Douglass St. Clair Smith

The SubGenius Psychlopaedia or Slack: The Bobliographon is—how to put this—the most unusual text most folk will ever encounter. Its Fort Worth—bred author-editor midwifed the birth of the for-profit Church of the SubGenius (“the only religion to pay its taxes”) more than 25 years ago and remains the wizard behind the curtain of the post-modern (some say satirical) faith to this day.

Mike Shea: Where and when exactly did the Church of the SubGenius first appear?

DSCS: Doctrine has it that the SubGenius concept was first delivered to the Saint of Sales, J.R. ”Bob” Dobbs, by ageless alien space monster JHVH-1, in 1953, in Bob’s rumpus room in the basement of his house in Wichita, Kansas, where he was living at the time.

I personally caught the SubGenius concept like a sudden illness, or a bolt of badly-aimed lightning, in late 1978 while standing with my new friend Dr. Philo Drummond and my old, late friend Dr. X [Monte Dhooge] on Merrimac Avenue in Dallas. The three of us had been wondering why we weren’t rich yet, even though we were “obviously” smarter than the average Joe. (We had a lot to learn, especially about smartness.) Philo said, “Well, it’s probably because we’re not geniuses, but just … subgeniuses.” Upon hearing that word, suddenly I knew what all my otherwise useless skills were good for: identifying and corralling an entire subspecies—or überspecies—of Homo sapiens sapiens, and making money off of them.

I had been making amateur films, publishing fanzines, and networking with weirdos such as The Firesign Theater fan group since elementary school. Philo and I had become friends because of our shared love of comic books, Captain Beefheart, bad monster movies, and kooks—or, I should say, our keen interest in the occult mysteries, the cheesy paperbacks about such mysteries, and the cheesy people who read and write such paperbacks. Philo could appreciate my eagerness to mimic those interesting kooks, and together we started gathering (we don’t like the term “stealing”) ideas from all of Man’s Great Religions, plus Scientology, the Rosicrucian Order, the John Birch Society, and the Masons.

As we were combing old sixties magazines for graphics to, eh, appropriate, we kept coming across what appeared to be the same man modeling in hundreds of completely unrelated magazine ads. It was always this grinning guy with a pipe and a Squaresville haircut, and he was almost always depicted in situations of great relaxation or “slack.” He would be lounging in a hammock while his wife mowed, or fishing in a rowboat in perfect weather or just grinning his fool head off over whatever product was being hawked.

Philo eventually revealed to me that all these ads did in fact depict the same man, that this man, “Bob,” had been Philo’s mentor for many years, and that “Bob” had entrusted

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