Bob Black Mouths Off

(Commissioned by Steamshovel Press. The continued, albeit threadbare,

persistence of the Church of the SubGenius I attribute to two factors.

The first is the perennial renewal of the population of white male

college students uncomfortable with girls. The second is that Doug

Smith/"Ivan Stang" is no longer creative enough to come up with anything

else, so it's either keep milking SubGenius or get a day job.)

 

Revelation X: The "Bob" Apochryphon: Hidden Teachings and

Deuterocanonical Texts of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs.

 

Translated by The SubGenius Foundation, Inc. New York: Simon &

Schuster, 1994.

 

According to the last sentence of The Book of the SubGenius (hereafter:

BS): "You'll never have to read another book."

 

Not this one, anyway.

 

The Church of the One Joke just keeps going and going and going . . .

nowhere. If you loved BS, you'll like Revelation X, so you might as

well reread BS. If you liked BS, RX is a prescription for (as the

greatest of ex-SubGenii put it) less of more of the same. And more

expensive, too.

 

The cost of Church membership, as of funeral arrangements, has risen

much faster than inflation, tripling in fifteen years. Back then you

had the feeling that SubGenius was on to something. Now you have the

feeling that SubGenius is up to something. Back then you had the

feeling that SubGenius had potential. Now you have the feeling that

SubGenius had potential.

 

RX is the fourth coffee-table book by Douglass St. Clair Smith, aka

"Rev. Ivan Stang," all published by the notorious underground publisher

Simon & Schuster. For eight years now, time and time again, Stang has

hoodwinked this multi-national subsidiary of the Conspiracy, not only to

go out on a limb, but to try very hard to saw it off. For some strange

reason, luckily for the both of them, it never falls. SubGenius is like

the guy who, as John Crawford put it, couldn't get himself arrested.

Ivan Stang: the Teflon revolutionary.

 

RX is full of -- besides that which, to be full of, is that -- what the

Church of the SubGenius thinks of the Conspiracy. But what does the

Conspiracy think of the Church of the SubGenius? If Simon & Schuster

isn't part of the Conspiracy -- any Conspiracy worth an upper-case "C"

-- then there was no arms-for-hostages deal and furthermore, Lee Harvey

Oswald as a lone nut, acting alone, killed Kennedy, all by himself, just

as George Thorogood drinks alone, preferably by himself. (He probably

killed both Kennedys and slept with Mary Jo Kopechne.)

 

According to the press release ("Contact: Jennifer Swihart,

212-698-7643") -- or kill me -- "Revelation X broadens the satire of

cults, religious extremism, and conspiracy theories promulgated by the

now notorious SubGenius Foundation." You mean . . . it was all just

a joke? A satire on villains it is so safe to despise that even "60

Minutes" rounds on them? And SubGenius is just an adult fantasy

role-playing game like Magic or Dungeons & Dragons, only not as

interactive?

 

How curious that the co-authors of the Conspiracy Lowdown cartoon

booklets of the mid-1970's, Jay Kinney and Paul Mavrides, signed on

early with SubGenius (and at the same time distanced their other

project, Anarchy Comics, of which they never speak any more). Kinney,

who used to ridicule mystical cults, now hosts them in his slick rag

Gnosis. I gnow a scam when I psee one. Mavrides, who has never

repudiated the violent, crypto-Marxist Processed World cult he used to

contribute to, is the illustrator of RX and was co-illustrator of BS.

 

A working knowledge of conspiracy theory and radical ideology gives the

upwardly mobile hipster an important leg up in the business world.

Stang has a thorough grounding in the former but only a hit-and-miss,

increasingly dated acquaintance with the latter, as the radicals he used

to string along recoil from his ever more blatant, careerist shuckin'

'n' jivin'. In this he is (as so often -- and so happily! -- happens)

the victim of his own success. To the the extent he's reduced

soi-disant anarchists (Kinney, Mavrides, Trevor Blake, etc.) to mere

Pipeheads he has, in the argot of the intelligence community, "burned"

them -- blown their cover -- nullifed their utility as informants.

These performers have more customers and fans than they ever did, to be

sure, but nobody is telling them anything, so Stang can't "run" these

agents anymore.

 

The guy who is doing the running -- on a hamster-wheel -- and running

down, is the poor little rich kid Douglass St. Clair Smith himself.

("Never trust a guy who has a last name for a first name, J.R. "Bob"

Dobbs once warned me.) He told his customers that all it took to be

creative was to send him $30, and they took him at his word (but usually

didn't send the $30, a complaint reiterated well past the point of

tedium in RX). The scores of credits to collaborators at the beginning

of RX are meant to disguise the loneliness of the long-distance

"runner," Smith. (Several are also fraudulent: tENTATIVELY, a

cONVENIENCE and Blaster Al Ackerman regard SubGenius with contempt.) He

complains in RX that for too many -- for most -- SubGenii, the Church is

just a jackoff. They aren't even that self-starting. They expect him

to jerk them off, so he does, but his hand is getting tired. (Is my

metaphor sexist? Not nearly as much as the Church itself. Female

SubGenii are almost as rare as black SubGenii.) Smith made his bed and

now he has to sleep in it -- alone. No wonder he sounds so cranky, so

peevish, so defensive. This Antabuse dry-drunk needs a drink, among

other things, in the worst way.

 

After 15 years, "Stang" can churn the stuff out according to the

formula, in any quantity. But as a husband, a father and a homeowner --

what's with this shit in RX about extirpating normality? -- what he's

churning out is infant formula for retrograde young adults looking for

an easy escape from their all too accurate awareness that, for all the

resentments or theatrics of their so-fleeting youth, they're just like

their parents. Doug Smith has the customers he deserves, and who could

wish a worse -- or more fitting -- retribution upon him than that?