Archive for December, 2004

A Fan Letter

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004

Steven Den Beste, a.k.a the Captain of the well-known blog USS Clueless, has recently commented on just why he stopped blogging. There are various reasons, some of which his fans already knew about, but the most damning one seems to be an illness that makes the cost of continuing prohibitively high. Today I sent him the following letter, and I wanted to share it with whomever might be looking:

Steven,

Wow — Where to start.

When you were blogging, I would write you once in a while — generally to complement you or ask a question, or point out some link somewhere. Sometimes you responded; once you responded with a lengthly post. (cool!)

I generally started each email by gushing about how much I loved your writing, about how I rarely, if ever, disagreed with… well… anything you said anywhere. You have one of the most flawlessly logical minds I have ever encountered, combined with a real gift for words.

After several of these, it actually started occurring to me that you might start thinking I was too over the top in what were honest complements, but read like blind fawning. Some of my emails to you read something like the Steven Den Beste cover story for Tiger Beat magazine. 😉

So I started toning it down. Especially after you started talking about your Bozo Bin — to which I figured I was headed if I didn’t start sounding more “intelligent”. I still wrote you, but it became more along the lines of “Hey, great post” and then to the point.

In a word: “Doh”.

You don’t want platitudes or pity. So be it; it’s very like you. But I will say this: you are one of my favorite writers. Not favorite “bloggers” — favorite writers. You for nonfiction, Neal Stephenson for fiction (and some nonfiction), Mark Twain for raw wit. You work is unique.

I read a lot, and from time to time people recommend to me certain things that they think I should read. A couple things have come up many times: Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” and (I forget his name)’s “The Wheel of Time”. Both are long, unfinished series. I have a rule about long unfinished fiction series: I will not even start them until A) the author finishes the series, or B) the author is dead. I cannot stand reading, say, three books in a series and then twiddling my thumbs while the author takes years to finish up; it leaves a part of me in constant suspense, waiting to see what happens next, (and Thank Goodness I never started King’s epic!). If the series is complete, Great. If the author is dead, I can read it knowing that whatever there is, there is; and There Will Be No More.

And so, reading your latest, and probably last, message regarding USS Clueless, I can in a sense breathe a sigh of relief, and realize that Steven Den Beste, for all intents relating to the writing that I (and so many others) admired, is Dead. I don’t want that to sound callous — I think you understand what I’m saying: There Will Be No More.

I sympathize for your illness, and wish you all the best; but I am truly saddest for what the rest of us have lost. Your work, I believe, was far more important and influential than you realize. I already miss it dearly.

Best Regards,
Stephen Rider

One final note, for what it’s worth. I rarely cuss. I detest foul language, and though certain mild scatological slang escapes my lips from time to time, there are certain words that just don’t come from me. It is therefore significant that when I first found out about all this, I emailed the link to the good friend who first introduced me to USS Clueless several years ago. The email was straightforward — it consisted of the link, prefaced by a single word: “Fuck”.

If you don’t know Den Beste’s work, I highly recommend just about everything on his “Best Of” page.