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

Sunday, April 30, 2023

'The Murder of God's Banker'

Roberto Calvi (public domain photo). 

 The Murder of God's Banker is a series that is running on Paramount Plus, here is the trailer.  It is about the mysterious death of Roberto Calvi, which Robert Anton Wilson wrote about. Rob Pugh reports, "I'm about halfway Rob says. Thank you to Rob for the tip. 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Hilaritas podcast releases Kevin Kelly segment


The folks at Hilaritas Press have released a bonus episode (above and probably on your favorite podcast app) with author and pundit Kevin Kelly of "Wired" magazine fame, here is the official show link. I have not had time to listen yet so I don't know the purported link to RAW, but I think Kelly's brand of techno optimism is a good fit with RAW's own philosophy, and I am a Kevin Kelly fan and look forward to the podcast.

Here is the official show blurb: "In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with Senior Maverick at Wired, author of the bestseller book, The Inevitable, Cool Tool maven, Recomendo chief, Asia-fan, and True Film buff, Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) on his new book, Excellent Advice for Living, Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier, artificial intelligence, and more in this special episode of the Hilaritas Podcast."

Much of the advice consists of short aphorisms previously posted for free at Kelly's website, and I liked his advice well enough to bookmark it. When I went back to the bookmark the other day, I found that the advice has been removed except for a free sample of five bits of advice,  Kelly says this about the book: "I gathered the three lists, weeded out the weak ones, polished up the best, and then I wrote an additional 150 more bits of advice, until I had 450 of them. I put them all into a small book you can slip into your pocket."

Here is Mark Fraunfelder's post about the book,  with Mark's favorite ten pieces of advice. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

The 'Wasteland' comic book


The Twitter Ong's Hat account, e.g. Joseph Matheny, on the Wasteland comic book series: "Great series. Stories by John Ostrander and Del Close. Appearances as comic characters by RAW, Leary, PKD, etc.  Has been seen in the torrent world, possibly placed there by someone you know."

"Read online."

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Delaware approves marijuana legalization

Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash

Marijuana legalization has suffered some setbacks recently in the U.S., but now there's some good news to report on the "war on some drugs": Marijuana legalization has been approved in Delaware. Jacob Sullum at Reason, who always does a good job with this issue, has the details. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

RAW on John Barth


John Barth (Creative Commons photo by John Mathew Smith, source). 

A followup to yesterday's post: Robert Anton Wilson was a John Barth fan.

After Robert Shea noted John Gardner's comment about Barth and RAW, Wilson wrote (in a letter to No Governor 11

"I can't answer Arthur Hlavaty's question about what John Barth thinks of my novels, but I can easily answer his second question. I enjoy Barth's books enormously. I think his Sabbatical covers the malaise of our time better than professional spy-thriller writers like Ambler and Le Carre have ever done. Just because one is never sure if the CIA killed the man on the boat or is trying to kill the hero, Sabbatical leaves one with precisely the sense of uncertainty and dread that has hung over this nation since democracy was abandoned in the National Security Act of 1947 and clandestine government became official.

"Sometimes I find it astounding that we have lived under fascism for 40 years while continuing the rituals of democracy -- and that hardly any "major" novelist has tried to grapple with this issue. I salute Barth for his subtlety and the eerie atmosphere he creates in describing our increasingly Machiavellian world. To be brutally frank and eschew false modesty, I think only Mailer, Pynchon and myself have captured the terror of the situation as well as Barth did in that book.

"Oh, yeah, I like Barth's other books, too. Sabbatical just happens to be my favorite."

I had an earlier post about this, but it seems timely to repeat the RAW quote. Here is Arthur Hlavaty on Barth, and see the comments in yesterday's post. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Novelist John Gardner on RAW

John Gardner (public domain photo)

 The American novelist John Gardner, author of fiction such as The Sunlight Dialogues and Grendel, also wrote books of literary criticism and writing. He was only 49 when he died suddenly in 1982, in a motorcycle accident. Robert Shea used to read a lot of literary fiction, and books about writing, and he noticed that Gardner had praised Robert Anton Wilson. 

In his newsletter No Governor issue No. 9 (I have all of them available via a link on this page, on the right, under "Robert Shea Resources"), Shea writes, "I've been reading On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, a very fine writer whose life was cut short a few years ago by a motorcycle accident. (Some time I must vent some of my feelings about motorcycles). To my surprise and pleasure I ran across a nice compliment to two of my friends, one being our own BobW, on page 94. Talking about science fiction (and tell  your snobby friends John Gardner refers to it is "sci-fi") he lists a number of writers he likes and winds up with, 'One finds a fair amount of literary merit in Algis J. Budrys' Michaelmas or the work of Robert Wilson whose novels (for instance Schroedinger's Cat) out-Barth John Barth without sacrificing the primary quality of good fiction, interesting storytelling.' One could do worse than out-Barth Barth. I look forward to the day when a literary critic remarks that some work by John Barth 'almost out-Wilson's Robert Anton Wilson'."

Shea published some science fiction short stories in the 1950s and was invited to join the Hydra Club. He knew various science fiction figures and was friends with Budrys and science fiction magazine editor Larry T. Shaw.  I read a Barth novel, The Floating Opera, when I was in college. I've read two John Gardner  novels, Grendel and Mikkelson's Ghosts. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Hilaritas podcast with musician Zach West

 The 20th episode of the Hilaritas Press podcast has been released. More information and useful links at the link. 

"Hilaritas host Mike Gathers with musician and Chaos magickian Zach West, about Probability Engineering and his Eight Circuits of Music in Episode 20 of the Hilaritas Podcast."

Zach West on Twitter. 


Saturday, April 22, 2023

Eric Wagner on Ezra Pound, RAW and 'Intolerance'

Scene from the 1916 film Intolerance (Alfred Paget as Prince Belshazzar).

In the latest regular Hilaritas podcast, featuring Eric Wagner on Ezra Pound, Eric contends that to really understand Robert Anton Wilson, the reader must wrestle with Ezra Pound.  Eric is, as I've mentioned before, the author of the revised edition of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson; I keep the Kindle on my phone for ready reference. 

One important point Eric makes early in the hour-long podcast with Mike Gathers is that regardless of what one thinks of Pound's more dire views,which he recanted late in life, he played a major role in assisting many of the top writers of the 20th century, including James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway. Eric also makes reading recommendations for Pound, but see also his recommendations in the comments for my earlier post on the podcast. 

One  other point: Eric remarks in passing that Illuminatus!  "based on" D.W. Griffith's movie Intolerance. While I knew Wilson admired the film,, I didn't  know (or at least didn't remember) that the movie influenced Illuminatus!, so I did some searching. In this interview of RAW by Neal Wilgus, RAW, referring to Illuminatus!, says, "The narrative technique is based on D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, which I think is the greatest movie ever made." (The interview is excerpted in The Illuminati Papers, but not the bit about Intolerance.)

Intolerance is a three-hour epic, but evidently I need to get around to watching it. 

A question for Eric: Robert Shea's acknowledgements for All Things Are Lights mentions RAW. Should we guess that RAW recommended Pound's The Spirit of Romance, and that the book influenced Shea's novel? 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Ray Bradbury's Zen

On Twitter, Prop Anon spots an article by Ray Bradbury, "Zen and the Art of Writing," from the October 1958 issue of "Writer" magazine, available at the Internet Archive. In the article, Bradbury offers writing advice, and tells his readers to hunt up a copy of Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. (Bradbury apparently gets the title slightly wrong.)

Prop wrote on Twitter that the Bradbury piece was  "influential."

It certainly influenced Robert Shea. In the Science Fiction Review interview with Shea, which I referenced yesterday, Shea talks about how the article had a big influence on him. Shea also talks about his Zen practice, and  his  habitat of meditating every day. It's a very in-depth and interesting interview. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Robert Shea on 'All Things Are Lights'

 I plan to do a "Robert Shea Week," probably in late May, and I've invited people who read this blog to read  his historical novel All Things Are Lights and discuss it with me when I post about the book that week. I plan to reread the book.

Here is Shea on the novel, from a 1985 interview by Neal Wilgus published in Science Fiction Review,  a big SF fanzine in those days.

SFR: Could you describe All Things Are Lights for us?

SHEA: The title comes from a medieval philosopher, Scotus Erigena, who said, “All that are, are lights.” The main characters have an outlook that is as mystical as that statement, only their mysticism is not of the orthodox variety. The main character is a troubadour who achieves illumination in an adulterous affair with a countess through the rites of courtly love, which I portray as a Westernized version of tantric yoga. The troubadour is also in love with a woman minister of the heretical Cathar sect. Nowadays they tell women they can’t be priests; in those days they burned them at the stake for trying. These people get caught up in the disastrous Seventh Crusade led by King Louis IX, known today as St. Louis. The crusaders are eventually defeated by the Egyptian Mamalukes. The survivors, including the King, are held as hostages by the Moslems and try to save their lives by paying an enormous ransom.

Blogger's note: Elsewhere  in the  interview, Shea remarks  that there are threads  connecting All Things Are Lights  with Illuminatus! Here is my blog post in which I discuss those connections, see also the comments from Michael Johnson and Eric Wagner. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Robert Anton Wilson on AI

Illustration for new track posted at Steve "Fly" Pratt's new Substack. 

Steve "Fly" Pratt posts a short piece by RAW that resonates with all of the recent news about advances in AI. I don't want to spoil it by summarizing it; it's not very long, just read it. 

Also, note that Steve has launched a new Substack.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

New article on Kerry Thornley, Oswald and Eris (the planet)

A Hubble Space Telescope photo of Eris. Public domain photo. 

About ten years ago, I did a brief blog post about the solar system's dwarf planet, Eris, and the astronomer who named it, noting the scientist's apparently Discordian background. 

A new article, "Kerry Thornley: Dwarf Planet Eris, Discordianism and the John F. Kennedy Assassination," by Alden Loveshade, goes over the Discordian history that will be familiar to some of you. The naming of the dwarf planet Eris is what I know the least about, so I was most interested in that part of the story, and would like to know more. I guess I need to get around to reading astronomer Mike Brown's book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.

There isn't a good photo of the planet Eris available yet apparently; I've shared what's shown at the Wikipedia article.  The story of the goddess Eris and her role in starting the Trojan War, wielding a golden apple because she didn't get invited to an important social event, is told in Illuminatus!.

Hat tip: William H. Stoddard, president of the Libertarian Futurist Society, the folks who give out the Prometheus Award. 

Monday, April 17, 2023

Section of San Francisco street named for Emperor Norton

Joshua Norton, emperor of the United States and protector of Mexico. 

Emperor Joshua Norton, mentioned of course quite a few times in the Illuminatus!, has been honored by having a section of street in San Francisco named after him. A posting at the Boing Boing website explains:

"In a delightful update from San Francisco, Emperor Norton I, the charming 19th-century eccentric, is being honored with a street named after him in Chinatown. The 600 block of Commercial Street, located between Montgomery and Kearny Streets, is now officially known as "Emperor Norton Place." Interestingly, Norton actually lived on this very block in a building called the Eureka Lodgings from around 1864-1865 until his death in 1880."

More at the link. The author of the Boing Boing piece is Rusty Blazenhoff, a byline I don't recognize, but apparently Rusty is a regular contributor. Good for Rusty for spotting this. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

"Against Ice Age Civilizations'

Graham Hancock. Creative Commons photo. Source. 

I think it's safe to say there are at least some Robert Anton Wilson fans who are interested in Graham Hancock, the British writer who claims there were advanced Ice Age civilizations before the known civilizations of antiquity. Jesse Michels, the purported "modern-day Robert Anton Wilson," has featured Graham Hancock on his YouTube show.  The Daily Grail website, has 154 results when you search for "Robert Anton Wilson," and 459 if you search for Graham Hancock.

So I thought sombunall of  you might be interested in "Against Ice  Age Civilizations," a piece by Substack blogger Scott Alexander. 

Alexander says there are actually three separate claims (1)  Civilizations about as advanced as the people who built Stonehenge (2) Civilizations about as advanced as Pharaonic Egypt and  (3) Civilizations about as advanced as 1700s Great Britain, and says Hancock is making the third claim.

Alexander then considers the evidence, such as the lack of surviving sites, the absence of cultivated crops that can be traced back to the Ice Age, and the lack of evidence for high levels of lead until about 1,000 BC.

"I think there’s pretty strong evidence against lost Egypt- or Great Britain- level Ice Age civilizations," Alexander says "I don’t want to rule out a lost Stonehenge or Gobekli Tepe level civilization, but there’s not much positive evidence, and there’s some negative evidence."

Friday, April 14, 2023

Antero Alli releases new book

Antero Alli has been releasing new work since his serious illness was announced, and now he has released what may be his last book, Sacred Rites, available from Original Falcon Press. (Note that Amazon has dropped Mobi file support for send to Kindle and that sending an Epub file now works fine for that option).

Here is the publisher description:

"Sacred Rites documents the author’s personal experiences with the transformative ritual medium of Paratheatre that he has developed since 1977. Through his private ritual journals written over eleven years (2000–2011), Alli bypasses historical definitions of ritual beyond the costumed spectacles of the robes and wands of Western occult ceremonial magick, the archaic history of pagan nature rites, and the somber pomp of the Catholic High Mass with its wafers, cheap wine, and sermons chanted in the dead language of Latin. His Production Notes explain how his ritual labs transformed into public performances, and inspired the creation of his underground films. Also featured are Ritual Journal Entries of a dozen individuals who trained with Antero, plus an outline for the facilitating Introductory Workshops."

Thursday, April 13, 2023

A couple of places where RAW was right?

A new paper, "Why Did Putin Invade Ukraine? A Theory of Degenerate Autocracy," by Georgy Egorov, a managerial economics professor at Northwestern University, and Konstantin Sonin, a political economist at the University of Chicago, attempts to shed light on why dictators make disastrous decisions, such as Hitler deciding to attack the Soviet Union, or Putin deciding to invade Ukraine. The abstract suggests "an institutional environment in which better-informed subordinates have no chance to prevent the decision from being implemented ...  the incumbent puts more emphasis on loyalty than competence."

As I pointed out in the comments when Tyler Cowen posted a link, this seems to be at least partially a restatement of the SNAFU principle in Illuminatus! that communication is only possible between equals. 

Here is another new paper: 'The Counter-Reformation, Science, and Long-Term Growth: A Black Legend?" by Matías Cabello of Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg. A posting on Twitter offers a handy summary: "New paper: before the Counter-Reformation, Catholic and Protestant cities had comparable numbers of scientists per capita.  Afterwards, Catholic cities experienced a persistent relative decline. Counter-Reformation's search for heresy was a negative shock to science."

In an interview that I can't give a citation for, because I cannot remember which one it was, Robert Anton Wilson noted that Sigismundo Celine, the hero of his "Historical Illuminatus!" novels, discovers that England is more advanced in many ways than Italy, because it is more free -- it doesn't have an Inquisition.

And although I can't point to  that interview, I can note that Wilson makes much the same point in the introduction to The Walls Came Tumbling Down, which as I noted the other day, has just been reissued by Hilaritas. 

Wilson writes, "After the coming of the Holy Inquisition, nobody discovered any new chemical elements in the Catholic nations of Europe; all the new chemical discoveries, i.e. the majority of the elements now known, came from Protestant nations. (See my Reality Is What You Can Get Away With for more data on this.) 

"Even today,  the effects of the Inquisition linger on, visibly, in the quality of life in most of northern Europe as compared to southern (Catholic) Europe."

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

What sort of philosophy is appealing?

I got interested in Epicureanism about a couple of years ago, when I read this statement from Bryan Caplan in one of his blog posts: "The best three pages in philosophy remain Epicurus’ 'Letter to Menoeceus'.” 

When I hunted up the document and read it -- it's not very long -- I was impressed, and I started to read books about Epicureanism. So far I have read five. The first four were, in the order I read them, Epicurus and the Pleasant Life, Haris Dimitriadis; Epicurus and His Philosophy, Norman Wentworth DeWitt; Epicureanism: A Very Short Introduction by Catherine Wilson and How to Be An Epicurean: The Ancient Art of Living Well, also by Catherine Wilson. (If you read the Letter to Menoeceus you'll see that Epicureanism, contrary to popular impr ession, is not all about fancy meals and "wine, women and song"; Epicurus is clear that many desires are harmful. It's a remarkably modern and sensible philosophy, in contrast to Stoicism, which seems to be having a moment for reasons I can't make out). 

I've just finished my fifth book on Epicureanism, and it's the one I like best of all: Living for Pleasure by Emily A. Austin. 

It's a new book, it's only been out for a few months. Dr. Austin is a philosophy professor at Wake Forest University. I love the book both because Professor Austin does a great job of discussing Epicurus' philosophy, which I largely agree with, and explaining how to apply it to one's life, which I am trying to do. Professor Austin is, as one might expect, a specialist in ancient Greek philosophy. She knows Greek, Latin and German. Most of her academic papers concern with how ancient Greek philosophy deals with the fear of death, and there's a funny passage in the book about that; apparently professors when they meet ask what each other's specialty is, and when Austin answers the question, she often gets the response, "Maybe let's talk about my work instead of yours." I guess it's not a very flirtatious conversation topic. 

In spite of the fact that it's a new book put out by an academic publisher, Oxford University Press, it's reasonably priced; my copy is a Kindle that cost about $11.

I mention the book not only because I have to assume that some of the blog's readers might be interested in a good book about philosophy, but also because I was struck by one of Professor Austin's statements in the last chapter of her book, where she  begins by explaining why she wrote the book and how she chose her academic specialty:

"I have welcomed the recent resurgence of interest in philosophy as an approach to living, an idea that fell out of favor among Anglo-American philosophers in the early twentieth century for reasons no one can fully explain. I chose to study the Ancient Greek philosophers for two reasons -- they resisted the modern impulse to over-specialize and they thought philosophy could help  us make sense of our lives."

Doesn't that last sentence describe Robert Anton Wilson a bit? He was a generalist interested in many different topics, ranging from quantum physics to Beethoven to James Joyce. And he tried to figure out what was the best way for him to live; see Cosmic Trigger 2, for example.

But I remain puzzled that Wilson did not write more himself about the ancient Greek philosophers. Yes, there are many mentions of Aristotle in his work. But where is the mention of Pyrrho, and the other Greek skeptics, whom I assume a skeptic such as RAW would have read about

Pyrrho is said to have reached India, as he apparently traveled with Alexander the Great's army. There are at least two books which argue that  he interacted with Buddhist philosophers and was influenced by them: Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia by Christopher Beckwith, and Pyrrho's Way: The Ancient Greek Version of Buddhism, by Douglas Bates. So I would think Wilson would be intrigued. Perhaps it is simply that modern culture is so vast, it's impossible to come across everything interesting. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

'The Walls Came Tumbling Down' is a nice treat for RAW fans

Still getting caught up on my reading after being busy with the Prometheus Award (see yesterday's post), I finally finished the new Hilaritas Press edition of The Walls Came Tumbling Down, Robert Anton Wilson's unproduced screenplay about the Chapel Perilous experience of a college professor. 

It's not a very long book -- I read the bulk of it in the course of one evening -- but while I have no opinion on how well the screenplay would  have worked as a film, I thought it was a good, concentrated dose of RAW, and I enjoyed it. Walls was one of the few RAW books I had not read before. 

The book also includes an interesting introduction by RAW, and RAW also has a piece that explains the directions in a screenplay so that his own script would be easier to read for people not familiar with the film business.

The Hilaritas edition also features an insightful Foreword by Gregory Arnott which points out aspects of the screenplay I had not noticed on my own. There's also a really good afterword by Bobby Campbell, an anecdote about meeting RAW, and a reprint of Alan Moore's moving eulogy for RAW. 

Monday, April 10, 2023

Prometheus Award finalists announced

 [The connection with this blog is that the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award is the only literary award that Illuminatus! ever received, plus Robert Shea was involved with the award for years. Also, I am a nominations judge. I'm posting the official press release here. The Mgt.]


Works by Carey, Freer, Gallagher, Hanka and Van Stry selected as finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society, a nonprofit all-volunteer international organization of freedom-loving science fiction fans, has announced five finalists for the Best Novel category of the 43rd annual Prometheus Awards.

The Best Novel winner will receive an engraved plaque with a one-ounce gold coin. An online Prometheus awards ceremony is planned for August at a time and event to be announced.

In brief, here are the five Best Novel finalists: Widowland, by C.J. Carey (Quercus); Cloud-Castles, by Dave Freer (Magic Isle Press); Captain Trader Helmsman Spy, by Karl. K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press); A Beast Cannot Feign, by “Dr. Insensitive Jerk” (AKA Gordon Hanka) (Amazon); and Summer’s End, by John Van Stry (Baen Books.)

Here are capsule descriptions of the Best Novel finalists (listed in alphabetical order by author), explaining how they fit the distinctive focus of the Prometheus Awards:

* Widowland, by C.J. Carey (Quercus) – This dystopic alternate history focuses on oppressed castes of women in a Nazi-controlled Great Britain protectorate after World War II. The protagonist is an English woman working in a faceless bureaucracy to rewrite the novels of women such as Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and Louisa May Alcott. We see her dawning awareness and quiet resistance to the regime’s efforts to expunge from literature proto-feminist themes of independence that might threaten the new order of conformity, obedience and repression. Suspenseful and plausible in its plot, characterization and world-building, the novel goes an imaginative step beyond the focus of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four on news propaganda and history suppression to explore the bowdlerization of culture and suggest how classic literature and art inspire people to think for themselves and challenge authoritarian regimes.

* Cloud-Castles, by Dave Freer (Magic Isle Press) – Set on diverse habitats floating above a gas-giant planet, this zestful and often funny coming-of-age adventure charts the progress of a mis-educated, socially awkward and well-meaning young man, brilliant but naïve, thrust into a succession of strange human and alien cultures and life- and liberty-threatening situations. With help from a street-smart sidekick, he escapes imprisonment and slavery and forges innovative, profitable businesses with decentralized, stateless people scattered through the planet’s clouds. Through such entrepreneurship, cooperative individualism and fish-out-of-water encounters with an "outback" frontier culture reflecting the Australian novelist’s own heritage, the story (formally a comedy in structure according to classic Greek definition) reveals how markets work, why profits are moral and necessary in a free society and how societies flourish through reinvestment and market innovation.

* Captain Trader Helmsman Spy, by Karl. K. Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press) –The fourth novel in Gallagher’s Fall of the Censor series (Storm Between the Stars, Between Home and Ruin, and Seize What’s Held Dear, all previous finalists) explores how people cooperate voluntarily even in the underground niches of a statist system. The series portrays an interstellar war between a long-isolated alliance of solar systems with basically free societies and a vast empire that maintains control by continuously purging history and destroying older books. The title character is a starship captain commanding a spying expedition, disguised as a merchant venture, into enemy territory. The captain and crew strive to gain key information and insights about the aggressors while navigating their way under cover amid exotic human cultures with radically different customs and laws – including slaver societies and worlds where women oppress men.

* A Beast Cannot Feign, by “Dr. Insensitive Jerk” (AKA Gordon Hanka) (Amazon)– Provocative, politically incorrect and sometimes intentionally in poor taste, this satire weaves melodramatic villains and a critique of authoritarian progressive politics into a story of first contact. The “aliens” are actually genetically modified humans, mysteriously different in their customs and behavior, who have returned to Earth to establish a radically free colony against strong official resistance. The author explores the human capacity for self-deception, mocks the excesses of government regulation and bureaucracy, and as a cautionary tale, shows the tragedy of mutual misunderstandings that can spark conflict and violence between radically different cultures. This novel radically tests the nature and boundaries of coercion and consent – fundamental issues in libertarianism – as they might apply to the economy, government and sexual politics.

* Summer’s End, by John Van Stry (Baen Books) – Notable for its unusually detailed focus on free-market economics and practical cost-versus-risk calculations affecting affordable spaceship travel and engine/gravity maintenance, this coming-of-age adventure weaves family issues, emerging friendships, class differences, political conflicts, straight and gay romance, humor and clashing cultures into a Heinlein-juvenile-style hero’s journey. The well-paced tale is told through the eyes of a young engineering-school graduate, a former gang member struggling to reform his violent impulses and escape low-class “Prole” origins, who has lots to learn after taking an apprentice-level job on an old tramp steamer plying trade routes among habitats and moons throughout the solar system (including libertarian communities on Ceres). Struggling to apply what he’s learned, the engineer hopes to liberate his genius brother from a corrupt and repressive society on Earth.

Fifteen novels (virtually all published in 2022, with one published in the last two months of 2021, eligible under the rules) were nominated by LFS members for this year's award. 

Also nominated: The School for Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan (Simon & Schuster); Let Us Tell You Again, by Mackey Chandler (Amazon; Entropy, by Dana Hayward (Amazon); The Master Code, by T.A. Hunter (Amazon); Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press); Openings: A Hayek Chronicles Novel, by James S. Peet (self-published); Sisters of the Vast Black and Sisters of the Forsaken Stars (a combined nomination), by Lina Rather (Tor Books, Tordotcom); The Warrior Worlds,  by Stephen Renneberg  (Amazon); Ex Supra, by Tony Stark (Amazon); and Termination Shock,  by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow).

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently given in sf. The Prometheus Hall of Fame category for Best Classic Fiction, launched in 1983, is presented annually with the Best Novel category.

For more than four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor voluntary cooperation over institutionalized coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the ethical and practical foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, mutual respect, and civilization itself.

All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for the Prometheus Awards. A 12-person judging committee, drawn from the membership, selects the Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel. Following the selection of finalists, all LFS upper-level members (Benefactors, Sponsors and Full Members) have the right to vote on the Best Novel finalist slate to choose the annual winner. 

Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit For reviews and commentary on these and other works of interest to the LFS, visit the Prometheus blog via our website link. 

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Update on the new RAW Crowley book

 I suspect many people are as excited as I am about the new Robert Anton Wilson book on Aleister Crowley that Hilaritas is putting out soon, so I asked Mike Gathers for an update, and he obliged. A publication date is not available, but work is moving along, and it should actually be out before too long. Here is what Mike told me:

"We're nearing the final stages of the process.  The final product starts with a RAW invocation and consists of 6 essays by Wilson on Crowley - the centerpiece being the recently discovered Harvard typescript.  We have introductions/forwards by Lon Milo DuQuette and Richard Kaczynski (author of Perdurabo), as well as afterwords by Oz Fritz, Gregory Arnott, and Michael Johnson.  Johnson's piece is a whopper."

Saturday, April 8, 2023

RAW Semantics DESTROYS Glenn Greenwald

Part of the fun of RAW Semantics is that Brian has gotten really good with his illustrations. 

The RAW Semantics blog has an interesting new post up, "RAW as media critic #1." It's long, but you can read it in sections. Part two  apparently will be up soon.

Rather than try to summarize the post, which has a number of observations, I'll comment on a couple of things I found interesting.

Brian's survey of the social media scene can be depressing. Here is one observation I found kind of sad:

"Incidentally, those attention-grabbing war metaphors for criticism (“TAKEDOWN”, “ANNIHILATES”, “DESTROYS”, etc) apparently boost algorithm ranking dramatically on Youtube. So, in the competition for numbers, we end up getting “Elon Musk Just DESTROYED What Was Left Of The MSM’s Credibility” and “Economist DESTROYS Tory Budget”, etc. (Owen Jones, the UK journalist who posted the latter, admits he puts “DESTROYS” in his video titles because it gets him a larger audience)."

When I get an email from a left wing group with the subject line along the lines of "Elizabeth Warren DESTROYS Clarence Thomas" or from a right wing source with the subject "Donald Trump wants to know why he hasn't heard from you," I just delete it, cursing the fact that the sender assumes I am stupid. The fact that such come-ons actually are attractive to the credulous is the most depressing thing I read all day Friday. Of course, with my headline today I am having fun with what Brian talks about. 

I knew something about Brian's thoughts on social media from following him on Twitter. 

I say this to make a point. I don't rely on my main social media site, Twitter, to decide what I am going to read. As a rule, I work with curated lists, and the RAW Semantics Twitter account is included in both of the ones I look at every day.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Bobby Campbell announces Maybe Day celebration plans

Art for Maybe Day 2023 by Bobby Campbell. 

Bobby Campbell has been organizing Maybe Day celebrations for the last few years to celebrate Robert Anton Wilson each July 23, and he's already announced what's planned for this  year. Bobby notes that this year will be the 50th anniversary of RAW's possible contact with entities from Sirius on July 23, 1973. Here's what's cooking (source):

"We will be re-engaging the COSMIC TRIGGER on July 23rd 8:08 AM UTC at

"Let this serve as a clarion call for RAW art, video presentations, writing, and whatever else besides!

"You can either send in your work to be featured on the Maybe Day site itself, and/or submit a link to be added to the NEW TRAJECTORIES WEBRING. (

"The idea is simple: Make something cool • Share it • Explore the others!"

More information here.


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Hilaritas Press and revising RAW's words

Agatha Christie (Creative Commons photo, source.)

Many of you have probably been following the news stories about works by Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, Ursula K. LeGuin and Ian Fleming being revised  to bring them in tune with modern sensibilities.

"Imagine a world in which publishers would pay a contemporary writer/critic to write an incisive intro that would consider the context in which specific books were written rather than changing the language," writes Maris Kreizman, an author and podcaster, on Twitter.

As far as I can tell, this is exactly the policy that Rasa follows at Hilaritas Press. Some of Robert Anton Wilson's books are decades old, and given the swift changes in mores, some of RAW's words have not aged well (e.g., referring to a woman as "frigid," using LSD to help homosexuals, etc.) Hilaritas has coped with this by commissioning pieces from various folks, which put RAW's words in context and which also add value for people considering buying the new edition. I don't speak for Rasa of course, but I'm pretty sure his policy has been to only correct obvious typos and mistakes but not to make substantive changes.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Jesse Walker releases paper on Wilson and Shea in the battle over sex education

American newspaper publisher R.C. Hoiles. Hoiles was one of the few in U.S. newspapers to speak out against the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. 

Jesse Walker recently wrote about attending a conference on conspiracy theories in Florida and presenting a paper there. Jesse has now publicly released the most recent draft of his paper, "The Great Groomer Panic of 1968–70: Birchers, Discordians, and the Sex Ed Wars," and it's available to be read at the link. 

As the title suggests, the paper provides some Discordian history, but in depicting the fight over sex education within the libertarian movement, Jesse also gives some background on Illuminatus! The libertarians favoring sex education in the dispute are none other than Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. 

Here is the abstract for the paper: "Anaheim, California, was one of the first battlegrounds in the wars over sex education that started erupting in the 1960s. Radical libertarians found themselves playing notable parts (though not always high-profile ones) on both sides of the conflict. This paper examines the roles of R.C. Hoiles on the anti-sex-education side of the debate and of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea on the pro-sex-education side; it also describes how another radical libertarian, Ralph Raico, essentially synthesized the Hoiles and Wilson/Shea positions. The paper argues that these rival approaches reflect conflicting ideas about liberty that can also be found outside the libertarian movement, sometimes in ways that confound conventional models of the ideological spectrum."

Here is Jesse's promotional Tweet: "In case you missed it yesterday, here's a history paper I've been working on. The cast of characters includes a surf-rock producer, a conspiracy-chasing newspaperman, a pair of pranksters at Playboy magazine, John Carradine, Walter Winchell, and (in a footnote) Orson Welles."

Monday, April 3, 2023

R. Michael Johnson's excellent essay for the new 'TSOG'

I wasn't really sure I was going to buy the Hilaritas Press edition of TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution and Other Everyday Monsters, as I already has the New Falcon edition. What tipped me into making the purchase was the additional pieces by Bobby Campbell, Steve Pratt and R. Michael Johnson.

All of these guys step up to the plate and deliver. Bobby's piece is about the title. I agreed with all of his comments. Steve talks about how TSOG is a favorite of his among Robert Anton Wilson's works. This might be a good time to mention Steve's book,   Fly On The Tale of the Tribe: A Rollercoaster Ride With Robert Anton Wilson, which discusses the unfinished RAW book outlined at the end of RAW.

And then there is R. Michael Johnson's piece, "Notes on Wilson, Vico, Language and Class Warfare," a long essay. I learned a lot about Vico and RAW's attitudes toward class, but also learned about other points in RAW's writing. 

Michael has a deep familiarity with the writings of Robert Anton Wilson (he once told me that he reads Wilson every day), but as his piece makes clear, he also has carefully read the writers who influenced Wilson. (Eric Wagner has nicknamed Michael "Dr. Johnson" because of his erudition). As a result, when Michael offers an opinion about an aspect of Wilson's writing, he often seems authoritative. 

A couple of examples: Michael mentions Alan Watts' remark that the Roman Empire never fell, and that claiming otherwise was the "biggest blunder" of historians. I have never felt I really understood the point.  Michael posits that the system of control of the rich over the less rich has persisted since the empire "fell," and hints that was what RAW was referring to. Michael also documents RAW's remark, in a letter, that the footnotes in The Widow's Son, a favorite of many RAW readers, was in part "my attempt to document that Wattsian intuition."

Here is a good sentence from Michael's essay about RAW's use of conspiracy theories: "In fact, RAW, widely linked to 'conspiracy theories' and named as a conspiracy theorist himself by some, probably only took very seriously conspiracy ideas that were linked to some aspect of Class Warfare, or to rival gangs seeking power in a society. Other than that, conspiracy theories for Wilson were mostly for learning about other peoples' reality tunnels, and one's own ability to both entertain the conspiracy as possibly having some truth to it, while always staying agnostic about it all ... " Location 3008 in the ebook, I can't give a page number as I don't have the paper edition, but it's in the section that talks about Buckminster Fuller and Noam Chomsky. 

I am hoping that Michael can be persuaded to write additional pieces for Hilaritas editions. I also hope someday to hear or read all of his interview with Wilson, which so far has only been offered up in tantalizing snippets. 

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Noah23 seeks help with legal woes

Noah23 in concert. Creative Commons photo by Kristinadawn, source.

Noah23, a Canadian rapper influenced by Robert Anton Wilson (hence his name, and see this blog post for background) is facing legal woes and is asking for help at GoFundMe. 

At the GoFundMe page, he explains, "Unfortunately on March 20th, the first day of spring this year, I had some bad luck and was arrested at gunpoint by 5 squad cars.

"I'm currently looking at 7 different charges and I'm raising funds for my legal defence with hopes of remaining free, working and creating music.

"I have no prior record, and I'm a single working father.

"Any way you can help, small or large would be greatly appreciated."

Probably wisely, he doesn't go into more detail. You can read his Wikipedia bio. 

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Podcast: Gregory Arnott on 'Walls' and magick

 Gregory Arnott, who wrote the foreword for the new Hilaritas Press edition of Robert Anton Wilson's The Walls Came Tumbling Down, appears as the guest for a bonus edition of the monthly Hilaritas Press podcast, released to promote the book. Mike Gathers, serving again as the host, gets Gregory to talk about a variety of topics. The first half of the podcast concentrates on the book; the second half focuses on magick. There's discussion of my favorite TV show Twin Peaks, Graham Hancock comes up and Gregory has interesting things to say about UFOlogy. It's a good episode.

The official show site has some links, but I want to add a couple of things mentioned on the show: Gregory's essential reading list for people interested in magic, and Gregory's 2018 talk on RAW and magick.  You'll likely be able to find the podcast on your favorite app (I used Podkicker) but the link to the show site has several suggestions.