An interview with Rudy Rucker

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An interview with Rudy Rucker

Postby systemcat » Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:25 pm

Here's an interview that was done via email with Rudy Rucker. He's written 30 books and has won the Philip K. Dick award twice. These questions have here a focus on Frek and the Elixir ( a book that's ok for children and adults to read ) and Postsingular, his latest book ( only ok for adults to read ). He added some extra words into the questions but they do clarify what they mean more so I you enjoy this :).

Q 1: Did you start writing Frek and the Elixir back in 1999? I'm asking this because of eras being referred to as Y2K and Y3K.

A 2: I started writing Frek in June of 2001, and it took me two years to finish it. The phrase Y2K was indeed fresh in my mind, so it seemed natural to think about Y3K. You’ll notice that Frek is set in 3003, which is like an “upgraded” version of 2002, a year during which I was working on the book.

Q 2: You painted some interesting visions of the future in Postsingular and Frek and the Elixir. Would you ever like to see any of the tech or newbio made a reality?

A 2: Frek is about a maximally biotech future in which there’s no more machines at all. I used to read my children a book called The Fur Family, in which a little family of furry creatures lives inside a hollow oak tree, complete with windows and a little red door. I’ve always thought it would be nice to live in a house like that, so that’s where I put Frek’s family. I get sick of machines, so the Frek world is a happy dream.

In Postsingular, I pushed the other way, looking at worlds that are as mechanical as possible­the ultimate is when nanomachines eat Earth and everyone becomes a simulation in a virtual reality. I would despise living in that kind of world, it represents the aspects of modern life that I find the most boring and dehumanizing. In Postsingular, my characters are fighting against some planet-devouring nanomachines called nants. And at the end, as in Frek, all the machines go away. But in the Postsingular world, it’s not biotech that takes over. Instead every object in the world becomes intelligent and alive. This is such a strange idea that people are having trouble grasping that I’m saying it.

Q 3: In the sequel, Hylozoic, will we find out why, in Postsingular, the painting on the magic harp looked like it had Thuy and Jayjay on it?

A 3: You bet. I wrote that scene today, as a matter of fact. It’s in Chapter Seven of Hylozoic. Thuy and Jayjay end up hanging out with Hieronymus Bosch, who happens to have that particular magic harp visiting in his house, and Bosch uses them as models for a pair of lovers he paints onto it. When I put the magic harp into Postsingular, I didn’t really know what she was, and it’s taken me most of Hylozoic to figure that out. But that’s typical for epic and fantastic trilogies. You just have to proceed on nerve and throw down some really weird events in the early volumes and trust that you’ll find good explanations for them later on.

Q 4: When Thuy uses “incantatory programming” to break Jil of her sudocoke addiction in Postsingular, she says, “Love cycles useless rain in the tea. Stun rays squeeze the claws of Flippy-Flop the goose mouse. Caterwaul hello, dark drooping centaur dicks. Are you good to go-go, gooey goob? Able elbow boogie brew for two in the battered porches of thine ears, Jungle Jil. Comb out and pray. Pug sniff the cretin hop lollipop of me and you, meow and moo.” Did you use a board loaded with poetry magnets to come up with the wording?

A 4: This is Dada beat poetry, and no set of poetry magnets would be big enough to hold all the words teeming in my mind! It’s less random than it looks. I have private associations for most of the phrases. And it’s also about the music of the sounds.

I’ll try and explain it to you, what the heck. The first sentence begins with “Love,” because that’s what’s going to save Jil. And then it becomes a riff off a haiku by Jack Kerouac: “Useless, useless, / the heavy rain / Driving into the sea.”

“Stun rays” is a variant of “sun rays” and “sting rays.” I’m not sure where “Flippy-Flop the goose mouse” comes from, but it’s a phrase I like a lot, and I was saying it out loud in a weird falsetto voice for a couple of days. Sometimes I’m almost like a Tourette’s Syndrome person.

Maybe “centaur dicks” is a nod to John Updike who wrote The Centaur. Also I was thinking of Alfred Stieglitz’s 1923 black and white photo Spiritual America, which is a close up of the belly of a castrated work horse.

The next sentence merges “good to go” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” I like the word “goob,” a lot, I use it to mean an uninformed person, a hick, a noob. I used it in Frek, too, remember the Goob Dolls?

In the sentence after that, I’m playing with sounds able/elbow boogie/brew/two, and I have the Shakespeare thing of “porches of thine ears” set in contrast to the mass culture vibe of “Jungle Jil,” which sounds like the name of a comic strip.

“Comb out and pray,” is the kind of pun that James Joyce uses in Finnegan’s Wake, it’s like “come out and play,” but it’s also telling Jil to comb the nanomachines out of her neurons and to pray for help.

In the last sentence, “cretin hop” is there in honor of the Ramones, and “lollipop” is for my fellow cyberpunk John Shirley, whose books were called “lollipops of pain” by a hostile reviewer. And the hop/lollipop is a rhyme of course. The end of the sentence is kind of rhyme between “me and you” and “meow and moo.” And the rhyme is kind of saying, “we seem like separate people, but we can make friendly noises and be like peaceful animals together.” The “Pug sniff” at the start is maybe to have a god echoing the cat at the end, but it’s more about the sound of “pug,” so short and abrupt, and matching hop and pop. Oh, and I used to read Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop to my kids, too.

It all meshes, it’s not random at all, it’s just a deeper level of meaning. But if you write a whole page like that, nobody’s gonna read it.

Q 5: Have you ever been to Easter Island?

A 5: I’ve wanted to go there my whole life, ever since I read Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl fifty years ago. I hope I make it. It’s a long way from anywhere, but if you could combine it with a visit to Chile or Tahiti.

Q 6: Do you believe there are real higher planes of existence?

A 6: I’m agnostic on this. As an SF writer, I very often write about higher planes or alternate realities. For me, in a transreal sense, these alternate worlds are in fact the novels that I write.

But in actual sure-enough reality, yeah, I’d be surprised if there weren’t some other levels. Something huge and staggering that we don’t know about yet. I mean, it seems very unlikely that the whole story is this particular worldview that we monkeys happen to have come up with more or less as a result of a series of historical accidents. It’s as if paramecia were talking to each other and laying down a theory that the universe is a drop of water with algae in it, and that’s all.

SF is a way to crack your head open a little so some light can shine in.

Q 7: If you wrote a sequel to Frek and the Elixir what might you put in it?

A 7: I was thinking of launching right into the sequel after Frek, but I didn’t get paid all that much for Frek, considering how long it was. And although it did quite respectably and it wasn’t a Harry Potter type best-seller like I’d imagined it might be. So I was a little disappointed, also I was tired of doing the young boy’s voice and of being all sweet and good.

So I wrote Mathematicians in Love, which is about a character who’s closer to being like I am as an adult. And then I got interested in the idea of the Singularity, and I wrote a short story, “Chu and the Nants,” that ended up dragging me into this whole psipunk trilogy of Postsingular, Hylozoic and (maybe) Transfinite, which is about people a little badder than me. In these books I’m being wicked again­like in my Ware tetralogy­with plenty of sex and drugs.

But everything goes up and down, and I’m beginning to want to go back to Frek and his world. Frek is me, too, only twelve years old.

I wouldn’t necessarily put the word “Frek” in the title of the sequel, but for the purpose of discussion, I’ll refer to it as Frek 2 here. I talked it over with my editor, David Hartwell awhile back. Hartwell said a Frek 2 should have both Frek and Renata, also a lot about the Grulloos. Maybe we don’t have a galactic quest in Frek 2, we just set it all on Earth, some people said they’d wished I’d just stayed on that biotech Earth. Possibly I write some of the chapters from Renata’s point of view, instead of always just from Frek’s point of view.

I’d probably hold back on heating up the possible love/sex thing between Frek and Renata. They’d keep being close friends with just a touch of romance. Hartwell points that that among young adolescents, perhaps half are uncomfortable with sex, and half do want to hear about it­but the ones who read fantasy and SF are all, natch, from the "uncomfortable with sex" camp.

Perhaps I’d find a way to bring Gibby back to life; a lot of people were really bummed that he died. If you’re writing science fiction, there’s always a way! At first Gibby’s son will be Frek’s enemy, but after Frek brings back Gibby, they’ll be friend.

One possibility for the action of Frek 2 might be a conflict with the toons, kind of a replay of the real vs. virtual reality conflict that I had in Postsingular. Or maybe some toons become incarnated in flesh to see what it’s like. Or maybe their software is invading animals and plants.

Possibly there’s a civil war between the humans and the Grulloos; maybe the Grulloos throw in their lot with the toons. Perhaps the toons and Grulloos are being egged on by some aliens from a non-biotech world.

There might be some bad consequences of opening up the biome again and releasing all those old organisms. Maybe the house trees catch oak-blight; they’re dying and falling over, roots pulling out of he ground. In that case, Frek and his family might be blamed.

Maybe some unemployed “counselors” (remember, they were the dumb, vicious stooges who worked as agents for the evil government that toppled at the end of Frek 1) would come after Frek’s family, and they’d have to flee to Stun City under assumed names. And maybe they’d be tracked down and have to move on to a misty ocean-port city, something like Seattle or Vancouver­call it Mistport­where vaalships (whale-based kritters) are bringing in odd things.

And one of the things will play a key role in blocking the burgeoning Grulloo-toon-alien-counselor revolution! And Frek wins the Grulloos back over to the good side. Yaar.

Q 8: When inventing the different species of kritters and aliens for Frek and the Elixir, did you come up with them on the fly when needed during writing, or all at once before starting the book?

A 8: Both. I work out some things before I start a book, but a lot of it I invent as I go along. I’ll finish a scene and see that I need new stuff for the next scene, and then I’ll work on my notes for awhile to try and figure it out. I post these huge Notes documents as PDF files on my writing page, There’s a Notes document for each of my Novels. Lately the Notes is longer than the Novel. You can go to that site and study the Notes if you really want to try and figure out my process. Let a thousand theses bloom!

Q 9: Do you think there are leaders out there as corrupt as Dick Dibbs in Postsingular and Gov in Frek and the Elixir?

A 9: I also have evil leaders in Mathematicians in Love and in Hylozoic. All these books were written during the years 2000-2008. Hmm. Does that suggest anything to you?

I think that our country is suffering through a very dark time. We’re being run by people who have contempt for the average person’s intelligence. They think we’re little pawns to be lied to and used. The tide is gonna turn pretty soon. As an author I’ve been doing what I can to raise the public’s consciousness. We can have our freedom back if we want it.

Q 10: Cuttlefish come up in both novels and I remember you saying in a podcast you like them. What do you find special about them?

A 10: I like the name; it sounds like “scuttle.” And they’re not fish at all, they’re really just short, fat squid. I love their tentacles, and the hula skirt around their fat butts, and the way they can change colors and even pattern themselves, and the fact that they’re all soft and gooshy except for this scary parrot-beak in the middle of the tentacles. They don’t live in the ocean around where I live, but now and then I go visit them in the aquarium. I ate some cuttlefish sushi in Japan recently, it’s terrible, it tastes like white plastic, they just slip it into your order to save money. H. P. Lovecraft’s famous evil alien Cthulhu has a face that resembles a cuttlefish. Gotta love someone whose face is covered with tentacles!

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