For a brief day or two during the genesis of Growing Up Psychedelic, I contemplated the possibility of creating it as a graphic novel. Other than a childhood deeply immersed in the silver age of Marvel comics, it’s not a genre I have much of a connection to. The idea came and went.

Just the other morning, I found myself playing with the DALL-E service from Openai. (The whole generative AI thing started happening towards the tail end of my writing process.)

I first encountered its hallucinatory tendencies when I was looking for a citation for Goethe’s phrase, sometimes translated in English as “exact percipient fantasy.” It seemed to know all about it and even provided the full text of the citation in both German and English. I marveled at this in a Facebook post, and some of my technically astute FB friends urged me, in no uncertain terms, to double-check. Lo and behold, when I took Goethe’s Theory of Color off the shelf, the paragraphs cited (they are conveniently numbered) bore no relation to what was provided by ChatGPT.

Once bitten, twice shy! ChatGPT is a reasonable writer’s tool, at least as a (sometimes) handy source for alternative phrasings, like a super Thesaurus. I’ve since begun to grasp how the generative AI is trained and then re-composes its responses, and it can illuminate certain operations of our monkey mind.

I hadn’t played much with the generative graphics. I found it fairly easily, with a few iterations over the prompts, served up a variety of illustrations in various styles (I mostly let the tool style as it saw fit) that provided a set of parallel universe pictures of scenes from the first chapter of my book.

In sharing them, please enjoy them in the light-hearted vein in which they were created. They, in some (ok, lots of) ways, falsify the reality in its comic-book, air-brushed, and mixed-up imagery. I present them here first for fun and, secondly, to perhaps entice you to delve into the book through an exposure to the first chapter.

The rest of the book, for a number of reasons, doesn’t particularly lend itself to the “graphic novel” treatment. The visions become too cosmic, and the explorations of meaning too image-free. I do think the pictures give a tiny flavor of where it all started for me. I love the mini-AI hallucinations that pop in: the image of Nixon wagging his finger as a hippie figure meant to be Timothy Leary. It oddly nails Nixon pretty well but misses the boat entirely on its representation of Leary. It also muddles, in a wonderfully “high on acid” sort of way, the speech balloon prompt for Leary saying, “Turn on, Tune In, Drop Out.”

Nixon wags finger at "Timothy Leary"

It nails the “hippie chick” who tried to sell me a joint in NYC when I was 13 perfectly.

The Hippie Chick who tried to sell me pot in NYC when I was 13.

It adds some “Chromosome Damage” of its own to the newspaper headline.

Chromosome Damage! In the news, with, with a slight "transcription error"

And on and on.

You can download the whole chapter as illustrated here.

The image featured on the home page is (again, distorted in its concreteness) a representation of the episode of chapter five where I begin to sense, from a great cosmic distance, the divine presence.