Robert Anton Wilson, 74, Who Wrote Mind-Twisting Novels, Dies


Published: January 13, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson, an author of “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” — a mind-twisting science-fiction series about a secret global society that has been a cult classic for more than 30 years — died on Thursday at his home in Capitola, Calif. He was 74.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Christina Pearson.

The author of 35 books on subjects like extrasensory perception, mental telepathy, metaphysics, paranormal experiences, conspiracy theory, sex, drugs and what he called quantum psychology, Mr. Wilson wrote the trilogy with his friend Robert J. Shea in the late 1960s, when both were editors at Playboy. The books — “The Eye in the Pyramid,” “The Golden Apple” and “Leviathan” — were all published in 1975 by Dell Science Fiction. They never hit the best-seller lists, but have never gone out of print. Mr. Shea died in 1994.

Inspired by a thick file of letters that the authors received from conspiracy buffs, the trilogy traces the conflict between the Illuminati and the Discordians. The Illuminati are elite authoritarians who pull the puppet strings of the world’s political establishment while seeking to become super-beings by sucking the souls from the masses. The Discordians resist through convoluted tactics that include a network of double agents.

“There are lots of drug references in the book,” said Mark Frauenfelder, a co-editor of, a pop culture Web site that started as a print magazine in the 1980s and for which Mr. Wilson wrote many articles. “In part because it dealt with conspiracies in a science-fiction way, the trilogy achieved a cult following among science fiction readers, hippies, the psychedelic crowd.”

Mr. Wilson was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 18, 1932. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnical College and New York University. He worked as an engineering aide, a salesman and a copywriter, and was an associate editor at Playboy from 1965 to 1971.

Besides his daughter Christina of Santa Cruz, Calif., Mr. Wilson is survived by another daughter, Alexandra Gardner of Eugene, Ore., and a son, Graham, of Watsonville, Calif. His wife of 39 years, the former Arlen Riley, died in 1999.

After completing the trilogy, Mr. Wilson began writing nonfiction books. Perhaps his most famous is “Cosmic Trigger” (Pocket Books, 1977), a bizarre autobiography in which, among many other tales, he describes episodes when he believed he had communicated with extraterrestrials — while admitting that he was experimenting with peyote and mescaline.

Mr. Wilson contended that people should never rule out any possibility, including that lasagna might fly. On Jan. 6, in his last post on his personal blog, he wrote: “I don’t see how to take death seriously. I look forward without dogmatic optimism, but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.”

Role-playing games pioneer dies

Dave Arneson in an undated photo

Arneson taught classes in game design in his later years

Dave Arneson, one of the co-creators of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-play game, has died of cancer at 61 in a hospice in St Paul, Minnesota.

His two-year battle with the disease ended on Tuesday when he passed away peacefully, his daughter said.

Arneson created the game famous for its oddly shaped dice in 1974 along with the late Gary Gygax.

“The biggest thing about my dad’s world is he wanted people to have fun in life,” said his daughter Malia.

Arneson and Gygax developed D&D using medieval characters and mythical creatures and it was a worldwide hit, particularly among teenage boys.

It eventually was turned into video games, books and films.


“I think we get distracted by the everyday things you have to do in life and we forget to enjoy life and have fun,” Malia Weinhagen told the Associated Press.

“But my dad never did. He just wanted people to have fun.”

D&D, described by AP as “the quintessential geek pastime”, spawned copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that is still growing in popularity.

“[Arneson] developed many of the fundamental ideas of role-playing: that each player controls just one hero, that heroes gain power through adventures and that personality is as important as combat prowess,” said a statement from Wizards of the Coast, which produces D&D.

The company noted that Blackmoor, a game Arneson had been developing before D&D, was the “first-ever role-playing campaign and the prototype for all [role-playing game] campaigns since”.

Arneson met Gygax, who died in March of last year, at a games convention in 1969.

He is survived by his daughter and two grandchildren.


David Gonzalez, NY Times – For the first time anyone could remember – or even comprehend – the sight of Joe Cuba brought people to tears. For more than half a century, this conga-playing son of El Barrio fronted bands whose music was relentless, hip and happy. Real happy.

But there was no joy on 116th Street Wednesday, at least not at first sight of Joe, laid out in his coffin, though sharp as ever in his black tux, white gloves and a gray homburg. Here was the Father of the Latin Boogaloo, a fusion of Latin and soul music that made him a crossover king in the late 1960s. . .

Outside, under the narrow awning, people huddled to escape the rain.

“I’m going to see him,” Juan Nieves said. “A friend of mine died, too, and I’m going to see her inside. But I have to see him. His music was the best from the ’60s. His sextet was the ultimate. They had all the songs. Oye, ese pito!”

Hey, that whistle! That was the first line to “El Pito” – which was always followed by five quick toots.

For a while in the 1960s, those five notes were the clarion call of an emerging musical . . . The song’s signature chorus is taken from Dizzy Gillespie’s introduction to “Manteca.” The classic whistled opening gives way to hand claps, a Latin-tinged piano line, frenetic vibe playing and maniacal laughter.

In some neighborhoods, the song was a revelation. Where I lived in the Bronx, on Mapes Avenue off 181st Street, teenagers drove people crazy whistling the opening notes while chanting what can only be described (here, at least) as a gleefully obscene twist on Georgia.

Its bilingual lyrics and urban attitude presaged the coming boogaloo craze. The distinctly New York musical form Joe Cuba helped birth reflected the interplay (with the emphasis on play) between Puerto Ricans and African-Americans in this city. Coming at the dawn of a political and cultural awakening among New York-raised Puerto Ricans, it was a heady mix.


Washington Post – Louie Bellson, 84, widely considered one of the world’s greatest drummers, who played with Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie, died in California of complications from a hip fracture he suffered in November.

A six-time Grammy nominee who performed on more than 200 albums and wrote more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements and a dozen books on percussion, Mr. Bellson was the last of the triumvirate of great percussionists who came out of the big-band era. He was a member of Ellington’s band from 1951 to 1953 and was often the only white musician who performed with it before segregated audiences in the South.

In 1938, while still in high school, he came up with the idea of using two bass drums in his drum set, an addition that became his signature. Two years later, he beat 40,000 others to win a nationwide drumming contest. He joined Benny Goodman’s band before he was 20 years old.

He married singer Pearl Bailey and left Ellington’s band to be her musical director. Over the years, Mr. Bellson performed with such greats as Harry James, Woody Herman, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Louie Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Mel Torme and Joe Williams. Just a year ago, he issued what would be his final CD, “Louie & Clark Expedition 2,” and he was still touring last fall.