Click covers for info. Copyright (C) Rudy Rucker 2021.

Jump Cuts

September 11th, 2021

This post is mainly made of excerpts from my novel Juicy Ghosts, now available in paperback and ebook. Check the Juicy Ghosts page for details. What a long, strange trip it’s been — two years in the writing.

I have a lot of nice photos around; I’ve been using some new techniques of late, shooting in higher resolution with larger cameras, and processing the images with some Leica-style presets.

Before starting on the the Juicy Ghosts excerpts, here’s my latest painting. I was standing in Lake Tahoe—before the fires—looking down at the bright curves made by the sunlight passing through the surface waves.

Mathematicians call those lines “caustics,” from Latin for “burning,” because the lines are a bit warm, due to the focus of the sun. (No connection with the fires.)

There weren’t actually any minnows, but I put them in. I like to have critters in my stories and in my paintings. More info on my Paintings page.

“Minnows and Caustic Curves” acrylic on canvas, August, 2021, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The Excerpts.

The way I organized today’s blocks of text was to search through Juicy Ghosts for all occurrences of the phrase “jump cut,” which I’ll format as bold monotype so you can easily notice it. It’s a phrase that relates to the experience of switching your free-floating digital soul (or lifebox, as I call it) from an old body to a new body, or to a new peripheral. I label each of the extended excerpts with the point-of-view character. Mostly it’s Maurice, who thinks about jump cuts a lot.

And by the way, Jilljill is Marice’s “lifebox”, a small slug-like kritter that contains the code for Maurice’s soul.

Note that, because I have so many pictures to show you, most of the excerpts are interrupted in the middle by an extra image or two.

Maurice 1.

Leeta and Gee keep saying my lifebox will give me immortality. At the very least, my lifebox will be able to imitate me, and to act like an online chatbot. It’ll be an interactive Meet-the-Black-Liberator thing. Maurice Winch, martyred hero of the second American Revolution.

I like this scenario, I have to admit. I keep running it in my head. “Tell us what it was like to take down Ross Treadle,” the admiring users will say to my memorial chatbot. They’ll be in tears. “Oh thank you, Maurice,” they’ll sob. “You’re my greatest hero!”

But will having a lifebox make up for my body being dead? Gee and Leeta hint that it will, but I don’t believe them. It’s a pipedream. A con. Like telling a loyal congregation that they’ll live in heaven. From what I’ve seen, dying is like a jump cut in a video, but with nothing on the other side of the jump. Bang, you’re dead.

Maurice 2.

My vision grows dark. I’m an empty husk, a ruptured piñata—poisoned and bleeding. And, ah yes, there’s the matter of the Secret Service. They’re good shots. Maybe Carson Pflug and the Top Party paid them off, but right now the agents have got to do their thing. For the sake of appearances. For an orderly transition.

I go down in a hail of bullets, limbs flailing, flesh torn. A fitting end.

Last thought? I hope the wasps sting Treadle. And then I’m dead.

At this point my narrative has a glitch. Remember the jump cut thing I was talking about? Well, it turns out that, for me, there is some action on the other side of the jump. Granted, the all-meat Maurice Winch is terminally inoperative. But—

I wake, confused. I look down into myself. I seem to have my same old white-light soul—and that triple-loop sense of me watching me watching the world.

So, fine, I’m alive, but I seem to be hallucinating. I feel like I’m in a crumbling old Victorian mansion with junk in the rooms, and with paintings leaning on the walls, and doors that don’t properly close. There aren’t any windows. Somebody’s in here with me. A jittery silhouette against a glowing Tiffany lamp. Gee Willikers. This is a teepspace version of the cave where Gee lives.

“See, Maurice?” says Gee. “It works. Play it right, and you’ll keep going for centuries.” A compulsive snicker. “Def cool, Mr. Guinea Pig.”

I try to form words. “Where…”

“You’re a parasite, dude. Roll with it. A lifebox with a psidot connected to a wasp. You need that live host so you have some mind glow, right? Huffing that mysto life-force steam.”

I’m having trouble keeping up. “Wasp?”

“Duh? The one you stuck Jilljill on?” Gee makes a trumpeting sound with his lips, then speaks again. “Juicy ghost! You hopped onto a host! The wasp is your peripheral!”

Maurice 3.

My compound eyes are hypervigilant, watching for hungry birds, but there’s none around. I make my way into a residential neighborhood northeast of the Capitol. I fly until it shades from gentrified to tumble-down. I spy a mutt on a cushion in a back porch. A collie-beagle mix, mostly cream-colored, with an orange ear and a big orange spot on his back like a saddle.

There’s noise all over the neighborhood, and people are running around cheering. The news is out. But that dog looks like he’s sound asleep.

Gently, gently I land beside his head. Mustn’t wake him or he’ll start snapping at me. Hell, I’m a two-inch wasp! Moving with an insect’s robotic deliberation I stilt-walk along the dirty sofa cushion into the shadow of his floppy orange ear. I spot a waxy patch of bare skin within.

“Hop,” I tell Jilljill.

Another jump cut. And then, yes, my mind is percolating into the dog’s nervous system. I’m in.

I stand, shake my body, and bark.

Joyful. Free.

I’m still linked to my lifebox code on Gee’s server—gotta be, because that’s my mind. And I’m linked to dog’s nervous system too—he’s my body, my nose, my eyes, my juice. And, if I understand the situation correctly, my lifebox generates virtual neurochemicals to emulate the moods that flicker in the dog.

[Home made “Superballs,” made with a Bill Gosper recipe, using Momentive RTV-88 Silicone Rubber Compound (with hardener) from Very expensive, about $200 for two cans, but exciting to make (using sliced-open tennis balls as molds).]

Maurice 4.

But—wait—all at once someone grabs my collar. It’s not Loranda, it’s some random brother. Jilljill flashes me the news that the man is an underground agent too, a Black man working for the Citadel Club, sent in at the same time as the maroon thudhumper.

I’m going ki-yi-yi as loud as I can. Loranda’s Mom is hollering at the underground agent. Loranda shoves the man. Mom punches him in the gut. The agent’s grip weakens. I twist free. And here comes my terrier prof, right on me, nuzzling my ear.

“Hop!” I tell Jilljill.

She’s ready for the move, out on the edge of Woofer’s ear.

jump cut!

Jilljill has fastened herself to the terrier’s tongue. I’m in.

Maurice 5.

My name is Cuthbert. Keeping my psidotted tongue in my mouth, I trot over to my owner, a lean, dapper brother with horn-rimmed glasses and a drop-dead-elegant light-weight tweed suit. He’s sitting on a bench, enjoying the sqwonks of an impromptu jazz band. I take shelter under the bench, behind his fine leather shoes, looking around. I know the satellite’s still watching. They will think of the terrier. I need to hop some more.

Here comes a poodle, peering under the bench, sniffing me. I lick her nose.

jump cut.

I’m Fifi now. My mistress walks me off. Madame pauses so her Fifi can greet a passing stray.

jump cut.

The stray takes me into some dense bushes where homeless mutts with no collars are eating garbage, digging holes, growling, napping, and fitfully trying to mount each other. These dogs are unseen by the eye in the sky. Just to keep moving, I hop over to one of them, with Jilljill landing on the bare skin inside his ear.

I urge my latest host into a culvert beneath the railroad tracks and pause to look things over. I’m a glossy, medium-size, short-haired, warm-colored hound with a tail that I hold shamelessly high. I’m what people call a yellow dog.

I’ve never much liked yellow dogs, but I try not to communicate this to my host. He doesn’t have a formal title, so I name him after certain sound that he makes. Shrill Yelp. I check back in with Gee.

Maurice 6.

I hear yipping and the jingling of collar tags. Friedl! Body low, I skulk to the hole in the fence and peer through. There’s Friedl, shiny in that greasy, dachshund kind of way. She’s a nice chestnut color, with fine features and golden highlights. She’s in the middle of the lawn, slightly hunkered to take a pee.

“Get ready,” I teep to Jilljill. She creeps out to the edge of my ear.

I wriggle most of the way through the hole in the fence, then pause, flat on my belly. Friedl goes on the defense. She barks staccato-style, her voice high. She makes a run at me, coming to a stop three feet away. She braces her legs, and lowers her head. Her barking grows more furious. The housekeeper’s not bothering to come out. Probably Friedl has a fit like this every time she goes outside.

I tense my muscles and spring. Friedl doesn’t expect this. She’s surprised how large I am. She squeals and turns to flee, but I’m on her. I knock her onto her side. I rub my head against hers. Ear to ear.

jump cut.

Jilljill is in Friedl’s ear, and my mind is in Friedl. I trot quietly toward the house. I sense that the cat is still watching me, but I can’t quite see where she is. Never mind. My dachshund body language is, like, What barking? Me? Nothing going on here. For his part, Shrill Yelp decides this a bad scene. He’s goes out through the hole and trots off down the alley.

At first I can’t get up the back porch steps, but then I relax and let Friedl do it. She knows how. She moves like an old-time Slinky toy in reverse. At the top, Friedl scratches the door. And here’s the housekeeper, a sister in jeans and a turtleneck. Candace.

She gives me a nice smile and hands me a dog treat—a little baked biscuit in the shape of a bone. I savor the sensations of Friedl crunching it up.

Maurice 7.

I stretch my neck as far as I can. Lucy Popham giggles. I angle my elegant snoot and give the back of Treadle’s neck a quick, wet lick, during which Jilljill detaches herself from me.

jump cut.

I’m in a zone of chaos—experiencing the world from Jilljill’s point of view. She and Wladimir are in a micro Sumo wrestling match on the nape of the neck of the clone of the assissnated President Ross Treadle—the psidots squeezing each other and pulsing energies back and forth: brainwaves, electrical sparks, and quantum fields.

In my teepspace lifebox-mind, I visualize the fight as a 3D abstract painting with collaged-in scenes from my life and from Treadle’s life, with a thunderstorm all around, and random dachshund emotions mixed in. I hear the keening of a whirlwind. A narrow Kansas-style twister amid swirling debris. I go toward it.

Something crude and stupid tries to get in my way. Wladimir. I see him as a boxy tank with a cannon. But Jilljill—Jilljill is like a sea anemone. She wraps her tendrils around Wladimir, squashes him against her soft mouth, and assimilates his ID.

Mary 1.

Mary takes a running jump toward Gee’s square hole—stretches out her arms and straightens her body as if for a racing dive. Lanky Gee scoots to one side so she can freely arrow through. Then Gee brings himself back into view so he can yell at Carson and, yes, give him the finger.

“We’re gone.”

The square, green portal shrinks and disappears, with Mary and Gee inside.

And in this instant, the full code of Mary’s lifebox is ported from the giant baguette in the Skyhive blimp hanger to—the verdant computational tissues at the core of Gee’s giant redwood server tree. Mary barely feels it happening. It’s one of those jump cut things.

She and Gee float companionably in pleasant green light. Faint gurgles. A sense of turgid plant cells, of phloem, of ribosomes and mitochondria, of root hairs and fragrant bark. Faint writhing tendrils all around. A jungle of light.

“Welcome to my redwood server,” goes Gee.

Mary 2.

Gee gives her a penetrating look. “Can you grasp that you’re behaving like a soulless AI?” He pauses, thinking. “I bet this is because your halo isn’t emulating the emotions that live in your clone. Your body has normal human feelings, and its gossip molecules are sending the mood templates to your lifebox. But you’re not processing the templates. My fault. I forgot to put emotion-emulation code into your halo.”

“Clear as mud,” goes Mary.

“Hold still. I’ll fix you.”

Gee stares at Mary, mentally reaching through her eyes to the halo disk above her head. He’s using the full force of his considerable teep. To Mary it feels like a mechanic is poking around in her mind. A quantum mechanic.

And then—oops—she fucking dies for a second. That is, the whole scene blinks off. A surprise jump cut. Don’t worry, folks! She boots back up—feeling way mellower than before. More humane. More truly juicy.

“What is love?” Mary warbles. “Five feet of heaven in a ponytail!” She’s quoting from a song in the seemingly endless archives that her ionic quantum-wireless-equipped halo can access in the cloud.

“This is good,” says Gee. “The old Mary.”

“I’m not old,” says Mary. “I’m me.”

Kayla 1.

I’m still seeing through Phil’s night-vision eyes via teep. We’re staring at the flappy. It’s a glowing magenta buzzard, gliding down and clutching a golden egg in its claws. A bomb like the one that killed Carson.

I scream, and Phil yells even louder—which is maybe the response Maurice has been waiting for. And now, finally, at the very last possible nanosecond, our unseen partner Molly delivers another Metatron lightning bolt and—


Charred fat-crinklings from the annihilated flappy drift by. Maurice turns our thudhumper dark again, speeds on up the hill at a hundred and twenty miles per hour, and switches his communications to a fully-cloaked dazzle mode that, among other things, breaks my teep connection.

jump cut.

My heart is pounding. I’m on my couch in my tame and well-appointed San Lorenzo home.

I go look in on Daia and she’s sleeping on her back with her arms stretched up—like a little letter Y. My romantic meal for two is intact on the stove, if a bit tired-looking by now. I flop back onto the couch, slowing coming down from the staccato, frantic chase-scenes with Maurice. Phil is still out there, in it for real. I count the minutes till he arrives. If he arrives.

Molly 1.

The crowd’s noise continues rising. They’re united by a single purpose—to burn Gee’s server tree. They cheer the flames as if hailing the Golden Calf.

Maurice drops to his knees and clasps his upraised hands, supplicating Kayla. “You know. Don’t hold out on Maurice. If you don’t help, I’m done for. Final jump cut.”

Maurice flings himself onto his back and lies there, motionless, arms and legs askew. I’m enjoying the show. I’ve never met anyone who can lay it on as thick as Maurice. And—as I mentioned—I’m not super uptight about the outcome, what with me having a server-free halo for my lifebox. But I do have a heart. Even after a year and a half of distributed storage in teepspace. Even after a sextillion-fold brain amplification. I’m still human, in a way.

Finale (No jump cut).

Back in Gee’s grove, it’s time for high tea. We graze on another big spread in the clearing, bopping around and chatting and splashing in the creek, the ten of us.

Me and Liv. Gee and Mary. Kayla, Daia and Phil. Maurice. Anselm. Leeta. All of us but Daia have halos.

“What about us?” parps Miss Max. “What about Glory, Bunter, and me?”

“Yes,” says Gee. He fetches two spare psidots and slaps them onto the ball walkers—till now, they’d been getting along with old-time uvvies. And Gee’s Bunter already has a psidot. But none of them have halos.

Mary waves, whistles, and teeps to get the attention of the last three unattached halos who are in the grove. They skim over and—link with Miss Max, Glory, and Bunter. The kritters chortle and do flips, even Bunter.

And now the only halos in the grove are the dozen linked to our party.

Mary and Kayla find a fiddle and a mandolin in Gee’s cave, and they begin to play. We dance in rounds beneath the trees, sidling along, with Mary and Kayla weaving their harmonies, me carrying Daia, the ball walkers handling percussion, and all of us stepping to the beat.

I lose myself in the dance. Timeless joy. No more Top Party to worry about. No more Treadle legacy. No more enslaved souls. None of that is coming back.

We’re on a better path.

“Onward Foo the Throg!”

August 21st, 2021

Kind of at loose ends this August.  I’m doing a lot of work to get my Juicy Ghosts books out.  I had a great Kickstarter campaign for the novel, and lined up about 300 backers.  I’m doing final edits on the novel and on the accompanying volume of notes.  And I printed some preliminary proof copies. I’m hoping to send the print and ebook editions out to my backers at start of October…and the books and ebooks will be on sale then as well.

Correcting manuscripts is kind of strange.  It’s like a fractal that you just zoom into deeper and deeper forever.  Like, I’ll think the novel is perfect, and then I set it aside for a month or two, and I decide, well, why not reread it one more time, and, wow, I find so many things to fix.

For the latest edit, I read the book backwards, that is, read the last chapter, then the second-to-last chapter and so on.  Somehow that made me more aware of the prefigurings, and info-dumps, and flashbacks—reminding me to adjust them.

Also, there’s the thing that if you always copy edit your novel from the first page to the last, then the early pages end up getting more attention and focus on your part. I think it was Borges who wrote about a medieval scholar who wanted to write an ecyclopedia of all human knowledge, and it came out to two volumes: the first for the letter A, and the second for the letters B through Z.

Dig this cool picture of my shadow in the basement, with the far-out trihedron of bright 3d-space axes.  Years ago, I had an unassuming philosophy professor friend in Virginia, and we liked to talk about Zen, and about enlightnment, and he said he’d had a moment of satori once,  sitting in his living room, looking up at a corner of the room, with the two walls meeting the ceiling, and he’d had this powerful flash concerning the three lines where the walls and the ceiling met.

That is, he had a vision of the axes extending outward through endless intergalactic space, into the far reaches of the universe, these distanced touched by the three humble lines anchored right here in his living room with him. And at the time I was dismissive of my modest friend’s enlightenment, but over the years I’ve come back to it over and over, and now I think it’s very heavy and cool.  I was thinking about my friend when I took this photo.

Sylvia and I went up to Lake Tahoe for three nights and daughter Isabel and son Rudy Jr showed up as well.  I always forget how really beautiful Tahoe is.  The water is  unbelievably clear, even now. And you’ve got the range of the Sierras right across the lake, so imposing.  A lot of the boats look kind of the same right now, they have this skunk-stripe on their sides, making them look very speedy.

Here’s one of my habitual rectangular-composition shots, this one of a pair of doors in Los Gatos.  Finally the cafes are open, more or less, and I can sit outside them at least, although inside not so much.  I used to do a lot of my writing in cafes, and I’ve missed that.  I’m in the process of trying to get a new laptop, as the old laptop’s keyboard is falling apart from me writing two or three novels on it. But the laptops I’m getting via mail-order keep needing to be send back to fix factory defects. At least my old one still works a little.

Fellow SF writer Marc Laidlaw braved the COVID and came to visit.  Our last collaboration was on a really great story called “Surfers at the End of Time.” It appeared in Asimov’s in 2019, and you can read it online on my Complete Stories page.

We went to visit Isabel up on Fort Bragg, CA, where she now lives. Lovely misty morning here, on cliffs by the beach by the raging sea.  The sound of the surf is endlessly soothing.

Also somewhat exotic, though closer to home, are the palms the front of  Los Gatos High School, as viewed while lying on my back.

I recently sold a 2016 acrylic painting of mine to man in Brooklyn via my Paintings page.  The painting is called “Attack of the Giant Saucers,” and it’s inspired by a scene in my novel Million Mile Road Trip, where giant saucers come and attack during the graduation at dear old Los Gatos High…where we saw our three children graduate over the years.  Believe it or not, this is the 78th painting I’ve sold. Kind of  incredible.  Even so, thanks to my perennial imposter syndrome on all fronts, I still feel like I’m not a real painter.

Speaking of art relating to my writing, my SF fan and ubergeek Chuck Shotton used a 3D printer to make me an articulated slug with linked segments.  The kritter makes a nice rattling sound when I move him around. I had a lot of “skugs” like him in my curiously neglected masterpiece Turing & Burroughs.

Driving back from Fort Bragg, we stopped at a state park whose name I naturally don’t remember…it’s just south of the bridge in Route 1 where the road from Booneville intersects.  This beach was so huge and utterly deserted, kind of spooky almost, and with that wild natural bridge out at the horizon, too far to walk to across the sand, at least too far for us.

Another high point of this drifty August was going to get my haircut by Alicia, who’s been cutting my hair and Sylvia’s for ten or more years.  She’s a very energetic woman, and has decorated her studio to a fare-the-well. It was my first haircut in well over a year. Nice to get away from the bowl look.

Futuristic blob vehicles on a grass-blade highway.  Or morning dew at Pudding Creek Beach behind the great Beachcomber motel just north of Fort Bragg.

Another random shot at the L. G. High School, of the evening sun slanting through an oak onto the lawn.  Ah, California. Each leaf a tiny stained glass window.  I wish I could “disappear” the car.  I don’t like having cars in my photos.

We get down to Santa Cruz every week or two, trying not go on weekends, when there’s traffic, also trying to go before the inrushing wind rises to brutal gale-force in-your-face levels in the afternoon.  This means there’s often a slot for having lunch at good old Aldo’s near the  marina.  I love naturally-occuring curves, as they’re more complicated than mathematical curves, that is, they have bends in them and deviations from infinitely differentiable smoothness.

I have a huge thing about the patterns light makes when passing through water. Like the nonstandard lens warping shown above. And, shown below, the reticulated bright lines are called caustic curves, where “caustic” relates to “burning,” and the focused light makes slightly hot (if not actually burning) spots.

I think I’ll try to copy this for my next painting.  And then, if I can’t stop myself, I’ll add a few kritters.

The sensual, dark, mermaid rock bathing in the clear water.

We were lucky at Lake Tahoe in that we were there during a four-day window when there weren’t nearby forest fires, and the sky was clear.

I’m a sucker for “me and my shadow” shots.  Nice to get my feet in here. And good to have the shadow go off at a slight angle.  In some children’s books, shadows come unstuck from their owners.  Like maybe you use special scissors to snip them loose.

Back on the theme of wildfires, the sun (and the moon) are getting pretty orange these days, espeically at rise and set.  I saw in the paper that before people settled in California, about a million acres burned in wildfires every year.  A natural cycle.

And now we’re so uptight about the fires, and the TV is yelling at us about them.  But they’re natural, and they’re never going to go away, so I’m beginning to just think, “Well, it’s fire season again.”  Not that I lack sympathy for those who lose homes or even lives.  And not that I don’t worry about  my own house, and I do take some brush-cutting measures.

But I’d like to avoid desperation and hysteria and frantic worrying about the future. So many quicksands and vortices of terror to avoid.  So important to continue to live one’s own life.

But what do I know.  Sylvia took a nice photo of me with her new iPhone 12 this morning.  We lighten the load of the pandemic with little outings and treats.

Let’s wrap it up with this salutary Pacific Islands sculpture of a horse at the Cantor Museum in Stanford which was, blessedly open last month.

Onward foo the throg!

Self-Pub My JUICY GHOSTS Novel

July 26th, 2021

I finished my Juicy Ghosts novel that I’ve been posting about for the last two years. My agent and I sent the Juicy Ghosts manuscript to three smallish publishers who are that crucial notch above being “small presses.”. The first two never answered. And the third said no, he thought the political assassination stuff was too much. The removal of the fictional President Ross Treadle, that is.

[Surrealism alert: many of my blog illos have little or no logical connection with the adjacent text. The paintings of mine that appear are for sale on my Paintings page]

210. “Althea’s Friends”” Acrilyc on canvas. Painted with Althea Lasseter, July, 2021, 30” x 24”.

That Treadle part was the first bit I wrote, early in 2019 and I put it in a (I then thought) standalone short story called “Juicy Ghost” that no zine would publish so in June, 2019, I put it put it on my blog, and that October the cool underground SF ezine Big Echo published it too. And then I was paranoid that “they” would come “get” me, but they never did—or they haven’t yet. So here I am, still squawking.

I explain about the book in this pitch video below, not that you have to listen to it right now. Scrolling down through this post might be more fun.

The “pitch” aspect has do with the fact that I’m self-publishing my novel with my Transreal Books imprint, and raising money for it via Kickstarter.

I could have dipped down to smaller and smaller presses for Juicy Ghosts, but, as with my other recent “Rucker late style” novels Turing & Burroughs, The Big Aha, and Return to the Hollow Earth, I decided I’d rather self-publish it with good old Transreal Books. And get some righteous bucks via a Kickstarter campaign. And not have to beg. And no have to wait.

In any case, my agent John Silbersack told me the real problem with selling Juicy Ghosts novel was that the sales of my previous novel Million Mile Road Trip were terrible. Maybe nobody really cares about my politics. That part’s like…compared to what?

Million Mile Road Trip did get some great reviews, but it didn’t catch on at all. Maybe the COVID plague hurt our sales, with all the bookstores closed? But MMRT didn’t even sell many ebooks.

Anyway, it turns out my Kickstarter for Juicy Ghosts is doing really well, way better than my earlier ones. A pleasant surprise. Happy days here at Rucktronics World Headquarters.

I think people are hungry for a novel that features the killing of an evil President. Pent up demand! Have a seat in Rudy’s magic Dream Chair.

I designed a cover, and graphic-designer daughter Georgia polished it up a bit this wekeend. I used one of my paintings for the background. And my old freelance proofreader Michael Troutman went through the novel for me—he has a very good eye.

My agent may yet sell it as an audiobook, or in Europe. And some publisher might reprint it in a few years. But for now the main thing is to put it out there. The career secret: Keep it bouncing. Along the way I wrote a book-length volume of Notes along with the novel.

Juicy Ghosts is about politics, telepathy, and immortality. I started it in 2019, as a reaction to Donald Trump’s repeated remarks that he planned to be a three-term president. That pushed me over the edge.

And then, like I said, I started with a short story called “Juicy Ghost.” Rebels bring down an insane, evil President who’s stolen an election. They sting him with a lethally tweaked wasp, erase the online backup of his mind, and explode his clone. Too much? It’s hard to stop, when you’re having this much fun! Over the next two years, my story grew into a novel. I had to write it. I wanted to stand and be counted.

So, yes, Juicy Ghosts is a tale of political struggle—but it’s more than that. It’s hip and literary, with romance and tragedy. Plus gnarly science, and lots of funny scenes. I used a loose, say-anything style. The point-of-view characters are outsiders and slackers. The majority of them are women, and they give the tale a grounded tone.

Here’s a kid I saw on Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz.

And here’s my painting of him.

207. “Beach Morning” Acrylic on canvas. June, 2012, 30″ x 24″. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Back to the Juicy Ghosts rap.

We’ll see commercial telepathy, or teep, before long. And we’ll want a channel that’s richer than text and images. Users might transmit templates for the neurochemicals that are affecting their current mood. Your friends feel your pheromones! In Juicy Ghosts, people do this with gossip molecules, which are nano-assemblers with tiny antennas. Keeping an astral eye on the neighbors.

I’ve been writing about digital immortality since my early cyberpunk novel Software. The idea is to represent a soul by a digital program and a data-base, calling the construct a lifebox.

But in Juicy Ghosts a lifebox needs to be linked to a physical body. It’s not enough to be a ghost—you want to be a juicy ghost, baby. The linked body might be an insect or an animal or a biotweaked bot—but high-end users will have tank-grown clones.

209. “Loplop” Acrylic on canvas. June, 2012, 24″ x 18″. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Lifeboxes and clones will be expensive, so most people will settle for free lifebox storage provided by tech giants. The catch is that if you accept this free service, you’re obligated to do gig-work for the company—as a bodyguard, a chauffeur, a maid, of a factory worker. Typical of our times!

I like happy endings. I’d rather laugh than cry. My characters destroy the evil President’s political party, topple the pay-to-play immortality racket, and provide everyone with free lifeboxes and physical bodies. Ta-da!

Notes for Juicy Ghosts came out to be a book-length volume as well, actually a bit longer than the novel. It includes plans, journal material, research, and writing notes. The Notes also covers the six short stories I wrote and published while working on the novel.

Notes for Juicy Ghosts has thirty illustrations, including drawings, photos, and seventeen paintings I did while writing the novel. In the Collector’s Edition hardback of it, the illos for Notes for Juicy Ghosts are in color. Fun to do these kinky kooky book design things when you self-pub. Like Virginia and Leonard Woolf with the Hogarth Press, right.

209. “Self-Portrait with Mandelbrot Set UFO” acrylic on canvas, 40″ x 30″, July, 2021. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The image above says it all. A painting I did this month, where a complex cubic Mandelbrot fractal is connected to a bunch of critters. It’s based on a fractal I found inside my computer.

The thing in the painting is kind of like a multibody juicy ghost! The divine Oversoul. With me at the bottom there, smiling.

Finis coronat opus, y’all.

And Sammy the broken kelp-float muppet-head says “Me skzt zbtx with you!”

Flying Saucer Jamboree

June 11th, 2021

I’m getting the feeling there’s a renewed interest in UFOs, so I’m doing a jamboree post. For my text, I’ve taken some excerpts from (a) the introduction and text of my novel Saucer Wisdom, (b) my part of a postcript essay that Marc Laidlaw and I wrote for Stephen Baxter’s novel Alien Contact, (c) my novel Million Mile Road Trip, (d) some tales in my Complete Stories, and (e) an unpublished history of UFOlogy that I wrote up when doing research for Saucer Wisdom. In that resarch, I drew heavily on Curtis Peebles, Watch The Skies! A Chronicle Of The Flying Saucer Myth, Smithsonian Institution Press 1994.

To make the post lively, I shuffled the excerpts, and for the illos, I’ve used about 25 of my paintings that include a flying saucer of some sort—placing the illos at random, as is my wont.  See my Paintings page for more info on the paintings, many of which are for sale.

Here come two more flying saucers, hefty guys, the size of a big car and a very big truck. One of them has a green dome and a yellow rim, the other one is done up in shades of dark purple. Rich, painterly hues. The saucers make a low, intricate hum, a drone with subtle curlicues within. They hover above the wrecked car. The tendrils of their telepathy comb through the crannies of Villy’s mind.

“I want my daughter,” booms the green saucer. “They call me Pa Saucer.” He has no visible mouth. His deep voice emanates from the resonant vibrations of his disk. He’s twenty feet across and he must weigh over a ton. And he’s the smaller of the two.

Pa Saucer’s companion, a large bruise-colored saucer, stabilizes himself, bracing his thick, muscular rim against the steady wind. And then he sends down a beam. It’s not a cute, wiggly, green beam—no, man, this four-ton dump-truck-sized saucer has a beam that’s a brighter-than-white industrial laser that Villy can barely stand to see.

One of the most famous early UFO sightings is known as Ezekiel’s Wheel. It’s enshrined in popular culture via an African-American spiritual. I’d always had the impression that the prophet Ezekiel wrote about a single flaming wheel which hovered above him like a flying saucer. But in fact Ezekiel saw four creatures riding on spinning wheels.

Ezekiel saw the wheels;
Way in the middle of the air.
Ezekiel saw the wheels;
Way in the middle of the air.
And the big wheel run by Faith, good Lord;
And the little wheel run by the Grace of God;
In the wheel in the wheel good Lord;
Way in the middle of the air.

Typically the extra-terrestrials we expect to find are creatures something like ourselves. Lizards, sure, or squids, or bugs or rats, maybe—let’s not be simian chauvinists—but at our imagned ET saucer pilots are expected to be about our size. Science fiction is filled with planets full of these guys, building their cities, fighting their wars, mating, eating, and so on. No one has written more entertainingly about these kinds of aliens than Robert Sheckley. The kicker in Sheckley’s alien stories is always that the aliens are some kind of inversion or caricature of human beings. We have no real idea about what actual aliens would be like.  Writing stories demonstrating this is tricky.

Around 1946, an eccentric science-fiction editor named Ray Palmer began pushing the notion of extraterrestrial visitors in his magazine, Amazing Stories. The modern concept of the flying saucer was born on June 24, 1947. A private pilot named Kenneth Arnold spotted some strange, darting objects in the sky near Mount Rainier. Here is the AP press report.

Pendleton, Ore. June 25 (AP) — Nine bright saucer-like objects flying at ‘incredible speed’ at 10,000 feet altitude were reported here today by Kenneth Arnold, Boise Idaho, [a] pilot who said he could not hazard a guess as to what they were … Arnold said that he clocked and estimated their speed at 1,200 miles an hour.” Arnold said they skipped along like saucers on water.

Over the years many of the great silvery saucers had grown to a size of over fifty feet across—yes, grown. The metal saucers were living things that grew and learned and eventually died. The saucers’ silver surfaces were intricately chased with filigreed coppery lines that branched and intertwined as a saucer grew. No two saucers were the quite the same.

With exercise, polishing, and plenty of sunshine, a flying saucer could grow for many a year, perhaps as much as two centuries. When a saucer got quite old, its skin would thin out to nothingness and the whole thing would suddenly crumble into a drifting dust like mushroom spores.

Where did the saucers come from? They spawned on the ribs of planet X herself. Every few years in some deep cave of planet X—and never twice the same cave—a few baby saucers would be found stuck to the walls like limpets.

One of the emperor’s flying saucers rested in the dirt of the peasants’ yard; the saucer was a young twenty-footer, still but lightly filigreed. All the peasants from the neighborhood had gathered, or were still gathering, to watch. None of the emperor’s saucers had ever landed here before, and none of the peasants had ever been inside a saucer.

In the mid-1950s there were a series of striking UFO sightings in France. The French UFOlogist Aime Michel published a book with some fascinating accounts of the sightings. Here’s a lovely long quote from a French farmer describing what he saw on September 14, 1954.

It was about five in the afternoon. Emerging from the thick layer that looked like a storm coming up, we saw a luminous blue-violet mist, of a regular shape something like a cigar or a carrot. Actually, the object came out of the layer of clouds in an almost horizontal position, slightly tilted toward the ground and pointing forward, like a submerging submarine.

The luminous cloud appeared rigid. Whenever it moved, its movements had no connection with the movements of the clouds, and it moved all of a piece, as if it were actually some gigantic machine surrounded by mist. It came down rather fast from the ceiling of clouds to an altitude which we thought was perhaps a half-mile above us. It was an extraordinary sight, and we watched it intently. All over the countryside other farmers had also dropped their tools and were staring up at the sky like us.

All at once white smoke exactly like a vapor trail came from the lower end of the cloud. Aster the smoke trail had vanished entirely, could we see the object that was sowing it — a little metallic disk, reflecting in its rapid movements flashes of light from the huge vertical object. The little disk … went down toward the ground again, this time moving away.

For quite a few minutes we could see it flying low over the valley, darting here and there at great speed, sometimes speeding up, then stopping for a few seconds, then going on again, flying in every direction between villages that were four miles apart. Finally, when it was almost a mile from the vertical object it made a final dash toward it at headlong speed and disappeared  into the lower part. A minute later the carrot leaned over as it began to move, accelerated and disappeared into the clouds in the distance.

—Aime Michel, Flying Saucers And The Straight-Line Mystery, Criterion Books 1958., quoted in Jacques Vallee, Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception, Ballantine Books, 1991

The great carrot and the little disk above the villages! How charming, how French.

In September, 1967, a horse named Snippy was found with the skin and flesh gone from his head, and his owners formed the idea that Snippy had been deliberately mutilated, perhaps by aliens. This was the first report in a wave of livestock mutilation reports which peaked in the 1970s. Some cattle mutilation accounts claim that the mysteriously butchered cows have legs which are broken as if the cattle had been dropped from a great height (i.e. from a satiated saucer). Like the notion of saucers near power-lines, the concept of cattle-mutilating aliens took a deep hold on the public consciousness. There is a comfortable notion that the supernal saucers maight have some of the same needs as humans.

Wimp ‘n’ Dweeb hunch over a large computer screen, faces lit by the flickering light. “What do you mean, you can’t exit this program?” asks Wimp. “How about if I cut the power?” Wimp touches the switch and a surge of electricity turns his head into a smoking black skull. The machine’s speaker crackles. “Listen well, flesher, to what you must do for the saucers.” Dweeb’s glasses glint as he nods his fealty.

The most significant UFOlogical event of 1967 was the appearance of John Fuller’s book, Interrupted Journey. This tells the story of Betty and Barney Hill, a couple who under hypnosis had come to believe that they were abducted by aliens on September 19, 1961. Their experience was not a pleasant joy-ride such as the jaunts around the solar system which other contactees described. The Hill’s experience was the first example of the negative, psychosexual kind of alien contact experience. Betty said that aliens with big noses had undressed her, poked her with needles on wires, and had then stuck a needle into her navel.

High in translunar orbit floats an inconceivably ancient craft. Klaatu and Tuulka, the craft’s sole inhabitants for lo these three thousand years, hang watchfully in the weightless cabin. They have hugely domed craniums and tiny little hands with no fingernails. Their cabin walls are lined with TV monitors, all showing scenes of everyday Earth life. Politicians, office-workers, lovers. “They are fools, Tuulka,” hisses baleful Klaatu. “Yes,” singsongs happy Tuulka, “but they are beautiful fools.” “I think it is time we put an end to these beautiful fools,” rasps Klaatu, and presses a button. The screens flare…

A TV movie called “The UFO Incident,” based on the abduction stories of Betty and Barney Hill account was shown on October 20, 1975. This film was of key historical significance, as it was the first time that aliens were depicted in the canonical modern way: as short, gray-skinned, hairless, and with big, almond-shaped eyes. These so-called Grays are about the size of children, thin and spindly, with big bald heads and enormous slanting eyes. Their noses, ears and mouths are rudimentary. It is as if they think and see, but do not taste, smell, speak, or listen. The slanted-eye alien image has become so pervasive that it is hard to grasp that this tedious, reductive icon is only some fifty years old. It’s not a necessary truth.

Our flying saucer consisted of a shallow chassis approximately as big as a modest hot tub, with side and rear vanes for aerodynamic maneuvering. Half the interior space was occupied by the shielded drive mechanism. A transparent dome rested atop the passenger space. A few failsafe controls clustered around a small steering wheel. Maybe comfortable for Wiggleweb elves, but two humans could barely fit side by side on the padded bench seat, with their legs folded and knees up around their ears.

My basic feeling about alien contact is that every minute of every day is a veritable fugue of alien contact. I think other people are aliens, I think animals are aliens, I think objects are aliens, I think the laws of nature are aliens, and I even think that thoughts are aliens. I’ve always been a very alienated guy.

I had an unhappy childhood. I was having such a bad time growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, that my parents sent me off to a boarding school in Germany for a year. I didn’t know German. In the spring it rained a lot and all the puddles were full of yellow dust. I thought it was fallout, I thought there had been a nuclear war and nobody had told me. I didn’t mind. Maybe now a saucer woud come to pick me up.

Bombo the enormous saucer is still here, hovering above the high-school gracuation ceremony. He’s vibrating his body like a bass speaker, pulsing out dark notes and subsonic vibrations that you can feel in your gut. Sparks are crackling from Bombo’s edges towards the great red eye at the center of his mile-wide underside, like he’s a wheel on a science-fair spark machine. His gaze sweeps back and forth across the lawn. His freaky throbbing rises to a crescendo.


Oh my god, there’s a fifty-foot-deep crater in the place of the Los Perros High front steps. The result of Bombo’s zap. And now—creak, creeak, creeeak—oh shit, the school’s elaborate, columned, pediment-topped facade is wavering, leaning, looming, and…falling forward in a slow-motion collapse.

Ricky roams a night meadow with his dog. Big light solarizes him; something like a giant chandelier is right overhead! A mothership! The dog barks like crazy while a magic beam draws Ricky up into the ship. He’s met by lipless big-eyed folks in silver overalls. One of them has long hair. His/her name is Symphony. S/he takes Ricky off into a little room with a bed and pulls down his trousers. Ricky’s face blurs in ecstasy as he delivers a semen sample into Symphony’s three-fingered hands. Later he wakes, alone at home in sticky sheets.

In the early 1990s, some fringe-thinkers began claiming the U.S. Government and MJ-12 had sold out the humans to the aliens. According to them, human abductions and cattle mutilations are covered up in exchange for alien technology, and a secret base for the aliens has been built at a secret military test site north of Las Vegas named Groom Lake, a.k.a. Area 51, a.k.a. Dreamland. The modern power-obsessed ufology exudes a trapped, hopeless feeling of impotence. A literate and oddly humorous presentation of these ideas can be found in John Shirley’s 1996 science fiction masterpiece Silicon Embrace.  A key work, curiously neglected.

An offbeat but relevant work here is my story with Bruce Sterling, “Colliding Branes,”  which is set in Area 52. You can listen to Bruce reading the story on the audio page of our joint collection Transreal Cyberpunk.

[Okay, those little lavender Mandelbrot-set type scraps don’t look like regular flying saucers, but they’re in the Hollow Earth, so it’s okay.]

Looking out past the tree he’s leaning on, the boy sees a decent-size flying saucer cruise by. This one is gold with a pale purple rim. It’s fleshy and alert, like a round stingray, six or seven feet in diameter. There goes another and another, each of them a different color. Like tropical birds heading for their roost. Each of them seems to have a red eye or a black eye—not something often mentioned by human saucer fanciers. And their bodies’ diversity of form is also something that’s not well known.

Yes, many have the classic sombrero shape, but he also sees one like a lime-green pyramid, and one like a flying snake, and yet another is shaped like a short flight of stairs. “Saucer” is a catch-all category, it seems, with varying contents.

Modern ufology’s obsession with political power is absurd. Mesmerized at the thought of so vast a political conspiracy, pinheads engage in a never-ending discussion of amateurishly forged “top secret government documents” that supposedly describe high-level contacts with aliens. Xeroxed pseudo-bureaucratic gobbledygook—instead of  flaming wheels from the sky. Or a meaty flying manta rays.  Why would the “government” ever know anything useful about saucers?

It seems obvious that flying saucers would be living beings in their own right, and not machines with aliens inside them.  I work that routine in Million Mile Road Trip.

One can readily regard things like the sun or the galaxy as alive in their own right; and intelligent as well. But if the sun is intelligent, why doesn’t talk to us? Well, we’re intelligent, but we don’t talk to ants. The problem is that we, ants, and the sun have no common interests. We have nothing to talk about.

Like you’re on a double date with an ant, the sun, and maybe a tree—what do you talk about? The ant waves its feelers, the tree opens blossoms, the sun sends out a solar prominence, and you…you say, “Where do you want to eat?”

In the 1950s there was a widespread feeling that the saucers were here to bring some kind of solution, perhaps to the then-paramount problem of the Cold War. As the great thinker Carl Jung wrote in 1958,

The UFOs…have become a living myth. We have here a golden opportunity of seeing how a legend is formed, and how in a difficult and dark time for humanity a miraculous tale grows up of an attempted intervention by extraterrestrial ‘heavenly’ powers…

For Jung, the circular UFO is a mandala symbol, representing an integration of the individual psyche with the forces of the cosmos. The flying saucer is thus a projection of the human desire for wholeness and unity. This insight of Jung’s is simple and deep. The fact is that it makes people feel good to look at images of flying saucers, there is a feeling of safety and completion in these round, hovering entities.

These positive feelings are undoubtedly connected to our very earliest life experiences. Look back to the early edges of your life, back when you were part of, or very nearly part of, your mother. Your mother’s breast is the very first “round, hovering entity” that you encounter. Your mother is the original whole of which you were a part. The common use of the phrase “mother-ship” for large UFOs is no accident.

Let’s do another hit of Jung. He noted that the sexual instinct and the drive for power readily tend to obscure the reality of the quest for wholeness. Jung puts it this way in his indispenxible Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, Princeton University Press 1978, (Originally published in 1958).

“The most important of the fundamental instincts, the religious instinct for wholeness, plays the least conspicuous part in contemporary consciousness because…it can free itself only with the greatest effort…from contamination with the other two instincts. These can constantly appeal to common, everyday facts known to everyone, but the instinct for wholeness requires for its evidence a more highly differentiated consciousness, thoughtfulness, reflection, [and] responsibility…The most convenient explanations are invariably sex and the power instinct, and reduction to these two dominants gives rationalists and materialists an ill-concealed satisfaction: they have neatly disposed of an intellectually and morally uncomfortable difficulty…”

In modern times, the notion of UFOs as symbols of wholeness was supplanted by notions of sex and power, and the UFO stories became accordingly unwholesome and paranoid. On the one hand, the mythos was tainted by concepts relating to society’s pervasive, icky concern with sexual molestation and the politics of reproduction. And on the other hand—as I mentioned—humorless amateur ufologists dwell on infantile fears that an all-powerful government has been hiding saucer contacts from us. Just as Jung warned, concepts of sexuality and power have utterly eclipsed the concepts of higher consciousness.

The saucers around them are, variously, like sombreros, donuts, serpents, soup tureens, battleship turrets, and lemon meringue pies. Their tints include, to name only a few, crimson, chartreuse, magenta, gold, and ultramarine. Their color designs are solid, spotted, blended, striped, or zigzag. Their skin textures are metallic, slimy, leathery, scaly, warty, bristly, and more.

A large gray saucer begins nudging Yulia the flat-cow saucer. He nips at the flat cow’s long tail with big, stony teeth. He bumps her from below and from above. And then, how horrible, a waggling tube emerges from the blocky, square-jawed saucer’s underside.

A reproductive organ? A feeding siphon? Whatever function the unwelcome tube is meant to serve, the brutish monster thrusts it against Yulia’s body, feeling around with the tip until—oh hell—he locates the coin-purse slit along Yulia’s edge and manages to pry it open.

The word “person” comes from the Latin per + son, meaning through + sound. A “person” was originally a mask through which an actor would speak, so by extension, a person is any entity through which a mind speaks. Each and every aspect of the world can be imaginatively regarded as a “person,” and any person can be imagined to be “alien.” the characteristic feature of our fictional aliens is that they are acting on plans and purposes wholly other than ours. The alien mythos is a dramatized restatement of the basic existential fact: others exist. A childish person is barely able to grasp that there is any consciousness other than his or hers. But one day, with a terrified snort of surprise, Birgit (say) realizes that Sylvester is actually a person. A conscious entity. A startled grazing cow snaps up her head. Snort?!?

In fiction we like to add a second, yet more alarmed snort of surprise—Birgit realizes that not only is Sylvester conscious, he is in fact interested in goals wholly other than she. Perhaps he is a flesh-eating zombie, or a cunning robot simulacrum. Snort! He has a mind. Double snort! His mind is unlike mine.

Snort! The lamp on my table has consciousness! Double snort! But it’s not human! Do I now flee from my lamp? Or shall I worship it?

Fear or worship of aliens are both false solutions. Fear of aliens stems out of a self-centeredness so strong as to produce a terror of the other. And worship of aliens is a self-abasing, masochistic response stemming from a desire for annihilation and a terror of the self.

The lampshade quivers gently. Sharing in the undivided Divinity operating within everything, my lamp is surely alive. It knows things. It knows how to turn on and off, and it knows how to fall off the table. It knows knows gravity and it knows electricity. Dear lamp, it’s nice to have you here. Thank you for existing.

Snort! It’s conscious! Double snort! It’s other!

I’ve come to like thinking about aliens; I sometimes even imagine that I really did spend a few minutes in a saucer that night by Devil’s Tower. It’s a fresh, spaced-out way to look at the world. A conceptual high. I often think of a UFO perched watching at my shoulder, and it makes me feel glad.

And no, I haven’t been stopped from telling this True Story, and you reading this, no, you aren’t letting anyone stop you either, you’re in on the secret now, you’re in the Big Time, you’ve learned Saucer Wisdom.

The aliens are all around us, and you can learn to see things as they do.

God is everywhere, and if you ask, God will help you.

Wisdom enough.

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