NormanSpinrad MotionMedia 1500 crop

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.

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.



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)

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.”


NormanSpinrad MotionMedia 1000

HEADER IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was lifted from an ar­ticle ti­tled “There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween the re­li­gion of Islam by it­self and middle-eastern pol­i­tics” on the Mo­tion Media web­site.


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