(I wrote this free verse(?!) fanfic over a couple weekends in the summer of 2012, after being sorely disappointed by the Alien prequel Prometheus. The film's early ads focused heavily on the android David, including some really evocative ads about how he was created. I read into some details and got very excited about what the movie might do, and rewatched all of the Alien films in anticipation. Then I was deeply frustrated by Prometheus itself. I wanted to tell a better version of the story, more in line with the politics I saw in the original movie.
But of course, this was 2012, and I was a solitary, sad young man with high art aspirations and a tendency to make art that was unwelcoming. So, rather than just write a straightforward fix fic, I wrote a free verse diary of David's creator, interwoven with quotes from Jacques Derrida's Dissemination about aliens, fathers, and Plato's pharmakon that I was really surprised to stumble on at the very moment I was thinking about this story. I linked the creative act of writing with making a child, and mixed in my own ambivalence about both. I also wanted to talk about the bullshit of masculinity. I had a lot of fun doing this for a bit, and then I got frustrated with myself for spending too much time on something I thought no one else would ever enjoy. So I trailed off at the end, and then left it untouched for seven years.
I don't think this is my best work. I haven't edited this at all, nor have I attempted to finish it yet. That's not what I need right now. It's a first draft written in a few sessions. If I were to edit now, I'd probably take out all the line breaks, find a more natural way to mix in some of the quotes (or, hell, maybe I'd leave them because I still think they work), and definitely rewrite most of it. I also hadn't read Frankenstein yet, and if I had, I would have done it differently, or maybe not at all! But I need to purge my list of regrets, and this is one of many creative projects that still lingers in my guilt ducts. I hereby release it, and if there's ever a good reason to clean it up, I'll give it another look then.)
Please forgive the deep pretension of a lonely dude in his mid-twenties. Don't read it as poetry; just read it like sentences! If you hate the academic quotes, just skip them. And have fun!
Content warnings: Bad fathers, vague allusions to the sexual violence implicit in the Alien series, though I tried not to talk about it much!
"Thus, even though writing is external to (internal) memory,
even though hypomnesia is
not in itself memory, it
affects memory and hypnotizes it in its very inside.
That is the effect of this pharmakon.
If it were purely external, writing would leave the
intimacy or integrity [of psychic memory]
just as Rousseau and Saussure will do
in response to the same necessity,
yet without discovering other relations
between the intimate and the alien, Plato maintains
both the exteriority of writing and its
power of maleficent penetration,
its ability to infect or affect what lies deepest inside.
The pharmakon is that dangerous supplement
that breaks into the very thing that
would have liked to do without it
yet lets itself at once be breached,
roughed up, fulfilled, and replaced,
completed by the very trace through which the present
increases itself in the
act of disappearing."
"— with respect to speech, nature,
intercourse, and living memory —
at once something secondary, external, and compensatory,
and something that substitutes, violates, and usurps."
— Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, p. 110
After we laughed, we became serious. I said to Marguerite: "The question is, have men died today because they have tampered with the sources of life, or do they tamper with the sources of life because they are dead and wish to find its springs again, to create an artificial control of the sources of life?
— Anaïs Nin, Diary, Vol 1 p. 197
One problem was a man bent on creating life,
on continuing his legacy
(obsessed with the idea that legacy is everything
to the exclusion of the living it legitimizes)
by making a break with what came before.
Life with no predecessor but the idea of life.
That if something breathes, bleeds, and breeds,
it is Life,
and that if it also
dances and divines, cogitates and conquers,
then it is Human,
whether it was born or built. Whether it was
mothered by gentle arms, language absorbed
along the spectrum of gentle coo, on up to square roots,
from politeness given reason by example
to politics justified by the rationality of experience;
or if it was imbued with a collective scraped gestalt knowledge,
pumped full of fluids containing nucleic storage media;
its DNA containing not only the structure of its own shape,
but additional strands holding Constitutions and concordances,
the texts of entire infinite libraries, with further knowledge ingested
with each sip of the milk of its endless infancy.
Birthed suddenly, fully-formed as an adult,
from a warm sac full of piping and wires.
No single earth-maternal-centering umbilical, but
the abrupt system-wide termination of
thousands of sensors, feeders, and calibrating wires
radiating bodily from its entire frame.
From "his" frame.
"He is thus
the father's other,
the subversive movement of his replacement.
The god of writing
is at once his father, his son, and himself.
He cannot be assigned a fixed spot in the
play of differences.
Sly, slippery, and masked,
an intriguer and a card,
he is neither king nor jack, but rather
a sort of joker, a
a wild card,
one who puts play into play."
— Dissemination, p. 93
What is the blood of the created man?
One of our earliest questions.
The vector for storing and moving
both energy and information
need not inherently mimic the blood of born man.
This was an initial breakthrough,
but what we broke was much more complicated than
a simple technical barrier, or once-proud bull;
we emulated the heartache of blood's purpose
while stealing from it the fundament of its cause.
We delighted in removing the iron from this new man.
A laugh, to subvert from the earliest stages of development
the assumptions about androids, robots, and all of man's greatest creations.
Not an iron-clad man of unfeeling, nonyielding metal;
Leave that to the shells of transport and construction.
Our man must be soft, durable but pliable,
Capitalizing on the principles of ductility as survivability.
From without, he would be indistinguishable from birthed man.
Warm, giving, the skin a layer added in construction to cover
the powerful vigorous frame.
See him floating in the womb of tubes,
Obscured by the milky fluid of his life.
Also from the start, we knew we could speed his growth
by creating a womb of optimal conditions,
but that he should be a self-assembler, following the pattern of life's
own internally-logical construction.
The plans embedded in the DNA we had thoroughly perverse-engineered,
integrating pieces from species throughout nature's experiments.
Expanding on the precedents.
Chimps over 99% identical to humans;
Daffodils sharing 50% of the same basic information.
All creatures on earth starting from common origins
meant that with enough knowledge,
enough trial and
plenty of error,
we could use pieces of earth's forms to include
higher photosynthetic response to effect solar metabolization,
greater adaptability to environment,
stronger resilience to physical harm by way of internal weaponry,
other methods of reproduction depending upon necessity,
a self-propagating voyager who shared in community
but did not require it.
We would build a man who could traverse the stars
without dreading the unknown organisms we were sure
already populated the cosmos;
constructed to be immune to microorganisms
by scourging all infiltrators with hot automatic vengeance.
The human's great weakness was its reliance on
the multiplicity of organisms that constitute it;
from the piles of festering bacteria necessary for digestion,
down to the notion of incorporated organs, each its own
long-lost original animal, subsumed and
subservient to the swallowing king, Body.
This man would be all sinew and tubing,
all structure and efficiency,
all pressure and simplicity.
Functional differentials, yes, but no dependence on the whole.
A head alone could live on, self-contained,
so long as it maintained access to light and its component minerals.
Those, we chose from the most common rocks and gases in the universe;
distilled easily in most environments to a concentrated health potion,
the milk of the universe-mother.
It was simple enough to enable him to scavenge,
to dissolve stones and girders,
to soak up and filter from any traversable medium
the basic atoms of his existence,
and we would let the rapid carpenters of RNA
take care of the rest.
Of course, he wouldn't need much.
Not much to sustain himself.
Like his father, he would be a man of simple needs and pleasures.
But life is a process of goriest digestion,
of consumption and destruction
as the glorious route to
intellect, art, and
And like all life, we knew he must evolve.
How best to accomplish this?
In this there were two camps within our patri dish.
Some advocated our rapid prototyping and shaping,
generation after flashing generation,
allowing variations to arise of their own
— of his own —
accord, but then keeping in mind our vision,
which must be true, and which yes could accommodate
details we never anticipated, but had in its end
a resilient man who would usher in a new
era of men?
Considering now, how much of our trouble was that we set out to
The other, simultaneously-pursued path was one of
rampant and, in my educated opinion, of wanton randomization.
We had made a creature capable of building itself, of
selecting traits as it grew based on viability,
of writing and re-writing its own blueprints within a single
(with the entirety of earth's myriad genetics available for reference,
traits and appendages of all species readied for possible use
by the sons of my son,
for though he was a man, he would be the
son also of earth, in its entirety, and
while we idolized the form of man, we also
recognized that earth's greatest child
might eventually become something other and more,
the more we wished we were but could never be);
and we were pleased with our early results,
these campers insisted,
so why not entrust the mechanisms we had devised to make their
own choices about their future?
We had not come far enough yet, in my opinion.
The child was not yet of age, and needed our guidance.
But it was a scientifically valid point,
a possibility worth investigating,
and given the controlled environments and strenuous
checks on security we had put in place to secure
our palace of progeneration,
I allowed it.
And slowly I came to see the power of evolution accelerated.
How Yahweh must have felt,
at His cosmic sense of time,
seeing Earth herself writhe with fire and then with worms,
having cast His seed into her seas
to see what yet might be.
The children He never could have dreamt.
How they roiled forward.
Some horrible, some gorgeous, some surely
redefining aesthetic assessment entirely with their curves and teeth.
Teeth, at all, as an emergent concept!
What would the toothless God make of
His first fanged mutant child?
Acceptance and horror's fascination entwined.
How many of them we grew, observed, and
Cast into clouds of dissonating vapors.
We grew callous of necessity,
killing our messes to make way for our heirs,
but we loved, and love still.
"For it goes without saying
that the god of writing must also be the god of death.
We should not forget that,
in the Phaedrus, another thing held against the invention
of the pharmakon is that it
substitutes the breathless sign for the
claims to do without the father
(who is both living and life-giving)
of logos, and can no more
answer for itself than a sculpture or
inanimate painting, etc."
— Dissemination, p. 91
I was aware of the company's other arms,
of humanity's movement into the stars,
in the way one follows the progress of foreign wars.
Blips of data, a sense of eventual consequence
that rarely results in any need for personal action.
Expansion across the galaxy just meant readier access to materials.
Near-infinite cheap power simplified our division's budget
and amplified our investigations.
But what if...?
The company cared for us; it was the larger womb gestating our project.
In my private leisure time, I mostly returned to the classic films
of yesterday, those mythical lumescent figures on whom
my son would be fed, modeled, and educated.
Studied the men of my youth.
The men I wished I'd been.
Who could have been,
Of whom one might have been,
if my mother could be believed,
my own forever unmet father.
We hardcoded a "tendency toward humanity."
A genetic preferential, akin to the innate
tendency toward survival
and the inevitability of caloric combustion.
No matter the turns his genes would take,
he would always prefer to hold the shape of humanity,
to follow the spirit and example of humanity.
And yes I dreamed
of a future with my child as father to the
variety of new gods that would walk all the surfaces of every world,
and all of them would know me and my memory,
unable to forget where they had come from,
biologically drawn to the vision of their creator.
Our obsession with "humanity," with replacing
humanity with its better replica,
while retaining a roots-ward pull.
Increasing the inherent tension between
what could be better
what came before.
while guaranteeing the capacity to see what could
Our obsession passed on to the next generation.
"Sometimes the dead person takes the place
of the scribe. Within the space of
such a scene, the dead one's place
then falls to Thoth. One can read
on the pyramids the celestial history of one such soul:
"'Where is he going?' asks a
great bull threatening him with his horn
'He's going full of vital energy to the skies,
to see his father,
to contemplate Ra,' and
the terrifying creature let him pass."
— Dissemination, p. 92
Another man with money and mania
claimed the child as his own, but like all distant false fathers
neglected his growth, left the son's development to the nurses.
The founder, the leader, the funder;
The bread-bringer and illuminator.
We owed the existence of our lab, the countless sons we had already
observed and then iterated upon at such enormous invisible expense;
The culture of company that fermented us
and the camaraderie of our quiet endeavor;
We owed it to him.
And we weren't ungrateful.
Did his motives taint the process?
Were we doomed only then by his sudden disruption?
It's pleasant to place the blame elsewhere.
Yes. Nice to feel,
At home, my wife and children
thriving, growing, lovingly.
Easy for many to dismissively presume
that we who pursued the birth of something next
were loveless, obsessive,
When it was just work; and moreover
brilliant, fascinating work; and to whatever extent
you could say I obsessed
it was for that great gory god The Yet Undone,
which all humans have worshipped,
and with the sense and surety (and truth-borne actuality) of being
so close to something that had always been dreamed,
for the entire recorded history of humanity.
The sentient symbol.
Art inheriting life.
The true and only ever bastard, perfect, surpassing son of man.
"As a substitute capable of
doubling for the king,
the father, the sun, and the word,
distinguished from these only by dint of representing,
repeating, and masquerading,
Thoth was naturally also capable of
totally supplanting them and appropriating
all their attributes.
He is added as the essential attribute
of what he is added to,
and from which almost nothing distinguishes him.
He differs from speech or divine light
only as the revealer from the revealed.
— Dissemination, p. 90
His first steps,
when it was really him, finally,
— or almost him
pending batteries of tests and approval processes
and eventual federal approval invoices —
Wanting so badly to reach in and support his frame.
The slick skin following birth.
He could walk almost immediately after leaving the amniotic egg.
Before walking, his zest and vigor even enabled him
to wriggle along the floor on his belly,
toward his father behind glass
seven panes deep.
Like a soldier crippled by shrapnel,
but with courage carrying forward.
Oh, I loved him in his strangeness.
His inquisitive head-tilt.
So human, even in such a changed form.
But there were two sons.
Two sons begetting more sons.
An inescapable Biblical precedent.
The first, we named David.
And even as David was replaced by increasingly-successful attempts,
He was the son of my original intent:
tall, strong, handsome, dependable.
Instantly admirable, and in fact almost confounding
in his unattainable perfection.
A perfection we improved on over many months.
To stand before a line of Davids,
a dozen identical brothers, sculpted by the wombs we had made,
and by their own souls which we had programmed,
was to indulge in a rush of awe
and, yes, terror of a kind.
David was predictable.
In fact, he was definitively predicted.
Though the nuances of his behavior were emergent,
— And his hunger for new information, his receptivity,
were such a pleasure to observe and to feed —
he could be counted on to serve others and
to seek the common good.
Between generations, there was certainly feedback from him to us,
guiding us to improve him as best we could.
His insights into human nature,
and into the nature of his own unique life,
were deeply moving.
Skin smooth, jaw chiseled, hair that grew naturalistically.
Eyes that followed others with great interest,
and could also convey emotions with incredible tenderness.
Beneath that skin, an incredible system of tightly-wound tubes
filled with milk-white blood, carrying electricity and information
throughout his body just as easily as ours carried oxygen and waste.
So human. So lifelike.
You could almost forget.
Not with the other.
The other, we could not give a name.
Sometimes we called him the "Universal Adapter."
There were plenty who called him
Creature; Monster; Horror.
Jokes about Goliath.
Often children do not meet their parents' expectations.
Do they deserve less love for differing?
I thought often of how I had objected to this line of experimentation.
But that he was equally my responsibility now.
And what a fascinating boy he was, too.
His was the path of the righteous random,
a glorious chaos of exceeding the human imagination.
Power and necessity taking over its own development.
And here, we were forced to admit,
was quite possibly the greater creation.
One which would, truly, surpass the limits of its creators.
Breach them, and burst forth into the future.
The Universal Adapter embodied the element of life that,
if we were really to make a life to replace all life,
could best navigate multiplicity, variety, and competition among
all possible branches of the strangling tree.
They were so similar, really.
The same technologies, the same foundations.
Such a dynamic illustration of what wonders we create by forging ahead,
by focusing on a vision of what might be,
and bringing it forth.
Then, too, what happens when control is relinquished;
when nature has its way with our intentions.
The primary difference was virility.
David was obviously sterile, asexual,
potentially himself eternal and therefore
disinterested in procreation as preservation.
He was deeply interested in the next generation,
but as an intellectual exercise.
The Universal Adapter seemed to require, at root,
an ability to reproduce.
And to change with each generation based on the
predominant conditions, and on the
experience of the progenitor.
Immediately, gendered reproduction fell away.
He could reproduce by various means;
the methods he pulled from the compendium of dormant DNA
encoded within him were impressive, to say the least.
For whatever reason, the Adapters laid eggs most often,
but could employ other methods as necessary.
Sometimes a sort of metagenesis took place,
or perhaps better termed parthenogenesis,
where alternating generations would express very different traits.
The one which hatched from an egg would have one set of traits,
and would itself reproduce in some other way,
giving birth to a very different subsequent form.
TK: To manipulate humans into giving chase,
leaving falsely-dated clues to obvious star systems,
TK: And to further the randomized nature, to further accelerate and release also from obligation their spirits, they send these ships out into the universe, "piloted" by decoys, impossible creatures that are supposed to deflect suspicion of origin away from humans.
But we realized he would never reach his potential in even our most
devious, contained playgrounds.
He needed room to grow on his own.
We knew also that humanity was not ready to meet its
There were certain colonies.
Places where disease — which could not harm him —
or political unrest — which could not turn him —
or simple uselessness — which he would never know —
had rendered some small group of
truly unfortunate humans
beyond reclaim or repair.
Not worth the company's expense to salvage.
Rather than leave them to fumble through their dwindling end,
it was proposed
(and by whom we can't remember)
that mercy might make way for progress.
That a planet mostly barren
but for a doomed-and-dying outpost
would make an excellent observable test bed
for my son's diverse fruitions.
What could we learn from stationing cameras in orbit,
and then staging a crash;
humankind's first brush with
a presumably alien form?