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Infectious Excitement
by Wendy Tucker
Feb 2016
Citation:   Tucker, W. "Infectious Excitement". Erowid Extracts. Feb 2016;28:3. Online edition: Erowid.org/culture/characters/shulgin_alexander/shulgin_alexander_article9.shtml
Sasha and my mother Ann published PiHKAL in 1991. Although I had read some of it before it was published, I was working and living in Japan when I first read it all the way through. I must say, it was quite the strange experience reading about my mother and stepfather in this way! But mostly, I was impressed and exhilarated that they had managed to put out such a daring book. At the time, no publisher would pick it up. It was too edgy, too risky, and nobody knew how it was going to be received. Tarcher Books considered it, but declined. So Sasha and Ann consulted with friends and were guided through the process of setting up their own imprint. Transform Press was born.

The truth was, Sasha feared that if he didn't get the information in print, for all to see, it might be destroyed or forgotten, and there might never be a continuation of his work.
When PiHKAL first came out in 1991 it was revolutionary. Publishing chemical syntheses of psychoactive compounds (and so many of them!) was brave. The truth was, Sasha feared that if he didn't get the information in print, for all to see, it might be destroyed or forgotten, and there might never be a continuation of his work. His ingenious way of working needed to be known by chemists, both underground and aboveground, in order for the discovery of new compounds to continue beyond him. He felt that the mind, so vast and difficult to navigate, was the most uncharted territory known to man, with the depths of our oceans and the far reaches of space its only rivals in novelty. He knew that the compounds he was creating were tools for that purpose, for us human beings to begin to be able to Know Ourselves. To evolve we must better understand the inner workings of our minds. This idea was exciting to me, so when I returned to the Bay Area in the summer of 1992, I began working more extensively with Sasha and Ann on their follow-up book, TiHKAL.

Working with Sasha was always a pleasure. He was patient and kind, and best of all, he was excited about the work he was doing. That excitement was infectious. In his files, which stand brimming with papers, articles, and letters going back many years, there is evidence that he always had this disposition, this excitement. It can be gleaned from letters to colleagues and friends, as well as from his class lectures. He was a fun teacher, constantly intrigued and curious about chemistry. He was in awe of the magic of chemistry, and he helped students see it through his eyes. Transform Press is in the process of publishing some of his lectures and class notes. It's so much fun to "hear" his voice in the printed material that he prepared for his students.

The archiving process, the unearthing of material that Sasha had worked on for years and years, is so very important for the future. As we know, things are opening up in the field of psychedelic research. Over time we'll discover the many uses for these substances. Sasha was just one of the first in this field; with the groundwork that he has laid, there are many more compounds to be discovered.

For now, we are the discoverers, finding precious letters, papers, and information that will help others build on his work. That is what he wanted, that is why he published, that was always his intent. There is a lot to do, a lot to go through. Like any archiving project it is slow and meticulous, but we have already uncovered treasures. I feel honored to be a part of this process, to be a part of this history.


Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Feb 2016 - published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v1.1 - Feb 2017 - Erowid - Published on Erowid.org.