Today I’m happy to share with you a book that I edited called adapt.
It’s about a young geneticist in Africa.
It’s about self-discovery, finding love, and changing the world.
And it’s free.
WARNING: This is adult material that is not suitable for children. Read at your own peril. Or don’t read it. I’m just posting it here because it was important for me to read when I was a teenager.
Here’s why I did it.
“If adaptive systems ever wrote a book, it would be the sequel to the Bible.”
That was one of the comments that convinced me to read Fantasy Island (Original HTML
). I’m glad I did because it’s not just the best spec fiction I’ve read, it’s the most creative creative writing I’ve ever encountered. At the time, I was browsing the SA Forums, looking for shits and giggles in a thread named “Post Your Favorite Quotes” when I came across a massive post. Initially, I skipped over it because it was so long, but the comments that immediately followed had such high praise that I had to File > Save Page As. Later I read Fantasy Island halfway through, stopped reading to print it out, then read the whole thing because it is pure genius.
Today I’ve read every post of adaptive and I have no doubt: he is a shadow poet bright as the sun. He deserves to be read more than most published authors. So what if he’s never been published? It doesn’t matter! Who cares when his real job is designing a cellular programming language? His way with words, and willingness to use a lot of them on an anonymous internet forum where he blurred the line between creative fiction and autobiography makes for a read that is fresh and alive. He’s an unambiguous genius. Part poet, part scientist, part post-human Messianic leader!
You know David Foster Wallace? Author of Infinite Jest? Yeah, I’ve read it. Adaptive makes Wallace look like he belongs in a special section of Borders – the Young Adult section. That’s a joke (RIP DFW), but the comparison is apt, especially since adaptive disappeared off the internet a few years ago. See, for a time I thought Wallace might be adaptive systems, perhaps hopping on his nephew’s computer during Thanksgiving while drunk to release a pent-up typhoon of creativity or something. The question of the mysterious identity – is he a famous author? is he an artificial intelligence? – is one of the hooks that kept me Googling his name in search of new posts for the last couple of years.
Is he a genius? You only have to read a few paragraphs to realize that he belongs to an elite order of human beings. Aside from his convincing explanations of genetic engineering techniques and encyclopedic knowledge of European intellectual history, while reading through a biography of Isaac Newton I noted three things about his personality that AS shares in common.
1. Phenomenal Memory. Search the book (CTRL + F) for chimpanzees, brilliant idea, and remembered.
2. Vast fonts of plain physical energy. Search terms include sleep, and more than 36 hours.
3. The feeling of being elect to receive knowledge from a Higher Power. Try calculus books, the answer, and destinies.
Of course, the most interesting thing to me has always been his religious beliefs. Like Alex Grey, I call AS a bridge out of atheism. He was once the most certain of atheists. His writing nailed my deepest teenage fears and insecurities – that there is no God, that there is no love – with a hammer of conviction into a burning cross in hell. There, I smoldered for a bit, reflected on things that had happened in my life like my parents divorce at a young age, my own failed personal relationships, and then emerged covered in smoke.
And then I began to see mistakes in his writing. As bright and intelligent as he is, his writing is full of flaws – typos, mistakes, factual errors, and even severe misconceptions. Then I began to see his biggest mistake for what it was- and to recognize it as my own.
Now, slow down. Here’s the best part. You must read this slowly. Slower. You are reading much, much slower now.Like an explosion, love enters the world. In 2009, a forums poster named ‘spirited’ reveals a profound transformation contained in two personal letters from adaptive. For me, the emotional impact was like being wrapped in a blanket by Santa on Christmas. At the time, this was the best paragraph in the best letter from the best writer I have ever read.
Weeks ago, however, I had what might properly be described as a mystical experience. I awoke from a dream into an all-suffusing awareness of love, of its grandeur, of its munificence, and most of all, of its mystery. There is something in love that seems to me, now, to be realer than what we think of as real…Something that exists under and above the world that we can know through our senses. I now suspect that every form of love, from the transcendental to the romantic to the familial, is *real,* and has an existence independent of the lover and the beloved and is con-substantial with all the love that has ever existed.
I still consider myself to be fundamentally a materialist, and hold it to be a truism that we are made of matter, and matter is made of energy, and energy is comprised of heat and motion, which radiate through waves and particles, which are made from raw information, but from whence does this information arise? I suspect that it is an effect of love. I do not know whether the world is the intentional *result* of the action of love, or if it is an ungoverned, ephemeral effervescence of love, a side effect. I do not know if it is even possible to answer this question. When speaking of love and it is of course all too easy to lapse into cliches and easy platitudes, but I hope, in my future writing and personal work, to do precisely the opposite; to underline the alien nature of love, to accentuate the fact that it is a strange faith, not of our fathers, to which we must convert if we are to find the power to survive in this world, and more importantly find the power to work for change, the most difficult form of change being, of course, the changing of the self…