Letters to the Editor

Readers tell British expat Toby Young: Go home; Rudy Rucker defends his novel (and his spirituality).


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Letters to the Editor
July 12, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)


Scorned on the Fourth of July

BY TOBY YOUNG
(07/03/99)

Please inform Toby Young that the Fourth of July does not celebrate the
anniversary of the colonists' defeat of his "tiny little island." It
commemorates the signing of a document that declared those colonists'
independence from one of the largest empires the world has ever known.
The ensuing war was an idea the British came up with on their own, and
we do not celebrate any federal holidays that are associated with it.

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-- Thomas Valois

As a Canadian living in the United States, I find Toby Young's
article downright ridiculous. He has come to the United States of his own accord. If he doesn't
like his situation, he should leave. The United States doesn't
owe the vote to every visiting businessman. The Fourth of July
is a national holiday that Americans have earned the right to
celebrate, and frankly not many (if any) Americans use it as an
opportunity to vent hatred at the British. The English still lick
wounds as old as 1066, so they shouldn't begrudge an
American holiday that is fairly young by comparison.

-- Brad Clawsie

Toby Young hit on a the source of many
social problems in America. The fact that most Americans don't acknowledge
how much luck is responsible for their success or failure really does impact
our society in many negative ways. It's our democratic dream that everyone
has the same opportunity to succeed based on hard work and natural ability,
but that dream is more of a fantasy that justifies racism, classism, sexism
and lots of other "isms." The fact that the British do have that whole
class thing out in the open, and that they can acknowledge the existence of
the "lucky sperm club," probably makes dealing with inequities within their
culture a little easier. Maybe a British invasion
wouldn't be so bad.

-- Angela Richard

Before any of your American readers start reaching for their handkerchiefs,
I suggest they try living in England for a while (as I have) and enjoy the
stinging, highly bigoted anti-American commentary that pervades the media
and indeed, social and work situations here on a daily basis. And if you
think Brits are polite and understated, then you'll be surprised the first time a Brit insults
you right to your Yankee, colonial face -- but you'll get used to it. You'll
also enjoy finding how much "lucky sperm" and lineage really does matter
here -- gender, too, for that matter. After all, the past is one of the few
things the Brits do well, so they hate to let it go.

-- Kim Walma

London

Toby, I agree. We need some royals to keep the media busy with scandals so
that our politicians can screw around with less fear of reprisal. But
fireworks are pretty mild in comparison to burning effigies, right? Oh, and
if you want to see what the states would've been like if we hadn't revolted,
check out Canada.

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-- John Snook

New York


Finding God among the aliens

BY MARK DERY
(06/30/99)

I was happy to see the good review of my nonfiction collection "Seek!" But I was a little disturbed by Mark Dery's article and e-mail interview with me about my book of speculations, "Saucer Wisdom."

I feel that Mark Dery's interview gives a misleading impression about my current interests and about the kind of book that "Saucer Wisdom" is. "Saucer Wisdom" is meant to be an entertaining book of speculations about the coming millennia. To make it more fun, I set my ideas into the framework of a UFO hoax novel. The book is written as if I got my ideas about the future from a saucer abductee named Frank Shook.

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In the course of the book I also show myself as occasionally praying for help --- both because I was a little frightened of the idea of writing about UFOs and because I was working to try and change my lifestyle. These details about myself are meant to add to the realism of the book, and are certainly not intended as a prescription to the reader. It's worth remembering that "Saucer Wisdom" is in some ways a novel, so one need not take as absolute truth everything that it depicts a character named "Rudy Rucker" as doing.

Dery's comments and questions unfortunately give the impression that my personal spirituality (or lack thereof) is the main theme of Saucer Wisdom. This is simply not the case. I have not turned into a button-holing street-corner evangelist and I haven't been zapped by a pink beam of light. I'm still the same kind of writer I've always been.

-- Rudy Rucker

Mark Dery's pseudo-scientific, buzzword dropping "cyberpunk" mysticism makes no
real sense but gives the user a feeling of control and connection to
ultimate power and knowledge. I've always loved science fiction, but
will continue to prefer writers who conform to reality as much as
possible, rather then employ shallow understandings of new physics
and math to compose more gobbledygook that sounds meaningful, but isn't.
Metaphors are good for creative thinking, but it's easy to get
carried away, especially when you don't understand the science.
This can have ridiculous results.

With every new real scientific or mathematical development, there
is a vanguard of voodoo doctors ready to incorporate it into their shtick.
The undeniable power and respect that science has earned over the past four
or five centuries strongly attracts the snake oil salesmen, who steal the
words and ideas of science to bolster their own questionable credibility.

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-- Gerald Svenddal

Minneapolis


The murder that shocked Washington

BY PAUL HOFER
(07/02/99)

Why is anyone shocked? The liberals running Washington have been soft on
crime for so long, it's no wonder that such horrible things happen. And get
this right: It didn't happen because guns exist, it happened because we live
in a country where people are punished more severely for cheating on income
taxes than for murder.

Why does Salon not ask gun-control freaks the following
question: "Are you willing to demonstrate the courage of your convictions by
permanently installing a sign on your front lawn that says 'This Is A
Gun-Free Home' ?"

-- Chris Palmer

Atlanta

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The fear of death has been a part of living in some communities for decades.
Only recently has death reached out to communities labeled safe. As a single mother of two teenagers -- one a 16-year-old male -- I
constantly fear for his well-being in a society that is less then friendly to
black male teenagers. I live in a community with a low crime rate and hardly any violence, where differences are celebrated,
but I am not naive enough to think what has happen across the nation cannot
happen here.

I have told him over and over that he must not put
himself in situations of question or danger. Like most
children, he has no sense of fear. He believes his size will protect him from the world. I believe his size could
bring evil to him.

I pray that if evil finds my son, an angel such as Helen Foster-El
is there for him.

-- Carole D. Pierce

Maplewood, N.J.

Sharps & flats: "Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the '60s"
BY ROBBIE WOLIVER
(07/02/99)

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None of us who remember hearing some of those songs in the context of a
civil rights march or anti-war protest demonstration will ever forget the
transformational impact of being in a crowd of allied, disenfranchised young
souls suddenly imbued with the power of "real" numbers joined in common
cause. Those moments, frozen in time, created peak-experience holograms in
our consciousness that the music engages and runs for us. Nostalgia isn't something we choose to indulge in, it's something that sweeps us away. The
music is, of necessity, bittersweet because it was written by people who
felt like outcasts; America
was divided in the most uncivil of civil wars, the war between generations.

Artists with current fans and contemporary appeal
will introduce some extraordinary and timeless expressions to a new
generation, which needs a sense of community just as much as we boomers did
in the '60s.

-- Alan Berman

Tilton, N.H.


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