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LitPunk and Zickzack Tech

I was part of a reading called LitPunk last night, organized by John Shirley, whose image is posterized above. The reading was a mixed bag, as some of the readers weren’t so much writers as punk musicians or other kinds of SF undergrounders.

Rain Graves writes poems, often in a dark vein, she read some good stuff. Great name for a writer, too.

Charlie Jane Anders read a great psychedelic UFO story that may appear in the next Flurb.

This character Charles Gatewood mainly takes kinky photographs. He read a piece about having sex with one of his models, it reminded me of a letter to Hustler. I was, like, how have a I reached a point where I’m on a bill with Gatewood, when I’d once dreamed of reading for, like, the City Arts and Lecture Series? But he was fun to talk to, and I ended up buying one of his books on the street outside the nightclub.

I didn’t shoot many photos, as I only brought my Canon G10, which doesn’t actually work all that well in low light conditions. Also I’m still learning to use it. This is Paul Mavrides wearing a t-shirt of his own design. I like how you can see a lot of other stuff in this picture too. I’m beginning to be intrigued by the photographic practice of including chaos instead of zooming on a detail—which is what I more commonly do.

I’ve been getting into the photographer Gary Winogrand this week, who often has cluttered frames, I’ll write more about him on some other day. Just this morning I put my old Leica 28mm lens on my Canon 5D to start playing with ways to fill up a frame. Winogrand shows us that, when shooting wide angle, it livens things up to go for a tilted frame.

Back to SF! I’m thinking about what kinds of technology I can build up just by folding and gluing little regions of space…this follows on the heels of my Zickzack blog entry.

Wall: Take a slab of space like a sheet of plywood and fold it so the back touches the front. And then anyone who runs through the slab bounces right back into themselves—so they stop. It’s a zickzack wall. It keeps out the rain and the bugs. Call it a helloby, short for “hello goodbye.” No, call it a zwall.

Furniture: You can use those zwall things in any shape, of course, so you can use them like lumber or like cushions. But how to make a zwall be soft? You could make a pillow-case-shaped zwall with air inside it, and it would be somewhat elastic, provided that you put wrinkles into the pillow-case zwalls. Or fill it with a bunch of smaller zwall pillows to get a foamy effect.

[I picked up my Gary Winogrand book at the great Recycle Bookstore at 241 E. Campbell Ave, in historic downtown Campbell, CA this week…I sold them a lot of signed author copies of my recent books, too, so go there if you want a bargain on a Rucker novel.]

Light bulb: A sunball is a ball with its outside connected to the inside of a ball that’s high up in space where it’s always sunny. You can make the light as intense as you like by making the input ball increasingly large relative to the input ball.

Weapon: An eatball is a similar to a sunball, but you throw the input ball at someone and it eats through them, spewing a fountain of guts from the output ball.

Fast Travel: Standard magic doors or space portals or hyperjumps. Step in here, come out there. Call it a spacebridge.

Slow Travel: I’d like something like a bicycle that moves me along at a nice brisk pace without the dislocation of a spacebridge. I’m thinking of…call them slideplates or, better, skids. I put skids on my shoe soles or on some little skis under a seat of a device called a skidder. The top of the skid is mapped to the bottom of the skid, which is consistently a certain distance ahead of the top. The greater the distance, the faster you move. How do you turn a skid on or off? Maybe you have a lever to warp the skid’s shape, making it more like a rectangle (motionless) or more like a parallelogram (moving).

Cloth: I could make a kind of quilt from two thin zwalls and fill it with fiber. But that’s crude. I’d like to see spinning and weaving, too. I suppose you could spin with a tapering tube that has an intrinsic rotation built into it. And for weaving you might have a woven region of space tubes, exactly congruent to the threads of the desired cloth, and your threads are pulled through this matrix by little skidders.

Cell: I think of a flat torus, that is, a cube which has each of its faces glued to the opposite face. How does a cell like this interact with the surrounding space? In a way, it seems to be essentially cut off, like a torus floating beside a plane. So it disappears? But a spacebridge can get you into it. Or what if I wrap the cell up in normal space. It’s like the hollow liner of a Thermos bottle. You could use this as insulation.

One last thing on my mind. More and more gas pumps in the Bay Area have horrible noisy TV screens on the top spouting advertising and government propaganda. I’ve always thought of filling up my car as a meditative time, a little break in the day’s rush, and now the greedheads are putting a disgusting mind-scrambling ad stream in my face. It’s a safety hazard, even, in that it’s hard to concentrate on the task of filling the car without spilling gas.

Is there any hope of banning gas pump TVs? If not…how might one best sabotage them?

Not that every form of screen art is bad. See, to wit, this wonderful 1947 Donald Duck cartoon on YouTube, “The Plastics Inventor,” which Paul DiFilippo hipped me to.

13 Responses to “LitPunk and Zickzack Tech”

  1. Jimmy Says:

    “I was, like, how have a I reached a point where I am on a bill with Gatewood instead of reading for, like, the City Arts and Lecture Series?”

    I don’t know: what was the high point of your career before your reached this point? Maybe it has something to do with your use of expressions such as “I was, like,” which hardly seems the mark of a good writer.

  2. Rudy Says:

    Jimmy, it’s not so easy to use “like” as you think. Nor is irony always obvious. My mastery of the demotic idiom is in fact why I do end up at a reading like this.

    This said, I didn’t want to put down the other readers, they were good. My point was that, at this point in my career, with however many books in print, it felt a little weird to read in a line-up of writers who were generally at the very start of their careers. I used to do group readings like that when I was starting out, thirty years ago, but I haven’t done one in a long time.

    Keep in mind that all I’m doing here is trying to entertain the reader—by going out into the world, encountering people, taking photos, and sharing emotions. And I have to write about what I feel too. The point is to show a little bit about how one particular person feels on the inside.

    And…if you don’t like this response, feel free to stop reading my blog. I’m not running this thing just so I’ll have a chance to get into flame wars.

  3. Mac Tonnies Says:

    John Shirley’s eyes are going to give me nightmares!

  4. Darryl Parker Says:

    Rudy – would you consider any 140 character Twitter stories for the next issue of Flurb?

  5. Rudy Says:

    Darryl, I assume you’re talking about your tweets at Some of these are clever and thought-provoking, but for FLURB I’d want to see something more like a fleshed out story.

    The tweets you’re posting are like IDEAS for stories, or like descriptions of standard genre topes. I get more interested when someone wades in and engages themselves with characters and an action-arc.

    So if you can flesh one of your ideas out into, say, a 1,000 word story, fee free to submit it and I’ll see if it works for me. Here’s a thought: see if you can put four of your tweets into a single document and then add material to make them flow into each other…might be an interesting exercise in any case…

    As I mentioned before in a blog post, the Flurb submisison policy is:

    Note that I’m just about done getting stories for the forthcoming Flurb #7, but I’ll be reading for Flurb #8 next September.

  6. Russ Van Rooy Says:

    I would love to see someone hack one of those gas station tee vees with something like “Zombies Ahead” as seen at the link here:

  7. Darryl Parker Says:


    Thanks for the tips. The Twitters are certainly more like seeds, some more pregnant with possibilities than others. I think that’s why I like it. It’s a place to keep those seeds 😉

    I plan on a submission for Flurb #8, to specifications of course.

  8. Steve H Says:

    Jimmy, wouldn’t that be ‘seem’ instead of ‘seems?’ Wouldn’t want no bad writing here! Seriously, are you suggesting that Rudy’s internal comments to himself should be more grammatical? Why?
    Not that I would ever do such a thing (perish the thought!), but magnets are very bad for monitor screens.
    Rudy, could you make a zwall skateboard? Maybe stand on one while one under it turns, or even everything moves but the part you’re standing on? Or a flying carpet even? How about Heinlein’s moving slidewalks, taking you from point A to point B. How small can zwalls be? Small enough to be inside machinery, like a watch gear?

  9. Michael Says:

    Common error: it might sound as though Jimmy is wrong, but he’s right. It’s the “use” in “use of expressions” that seems etc., not the “expressions.”

    Did you catch all the drama about this on John Shirley’s blog? Funny stuff!

    My two cents is that these are not someone’s internal thoughts, but a written representation that is supposed to convey them. I doubt Rudy was actually thinking “like, what am I doing”: the “like” is a well-worn popular idiom indicating that someone said, thought, felt, or meant to say something, as I’m sure you know. Whether or not it has a place in good writing’s a matter for individual judgement. Even in expressing a character’s inner voice, I find it overused: if someone is writing to express their own feelings, it would only seem ironic iof they were using it to indicate something such as the level of articulation that they’re putting up with in others. Was that the irony?

  10. Rudy Says:

    Michael — are you saying someone dissing me on Shirley’s message board? Whatever is in that thread, it isn’t something I’m going to go and read, as I recently had to deal with a number of flame comments on my own blog post, and I don’t need new ways to make myself miserable.

    My point regarding the use of “like” is this: I think it’s perfectly valid to write prose in a language-with-a-flat-tire spoken-word California style. It’s just another scale, another modality, another stop on the giant language calliope.

  11. Michael Says:

    I don’t think that you’re being dissed on John’s board (the funniness is more in the wrassling of the two sides). What seems to be going on is that you sparked a discussion about good writing vs. immediate writing on blogs. It’s a discussion worth having, snarkiness and all (come for the snarkinessm, stay for the discussion).
    I don’t think anybody’s said that it’s not valid to write anything you want – or did I miss something?

  12. vanderleun Says:

    “Paul Mavrides wearing a t-shirt of his own design.”

    And about fifteen steps away from a suspended leather sling.

  13. Helix Says:

    Someone has already hijacked one of those pump-top tvs 😀

    Also, I enjoy you using the word ‘like’, it really throws me for a loop and also helps me feel less bad about using it so much myself. Us Californians have to, like, totally stick together, dude :]

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