everyone time to get on board by obtaining a copy of the text. As with past discussions, the preferred text will be the Hilaritas Press edition. There will be blog posts by Gregory Arnott, Eric Wagner and by me, although I am also open to guest posts. As per usual, there will be blog posts with everyone invited to post comments. 

Some details probably remain to be hashed out. But the unusual feature and the departure from previous practice is that we will take 23 months to get through the book, using a schedule proposed by Eric that spends six months on the first chapter and then takes a faster but still deliberate pace for the rest of the book. Robert Anton Wilson recommended doing the exercises rather than simply reading the text, and the idea of an extended schedule is for everyone to work on the exercises. After hearing Eric's explanation, I was intrigued and agreed to give it a go.

Tomorrow I will have a guest post from Eric that further explains the new approach, and if you have questions or thoughts comments remain open, although unfortunately I have had to moderate the comments for years to keep out the "when you are in India, use our prostitutes" spam that Google apparently makes no effort to block. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

'Mad Mordecai' on freedom


Source.  From Robert Anton Wilson Archives (e.g., Martin Wagner): “Freedom” by “Mad Mordecai” (mosprobably Robert Anton Wilson) THE CHICAGO SEED, Volume 3, Issue 7 (February 1969)." More from Martin soon. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

RAW Semantics on 'The Tyranny of Words'

At RAW Semantics, Brian Dean posts about The Tyranny of Words, by Stuart Chase, which he explains was the first popularization of Alfred Korzybski's Science and Sanity. 

Chase influenced figures such as Robert Heinlein, Dean explains. He writes, "I ordered a copy of The Tyranny of Words from the UK’s lending library system, years ago, and it impressed me enough that I scanned large sections of it and converted to text with OCR software."

The post includes large quotations from Chase, allowing the reader to find out about his views.

If this topic interests you, see also Michael Johnson's post "Why Korzybski Waned: Some Educated Guesses" at Overweening Generalist, which discusses a number of other popularizers of Korzybski. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Erik Davis on the 'Wilderness of Mirrors'


Erik Davis 

Erik Davis in his latest newsletter:

"After High Weirdness was published in 2019, I started doing the usual round of podcasts and readings. I expected to mostly talk about Philip K. Dick, and maybe round out the chats with some takes on Terence McKenna, whose dark-elf charisma is greatly missed amidst the slick nostrums of today’s psychedelic discourse (at least by me). But I wound up mostly riffing about Robert Anton Wilson, the most obscure character in my triumvirate of high weirdos.

"The reason was simple. RAW speaks most directly to one of the central features of our times: the massive uptick of viral conspiracy theories and tricky darkside counter-narratives that, as both symptom and cause, seem to be further eroding the already rickety foundations of consensus reality."

More here. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Request to readers


Robert Shea and his son, Michael, who now maintains the website. 

One more note about Robert Shea material, and a request for readers.

I have lately been listening to recordings of Robert Shea;  two of them are available for purchase at the website of the Association for Consciousness Exploration website. 

This post ends "Robert Shea Week," but I will continue to post about Shea from  time to time. 

There are many people out there collecting and making available material about Shea's Illuminatus! collaborator, Robert Anton Wilson, and they are doing a great job, but there isn't that much Shea activity. Do you have zines by Robert Shea (other than "No Governor," which I have), articles by Shea, correspondence from Shea or other material of interest? I would like to see it. I can be reached at tom.jackson (at) 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Prop Anon on Robert Shea

Prop Anon aka Gabriel Kennedy is hard at work on a biography of Robert Anton Wilson, and he was interviewed in 2017 by R.U. Sirius. I have permission from R.U. Sirius to reprint this bit:  

R.U.S: Robert Shea — coauthor of Illuminatus Triology — sort of ended up being “the quiet one”. What can you tell us about Shea and he and Bob’s relationship?

PA:Wilson and Shea became fast friends at Playboy. They would hang out together at the bar on payday. They, and their wives, would all hang out, smoke weed, watch TV or listen to records and think of funny sketches that made each other laugh. They had a lot in common: Both raised Irish Catholic, both left the Church young, both seeking to become full time free-lance writers. They both really dug into the Anarchist perspective. After Illuminatus!, Shea went on to start an Anarchist newsletter called No Governor, which Wilson contributed to. Wilson had a talent for collaborating with like-minded artists and thinkers; his and Shea’s collaboration resulted in Illuminatus! and that was itself a further collaboration out of their involvement with The Discordian Society. The two continually spoke of writing their sequel, Bride of Illuminatus, which they barely started before Shea was diagnosed with cancer. Shea’s death left Bob deeply distraught. Michael Shea, described seeing Bob at his father’s funeral looking shook by the whole event. Bob’s eulogy, Chimes at Midnight, published in Cosmic Trigger vol. III, written shortly after Shea provides a glimpse into Bob’s thoughts about his dead friend.

I also emailed Prop and asked if there was anything about Shea he wanted to share. He wrote back, "What seemed cool about Shea was that during the late 60s into the early 70s he got heavy into Anarchism, alongside RAW.

"Not only did he create his own anarchist newsletter, No Governor, he also was a regular contributor to the SRAF newsletter."

You could do worse than to follow Mondo 2000 on Twitter, and I noticed the other day that the R.U. Sirius book Counterculture Through the Ages is only $5 for the Kindle edition. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Good interviews with Robert Shea

Robert Shea

There aren't as many interviews with Robert Shea as there are with Robert Anton Wilson. But there are a few good ones. 

I recently discovered an interview with Robert Shea I had wanted to read for awhile was available on the Internet.

Neal Wilgus interviewed Shea for the fall 1985 issue of "Science Fiction Review," a once-famous SF fanzine published by Richard Geis, and I ran across the fact the issue is available for downloading at the Internet Archive. You can find it there if you search, but after I share the news with Mike Shea, he posted it on the website, he posted it, so here's the link to the PDF

It's a long and meaty interview, with discussion of many topics, here is a small bit:

SFR: What contemporary authors do you get the most out of reading?

SHEA: The list is continually undergoing revision as my taste changes and my reasons for reading change, but John Fowles, Romain Gary, Norman Mailer, Yukio Mishima, Vladimir Nabokov, George Orwell, Thomas Pynchon, J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Penn Warren seem to have taken up permanent residence in my literary pantheon.

Another Neal Wilgus interview with Robert Shea is included in a collection of Shea's work provided as a PDF at  The first article, "Why I Am a Right Wing Anarchist" by Robert Weston, identified as being by Shea, is actually likely written by RAW.  But the piece that comes next is another Neal Wilgus interview with Shea, this time published in Outworlds, another well-known fanzine at the time, in an issue dating back to 1976. 

I had wanted to know for years who the book editor was who bought Illuminatus! for Dell, and it was this interview that gave me my big break -- I learned that it was Shea's good friend Bob Abel. (See my article about Bob Abel, which tells you as much as I was able to learn about Abel.) It's also a pretty good-sized and useful interview. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Patricia Monaghan on 'Physics and Grief'

Patricia Monaghan

I recently acquired a copy of Patricia Monaghan's Pushcart Prize-winning piece about dealing with her grief over the death of Robert Shea, "Physics and Grief." You should read it (available at the link). It's a remarkable piece of writing, and you'll learn about Shea, and also learn what a good writer Monaghan was. While it serves as a requiem for Shea, I'm sure it must help Monaghan's friends deal with their loss., too Monaghan died in 2012. I am determined to find time to read more of her work. 

Interestingly, Monaghan explains her opinion that Shea "had more integrity than any person I'd ever met. That integrity remained to the end. He met his death with his long-held beliefs intact. He was frightened, but he was very, very brave."

You can read about Monaghan on Wikipedia, and also visit her official website, maintained by her husband, Dr. Michael McDermott, in much the same fashion that Mike Shea maintains the Robert Shea website.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Supergee on Robert Shea

Timothy Leary, Robert Shea, Patricia Monaghan, Jeff Rosenbaum, Gillie Smythe at an Association for Consciousness Expansion gathering in Cleveland. 

[Supergee posted this comment when I began "Robert Shea Week," and with his permission, I am now reposting it as a blog entry. -- The Management.]

By Supergee (Arthur Hlavaty)

Special guest blogger

Bob Shea was a dear friend. This is what I wrote about him when he died:

Shea's historical fiction can be described as "traditional." Each novel told a story, with beginning, middle, and end, pretty much in that order, and pretty much without obliqueness, irony, ambiguity, metafictional self-reference, and other such postmodern qualities.

The books can likewise be described as traditional in morality. Though they do not reflect the punitive sexual code often indicated by that phrase, they unabashedly treat such traits as compassion, courage, and loyalty as Good Things.

There are those who condescend to this sort of novel. (That is particularly easy to do so if one has not written one.) In reply, one might, at the very least, point out that each apparently simple and straightforward story is also a skilled and complex weaving of many plot threads, told in graceful prose with style and wit, and peopled with richly detailed and fascinating characters.

As a person, Shea was much like his novels. First and foremost, he believed that people should be nice to each other, but behind this apparently simple approach was an intelligent awareness of the problems it entailed and a perceptive skepticism about the organizations and ideologies that purported to provide and institutionalize niceness.

I had the pleasure of knowing Bob Shea, first postally and then in person as well, for 15 years. When Bernadette Bosky and I had our nonlegal wedding ceremony, he officiated, with the style, humor, and warmth he brought to everything. He was a flawed human being like all of us, but his good qualities far outweighed any flaws. I will miss him.

Supergee writes a blog. As Arthur Hlavaty, he is a well-known science fiction fan who was nominated 12 times for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Some of his fanzines are archived on the Internet. See also this archive. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Eric Wagner on Shike and Robert Shea's other fiction

                                                                            Robert Shea

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

I first read Robert Shea when I read Illuminatus! in 1982. Since I had already read Wilson’s Schroedinger’s Cat and then went on read all the Wilson I could find, I had a much better sense of Wilson’s literary personality than I did of Shea’s. In 1986 I saw volume 1 of Shea’s Shike in the fiction section of Books, Etc., in Tempe, Arizona, and I bought it, hoping the same Robert Shea had written it. I started reading it, and it seemed like a conventional historical novel, but early on it included an initiation and the number 23, so I decided it seemed like the same Shea. (Ah, those pre-internet days before we had Google for fact checking.) I loved the book. I had read that Shea considered himself an anarchist and that he practiced Zen meditation. I thought he did a great job presenting people with political power in the novel. I thought his anarchism had given him great insight into political power, and I loved the Zen material in the book (and the martial arts). I quickly bought and read book two as well, and my friend novelist Paul Chuey suggested perhaps Shea wrote even better than Wilson. We both entertained that idea for a while, basking in the experience of reading Shike. I returned to preferring Wilson’s writing, but I definitely appreciated Shea’s contributions to Illuminatus! even more.

I worked at Hunter’s Books in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1986, and I saw an announcement for a new Robert Shea book, All Things Are Lights. I got all excited, recognizing the reference to the Scotus Erigina quote in the title. I ordered it, and devoured it when it arrived. I enjoyed it a bit less than the Shike books, but perhaps I had hyped myself up too much. Once again I loved Shea’s insight into people in power. I also loved how Shea’s books painted a picture of a Eurasian conspiracy of adepts in the late Middle Ages, providing deep background for the conspiracies in Illuminatus! and in Wilson’s other books. If you haven’t read any of Shea’s solo books, I highly recommend you give them a try.

Eric Wagner is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, now available in a new revised and expanded edition. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Getting Robert Shea's books

Robert Shea's novels are well worth reading and I encourage everyone to explore them. 

If you prefer books on paper, you can order used copies of all of his titles, and Robert Shea's son Mike Shea also has made paper editions of some titles.

But if  you are fine with ebooks, good news: Mike Shea has released all of the titles under the Creative Commons license. There are reasonably priced titles in the Kindle format on Amazon, but you can also get good editions for free. Here is my guide for getting good, free Robert Shea ebooks.

For my favorite, All Things Are Lights, get it on the Internet Archive, where you can download two convenient formats: mobi (for Kindles) and EPUB, usable on all other tablets and phones. I downloaded the mobi file and sent it to my Kindle and it worked fine.

You can also use the Internet archive to get copies, in the same two formats, of the two Saracen books, The Saracen: Land of the Infidel and its sequel, Saracen: The Holy War. (Really, they are one work, published in two parts.) The Internet Archive also has Shea's Native American historical novel, Shaman.

Project Gutenberg also has some Robert Shea titles at one convenient location, including Shaman and the two Saracen books. 

Shike, available as an inexpensive Kindle ($2.99 for both volumes) also is available for free in HTML at $3 is cheap enough that I just bought it, to have it for my Kindle. There were problems for awhile with the text of the Kindle edition, but Mike Shea tells me those problems have been fixed. 

My next two posts for Robert Shea Week will be guest bloggers who will explain why you should read Shea. 


Monday, August 24, 2020

Trapped by his books! Mike Shea on Robert Shea

I've always been interested in Robert Shea as well as Robert Anton Wilson, and early in the  history of this blog, I interviewed Mike Shea, who is Robert Shea's literary executor and maintains the official website. (See the bottom of this page.)

I decided to seek a new interview for Robert Shea Week, and Mike obliged. I've been in touch with him periodically over the years for information or to raise a point, and he's always immediately replied. 

I asked Mike for a biography and he obliged: "Michael Erik Shea is a writer, gamer, and programmer living in Vienna, Virginia with his wife Michelle. Mike is the son of Yvonne Shea and Robert Joseph Shea, author of Illuminatus! and other novels.

"Mike is a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd. He runs Sly Flourish, a website and Twitter feed dedicated to building better D&D Dungeon Masters. Mike wrote and self-published a number of RPG and D&D related books including Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, Fantastic Adventures, and Ruins of the Grendleroot. He also wrote freelance articles for Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, Pelgrane Press, Sasquach Games, and other RPG companies."

-- Tom 

Mike Shea

As far as you can tell, from sales, contact with fans, etc., what is your father's most popular book? I know it's probably hard to track downloads.

MIKE SHEA: Illuminatus! is still, by far, the most popular of his books followed by Shike. The sales on the books are roughly proportional to the way they were when they were published. One of the harsh realities of being an author is that your first book may be your most popular and you never quite get back to that level. I don’t remember my father talking about that very much but I imagine it’s something he thought about and it’s a hard thing to deal with. I see it with a lot of authors as well. Many people have said that Shaman, his last published book, was his best.

Has there been any interest in Hollywood adapting any of his books? Does the Creative Commons license you use mean they would have to pay you to turn Shike into a miniseries?

MIKE SHEA: The only interest has been for Illuminatus! Every few years a company would option the book for a movie, TV show, VR game, or something like that. It’s a nice unexpected bit of cash once in a while but isn’t job-quitting money. Once optioned, however, things usually fall apart. Recently however a company picked up the rights for Illuminatus! for an Amazon series. The big digital players are buying up properties like crazy and they seem to have deep pockets for experimentation. You can read more about it here.

Unfortunately, none of my father’s other books have been optioned.

Did your father ever give you advice on writing?

MIKE SHEA: Not really. I wasn’t doing a lot of writing when he was alive. It wasn’t until after he died that I got into it. A shame. Reading through his journals and interviews elsewhere helps me get an idea for the style of writing he would have recommended. Of course, I’d give anything to have had him read something I’m writing now. I think he’d love it. One of the things I always admire, and something that helps guide my own direction now, is that he never let go of being a kid. He loved Buck Rogers comic strips from the day he was like 5 years old to the day he died. He found a guy who was reprinting Buck Rogers in color and would mail the guy begging for more of them. He was never afraid of hanging onto childhood fantasies. He would doodle rocket ships on everything.

Do  you know if he particularly liked any of the cover art for his books?

MIKE SHEA: There were some he sure didn’t like. The ones that had Jebu from Shike with black hair pissed him off when the fact that he had red hair was a big part of the story. I think he always dug the original Illuminatus! covers, as do I. They’re classics.

I recently re-read Patricia Monaghan's essay "Physics and Grief," did you know Monaghan very well and what was she like?

MIKE SHEA: I can’t say very well but we spoke often before and after my father’s death. She was really smart, of course, and funny and warm and caring. She took care of my dad at the worst parts of his life and I am always eternally grateful for that. I wasn’t ready to do that at 20 years old. I liked her a great deal and was really happy she was in my father’s life.

How did your father and Robert Anton Wilson stay in touch over the years, was it mostly letters, and are there any new clues on what happened to that correspondence?

MIKE SHEA: I think it was occasional phone calls but probably mostly letters. I don’t have any of the correspondence in my own archives. I don’t know if Christina Pearson, Wilson’s daughter, has any. She’s never mentioned them to me. [I've asked on the RAW side and had  no luck. So far, no one seems to know anything. -- Tom]

Do you want to tell Robert Shea fans something about him they might not know? Is there anything your father told you that sticks with you that you'd like to share?

MIKE SHEA: He was a pretty normal guy. For the guy who edited at Playboy and wrote Illuminatus! and marched in the 60s and all of that, he was a pretty straight forward dude. He took his walks every day. He took naps. He was always soft spoken and relaxed. Our family certainly had some hardships but he always kept on going. He had an awesome office full of his tchotchkes and tacky souvenirs that he loved. Even though he stopped smoking in the early 80s his office always smelled like a tobacco shop, which was nice.

Boy did he collect books. He had these huge old green shelves in the back of his office. He filled it up with books, then crammed more books above the ones lined up on the shelves, then another row in front of the first, then more crammed in above that. Pretty much as many books as you could pack in. One day I came home from school and he was yelling at me for help. The book case had collapsed in front of the door of his office, trapping him inside. He was slowly working his way through the bookcase, piling up these monoliths of books across the office floor. He might have starved back there but at least he had something to read!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Welcome to Robert Shea Week

Robert Shea, wearing a T-shirt proclaiming him as "Super Writer," poses with the manuscript of Shike. Photo taken circa 1981, from 

I've long said that as great as Robert Anton Wilson was, his Illuminatus! co-author, Robert  J. Shea, also should be remembered, and still should be read. The "Robert Shea Week" I announced plans for a few weeks ago begins today, with about a week's worth of posts about Shea. 

Shea, of course, besides coming up with the idea for Illuminatus!, getting Dell to buy it and and co-writing it with Robert Anton Wilson, also authored quite a few books on his own, mostly well-received historical novels such as Shike and Shaman and All Things Are Lights. He was working on two more novels when cancer claimed  him on March 10, 1994. He was only 61.

Many of my previous postings concerning Shea's work are available under "Robert Shea Resources" and "Illuminatus Resources" on the right side of his page, and I'll also put up links for Robert Shea Week. You can also visit the official page maintained by his son Mike Shea, read the substantial and useful Wikipedia entry.  and read the entry about Shea, by critic John Clute, at the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. 

"Robert Shea Week" should not be taken too literally, but is a flexible event, as "Robert Anton Wilson Week" was at Boing Boing years ago. I am expecting the publication soon of the new Starseed Signals "lost" RAW book and Prop Anon has been hoping to make an announcement about his Robert Anton Wilson biography, and who knows what other news might emerge. If there is "breaking news," you will get it here without delay, and then Robert Shea Week will resume. 

Thanks to everyone who has helped me put my Robert Shea Week posts together. I got one response when I offered to publish guest posts, and that will be up soon,  and I also got help from others for requests for favors or information; it's not too late to send me something or just to post a comment on one of the blog articles. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

amoeba VR showreel


I don't see an option for embedding or uploading the video to this blog post, but seriously, do yourself a favor and go to the link and watch the two-minute from @amoebedesign, e.g. Scott McPherson, the guy doing the book covers Hilaritas Press. The Illuminatus!/RAW stuff comes at the beginning, but I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy all of it. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Patreon news

Prop Anon, author of an upcoming RAW biography, has created a Patreon account. On Twitter, Prop explains, "Thru here I will release some real kool RAW related interviews with some of the great minds he inspired to those willing to listen. Stuff like this and more.

"Please consider giving me some money. I'll pray for ya."

Prop is hoping to have an announcement soon on his Robert Anton Wilson book, and I will report any news here. Prop also has just endorsed the new edition of Eric Wagner's Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, see the comments to this post

Prop is not the only member of the RAW community on Patreon; you can also use Patreon to provide tangible support for Bobby Campbell and for Steve Fly aka Steve Pratt. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Thursday links

Chris Frantz (James Swaffield photo provided by publicist)

The "RAW Semantics Guy" posts his biography. He's Brian Dean, and he's done other interesting things. 

Herd immunity may be arriving early. 

My interview with Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. 

Republican who just won Congressional primary. I try to avoid politics here, but come on. 

How to be angry and anxious. 

How do I pursue a career in the music industry while avoiding the "Illuminati"? (All good, but one bit relevant to this blog: "I’d start by reading Masks of the Illuminati, by R. A. Wilson. It’s a relatively short novel, and will get you acquainted with the lay of the land, so to speak."