Archive for February, 2005

Announcing The Erowid Review

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

In the days after my first LSD experience back in 1992, I was intensely motivated to seek more information that might help me understand what I had seen and felt. I wanted to place that experience in a context, and understand the history of that context. I turned to two sources. One was the Internet, in the days pre-Erowid / pre-WWW, where I used the wasteland of alt.drugs on Usenet as a conduit to finding like-minded individuals out in the world. The other was our campus library.

The only books my library carried that seemed remotely on topic to me were written by a character named Timothy Leary. To be honest, I remain surprised our library carried even these books, as Iowa is not particularly a hotbed of psychedelic awareness. Nevertheless, I was a voracious consumer of such texts as Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy and the Leary/Alpert/Metzner adaptation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which they called The Psychedelic Experience. You can imagine the hilarity that ensued when a 19-year-old hothead with no understanding of Buddhism attempted to incorporate that text into his earliest LSD trips; I would say I look back fondly, except that I would need to be very delusional to say that.

But Leary put me on the trail to Robert Anton Wilson, whose Prometheus Rising, Quantum Psychology, and of course, Cosmic Trigger seemed much more personal, and at the same time, more mind-blowing, than I could have anticipated. Wilson, in turn, pointed me in the direction of Burroughs, Kesey and Ginsberg – all of this just in time for me to see Ginsberg perform his poetry, and give Leary a hug and a personal thanks at a sci-fi convention. By the time Terence McKenna’s Food of the Gods came around, I was beginning to feel as though I understood where the so-called psychedelic movement came from, and could glimpse where it might be headed in the future.

Even though the rise of the World Wide Web has created an explosion of information available at a person’s fingertips, the book remains a powerful form for conveying ideas, and great psychoactive-oriented books are coming out all the time. In the past few years alone, books like Rick Strassman’s DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Karl Jansen’s Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, and perhaps most importantly, Huston Smith’s Cleansing the Doors of Perception all made a mark on me, and I’m sure there are many more I haven’t come across yet that I’d appreciate and enjoy. Perhaps you’re in the same boat.

That’s why I’m very happy to announce that Erowid is launching a new blog called The Erowid Review that will, on a regular basis, publish original book reviews, and link to topical reviews published elsewhere. As it happens, we are planning this as a group blog, rather than a single-author blog. And we are actively seeking reviewers – people who are willing to identify, read, and review a relevant book or publication once every 1-3 months. Both new releases and older publications will be considered.

These can be capsule reviews – 1-3 paragraphs would totally be adequate, although longer form reviews are also on the agenda. While the primary topic focus is psychoactives, selections need not inherently be “drug” books. For instance, books about certain trends in philosophy, science or art are not overtly drug-related, but Erowid visitors might well find them quite interesting. Some sample upcoming reviews in the works are: Rational Mysticism by John Horgan; Drugs and the Brain by Solomon H. Snyder; Towards an Archaeology of the Soul by Antero Alli; Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig; Cannabis: From Pariah to Prescription by Ethan Russo; The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.

I should point out that The Erowid Review is a new outlet in the same spirit as Erowid’s tremendous archive of information. Reviewers must be able to express themselves clearly, but need not pretend to be mainstream journalists. Ultimately, we’re hoping to publish both reviews by enthusiasts for peers, as well as professional reviews (reviews by professionals for non-professionals). By the same token, if you’re a professional writer looking to get your work in front of a larger audience, this might be something to consider. If The Erowid Review sounds like an interesting prospect to you, please let us know by sending an email to review at, and we’ll get back to you with details.