to: ellipsis ...
20 July 1996
subject: letter twenty T
attachments: ficracopra (from a dream)
dear ellipsis ... and everyone
Now that it's past the turning point the day is
approaching when all of this will be released into
the net, with consequence unknown. Only five days
to go to the end of my year of writing this and
you can have it.
So that's why I'm now addressing this to everyone,
as well as to the publishers who said those magic
words which set this writing going, because it is
time for them as well as me to say good-bye to i+e
and trust it to the hands and eyes and minds of
everyone else (which includes Tom and Jonathan and
I, of course, as soon as we complete this work of
production and resume our less specialised roles
of being just people in the world, whichever world
And those magic words, what were they?
'We can't resist asking you to write something
about the internet', said Tom, and with that
'can't resist' he made it so that I could not
resist either, though I was still a bit suspicious
of the net and have indeed resumed that doubt from
time to time as I struggled with what often seemed
to be impossible. I thought I'd never do it.
But tonight, after writing all day with that
feeling of being swept along towards the deadline,
I feel confident for the first time that it's
going to be born, this long-gestating bit of
awkwardness, which to me is like that camel who is
'all lumpy and bumpy, and any shape does for me'*
of which we used to speak or sing as children. Or
so it seemed on the way.
Yes, this is a moment of rebirth, as is evident in
both the texts with the last letter and in the
text with this one. The bleak moment of
unbelieving in letter nineteen is over and the way
is at last clear for the birth of i2. See
'Ficracopra', that most mysterious of my texts,
much of which I remembered from a dream. Even the
name could not, I think, have come from memory, or
have been made up by conscious thought.
It is the story of a supposed origin of the
internet but, like all creation stories, it should
be seen for what it is, a myth that gives support
and credibility to the culture of those who speak
it. Namely us?
And look out also for 'Betaworld' and Gammaworld
and Deltaworld which seem to find their beginning
at Bernard's conference** in Cambridge, England, a
place from whence a lot of this hails, indirectly.
And the other births connected to this letter,
what are they?
Well first there is 'Trying to design the future'
which, as I said in yesterday's letter, was the
piece which provoked my other pieces of social
creation, even this. The conversation of 'Utopia
and Numeroso [and Unesco also] in the experimental
city', happened at the birth moment of u+n, in
1981, when they appeared in my thoughts as
distinct people, speaking, and liking each other,
such a moment as I'd almost never experienced
Their birth, if I may call it that, was what led
me to concoct 'The electric book' where u+n, with
scores of other characters like the Cardinal and
Hobgoblin and the slugs and the owls and Mr
Unconscious and Henry James with his abandoned
heroine Isabel, and Henry Moore with his reclining
figure (now animated, and become a giant block of
flats with people living in its head and arms and
legs and torso, looking out across its voids*) are
surely waiting for me now. Why have I left them
for so long, for, from 1985 to 1991, I wrote a
short volume every year and I called it 'The
electric book',** not knowing that I'd one day be
writing an internet text for which that name seems
tailor-made. All the characters were writing 'The
electric book' themselves and knew that they were
constructing the life around them as they wrote.
A bit more of such lightness and this world'd be a
nicer place, doncha think?
Yes, I liked those characters a lot and I speak of
them here just to animate for a moment the absent
world that they belong in though of course some of
them may appear in this text as and when they feel
But the real start of all this was in the notion
of an experimental city, and now of an
experimental network also, made as if a movie with
vast budgets and publicity, and peopled by
public-spirited adventurers and practical
anthropologists who on behalf of us all risk their
lives in exploring the social dreams and
possibilities that we need to know and understand.
Given that, as an alternative to organised crime
or sport or politics or business, those dubious
activities of the more energetic of the men and
now some of the women, there could certainly be
something that could turn the social tides.
But the concept is one thing and the history is
For whatever comes of all this, outside the
internet or within its digitising circuitry, will
be altogether less expected than are any thoughts
of you or me. And that's the reason, I now think,
for the many doubts and contradictions, and the
many thoughts re good and evil, that prevailed
upon me in the writing and which will of course
prevail beyond me if others walk this path.
So that's enough for today; I'm already stealing
thirty minutes from 21 July.