I never met Robert Anton Wilson, but after reading him closely for years, I like to think I know him pretty well. When I went to college in the 1970s, I encountered Illuminatus!, and it had a greater effect upon me than anything I learned in class. It's impossible to minimize the impact the book had on inspiring a new generation of libertarians, although Wilson was hardly an orthodox libertarian. (He wasn't an orthodox anything). Once, summing up why he didn't vote for the 1980 Libertarian Party candidate, he explained, "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people." The attitude of wonder and skepticism toward what we can know about the world in llluminatus! is at least as important as the politics.
Partly because of regret that I never got around to interviewing him or even meeting him when he was alive, I started my RAWIllumination.net a couple of years ago. Decades of heavy reading in all forms of fiction and nonfiction have convinced me that Wilson is a major American writer who has not received the attention he deserves. This crops up on all sorts of ways. Years before Dan Brown wrote his best seller, The Da Vinci Code, Wilson covered much the same ground in a much better book, The Widow's Son. With help from other Wilson fans, I have used RAWIllumination.net to make available articles by Wilson and interviews with him that were not reprinted in his books.
I did get to meet Illuminatus! co-author Robert Shea once, and I would point out that his "solo novels" also deserve attention; they are available in cheap Kindle editions and in free versions at the official Robert Shea site, maintained by his son, Mike Shea. All Things Are Lights, a fast-moving historical novel set in the time of Saint Louis, is a thematic prequel to Illuminatus! which I believe almost any reader would enjoy.
Tom Jackson runs RAWIllumination.net. He is a a journalist and freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio, and a longtime science fiction fan.
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