The Church of the SubGenius


I am pleased to say that I own a tattered first-edition (paperback) copy of “The Book of the SubGenius.”



This is a bunch of stories / collages / imaginings created in the 1970s and 1980s by a group of creative nuts who made up their own religion using 1950s advertising iconography, UFO lore, some William Blake, some Star Trek, a dash of H. P. Lovecraft, and lots of memories of Sunday School.



It’s impossible to explain their theology. Let it suffice to say that their messiah is a grinning pipe-smoker named J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, who appears as the daddy in every 1950s print ad (see the above image for an example). “Bob” was sent to warn us against the coming Weird Times. According to SubGenius belief, the world is a bad experiment created by a renegade entity called Jehovah-1, or Ra, or Wotan; we’re expecting some aliens called the Xists anytime now (actually, they were supposed to arrive in 1998).



The creepy thing about this book is that some of their lunatic comedy prophecies actually came true. They predicted global warming, and the fall of the USSR. They also predicted that, in the early 1990s, teenagers would begin wearing broomsticks up their asses, so they didn’t get everything right.



One of my favorite SubGenius concepts was the ShorDurPerSav: the Short Duration Personal Savior. If you ever encounter someone (or something) you like, that person / thing becomes your ShorDurPerSav. It can be a bowl of ice cream; it can be a friendly dog. I feel no shame in telling you that I have adopted this concept into my life. The cute little UPS man can be my ShorDurPerSav for five minutes, before I move on to something else.



I also like the titles the SubGenii made up for themselves: HellSwami, Rev. Dr. Dr. Pope, BurnMartyr, Dominatrix. (And I haven’t even mentioned the magical drug Habafropzipulops, or the Fightin’ Jesus, or the plant-based Xist computer MWOWM.)



I’m not a SubGenius myself. But maybe I should convert.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

4 Responses to The Church of the SubGenius

  1. Kenneth Huey says:

    The first edition of The Book is obviously very holy and sacred and everything, but for personal spiritual reasons, I prefer the second edition.
    Signed, the cover artist of TBOTSG, 2d ed.,
    St. Kenneth Huey

    • St. Kenneth: I looked up your cover, and it’s magnificent. I will always treasure my ancient copy of the Scriptures (I love the nuclear family running away from the spaceship while “Bob” grins down), but your giant Bobface cover is really wonderful. I’m glad to hear that some of the SubGenii have made it into the post-Xist age . . .

  2. JZP says:

    Actually, 1998 HASN’T HAPPENED YET! The Church is very much active, as any visit to will readily reveal – and we are well aware of the Conspiracy’s long plan of calendar manipulation. In case you need Slack on the Go, you should grab the ebook copy for your phone, kindle, etc.

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