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

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Two literary legacies, two different approaches

Robert Shea died in 1994, Robert Anton Wilson died in 2007, and since then, their work has been in the hands of their literary executors: Shea's son, Michael Shea, and Wilson's oldest daughter, Christina Pearson.

It's interesting to contrast the varying approaches that have been taken.

The RAW Trust controls the vast majority of Wilson's titles. And as you likely know if  you are reading this blog, the publishing imprint of the RAW Trust, Hilaritas Press, has done a series of carefully edited definitive reissues of Wilson's work, with most of the titles republished by now. This has essentially been Rasa's main job for years, bur he has been able to obtain help from a small army of volunteers to help with the copyediting chores and other duties.

Wilson of course has remained a cult figure, and there are a number of RAW Facebook groups. There are RAW Twitter accounts, including one maintained by Bobby Campbell, and the RAW Trust account. There are blogs such as my own and RAW Semantics, websites, and other internet presences that I am likely forgetting. Steve Pratt supports interest in RAW across multiple platforms. Daisy Campbell has mounted live theater productions. I really can't list everyone who is active. 

So, in other words, there is a built in infrastructure to support Hilaritas, not just with volunteers to assist Rasa, but a kind of decentralized publicity network to let folks know that reissued and new RAW titles are out there.

While Robert Shea continues to have fans, such as myself and Arthur Hlavaty, there isn't really a Shea network out there. There aren't social media efforts devoted to Shea. There are no rap musicians along the lines of Canadian rapper and RAW fan Noah23, who take their name from Robert Shea and advertise him in their work. 

So Mike Shea has taken a different approach. He has maintained the official Robert Shea website, providing a place for people interested in Shea.

Moreover, he has generously released all of his father's novels on the internet under a Creative Commons license. You can read every one of Shea's solo novels for free, from sources such as the Shea website, Project Gutenberg and the Internet archive, among other places.

It seems to me that Mike's approach has worked well and has been logical, considering the situation of Shea's literary legacy. Mike has made a priority of providing readers access to his father's work.

I should mention that Shea's work remains available at least somewhat in public libraries, both as books sitting on the shelf and in digital editions. lluminatus! is available as an ebook to borrow from the Libby public library app, offered by many libraries. Hoopla Digital, offered by many libraries, has an ebook of Shaman, and a couple of his short stories. 


Rarebit Fiend said...

After reading "All Things Are Lights," I think it is regrettable that Shea isn't more widely read. I remember while reading it that the book reminded me of John M. Ford's excellent "The Dragon Waiting." It wasn't as fantastic as Ford's novel, but the attention to detail and engaging plot was definetely there. And Shea does melodrama really well, making some parts delightful page-turners. I hope that one day it'll get another, nicer edition.

Spookah said...

Although as a supporter of free culture I can only applaud the choice to make Bob Shea's literary output available for free, I wonder if Mike Shea and Rasa would consider the idea of repressing his novels through Hilaritas Press.