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Adaptive Systems
January 26, 2013 7:58 PM   Subscribe


 
tl;dr: online forums are weird, self-referencial messes.

Plate of something etc. etc. etc.

Picture of an owl.

Inappropriate use of the epithet "hipster."
posted by clvrmnky at 8:24 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


My god. That's beautiful. I mean, seriously. Just. Wow.
posted by empath at 8:36 PM on January 26, 2013


PDF warning might be nifty. Off to read.
posted by Samizdata at 8:39 PM on January 26, 2013


Can we do the thing where Metafilter animorphs into a magic internet detective that figures out what the fuck is the deal with this guy?
posted by cmoj at 8:53 PM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


No exaggeration, this is one of the best things I've ever read. I don't care if it's mock-profound or merely profound, this guy is an unheralded genius, either way.
posted by empath at 8:54 PM on January 26, 2013


I read this entirely in the voice of James Urbaniak.

Also, sounds reaaaaaally hard like a Charles Stross pastiche.
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


or Watts, by way of the more godzilla-hands-masturbating parts of Ellis.
posted by The Whelk at 9:15 PM on January 26, 2013


Holy god, this is amazing. Thank you so much for posting it.
posted by figurant at 9:22 PM on January 26, 2013


or, remove the SF stuff and it's Chuck Palahniuk. Kinda.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


(although actually no, it reminded me a lot of Rant, sooooo)
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 PM on January 26, 2013


I think the guy has clearly read a lot of philosophy -- Deleuze, Sartre, Nietzche. As far as fiction influence, I picked up Pynchon, Ray Bradbury, Burroughs, Robert Anton Wilson, etc. I think most of his influences seem to be from the 60s or 70s, rather than the 80s and 90s, so we have to be talking about someone who is in now his 40s, at least.
posted by empath at 9:25 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]




I dunno, I read a loooooot of Pynchon and RAW in high School, and I'm in my (late) twenties.
posted by The Whelk at 9:33 PM on January 26, 2013


although I'm always pleasantly surprised when Arthur Rimbaud shows up to scream at Verlaine in mid sex. Very few books do that enough.
posted by The Whelk at 9:35 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I only skimmed bits and pieces but this seems like a really run-of-the-mill sub-Dave-Eggers "purposely taking a pop culture topic too seriously" style forum post.

Or is that the joke? Sorry, not really following.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:41 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


This guy coulda been Nick Land. No shit.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:42 PM on January 26, 2013


This is fascinating so far. Is there really no record of what happened to him?
posted by DoubleLune at 9:48 PM on January 26, 2013


I only skimmed bits and pieces but this seems like a really run-of-the-mill sub-Dave-Eggers "purposely taking a pop culture topic too seriously" style forum post.

Or is that the joke? Sorry, not really following.


I'm not sure what you're asking here. Do you want us to read it for you so that you don't have to? It kind of just needs to be read. I'm not sure I could begin to summarize it.
posted by empath at 9:49 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, for those of you that despise Goonhood, there is much weird and wild entertainment out there. Finally tracked down a copy of another saga that I will post a Dropbox link to later.

(Yes, for any goons out there, I think, as an exemplar of SA thread writing, we need the story of Henriette.)

There are however, more than a few weird and wild sad stories too.

So there's that.
posted by Samizdata at 9:52 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


SA has, though sheer force of will, developed something of a house style. I posit that Something Awful has been one of the best " Werid Tales" publishing house in like, ever. Shit Lasange? A Fruit Is Your Friend? These are modern pulp classics.

Well also the very real possibly that Zach Pearsons has been behind it all. This latest book is verb...in this same veiny ( turns out easy access to cloning? NOT THE BEST IDEA YOU GUYS ) .
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 PM on January 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Mkay.

More SA storytelling on MY Dropbox. This was posted elsewhere on a public source, so this shouldn't be an IP violation.

The Henriette Saga in eBook form.

PDF warning!
posted by Samizdata at 10:16 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm posting this passage cause it reminded me, oddly, of Auden's quasi erotic poems.

“Pillow-biter,” though, actually has a sort of affectionate familiarity for me, and I’m not at all uncomfortable with the image that that invokes; of me, ass in the air, masticating silk-covered 100% feather pillows in desperate, shuddering ecstasy. Yeah, that’s a pretty nice idea, actually. I have no problem with that.
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, as someone who barely finished a year of college, can I ask something?

Is this what grad school does to you people?
posted by The Whelk at 10:22 PM on January 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


And if I ever have to explain the appeal of and very distinct tone of SA/ Internet forum fiction/ punchline shaggy dog trolling whatever I might just refer people to this.

There is a “technical” psychoanalytic term for this fearful compassion, this repressed recognition, and it was coined by the father of psychoanalysis, Freud. In his essay THE ”UNCANNY”(1925) Freud writes of the legend of The Sandman, a half-mythical, half- real creature that, it is implied, murders a boyʼs father and later, at the cusp of adulthood, causes the boy to fall in love with his “daughter,” who is revealed to be a literally sexless automaton. In Freudʼs interpretation, the Sandman becomes the repressed double of the child, and represents a psychological maneuver by which the son can murder the father (every sonʼs duty, in Freudʼs universe) without assuming the fatherʼs (sexual) responsibilities. But this is simultaneously a blessing and a curse, and so the child vacillates between a loving worship of The Sandmanʼs incomparable power and a deep, foreboding fear of that very same power. The Sandman is thus the protector of the child, but it protects too well.

And Iʼm telling you right now; Knuckles is Nick Smithʼs Sandman.

posted by The Whelk at 10:30 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


( for readers not totally inside the tide pool of Internet cultures, Knuckles is an animated character from the Sonic The Hedgehog games. For whatever reason, these games tend to attract....uh ...interesting people.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:31 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got as far as the bit about some other Something Awful poster sucking methadone residue out of meth addicts via kisses. Then I decided I'd had enough of this nested series of asides.
posted by egypturnash at 10:35 PM on January 26, 2013


Oh shit, I remember this guy!

METAFILTER: CONTINUED SURVEILLANCE AND DOCUMENTATION IS THE ONLY OPTION
posted by sonmi at 10:53 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I got as far as the bit about some other Something Awful poster sucking methadone residue out of meth addicts via kisses. Then I decided I'd had enough of this nested series of asides.

I advise to keep going at least as far as the whole bit about refunds. It's fairly potent.
posted by solarion at 10:54 PM on January 26, 2013


Eh. I want to like this, but got about halfway through the "Fantasy Island" post before I simply lost interest. Reminds me of certain conversations indulged in between the cinderblock walls of a dorm room. Between the endless asides and the frequent coy responses to other posters which are impossible to understand in this context, it just reads like a lot of rehashed quasi-philosophical yammering delivered through a Wallace-esque firehose. Sometime I am in the mood for enormously over-engineered creative writing, but tonight is not the night. tl;dr, indeed.
posted by deathpanels at 11:30 PM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


SA has, though sheer force of will, developed something of a house style. I posit that Something Awful has been one of the best " Werid Tales" publishing house in like, ever. Shit Lasange? A Fruit Is Your Friend? These are modern pulp classics.

Well also the very real possibly that Zach Pearsons has been behind it all. This latest book is verb...in this same veiny ( turns out easy access to cloning? NOT THE BEST IDEA YOU GUYS ) .


There was a great series posted around Obama's first election that was surreal apocalyptic fiction about his presidency, and a front page post about the Mythbusters in the same style.

Is Parson's novel any good? Instructions For A Thing was chilling.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:44 PM on January 26, 2013


I made it the same distance, egypturnash. There is some kind of creative something-or-other going on in that document, but the methadone-clinic anecdote was gross enough that I realized that it didn't matter whether the author would actually start getting to the point anytime soon, because I wasn't going to have the patience to follow.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:48 PM on January 26, 2013


It reminded me of Burrough's talking-asshole bit from Naked Lunch, tbh.
posted by empath at 11:58 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whoa, I remember this guy too. Read a few of his posts, look forward to running into them.

I briefly dabbled in Goonery, but realized I wasn't online enough at the time to maintain enough of a presence to participate in the community at the level it seemed to demand. It was too fast moving, though it was fun to witness memes developing in real time, and there are some incredibly creative people hidden in among the enormous seething throng.

I think that some familiarity with the forums definitely lends to my enjoyment. I have a general sense of the conventions and idiosyncracies of the community, so it doesn't distract or annoy me.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:41 AM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The guy who compiled his, btw, seems to have actually had a religious conversion as a result of reading this guy's work.

FROM THAT LINK:

“If adaptive systems ever wrote a book, it would be the sequel to the Bible.”

I thought that was the Koran.
posted by philip-random at 1:05 AM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember that guy, too. Has it really been that long since SA went south and I stopped visiting? Crikey.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:14 AM on January 27, 2013


Read at least up to page 24. Page 24 could sell at $20 a copy to kids who read Tom Robbins and Richard Brautigan and RAW. They'd get 'YOU ARE FREE. TO LOVE. AND. TO LIVE. AND. TO WANT. WITHOUT WARNING' tattoos and use it as titles for Tumblrs.

I don't understand why this was just left up in a forum. It's like the man who builds intricate mazes in Action Half-Life mods. Why just leave this scattered somewhere?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:32 AM on January 27, 2013


I got about as far as "...but this is all probably tangential" and thought: "now THERE'S an understatement!"

Seems like it could work really well as, say, a Henry Rollins monologue, albeit with some tightening up.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:04 AM on January 27, 2013


"... And Iʼm telling you right now; Knuckles is Nick Smithʼs Sandman."

The Whelk: ( for readers not totally inside the tide pool of Internet cultures, Knuckles is an animated character from the Sonic The Hedgehog games. For whatever reason, these games tend to attract....uh ...interesting people.)


Ah, sortof. But you see Nick Smith is the real name of Ulillillia, legendary internet non-neurotypical and sortof adopted favourite son of SA. Knuckles is the name Ulillillia gaves to a fictional character in the book he self-published (previously). Granted, Ulillillia plays a _lot_ of video games so he probably took the name from Sonic. More ulillillia on mefi: previously previously

"Ulillillia is the last boss of the internet" - SA
posted by memebake at 3:18 AM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think most of his influences seem to be from the 60s or 70s, rather than the 80s and 90s, so we have to be talking about someone who is in now his 40s, at least.

Not true. I'm under 40 (just barely, but still) and as a kid I couldn't stand 80s and 90s SF. Or even 70s, really. Up through the 60s, before the New Wave consumed all. (Still can't stand New Wave, but post- that there's been some good stuff.)
posted by DU at 3:28 AM on January 27, 2013


“If adaptive systems ever wrote a book, it would be the sequel to the Bible.”

I thought that was the Koran.


It's kinda like the Highlander series. There are a bunch of sequels, but if you don't like one, you just kind of ignore it and make your own. Like the Book of Mormon.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:02 AM on January 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I thought there could be only one?
posted by ShutterBun at 4:14 AM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read the first few paragraphs of the original HTML version of "Fantasy Island" (ctrl+F "I would receive Eighty Thousand Dollars") and - meh. The I found the writing kind of boring.

On the surface it just seemed like the writing of a boring internet crank. Now, I realize it's supposed to be fictional and the author is establishing a voice for a fictional character. But at the same time, what is that character? A pompous internet pseudo-scientist - not someone I would ever want to spend any time listening to in real life.

And the writing seems so redundant. He takes like 400 words to say "If I was on fantasy Island, my fantasy would be to receive $80k because I think that if I could buy a type of laser used in fertility clinics I could create a genetic duplicate of a human through parthenogenesis"


Also, his biology seems whack. He says he wants to create a clone through "parthenogenesis" and then later he says he has a female volunteer to donate eggs. But if you were actually going to clone someone through "parthenogenesis" you wouldn't need a donor egg, I don't think - that's where you take a normal cell and 'reset' it back to the state of a fertilized egg.

Actually, reading more of this he just gets crazier and crazier. But not in a way that's very interesting, IMO. He writes about wanting to create a 'degraded' sperm sample and spending weeks training himself to ejaculate into a narrow tube so he could use a centrifuge to separate out the sperm cells and it's just like - wtf are you talking about? It's crazy, sure. But it's also just stupid - it seems like even the most meth-ed out delusional nut-job could figure out an easier way to do it.

He's just going on and on about nonsense. How is this supposed to be interesting?
posted by delmoi at 5:22 AM on January 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


picture of a sad owl
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:52 AM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's just going on and on about nonsense. How is this supposed to be interesting?

It's not nonsense, quite. He does circle around to a point now and again.

Actually, reading more of this he just gets crazier and crazier. But not in a way that's very interesting, IMO. He writes about wanting to create a 'degraded' sperm sample and spending weeks training himself to ejaculate into a narrow tube so he could use a centrifuge to separate out the sperm cells and it's just like - wtf are you talking about? It's crazy, sure. But it's also just stupid - it seems like even the most meth-ed out delusional nut-job could figure out an easier way to do it.

It seems kind of weird to approach this is realistic fiction. It's clearly a fever dream. In fact, either the author or the character is probably schizotypal, as someone pointed out on something awful.

All the same, what I found interesting about it, aside from the pure crazed lunacy of it, is that he's actually a deft writer, with an incisive wit and an analytical mind, who maintains a sense of humor while struggling to make sense of the insanity of life, and, as you later read, crippling loneliness. I found it moving, all together.

A few quotes that moved me:
I've spent years of my life without a single friend, I've gone months on end
without speaking a word to any save cashiers, and when I have been blessed
with friends, I've had to watch too many of them, saints all, die in terrible
torment never having once been loved. .... Ben, who was horribly
abused by his father, and I remember him coming into school, his cheek
perforated by five neatly-spaced bleeding holes left from the place that his
father had stabbed him with the fork he'd been using to eat his breakfast.
Oh, Ben, Ben died unloved; he was a very, very ugly boy; slightly on the
heavy side, stupid-looking, horrible acne. He died of a ( I think accidental)
heroin overdose, at nineteen. He had never been loved. He had never been
kissed. I remember finding him, several hours dead, and calling 911, and
waiting outside the apartment, and noticing the imprints of his boots in the
snow, left from his late-night return from his illegal job at the local bar,
and I remember going completely fucking insane, because Ben was lying dead in
bed upstairs, and here were his footprints in the snow, and somehow the
footprints were still alive to me, and I wanted, I wanted, I don't know what
the fuck I wanted to do, I wanted to fucking save the footprints, I wanted to
tell the police to surround them with their yellow tape, I wanted to take
fucking plaster casts of them, and it was so beyond hopelessness, and it was
snowing anyway, and Ben's footprints were being filled in by the snow, and it
seemed to be a sign that was all we were, snow covered by snow, and I didn't
cry, but I? I laughed and snorted, and spit. I couldn't stop spitting and
snorting... and Ben was on the gurney, and that was all of him, gone.

His essay on Love and Loneliness is fucking heartbreaking, on multiple levels. This is clearly a man who is suffering and looking for aanswers, but at the same time, he's not mad. He's thinking clearly, but just trapped in despair.
Returning to the topic at hand, I note that Love lives on, as does God, only
as displaced hatred and fearful memory. You look at her wistfully, and think:
'But for her, I would be alone.' You glance from afar, and think, 'with her,
I would never again be so lonely' Your love for her is the fear you feel of
her absence, or her unattainability. There are only two emotions that seize
at the heart, that reach under our ribcages and establish a firm and
inescapable hold on us; love and fear. This because they are same emotion;
for love is the transubstantiation of the fear of being alone, and
ultimately, the fear of one's own self, and the fear of one's own freedom.
You hate that freedom, and you hate her even more for showing you that it is
an unescapable freedom; for she shall never love you as you wish to be loved,
and your destiny is to always be alone, and you do not see this as the
blessing that it is, but as a curse of infinite despair.
But I tell you, our fate to live in eternal solitude is most precious, for if
we confront it without attempting to escape it affords us the opportunity to
discover a greater ecstasy than be found in love, indeed, the muted source of
all Love's ecstasy, which is hopeless assent to utter surrender. The reason
we feel glimmering intimations of ecstasy when we submit ourselves to the
cruel rule of Love is that, in this submission, we surrender ourselves to
another, and entrust them with our most precious secrets, and we luxuriate in
our ability to feel the ecstasy which only surrender engenders, while
simultaneously feeling safe, safe and abiding happily, until our beloved
betrays our secrets and crushes us utterly. Here is where the true ecstasy of
surrender becomes possible, for ecstasy is only complete when our surrender
is complete, when we have surrendered everything, even unto the last, even
unto our lives, and find that nothing remains; no hope, no recourse, none to
dry our tears, none to salve the pain, not even ourselves. When we see
ourselves clearly, and take the measure of our souls with baited breath, and
see that, inside, deep, deep down, where we take the greatest of pains never
to look, we are nothing; we are ashes, we are transparent, formless, an
epiphenomenal assemblage of ephemeral and contradictory impulses that we do
not control. It is here, when we see ourselves as we truly are, as an
emptiness awaking from a long slumber, that everything becomes possible.
I think it also somewhat elucidates what's going on in the story about Fantasy Island in that his 'answer' to the problem of loneliness is to destroy sex, or at least the reproductive, evolutionary need for it, and replace it with -- I don't know, exactly -- some kind of utopian hedonism. It's really fascinating, the whole thing, taken together, as prose, and as a look into the mind of a very intelligent, creative and troubled person. I'd love to know more about the person that wrote this.
posted by empath at 7:10 AM on January 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


As for solving the mystery of who he is, it might be useful to look a couple posts up at the FPP on stylometry...
posted by localroger at 7:26 AM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


in that his 'answer' to the problem of loneliness is to destroy sex, or at least the reproductive, evolutionary need for it, and replace it with -- I don't know, exactly -- some kind of utopian hedonism.
Sounds like the "Hero" in Oryx and Crake (I don't mean Snowman)
posted by delmoi at 8:10 AM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's really fascinating, the whole thing, taken together, as prose, and as a look into the mind of a very intelligent, creative and troubled person.

I'm glad for your perspective. I was spending a lot of time on the SA forums when adaptive systems was around, IIRC. He always, always troubled me, and the fact that he was so widely admired saddened me. There was a chilly misogyny to his postings that, combined with his intelligence and perception, was more frightening than the spitting bitterness of any young male nerd or aging MRA. He seemed to know very many things, but not to know how to be human.

I hope the reason he disappeared is because he got help and moved past this time in his life. Honestly, though, I doubt it.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:40 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


OK, let me amend what I just wrote: I missed the introductory part reading, "'Adaptive Systems said most of what he wrote on SA represented the worst part of him, and that
he was in a formative period of his life. Everything is best read in that context . . .'"

That's excellent news.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


If that's him at his worst, he must be Joyce at his best. I just love this kind of fever-dream Beat style writing though. Pretty much everything is too linear and realistic for me.

Metafilter: Polyamarous tribes of book-readers will run fucking, fisting, flaying, and fleeing into the depths of the forests never to be seen again.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, let me amend what I just wrote: I missed the introductory part reading, "'Adaptive Systems said most of what he wrote on SA represented the worst part of him, and that he was in a formative period of his life. Everything is best read in that context . . .'"

If that introductory bit hadn't been there, I would have assumed he had killed himself, considering that passage about his loneliness and the loneliness of his friends.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:51 PM on January 27, 2013


There was a chilly misogyny to his postings that, combined with his intelligence and perception, was more frightening than the spitting bitterness of any young male nerd or aging MRA.

Yeah, I caught the misogyny, and the self-loathing. But I didn't recognize anything like the normal MRA nerd-rage in it at all. It's almost mystical and abstract. I dunno. I find it fascinating. I wouldn't want to be friends with the guy, though.
posted by empath at 6:25 PM on January 27, 2013


I wouldn't want to be friends with the guy, though.

I thought MeFites were supposed to be smarter than this. We reward 'comment fables' here. Intellect like this - and Tim Rogers, and Tartovosky's Former AD over at the AV Club - should be praised and engaged with. Not shunned with a 'TL;DR' before going back to fatuous phatic utterances about how 'awesome' things are.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:17 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


CIS, did you not see the "I find it fascinating"?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:20 PM on January 27, 2013


Intellect like this

Yes, he's intelligent, and a very good writer, and a deep thinker, but he also expresses some fairly vile thoughts about women and is clearly troubled. I can appreciate that he is suffering, and the way he explores and expresses it is often beautiful in its way, but I wouldn't want to be part of it, nor would I want to encourage it. I'm glad that he seems to have found some peace, though.
posted by empath at 9:30 PM on January 27, 2013


I'm glad that he seems to have found some peace, though.

I'm not, if it's at the expense of his writing, whoever he is. If he's publishing under another name or if there's a vast reserve of fiction written like this I'd be okay with it but reading through the PDF (I've only finished the second story) I despair that there's not more writing that combined surreal flights of fancy (the list of religious sects is out of Robert Anton Wilson or M John Harrison) with strident moral aphorisms (the celibate sect helping the poor). Somebody mentioned cstross but the books of his I read (Accelerando and Iron Sky) were burdened a bit by a contemporary, post-Internet voice and a actual plotting.

Maybe Adaptive Systems is some forgotten New Wave sci-fi writer returned and I'll find his voice ringing out from a New Worlds anthology.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:01 PM on January 27, 2013


He mentions 'McKean Hall', which is either in Penn State or Colby-Sawyer College.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:24 PM on January 27, 2013


I really thought I would like this, but I got all the way to page 26 before I couldn't hold out any longer for something I might like.
posted by Nattie at 3:30 AM on January 28, 2013


A foudroyant boundary shall be riven between the time and place of that once-feared stasigenesis of the eternally crippled souls, and the new and perdurable order of the All-mother

Reminds me of that stuff I tried writing about an hour after dropping. And that stuff you write when you wake up from a fantastic dream ... leaving behind a thin trail, making little sense, the words fail to capture, mere flesh with all the juice sucked out ... words, mere words, that can only be revived by reclaiming that lost mind and breathing into them what they can never hold onto. That music can.
posted by Twang at 7:56 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am adaptive systems' wife.

Who is Adaptive Systems and where did he come from?

He'd rather remain fairly anonymous for now.

How did he have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything from molecular biology to European intellectual history?

He read. Starting at a young age, and with long, vast and enduring curiosity. For a time he read every new book that came into the university library where he went to school.

Is it possible he was a famous author or an artificial intelligence?

He was not. He is just a person, fighting the weight of the world like so many of the rest of us.

I'm glad that he seems to have found some peace, though.

He hasn't.

I wouldn't want to be friends with the guy, though.

He is kind.

What is he doing now?

Struggling, for my sake, and bravely, as only a hero can.

Is he writing a book?

No. I hope that someday some necessary thing will change in his life to allow the intricately complex, ironic, uniquely absurd person that was adaptive systems to come back again and to leave more of his imprint on the world. For now that person is away, and often and in many ways inaccessible even to me. It breaks my heart in the way that only watching a beautiful and cherished person suffer can. I miss him, as you all do.

Whether you think he is the brilliant person who reveals an unusual side of the human experience to us, as I do, or whether you think that he is thinly and overly verbose, thank you for remembering the mind of the man who captured my soul many years ago; who showed me for the first time how it feels to peer into the vast universe of another mind and have them look back into mine; the man I live with yet hope will one day find the freedom to truly come back to me. It makes me feel proud of him, and I hope with all my heart that he is someday filled with the peace that I want for him, even if means he never writes another word.

Cheers.
posted by pulleduphill at 6:48 PM on February 9, 2013 [61 favorites]


Mrs. systems, your reply touched me. I hope you and your husband rediscover himself and some peace and some happiness.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm glad that he seems to have found some peace, though.

I'm not, if it's at the expense of his writing, whoever he is.


This attitude strikes me as cruel. There's unrest and then there's unrest; there's having something in your head which has a shape but no words, which you struggle and struggle to birth as language, and then there's having that shapeless thing be your entire life. I spent a very unpleasant year writing copiously, thousands upon thousands of words a day, trying to make sense of things in my mind which were shadowy and vague and making me miserable. That's a year of my life I wish I had back. I feel the same about addicts who rely on their drugs for creativity: some very unhealthy people wrote some very brilliant things thanks to their drug of choice, but that doesn't make their situation ideal or desired.

There's this unfortunate cultural myth that creativity and action are only ever the result of misery. It convinces countless young, easily influenceable people that if you're not miserable, you're doing something wrong, and that on the flipside, if you are miserable, that this is okay and that you should keep going. I've found that young bright people develop a tendency to dig themselves into pits, not because intelligence destines you to unhappiness (what horseshit!) but because we have so successfully correlated intelligence and creativity with crippling misery that many kids logically assume that they ought to go about refining their misery, making it more pronounced. It's a goddamn fucking shame.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad that miserable people can find writing as a solace. It not only helps them, but it helps others who are in the same sad place. As long as people are unwell, there should be writing about being unwell. But within the "fever dream" you seem to like so much, Charlemagne, there's a lot that's, well, sick. Beautiful, but sick. And while I appreciate the hell out of beauty wherever I find it, I guess I'm unlike you in that I don't see the sickness as a prerequisite to the beauty.

To go back to the drugs thing, I'm reminded of how Ravi Shankar hated people who'd get high or drop acid to listen to his music. It wasn't because he thought drugs ruined his music per se; it was that he saw drugs as unnecessary to appreciate the music's beauty. And if you believe that great music has the potential to elevate somebody, to deeply change their life, then taking drugs that'll alter your mental state temporarily and then listening to the music means you haven't given it a chance to affect you in a lasting way. You've relegated it to something you'll only let yourself do when you're in a certain altered mental state already. (Don't get me wrong, drugs can be powerful agents of change unto themselves – but only if you let them be, and plenty of users don't bother.)

So it is, I feel, with creativity. Plenty of people don't let themselves be creative, don't give themselves a chance. The ones that do so often don't understand that creativity is a process, that it follows a progression, that there is nothing pure or innate about it. Because we tell ourselves that creativity is a gift that just, like, bursts out of people Alien-style, we miss how much work it takes to be creative. And oftentimes, even creative sorts with a whole lot of potential refuse to let themselves work at it unless they're in whatever artificial state of mind – drunk, stoned, utterly miserable – makes creativity as easy and as effortless as possible.

There's something juvenile about that, at least to the extreme extent that our popular culture takes that idea. And it's bullshit. You don't have to have a fever to write something that feels like a fever dream. There's nothing mystical about this writing. They're words! You put them in a certain order and they feel like a certain thing. It's all manipulation, and it's not especially hard to understand, either (though making those manipulations yourself takes a lot of practice). Sure, this writing can come from a mystical place, but when the words hit the page they're cold, dead reality.

I feel like it was only when I got (marginally) older that I discovered all the sober artists and authors and musicians, compared to the things I liked as a teen that wallowed in misery and intentional unhappiness. And I found that though the sober writers who like to write feverish are rarer, they're able to hit notes which the legitimately unhappy mind cannot touch – they're seeing a bigger picture than the mind limited by its own despair, as empath pointed out. John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, to pick a completely random example, writes some powerful, tender music when he's miserable, but when he gets out of his own head he's got a control over what his songs do that's just completely glorious. Take Lovecraft in Brooklyn, a song about paranoia and fear which only works through its playfulness and melodrama – and which is no less moving or affecting for it.

Saying that you wish a person was less at peace so they'd write you more things? That strikes me as awfully bad-natured. He already wrote a slim book's worth of writings. What more does somebody have to give you before you decide you have enough?
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:05 AM on February 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


"what more" Rory Marinich asks before "enough" is brought to it's chronological conclusion.
a fair question which I remember a good answer.

"could draw up an ancient memory which would
wipe this whole presence away: or I could fill

out my dreams with high syntheses turned into
concrete visionary forms"

-Ammons.

It is not about "more" per say, it is more about choice, mainly, lack of it.
posted by clavdivs at 10:55 AM on February 10, 2013


Thanks, Rory, for responding to that in a far fuller way than I would have. I read Charlemagne's comment and mainly wanted to punch him in the eye.

That Adaptive Systems hasn't found peace hurts my heart.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:18 AM on February 10, 2013


Thanks, Rory, for responding to that in a far fuller way than I would have. I read Charlemagne's comment and mainly wanted to punch him in the eye.

I was just going to post "Christ, what an asshole" when I read it, but yeah.
posted by ericost at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2013


I'm glad that he seems to have found some peace, though.

I'm not, if it's at the expense of his writing, whoever he is.


This is an extrordinarily selfish thing to think or say. You are actively wishing pain on someone you claim to admire and respect, just so you can bathe in the expression of their misery.

What is wrong with you?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:35 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno. I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there written by people who've read a lot of books and weave it into their fiction and manifestos. The Fantasy Island bit reminded me of a the sort of war-nerd genre of military sci-fi with its fixation on instruments and technologies and procedures, except that the loneliness of the author is much more explicit here.

And why-- WHY -- is it that when they want to tell you about research you'll be fascinated by, it's ALWAYS about information theory and the philosophy of grammar?

He comes across as a lonely person writing for a lot of other lonely people. And there's value in that, but the whole "philosopher king of SomethingAwful" persona he put together is grating. I can picture my BBS-reading 13 year old self being fascinated by it, but at some point you want to read grownup fiction and philosophy.
posted by deanc at 4:06 PM on February 11, 2013


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