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

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Will AI narration of audiobooks by Wilson and Shea become common?

Tyler Cowen has just released a free audiobook of his latest book, GOAT: Who is the Greatest Economist of All Time and Why Does it Matter. Downloads of various editions of the book are here. 

In  blog post announcing the new audiobook, the author writes, "The voice is excellent, can you guess how it was done?  My wife and sister thought it was me. I heartily thank OpenAI for their assistance in this matter." You can check out the audio sample at the link; the use of an AI voice does work well. 

Does this mean that surviving audio of Ernest Hemingway can be used to make audiobooks of his novels? 

Or, putting the question closer to home, there is plenty of audio of both of the authors of Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Does that mean that AI Wilson will be used to narrate new audiobooks, and AI Shea will be used to narrate audiobooks for Shea's historical novels? 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Hilaritas podcast features Devaraj Sandberg


The Hilaritas podcast released on May 23 features Devaraj Sandberg.

"In this episode, Mike Gathers chats with body based therapist and author Devaraj Sandberg about Wilhelm Reich, Reichian therapy, accelerationism, and more," says the official blurb.

Sandberg has a Substack.  He has written a number of books, including fiction that has been compared to Illuminatus!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Bobby Campbell on 'Tales of Illuminatus'


Bobby Campbell (with a statue of Merlin at Medieval Fantasy Mini Golf in Ocean City, N.J.)

Yesterday's big announcement about the new Tales of Illuminatus! comic adaptation of the Illuminatus! trilogy naturally left me wanting to know more, and despite the fact that he's a busy guy, comic creator Bobby Campbell immediately agreed to an interview. (Please see the blog post for a link to what's available so far, and see Bobby's comment in the post). 

For more on Bobby, see his official website and  his X/Twitter account. Please see also my big interview with Mr. Campbell that ran in November last year.  Of course, Bobby is the force behind the annual Maybe Day celebration that takes place on July 23. I met him at the ConFluence SF convention in Pittsburgh a few years ago when Bobby and Gregory Arnott and I organized RAW-related events there, and both of those guys were great to hang out with. Go meet Bobby in September at the Small Press Expo if you can! 

In the interview, Bobby mentions that he is waiting to find out what the audience is for his big new project. This is where you come in, gentle reader! I will do my best to publicize the project, but if you have a social media account, a blog or some other platform, please spread the word, both now and when regular episodes start to appear. And please preorder/buy the print editions. Bobby is generous to a fault, and he would not ask anyone to spend food money on his project, but if you can, please provide support. You'll hear more about the Kickstarter here when I know more. 

I did my best to cover the basics in their interview and I will share more news about this project as it becomes available.

-- Tom Jackson

RAWILLUMINATION.NET: How did the new "Tales of Illuminatus!" webcomic come about?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: Simply enough, Nick Helweg-Larsen, who I've known for 20 years, as an old school Maybe Logic Academy alumni, revealed himself as the media rights holder for the Illuminatus! Trilogy, and reached out just to talk about various possibilities, from which Tales of Illuminatus! slowly but surely emerged.

I was very hesitant to get involved at first, worried about working on a non creator-owned property, and intimidated by the sheer magnitude of the overall project, but once that little spark of potential worked its way into my imagination, it spread like wildfire. "And then we could do this! And this! OH! AND THIS!"

RAWILLUMINATION: This is billed as the "official" adaptation, does it have the blessing of the RAW and Robert Shea estates?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: Since I had a pre-existing relationship with the RAW estate, the first thing I did after talking with Nick was run to Christina and Rasa and make sure I had their blessing, which I indeed do :))) TBH I don't think I've ever interacted with the Shea estate, even when I did the Shike covers that was done through New Falcon, though I have a very favorable opinion of Mike Shea!

I know that contractually/legally we are all good with everyone, and that the RAW & Shea estates will share in the profits, thus "official" in that sense, but I don't think I can claim that anyone necessarily sanctions the full extent of my buffoonery!

RAWILLUMINATION: Who will the main artist be, and who will write the webcomic? Is that you for both, or are you bringing other folks in?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: I will be the main writer and artist for the series, but I also have the titanic Todd Purse joining me for at least the first issue, and ideally for the whole run. I also have Dan "The Man" Robinson from The Headies recording some music for us.

If I'm planning for success, I'd say my intentions are to bring in the entire luminous cavalcade of visionary geniuses that comprise my rolodex, in one way or another. I'd love for this thing to be a circus, but! I'm the only one I can ask to work for free, so you may be stuck with mostly me for a bit, while the thing grows into something beyond my great expectations.

RAWILLUMINATION:  How large will the July 23 episode be? What is the timetable to complete the project?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: I'd rather underpromise and overdeliver, so I'll say the Maybe Day episode will be a few decidedly info-rich pages! Followed the next week by a few more, and the next week by a few more, and so on, and so on! This is definitely going to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

The timetable for the first issue is pretty locked in though.

The weekly episodes begin on July 23rd and will run until around mid October.

Pre-orders for the first print issue will be open from July 23rd - August 23rd.

The first issue will be sent to the printer on the last week of August and pre-orders will ship by the second week of September.

Tales of Illuminatus! #1 will debut on Sept 14-15 at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland and will then be available for sale everywhere in print and digital editions :)))

After the first set of weekly episodes run out there will most likely be a production break.

Depending on the success of the first issue and various other pending opportunities, we'll have to play things somewhat by ear, but my goal would be to start back up with new episodes and the second issue pre-order campaign by no later than Dec 21st, AKA MAYBE NIGHT.

There is absolutely a chance that things work out such that we don't require a production break at all, and the series continues to grow in leaps and bounds until we complete all 23 issues over the course of five years, but it's likely to be more messy than that.

The great, soon-to-be-answered, question is...

Is there an audience for this???

RAWILLUMINATION: Will the webcomic be free, or will there eventually be a subscription? What are the plans for publication in other forms?

BOBBYCAMPBELL: The plan is for the webcomic to be free and supported by pre-sales of the print issues done via Kickstarter. Ideally growing a large enough back catalog that the series becomes self-sustaining.

I'm not crazy about the subscription model, I don't like being a part of someone's monthly bills, I'd rather sell a real, high quality, physical object!

The print issues should look magnificent. We're doing them oversized, like magazine size, rather than comic book size. Giving the pages some space to breathe. Like a 1970's issue of Conan the Barbarian. 

The end goal would be three graphic novel collections, recreating the trilogy of books in comic book form, and then ultimately a giant-sized omnibus edition collecting the whole darn thing.

RAWILLUMINATION: How far did the previous comic book adaptation get? Is it still available in some form?

BOBBY CAMPBELL: The original comic book adaptation made it completely through three issues, which covered the first three "trips" of the novel, and I believe they had enough of the fourth issue to publish an ashcan edition (like a preview or demo), but I've never actually seen it.

The first three issues are absolute treasures and can be easily and affordably ordered from a number of places online.

I know Mark Philip Steele popped up a while ago and was offering a free PDF download of the first issue, but the official link has gone private and requires permission to access it.

From my own time in the trenches, I can only tip my cap to Mark Philip Steele and company for their brilliant compressing of Illuminatus! down into the comic book medium. The whole first trip in 32 pages!? It's ultimately an exercise in problem solving and there is so much truly great work in those comics.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

''Tales of Illuminatus' announced


Bobby Campbell has announced Tales of Illuminatus, "The official comic adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea's Illuminatus! Trilogy."

Read an introductory section here.  The webcomic adaptation will be continued on July 23, i.e. "Maybe Day." 

That's all I know at this point, although I suspect more information will become available. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

RAW's radical approach to reading his fiction

Today I  will reveal to you my favorite sentences in the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy.

I have  the original mass market paperbacks, and in the front there is a sort of brief preface which says in part (this is from the third volume, The Homing Pigeons):

"The three volumes of the Schroedinger's Cat series can be read in any order desired.

"That is, this volume can be read before or after the volumes called The Universe Next Door and The Trick Top Hat or between them. 

These volumes may also be read before or after the three volumes of the Illuminatus! trilogy and before or after Masks of the Illuminati."

There are other interesting sentences that follow, but I want to focus on those three sentences for a moment.

Like many of RAW's works, the SC novels (now available as a shortened one volume work -- I don't even know if my favorite sentences survive in this edition, which has cuts) was published as works of science fiction.

Trilogies are a big tradition in science fiction and fantasy. Examples that come to mind include Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and N.K. Jemisin's more recent Broken Earth trilogy. I'm pretty sure none of the those authors ever suggested reading the books out of order.

There is a narrative bit in the three SC novels which make it clear they seem to be written to be read in the "correct" order, although I don't want to mention it, lest it be a spoiler. If you've read the books you know what I mean.

On the other hand, the books also can be read as variations on alternate universes. They do  not seem to read as chronologically linear works that all take place in the same universe, as the other trilogies I mention seem to be.

RAW is inviting the reader to do his/her/their own "cutups," approaching his fiction from different angles.

Illuminatus! is a work I read over and over again. Maybe next time I should start, perhaps, with The Golden Apple? And should we, as readers, try to think of an interesting way to read all of RAW's fiction out of order, either just the titles he mentions or also including the Historical Illuminatus! books? Or an useful sequence to read them in order, or as a mix of the two approaches? 

I guess it's a synchronicity, but as I was working on this blog post, I saw a Tweet by Joseph Matheny, quoting Jean-Luc Godard: "A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order." 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

RAW movie club: The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart (as detective Sam Spade) and Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon. 

Continuing my project to watch movies on Robert Anton Wilson's list of his 100 favorite movies, I decided that next I will watch The Maltese Falcon, No. 85 on the list.

RAW writes quite a bit about the Knights of Malta in his books, for example in Coincidance and in Everything Is Under Control, and in Coincidance, he writes that the group "inspired part of the plot of The Maltese Falcon." 

I'll watch the movie in the next couple of weeks and write about it in early June. I wanted to pick something that would not cost anything if anyone else wanted to watch it, too, and it is currently available free on Tubi (with ads), which is the way old people like me used to watch old movies on TV. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Portrait of RAW


Caption on X (from @RAWilson23, i.e. Bobby Campbell): "New jaw dropping Robert Anton Wilson portrait by the great Dimitri Drjuchin!

“The Return of Mr RAW”

18 x 24 Acrylic on Wood

Come see it at his solo show "The Past Is The Present Is The Future" at c5bk opening June 8th in Brooklyn NY."

Sunday, May 19, 2024

I guess I'm reading it wrong


I have been reading Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults and Coverups by Robert Anton Wilson ever since I noticed it was available for $3 for the Kindle (it's still on sale as I write this.)

When I posted about finding the sale, Eric Wagner wrote, "Bob seemed so excited about this book when it came out. He did not want the reader to read it from cover to cover. He wanted it to function like it had hyperlinks, jumping from entry to entry."

I did jump to other entries when I read the entry in the A's about Hiram Abiff, and I expect to  do more  jumping. I also looked ahead to the Beethoven entry.  But I have mostly been reading it from the beginning, enjoying RAW's voice as he writes about various oddities. I don't want to miss anything!

This is not the first time I have read a reference book the "wrong" way. Years ago, I read the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, a one-volume work. (It has been updated quite a few times, although apparently not recently). My then-wife made fun of me for reading it from the start to the end, saying it was weird to do that with a reference book, but it was really interesting. The only bummer was all of the entries where I had to read about a musician dying young because of drugs (or booze). 

UPDATE: I should mention that I am generally interested in the different ways people read books. I commonly read two or three books at the same time. A friend of mine once wrote that she has a low tolerance for suspense, so when she reads a novel she looks at the ending before starting at the beginning. Another friend very rarely re-reads books, something I do all the time. I just finished re-reading Tolkien's The Return of the King, and I've been re-reading Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder books, in order. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Discordian documents

"Discordian Guerrilla Ontology advert for the release of the Illuminatus! Trilogy." Source

Grouchogandhi, K.S.P., apparently an association of Adam Gorightly, likes to post Discordian material on Twitter/X. Above is one such document and below is another. Both of these are from the Discordian Archivesd.  Follow on Twitter. 

"Anti-Illuminati Discordian business card created by Arthur Hlavarty." Source


Friday, May 17, 2024

Why Beethoven went deaf: Lead poisoning?

Beethoven in an 1819 portrait by Ferdinand Schimon. 

One of the most amazing achievements in the history of classical music is that Beethoven continued to compose great music after he went completely deaf. Given RAW's  interest in Beethoven, I thought I would share an update on the topic: The deafness may have been the result of lead poisoning, caused by drinking too much cheap wine.

Here is the article: "Locks of Beethoven’s Hair Offer New Clues to the Mystery of His Deafness," (as usual, I get you behind the paywall with a gift article.) The article concerns testing carried out on some of Beethoven's  hair:

"One of Beethoven’s locks had 258 micrograms of lead per gram of hair and the other had 380 micrograms. ... A normal level in hair is less than 4 micrograms of lead per gram."

Also: "David Eaton, a toxicologist and professor emeritus at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, said that Beethoven’s gastrointestinal problems 'are completely consistent with lead poisoning.' As for Beethoven’s deafness, he added, high doses of lead affect the nervous system, and could have destroyed his hearing."

More at the link. The article is by Gina Kolata, who writes about medical topics for the Times. 

The Times is not perfect and it gets a lot of criticism. It has areas where I think it is weak. But it also continues to produce really good journalism and still has many really good reporters. The Internet has done a lot of damage to newspapers, but it also has made it possible for me to read the Times all the time; I used to only read it occasionally, when I was out of town and could buy a copy. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Oz Fritz on Finnegans Wake, the Book of the Dead and the Bardo

Oz Fritz has a new blog post up, "Joyce, Crowley and the Book of the Dead," which argues that the Egyptian Book of the Dead is a big influence on Finnegans Wake (Oz does a good job of documenting that this assertion is true). 

There's also a lot of discussion about the Bardo, a topic Oz often returns to. Oz doesn't use labels on his blog posts, but if you search for "bardo" in the text box on the upper left, you'll get pieces that will tell you more. The first post that popped up in my search was "How to Conquer Death on the Internet Part II," and the first subsection in that post is entitled, "What Is the Bardo?" 

At the end of the new post, Oz writes, "Stay tuned for the next episode which will go into some of the Bardo/Book of the Dead influences found in the work of Robert Anton Wilson who was deeply influenced by both Joyce and Crowley." We'll be reading, Oz. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

I enjoyed the R.U. Sirius episode on Hilaritas Podcasts

R.U. Sirius (portrait at Hilaritas Podcasts episode page).

I have not listened to every one of the Hilaritas podcasts, but I've listened to almost all of them, and the recent one with R.U. Sirius/Ken Goffman was a highlight for me.

I particularly liked the anecdotes about Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson and the discussion of Timothy Leary's books. 

Ken is hoping some of you will check out his Bandcamp page and listen to his music (as is usual with Bandcamp, you can play  the songs before you decide to buy them). 

As usual, the official podcast page has links to some of the topics Ken and Mike Gathers discuss.

Listen here, or just use any podcasting app. 

The podcast ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Ken talks about his memoir, Freaks In The Machine, which was about to be published when sudden changes at the publisher put the project in limbo. I asked for an update and was told today, "I'm afraid Freaks In The Machine is still in limbo. I also feel at this point it needs to be freshened up." It sounds interesting, but I guess we will have to wait.