Unification News For March 1996


Friends Online


This month I'm contributing something a bit lighter in tone. About time, right?

Several years ago, our pastor, Rev. Kevin Thompson, asked his congregation to "get involved in the community." Many of our Northern California members joined sports clubs, community groups, etc., and several have gained responsible positions. Following my interests, I joined the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Unfortunately, due to my work, family, religious and other obligations, I have no free days left. However, I've found another way to participate.

I started writing several years ago, and progressed from handwriting, to a typewriter, to an old Mac Classic computer. Recently, due to the generosity of my father, we bought a new Power Mac with a fast modem. (That's how this article got to the Unification News!) As was dad's intention, our boy has now become `computer literate.' I've also been able to email people at the Astronomical Society, and recently, to contribute a little to their monthly magazine.


My forte seems to be writing, and we've each been urged to "do that thing which we can do best," in contributing to God's Providence. My Church elders have encouraged me in this, and I've now published `pro- Principle' articles in several venues. I've also been working on a science fiction novel, which (of course) incorporates a great deal of Principle.

Right now, American `popular culture' contains virtually no Principled content. (Here I'm speaking of books and online publishing, and leaving out music, art, films, TV, etc. About these, others know far more than I.) So far, UC members have written very few fiction books. And most of these were paid for by that member's hard-earned money. The way it usually works is: they pay you for your writing! Some authors are paid huge sums.

Having tried to write, I now stand in awe of those author's great talent. However, most popular fiction's content, not to mention its underlying philosophy, is utterly `fallen.' By any measure. The best of the lot are narrowly Christian works, or watery New Age tomes. With exceptions, my favorite genre, science fiction, is particularly leftist, New Age and libertine.

I wanted to present a popular alternative. But without much formal schooling, I knew I was deficient in grammar, phrasing, characterization, plotting, etc. Therefore I sought advice online-and found it! America Online has several genre-specific forums, and some excellent `advice' people on staff.

In the event, my `posted' questions caused quite an uproar . . . However, they did attract the notice of my first online pen pal, a Christian writer.

Being a Mac enthusiast, I checked out Apple Computer's `eWorld' online service. There I found a writer's forum sponsored by a popular writer's magazine. They hosted a writer's `chat room,' and within it, a weekly `critique group' meeting.

Here, group members take turns submitting samples of their own work, and everyone sends in a critique of the piece, pointing out errors and suggesting improvements. Then all meet online, weekly, to answer the author's questions and discuss the piece.

The eWorld group is quite diverse, and all sorts of things come up. It was only about three weeks before I "took the plunge" and sent in a chapter of my book. I'm very grateful I did, for they helped my writing improve tremendously. I'll soon have my third `session.'


Some people just don't understand `cyberspace.' I know one beloved - and very well educated- UC elder who tells me he's "barely gotten used to using a typewriter." Someone very close to me once berated me for "talking to the computer all the time." Well, as I then explained, my Mac is a powerful computer, but it's not that powerful! No, there are real-live people at the other end, also seated before their computers.

Unfortunately, most chat rooms have a well-deserved bad reputation. They're filled with airheaded teenagers, strange adults, and worse. However, I'm speaking of a `dedicated' room, intended for a specific propose.

Our online group, as most do, maintains certain standards. One must demonstrate serious interest in order to join. Belying the stereotypes, it's hardly a collection of get-a-life netheads. In fact, there's a doctor, a scientist, a newsman, a college professor, a musician, several school teachers, and more. Plus one truck driver-me.

As it happened, there was a change at eWorld, and our host magazine's contract was not renewed. We were homeless, and with only a few day's notice. Still, everyone wanted to continue the group. The volunteer assistant leader carried on for us. He was getting pretty `stressed out,' so we needed a new leader to carry us through the transition. I'd been fairly active in the group, and explained that "I used to boss around all the kids in school." I was promptly elected as leader! Later, we plan to rotate the position.

Now we're meeting in a regular eWorld Member's Room, where, from the constant stream of `drop-ins,' we sometimes `meet' a serious author. Also, we've been inviting our online friends to come by. We now have members in three countries.

Meeting online had certain practical advantages. Several of our members have young children, and they can `log on' and be with us- without even leaving the house! One lady sometimes gets toys dumped over her head as she types; she bravely perseveres. As the weeks go by we're developing real friendships. I already have plans to meet one member in person.

The media still depicts `net surfing' as the domain of teenaged hackers, but this is no longer the case. America Online, eWorld and several other services now have `graphical interfaces.' That is, one simply `clicks buttons' on the screen to get around. Anyone can learn this, believe me. If one is judicious with their `online time,' it doesn't cost much, either.

You might be worried about the lurid `scare stories' you've heard about the Internet. Don't be! Think of it this way. We've all walked into a 7-11 store and emerged with a cup of coffee and a newspaper (or whatever)-and managed not to stock up on the Playboys, Hustlers, etc. which peep from behind the counter. With television, especially if you've got cable, you're likely to encounter some rather lurid imagery-just by turning it on.

The Net isn't like that. Online, one is confronted with tens of thousands of forums, newsgroups, etc., and tens of millions of Web pages. The menu lists alone run for pages! Only a tiny percentage of these are `explicit' in content, and one must search for those, with a fairly high level of ability. Many providers (America Online shines here) have `parental controls' which can block out such things, anyway.

It's sort of like the television set `V Chip' Congress recently voted to require-despite the fact that it hadn't been invented yet, much less marketed. Ah, but that's another story.


In the past I've made overtures to several Unificationist writers. What I had in mind was an informal gathering of UC-member-authors, online or otherwise. So far, everyone has been too busy to respond fully. Please allow me to `float' this idea here, in this wider forum. We all need some encouragement. Any writers feel up to the challenge?

The Popular Culture looms, and it cries out for Principled input. Look at all the garbage on the shelves-people are getting paid millions of dollars to produce the stuff! There are some conscientious, concerned authors out there, and I've already been in touch with a couple of them. I'm happy to report that they've been most encouraging.

If anyone out there has work that needs polishing, my group has a few sharp eyes ready for it. We'll take short stories, children's tales, book chapters; any fiction genre. You're welcome to visit. We WERE meeting on eWorld but, by the time this is published, we'll be on AOL.

EMail me at Cuebon2@aol.com for more information. See you in cyberspace!

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