The maverick quantum physicist Jack Sarfatti is republishing my 1995 21C Magazine article Weird Science in his Kindle ebook collection Destiny Matrix 2020. The following is an excerpt from my unpublished book project Personal Mythologists about how I came to profile Sarfatti—and what I learned.
REVelation’s publication of my Noam Chomsky and Robert Anton Wilson profiles led to a series of meetings with Ashley Crawford, then the publisher and editor of 21C and World Art magazines. Crawford had evolved 21C from its roots with the Australian Commission for the Future into a science and culture magazine with high design and production values, and an international network of contributors. 21C had co-sponsored Chomsky’s Australian tour. Crawford and I met in 21C’s South Yarra, Melbourne office to discuss potential story ideas.
My queries about Wilson and online subculture research led me to a new story idea: to profile the maverick quantum physicist Dr Jack Sarfatti who mentored author Gary Zukav and others. Sarfatti’s theories of retro-causality—where the future influences the past—were rumoured to have inspired parts of Roger Zemeckis’ Back to the Future films. Sarfatti’s childhood encounter in 1952 with a phone call from an alleged spacecraft from the future echoed some of Wilson’s experiences, and Philip K. Dick’s later writings about a Vast Active Living Intelligence System. Like J.G. Ballard’s fictional characters, Sarfatti seemed driven by a personal philosophy which combined extensive networks with creative elites (he was friends with film director Frances Ford Coppola) and the United States intelligence community.
In writing Weird Science I discovered the benefits of doing immersive background research. I spent several months reading cosmology and quantum physics books by Zukav, Kip Thorne, and others to understand Sarfatti’s theories. I researched the Bohemian cultural context around Sarfatti and his colleagues. I reached out to other physicists to get reflective feedback. I tried to work out the facts from the disinformation concerning the United States intelligence community’s study of extra-sensory perception. Crawford edited my notes on these different threads into a tighter article. When I was unsure how to finish the article Crawford came up with the final line about Chris Carter’s popular television show The X-Files.
21C published two further articles that I worked closely with Crawford and his design team on. Will Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? emerged from a brainstorming session about the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and artificial intelligence research. Crawford’s idea was to survey artists, philosophers, and scientists in a roundtable format – and to print all responses we received including the negative ones. I later used the roundtable approach whilst editing the Disinformation website to discuss the 2000 United States election outcome. Crawford also edited The Tight Stuff: a series of interviews about the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster and its impact on space colonization initiatives. Working with a great editor improved the final articles.