"William Burroughs accepted the invitation to the first Institute of Ecotechnics conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico (Salty Hoffman, my then-pseudonym). I went to pick him up at the airport, but at first I couldn’t find him among the disembarking passengers. Oh, wait, he must be that Southwest geologist, a bit too-perfectly outfitted for the role. On the drive to the ranch, we stopped and picked up vodka, Coca-Cola, and ice. Then the car had a flat tire, which he changed, much to the subsequent amazement of his buddies. On the walk to his room, he combed the landscape for a stick to use as a dowsing rod and commented that later he wanted to visit the pigs who were squealing in their wallow nearby."
For years, publishers marketed Burroughs’s novels as science fiction. He was a self-described “cosmonaut of inner space” and an enthusiast for (outer) space travel. Much as the armchair-bound Jules Verne inspired many scientists, explorers, and inventors, Burroughs’s work inspired the Theater of All Possibilities. Burroughs encouraged us to pursue a “mythology for the space age.”
Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole. — The Adding Machine
There are many barriers to human adaptation to space travel, especially long-duration colonies or deep space exploration. Fish couldn’t anticipate the disappearance of gills in the transition to land and humans cannot anticipate what it would require, physiologically, to transition to space. The closest analogy for efficient manned space travel, Burroughs posited, would be the human dream state, or “astral travel.”
Dreaming is a biologic necessity, but Burroughs expands the significance of dreams beyond circadian repose, to the aim and purpose of human individuality and society. A society without a dream is doomed. Australian aboriginals’ ancestral dreamtime is not an abstraction, but a very real parallel reality. Dreams are akin to life-giving subterranean water reservoirs. For Burroughs, dreamtime is a veiled clue to the next step in human evolution. Humans, he deduced, are in a state of neoteny, not fully realized but becoming.
The first step towards Space exploration was to examine the human artifact with biologic alterations in mind that would render our [human artifact] more suitable for Space conditions and Space travel. […] Now we are like water creatures looking up from here at the earth and the air and wondering how we can survive in that alien medium. — “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”