does america still have a star-spangled future?

The following is excerpted from the introduction to Norman Spinrad’s short-story collection The Star-Spangled Future (1979, pages 7-11). Except within sentences or paragraphs where I have excluded statements or phrases I thought unnecessary, I have not used the editorially correct ellipses ( . . . ) between paragraphs when I have left material out of the excerpts:

“Frenchmen, Englishmen, Italians, Germans, Swedes, Indians—most of the other great nations of the world speak a national language, eat a characteristic cuisine, have national music, one or two characteristic religions, and an indigenous literature and culture.

America is a precog flash of the future of the species, the leading edge of the evolution of world man.

The same parameters define a sense of “national identity” for most of the nations on Earth. We all know what they are. Nationalism is a style, the very look of a people. Who would mistake a Swede for your average Turk. But . . . the United States? What other country in the world has a name that’s pure political definition, devoid of ethnic image?

When the mutant hordes of Europe overran the native American Indian culture, this continent’s continuity with a millennial past was broken, and what emerged after the dust had settled was a huge empty new world populated by religious refugees and zealots, political utopians, losers in Europe’s many wars, land-hungry ex-serfs, exiled troublemakers, wheelers and dealers, impoverished minor noblemen, and just plain pirates. Weirdos and malcontents from all over Europe in a magic new land of endless bounty, theirs for the taking.

And here we are today . . . the descendants of the footloose, freebooting, utopian hippies off the eighteenth century and refugees from most of the Nations of the Earth, and nobody is in the majority. We are bits and fragments of the rest of the world thrown together here in dynamic instability to interact in quicksilver new combinations.

We’re not just a new nation, we’re a new kind of nation. By the traditional parameters of nationhood, America does not exist. . . . We are the test tube baby of the human species, the mutant child of the nations of the world, the homeland not of the time-honored past but of the transnational future.

In America, men first learned to fly. Here was the awesome power of the atom first placed in men’s hand for good or evil. Here the first transnational mass culture was created by American rock music. Here the secular democracy was invented. Here Western science and Eastern mysticism are engaging in their first meaningful dialectic. And from America the human species launched its first expedition to another planet.

All a chain of coincidence or some deep mythic truth buried in the pre-cog collective conscious of the human race? America was set up as a laboratory and a model for a future which the world has not yet attained. A transnational future. A future in which the peoples of the world mingle and interbreed genetically and psychically.

Not a melting pot but a fusion plasma where all the cultures, wisdom, and evils of all the peoples in the world are jammed together in a high energy state all the time. In everyone’s head.

This American fusion plasma is so complex and dense that it keeps generating new complexity and increased density, so that it never stabilizes into a fixed cultural matrix, an American national style. America is something new under this sun. Not so much a nation as a precog flash of the future of the species, the leading edge of the evolution of world man.”


Spinrad_Spangled

The Star-Spangled Future is “an adroitly shaped compilation of his first two volumes of stories The Last Hurrah Of The Golden Horde (1970) and No Direction Home (1975)—which concisely demonstrate the range of his response to the complexities of a rapidly changing Western world. From this point, that world dominated – as metaphor or in realistic depiction—his work.” (Encyclopedia of Science Fiction)

HEADER IMAGE: The image at the top of the page is a painting of Spinrad but while I was able to stumble over the image on the Internet I was unable to track down the name of the artist.


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