Between Adam Weishaupt and Dan Brown at the conspiracy banquet table sits Robert Anton Wilson, keeping the conversation lively. He and Umberto Eco provide the best banter all night long. In the wake of the Da Vinci Code, you might think that a few of the conspiracy classics could creep onto the bestseller lists, but we are a fickle people. Wilson is responsible for some of the most engaging entries in the secret societies library: The Illuminatus Trilogy (co-authored with Robert Shea), along with a shelf worth of related tomes (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy). As opposed to Brown, Wilson was never satisfied with one or two hidden puppet masters. His work tries to find the synchronicity between every bit of vaguely believable real-world idiocy (Casanova and Watergate, for instance), those edge-of-vision unbelievable facts (North American Vikings, Nazi occult research), and the full-blown manic wah-wahhs (Area 51 aliens, Templars in space). Despite the weight of all this combined weirdness, Wilson succeeds where so many have failed because he uses levity to significantly lighten the load born by his prose.
If his name otherwise sounds familiar, Robert A. Wilson was a quasi-celebrity a few years ago when the officials in Santa Cruz, California, made him their first citizen to receive medical cannabis, which had been recently legalized. That was a short-lived experiment for Wilson once the federal government intervened. Sometimes the conspiracies are large and thoughtless.
Sometimes the conspiracies are miraculous and blessed. Nowadays, Wilson is in the process of dying from post-polio syndrome. Word went out a few weeks ago that he had been reduced to destitution. A community of Internet angels conspired to let one of the good guys die at home in peace by raising funds for his continued care. Fnord.