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

Sunday, June 16, 2024

RAW bio cancelled; new plans afoot to put it out [UPDATED]

Gabriel Kennedy (e.g., Prop Anon). 

UPDATE: Despite the comments from the publishers, Prop Anon now says, "They did not cancel it. I DID!" I told him I would update this post. I have changed the headline. Prop sent a screenshot of an email he sent to Strange Attractor on May 21, in which he wrote, "I'm thinking this is not meant to be between Strange Attractor and myself. So, I am politely asking you to  release me from my contract." 

Publication has been canceled of Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson by Gabriel Kennedy. 

The book was supposed to be out August 6. Instead, all mention of it disappeared from the websites of Strange Attractor and the MIT Press and from Amazon. 

Plans apparently are afoot to find another home for it. Prop Anon (e.g. Gabriel) plans to provide more information soon. 

"There are some good things happening behind the scenes right now. I cannot speak on it too much at the moment, but will make an announcement very soon," Prop told me.

Don't read too much into this until we get an announcement, but for what it's worth, on Saturday Prop posted on X, "My whole artistic career to this point has been D.I.Y.  I was raised to be a D.I.Y. Artist.  After reading some of the contracts Artists have to sign, I'm gonna stay D.I.Y.! 


I had not kept up with the book but I got word Saturday and then reached out for comment to the co-founders of Strange Attractor, Mark Pilkington and Jamie Sutcliffe.

Mr. Sutcliffe told me, "We had to cancel that book unfortunately, we just couldn't find a viable version of it that both the author and ourselves were happy with despite several editorial revisions. 

"I believe Gabriel will likely publish it elsewhere in a form that works for him, so we wish him well with that, and it's likely you'll to get to read it soon, although I can't tell you when exactly."

Mr. Pilkinton said, "We've had to drop the book from our own schedule, but hopefully Garbiel can find a new home for it soon. We just couldn't find a way to make the book work as part of our list."

The book had been delayed a couple of times before the August 6 date was announced. The publishers had brought in an editor from outside to work with Prop on the book.

The book had originally been announced in 2016; it was to be published in 2017 by TarcherPenguin and was announced by Mitch Horowitz. I don't know what happened to that proposed iteration of the book, but I believe Horowitz may have left the editing post shortly thereafter. Strange Attractor was announced as the publisher in late 2020.  

The biography would be the first written about Robert Anton Wilson, although Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, about Wilson's writings, has now come out in two editions. 

And while we wait for Prop's bio, there is biographical material available elsewhere. Wilson's three Cosmic Trigger books function as memoirs. Beyond Chaos and Beyond, a collection of Wilson's writings edited by D. Scott Apel, includes a long biographical essay about Wilson written by  Apel. 

Note: This blog post  has been updated twice after I received several emails from Prop Anon. 


Oz Fritz said...

Having read, proofed and enjoyed a draft of this bio a couple of years ago I'm curious as to what Strange Attractor's objections are? I don't expect I'll ever know. If memory serves, Wilson and Shea's first novel, Illuminatus! had a lengthy delay (5 years maybe?)between when it was finished and finally published and only then after a significant portion of it got excised.

I've read all the other biographical material mentioned. Quite a lot of new material appears in Chapel Perilous not found elsewhere.

Kudos to Prop for staying true to his vision and not bowing to corporate pressure.

Prop Anon said...

Mark is wrong.
I CANCELLED the Book with Strange Attractor

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I am sure there is a lot of new material and I am eager to read the book when it finally becomes available.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

In fairness to Strange Attractor, I am not sure how "corporate" the publisher is. As far as I can tell, it is a small press, founded by the two guys I quoted in my post, perhaps not completely dissimilar to Hilaritas Press.

I have books from Strange Attractor Press and they are all attractively designed and produced and also were apparently carefully edited.

Strange Attractor worked with Prop on his book for about three years, including bringing in an outside editor. I don't know the ins and outs of what went wrong. It's too bad, that's my only opinion.

Oz Fritz said...

Thanks for the clarification on Strange Attractor. Perhaps I was too hasty calling them corporate because of the connection with M.I.T.
I've also seen and read excellent books they publish.

michael said...

Well, I take this as a huge bummer as, while I haven't read the manuscript, or any version of it like Oz has (Eric W? too?), I know for a fact Prop wore out a couple of pairs of shoe-souls tracking down sources.

Greedy me: I want to learn more about RAW and this book has the promise. Damn.

Prop IIRC had a funny story about the Tarcher deal: he got the money and somehow got out of it, I forget why. Anyway: the overwhelming story in 2024 is writers not getting paid a thing for their books; Prop had won a rare one for the Writer's side.

Or that was one way to look at it. I thought it was cosmically funny, given all the...ehhh...colorful things RAW wrote about editors and publishers.

Prop has a guaranteed sell in me whenever this thing comes out.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I plan to buy it, too, even though Prop says I am a "sneaky hater" for telling people they aren't going to be able to buy it in early August, after all.

About Tarcher, Mitch Horowitz says, "I cancelled the book because I found the author uncooperative across the board. I paid him the full advance and let it go. That's all I have to add."

Lvx15 said...

This week I finally received my “25th” anniversary edition of John Crowley’s Little Big… I paid for it 20 years ago. I can be patient.

Eric Wagner said...

I have not read it, but I look forward to reading it.

Paul said...

I suppose I’m glad he’s sticking to your guns. I want to read an intimate in depth profile on RAW & his work, detailing his Fortean, anarchist and surrealist affiliations; a warts-and-all biog that toasts him more than it roasts him, but is no puff-piece. His work stands on his own and is its own justification, but we need a detailed record of how a human being managed to do all this, will all the pressures that life sends the way of a writer, and how he persevered. Gabriel’s book will surely be the go-to source for answers to these questions.

Oz Fritz said...

@Paul, your description of what you want to read pretty much hits the nail on the head with what Chapel Perilous delivers.

Paul said...

@Oz … Excellent! That’s good to know.
This interview from October last year is a good taster —

quackenbush said...


Paul said...

Gabriel is now publishing it himself.