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Infidels and Other Subversives


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IT'S A GREAT TIME to be a heretical fan of Books Inc. in Mountain View. Two completely different unproclaimed saints of sacrilege are appearing there next week. On Monday, Oct. 3, the bookstore welcomes Mr. Salman Rushdie to promote his new novel Shalimar the Clown. Yes, you all remember Salman Rushdie. You all remember when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued his infamous fatwa against Rushdie in 1989, due to the publishing of his novel Satanic Verses, which the Ayatollah said constituted apostasy and blasphemy toward Islam. The Ayatollah then passed away shortly thereafter and it took until 1998 for the Iranian government to "disassociate itself" from the fatwa, saying they would no longer endorse it in any way. Rushdie then came out of hiding over the course of the next few years.

Another notorious troublemaker hits Books Inc. two days later on Wednesday, Oct. 5. Ken Goffman, a.k.a. R.U. Sirius, shows up to hawk the newly released paperback version of his book, Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House.

As R.U. Sirius, Goffman has engaged in all sorts of wonderfully insubordinate activities for decades now. He co-founded and edited the groundbreaking Mondo 2000, the original cyberpunk culture magazine in the late '80s and early '90s, back when merging high tech with designer hallucinogenics and polysexuality was still punk. That scene eventually led to a Time magazine cover story on cyberpunk in 1992. Sirius also co-authored Timothy Leary's final book, Design for Dying, and even ran for president once as chairman of the Revolutionary Party. Nowadays he hosts several online podcast radio shows and calls himself the "Ed Sullivan of Subversion." He will soon teach an antiauthoritarian class on Robert Anton Wilson's website, www.maybelogic.org.

Unlike with his 1992 volume, Mondo 2000 User's Guide to the New Edge, co-edited with local author Rudy Rucker and heiress Queen Mu, R.U. Sirius did not take an encyclopedic approach with Counterculture Through the Ages. Instead, he navigated a few of history's more important countercultural skeins, beginning with the yarns of Prometheus and Abraham, the latter of whom he calls the "original dropout." Other chapters deal with Bohemian Paris, jazz, the Beats, punk, Zen, trance music and the next wave of global digerati.

Although seasoned counterculture aficionados will find a lot missing from the book, Goffman and co-author Dan Joy do provide an intellectual attempt at showing how all these radical mores are interconnected. The authors explain that "counterculturalists tend to be jokers, bohemians and libertines. These qualities subvert serious analysis, but we shouldn't diminish the importance of these stylistic undercurrents. ... Pranksters, cosmic jesters, yarn-spinning riddlers and defiant mockers of all that's pompous populate many of our stories. Countercultural playfulness represents the nonauthoritarian refusal to take oneself, any ideology, or any code of righteousness too seriously." The book's index alone reads like a heretical mishmash of the highest order and includes everything from the Yippies to Walt Whitman to Robin Hood.

Getting back to fatwas, with the appearances of these two authors during a stretch of three days, the time is ripe to call into action a condemnation of the highest order. Rushdie is probably sick and tired of the word fatwa by now, so we'll leave him out of this adventure. R.U. Sirius would be a much more suitable target anyway, due to his sacrilegious tome, Counterculture Through the Ages. We all know fatwas help sell books, and since this is San Jose we're talking about—a place where counterculture is exterminated upon sight—this book should be considered blasphemy. It defames all of San Jose culture. As a result we have issued the following fatwa on R.U. Sirius:

In the name of Culture Almighty! There is only one Culture, to which we shall all return. I would like to inform all intrepid San Joseans that the author of the book titled Counterculture Through the Ages, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to San Jose Culture, as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, have been sentenced to death. I call on all zealous San Joseans to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare insult San Jose culture. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing. May God's blessing be on you all.

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From the September 28-October 4, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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