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Wilson, Robert Anton

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1932-2007) US author who remains best known for the first Illuminatus! sequence – The Eye in the Pyramid (1975), The Golden Apple (1975) and Leviathan (1975), assembled as The Illuminatus Trilogy (omni 1984) – all written with Robert J Shea. Shea did not collaborate with Wilson on Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977), The Illuminati Papers (1980), Masks of the Illuminati (1981) or Right Where You Are Sitting Now: Further Tales of the Illuminati (coll 1982) – some of these volumes being presented as nonfiction – or on The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, set in the eighteenth century: The Earth Will Shake (1984), The Widow's Son (1985) and Nature's God (1991). He did, however, write continuations of his own (for details see Robert J Shea). The overall sequence combines detective, Fantasy and sf components into the extremely complex tale of a vast conspiracy on the part of the Illuminati, historically a late-eighteenth-century German association of freethinkers but here rendered into the gods of H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, among other incarnations, to the end that mortals cohabit irretrievably with warring gods. The Illuminati are opposed in the first trilogy by a moderately mad crew of anarchists and other subversives known as the Discordians; unsurprisingly, the Captain Nemo-like shaman who inspires their madcap feats, from the sanctuary of his impregnable submarine, turns out to be the Secret Master of the Illuminati as well, clearly spoofing the intensively recomplicated plots of A E van Vogt and those influenced by him. Throughout, the Paranoia engendered by any and all attempts to understand these pixilated conspiracies, of which all the things of the world were emblems, reminded many readers of Thomas Pynchon; but an unPynchonesque lightheartedness permeates the sequence.

On the basis of their solo works, this nihilistic gaiety derived in the main from Wilson, and was clearly evident as well in The Sex Magician (1973), which was initially released by a firm specializing in SF Pornography, and later expanded and transformed into the ultimately opaque complexities of Schrödinger's Cat: The Universe Next Door (1979), II: The Trick Top Hat (1980) and III: The Homing Pigeons (1981), all three assembled as the Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy (omni 1988), a sequence which transformed the worlds of subatomic physics into a pattern of Alternate History continua. It might be thought that Wilson, like many writers of his generation, would slip into Virtual-Reality venues when attempting to manipulate levels of perception; but ultimately he refused to supply comforts of that ilk, for in his work there is no centre to the labyrinth, no master waiting to reward the heroes of the quest. Most of Wilson's later work was nonfiction, and addresses with a packrat omnivorousness the splendours and miseries of the Western mind, always with the clear intention of fomenting autonomous thoughts in his readers. For the rest of his life, Wilson used and re-used the term Fnord, which first appeared in the Illuminatus sequence, and which may be defined as a message embedded subliminally in those stories about the world our masters wish us not to think about, to deny the relevance of. As the anxiety of a fnord can readily be allayed by forgetting those stories, it is necessary for free humans to "see the fnords": that is to be free, to be liberated from the masters who conspire against us. [JC]

see also: Humour; Illuminati; Libertarian SF; Physics; SF Music; Theatre .

Robert Anton Wilson

born New York: 18 January 1932

died Capitola, California: 11 January 2007




Schrödinger's Cat

nonfiction (highly selected)

works as editor

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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