Archive for the ‘Million Mile Road Trip’ Category

Exploding Head

I’ve been in high gear this month. Here’s a picture of me with my head exploding. Or the man standing next to me, as in Dylan’s “Day of the Locusts.” Or something. More details toward the end of this post.

Let’s start with my latest painting.

“MonkeyBrains ISP” acrylic, July, 2017, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

These days I often start a painting by making spontaneous squiggles, using the paint left over from the previous painting. My initial goals are (a) to cover every bit of the canvas with paint, including the edges of the canvas, (b) to craft an engaging dance of stroke and hue, and (c) stop daubing before the patterns get overly smooth—it takes some restraint to quit in time.

And then I paint something on top of the background. And then it reminds me of something, and I tweak the painting to make it look like whatever I have in mind. For “MonkeyBrains ISP” I was thinking of my son Rudy Jr. and his Internet Service Provider company,, run by Rudy and his business partner Alex. They have a logo that looks like a monkey. And they have about 5,000 wireless dish antennas scattered around multi-culti San Francisco. And from the window of my son’s house, I can see some Wayne-Thiebaud-style loops and ramps of the freeways 280 and 101.

So I made a big, reddish, living, walking building like a giant King Kong ape—with dish antennas, and with the two boss monkeys inside it, and with the diverse heads of their customers outside, and a freeway arcing upwards in back.

What else have I been doing?

Well, I’m all signed on with Skyhorse Publications / Night Shade Books. I sold them nine of my backlist novels plus the legendary and fabled Million Mile Road Trip . Their plan is to release a backlist title in fall 2018, then do one every two to four months and to publish Million Mile Road Trip after about three of the backlist titles, hopefully having stirred up a some interest on the part of new readers with the initial backlist publications.

So we’re looking at my novel coming out in summer or fall of 2019, that is, two years from now. Long wait. But, what the hey, it’s been two and a half years since I started work on MMRT in January, 2015, and now it’s done and it’ll be another two years till it comes out. At least Night Shade has a master plan! And my novel will quietly age for two more years. A fragrant cask of Amontillado.

I spent the whole of June, 2017, and the first part of July, doing final revisions on Million Mile Road Trip before sending it to Cory Allyn and Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade. To start with, I read it, and marked it up, and typed in the changes—to the tune of about fifteen changes per page. And then I worked my way through my accumulated To Do list for the novel, doing global fixes on various plot points. I was working very intensely, like ten hours a day for thirty days in a row.

It always surprises me how few actual deletions and new sentences or phrases it can take to finish off a To Do. It’s like finding pressure points. You find them and do few a light touches, and the problem is healed. Like acupressure. Acuedits. But it takes a while to figure them out. Takes more time than the actual typing involved.

During the week or two while I was doing my acuedit fixes of the To Dos, I felt more intelligent than usual. For that period of time, I had the whole entire 117,000 word novel simultaneously imaged in my brain—and that’s a much larger mental pattern than I can normally keep active at once. Like balancing a tower of plates on sticks on plates, or juggling a whole lot of things at once. Mental exercise at a very high level.

That’s the novel on the left, and me on the high balcony on the right. And I’m the only one who sees that the finished temple is there.

At one point during this process, Sylvia and I were bumming around San Francisco, spending the nights in Rudy Jr.’s temporarily unoccupied house. And we took two free San Francisco City Guides tours, one of Chinatown and one of lower Market Street.

Our guide was a nice woman with a slight New York accent, very hip, but I forget her name, maybe it started with an E. Here she’s showing us a Chinatown alley where the tongs had a brothel and an early 1900s lady called Donaldina Cameron helped the indentured women escape down the fire escape.

At a cafe or on a bench, if there was a lull, I’d get out my traditional pocket-folded scrap of paper and be marking down some ideas about the To Dos and the fixes. At one point Sylvia looks over at me at says, “I can never believe how you can instantly start working at any time.” And it’s because that stuff is flowing along like an underground river in my head the whole time.

I sort of worry about something that can happen with older writers is that, in their later works, they get into what you might perhaps call a Mannerist phase where they are aping and replaying their best bits, riffs they love to do, themes they can’t let go of, reworking them into scenes of unnatural elegance and intellectual sophistication. And wonder if I’m in that mode in my recent books like The Big Aha and now Million Mile Road Trip. I’m working with a high-craft Salvador Dali type polish. Although perhaps Mannerist and even decadent—in the literal sense of being the products of a dying or decaying organism (me)—my current novels seem to me to be of value. Like the fragrant ambergris drawn from a diseased whale.

Well, going a little overboard there. I’m still making great efforts to have my characters be rounded, human, quirky, and empathetic. So maybe I’m beyond Mannerist. I’m Baroque. A.k.a. gnarly.

In the full Salvador Dali Mannerist-Baroque-gnarly mode, I kicked in some new four-dimensional twists for Million Mile Road Trip, and spent a couple of days drawing intricate illos. Like there’s a wormhole or so-called Einstein-Rosen bridge, or “unny tunnel” that connects our normal universe to the alternate universe where most of the book is set. And in this illo shown above you can see heroine Zoe with her trumpet, sliding up from our world to the other one, and a possibly evil saucer and a friendly alien named Yampa sliding down.

Eventually an evil alien bagpipe named Groon wants to slide through the wormhole between worlds. Groon, by the way, is the creature shown further up this page, he’s a giant bagpipe who blats flying saucers from his horn. What, I ask you, can be more evil than a bagpipe?

And this illo shows geeky Scud’s plan for his brother Villy to trap and kill Groon while he’s midway in that tunnel. Villy will be in 4D space with something like a pair of lassos. Zoe will, unfortunately, be trapped in Groon’s stomach at this time.

Explanation by Scud:
“We’ve got Groon embedded in the surface of the tunnel. So the first step is when Groon slides in there and Villy lassoes the two ends. Second step is when Villy tightens up the two ends of the tunnel. And then Groon is—trapped on the hypersurface of a pocket universe. And, ta da, for step three, the pocket universe shrinks on its own. No more Groon!”

My character Zoe is worried about the pictures:
“What’s that woman doing in there?” asks Zoe, an edge in her voice. “Trapped inside Groon’s stomach. Is that supposed to be me? Do you think that’s funny?”

“Well, I mean, these pictures are hypothetical,” says Scud. “The sequence I drew is strictly a worst-case analysis. Consider the pictures a cautionary warning.”

Very meta: A plastic model of a taxidermist in the Qunicy Museum. Taxidermist taxidermy.

Sylvia and I were up Quincy, CA, near the Feather River canyon last weekend for a wedding, a big event, lots of fun, Our humble $90-a-night motel literally had a babbling brook outside the window, We went swimming at a deserted swimming hole under a country bridge, along with our friend Jon Pearce and his wife Debra, it was quite awesome, Birds flying, ripples, marshy plant stalks, lion scat, currents. This is how things should be, is what I think at my rare moments fully in nature like this.

It reminded me an experience I had standing chest deep in the Big Sur river a few years ago, when I was working on my tome, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul and writing the final ““The Answers” section, which you can click here to read online.

I’d been arguing that “everything is a computation.” And, standing in the river, I realized I was wrong. This voice in my head was saying: “This is WATER, Rudy. WATER.” Which is what the blind and deaf Helen Keller’s teacher signed onto her palm while holding Helen’s arm in the rushing gush from a pump. Not a computation. WATER.

Speaking of water, on the last day in Quincy, after the wedding, Sylvia and I stayed on for an empty day, and ended up driving to the nearby Bucks Lake—we were searching for cool weather there at 5,000 feet, but even so it was 90 degrees. Anyway, we rented a little motorboat and putted over to some empty shore and went swimming, which was great.

And then we drove around the lake and, at the base of the Bucks Lake dam, I came across a drain at the base of the dam, with water shooting out in a staggeringly intense jet. I love it when I see such incredibly rich and gnarly examples of physical computation. Note that I’m not saying the water is, in its deepest essence, a computation. I’m saying it can be viewed as encoding or carrying out a computation–it it stimulates you to look at the world that way. But, again, mainly it’s being water. Presented by the mysterious Lady S.

With the sweetest little pool of mountain irises next to the jet, such clear water, such green leaves. Life is beautiful.

Last Chance for Nine of Rudy’s Transreal Books

[Updated June 25, 2017: The new publisher for the nine backlist novels mentioned in this post will be the Night Shade imprint of Skyhorse Books. Starting this week, print copies of these titles will no longer be produced or sold by Transreal Books. Transreal Books will continue to sell the ebook editions. The new Night Shade print editions will be appearing during the time frame 2018-2019.]

I found a publisher (name soon to be announced) for my latest novel, Million Mile Road Trip. The new publisher is acquiring the print rights for ten of my books in all, that is, rights for Million Mile Road Trip plus rights for nine of my backlist novels, all of which are presently in print via my Transreal Books imprint.

Transreal Books will still be handling the ebook editions for these books, by the way, but my print editions will be redesigned with new covers by the new publisher. And the print Transreal Books editions will no longer be produced.

Sooo, for a short time, that is, about a week, you can still buy the Transreal Books print editions of those nine backlist paperbacks, with designs and covers by Rudy Rucker. And then begins a differently awesome era—with new designs, larger production runs, and more visibility. An exciting change.

But the uniquely styled old Transreal Books print editions of those nine books will be out-of-print collectibles. Get ’em while you can. The clock is running out.

*White Light
*Spacetime Donuts
*The Sex Sphere
*The Secret of Life
*Saucer Wisdom
*Mathematicians in Love
*Jim and the Flims
*Turing & Burroughs
*The Big Aha

Kauai. Finished 2nd Draft of MILLION MILE ROAD TRIP.

So yesterday I finished the second draft of Million Mile Road Trip, an SF novel I’ve been working on since April, 2014. Nearly two and a half years. It’s been a long haul. And this year was hard one for me in other ways.

I finished the first draft in June, and at that time I put up a long post with a number of illos relating to the novel, so I won’t repeat all that info. And if you want to see more on the backstory of the novel you can also look at the cumulative “Million Mile Road Trip” category of posts on my blog.

In short, the novel features three teens on a million mile road trip across a landscape of alien civilizations. Goal? Stop the flying saucers from invading Earth. And learn about life and love.

The master of the flying saucers is an evil alien bagpipe—are there any other kinds of bagpipes? His name is Groon, and I did a painting of him a few months back that I really like.

“Saucer Bagpipe” acrylic on canvas, June, 2016, 24” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The teens are Zoe and Villy, aged 18, plus Villy’s irritating 16-year-old brother Scud. Flying saucers and colorful aliens enter the tale. And, yes, it’s literally about a car trip that’s a million miles long—the trip is set in a parallel universe, which contains a single, endless plain divided by ridges into basin-like worlds.

For years I’d wanted to kick up the Kerouac On the Road thing into an book of intergalactic kicks with a seriously long drive. And I was happy to get it to work. Not that my novel is much like a beat novel. I was, at least initially, thinking in terms of a YA novel for teens—although who knows if that’s the market I’ll find.

[Many of today’s photos are from a trip to Kauai I did with Sylvia at the end of July, 2016.]

In the spirit of Kerouac/YA I wrote the book in the present tense, alternating among the points of view of the kids, with the prose style fairly colloquial and intimate. I think Zoe’s voice is especially funny. I posted a sample passage of her in April, 2016. a passage from the “Lady Filippa” chapter about 2/3 of the way through the book.

As I’ve said before, writing a novel is like rowing a boat across the Atlantic. You just cannot believe how long it takes, and how much work it is, and how much doubt you have to fight through along the way. Sometimes writers talk about the “black point,” when you’re so far into the journey that you can’t see where you started from, and you can’t see where you’re going.

You have to count on the muse for help, and I don’t mean that as a metaphor or a joke or mere lip-service to some notion of the writer’s craft. There is some kind of force—maybe it’s just my subconscious, or my trickle from the hive mind, or my archetypal engrams, or racial memory, or the synchronistic elegance of our divine natural world, or the quantum computing metamind of the Great Novelist—but it’s something that kicks in and helps me. Those flashes of inspiration. When the world starts dancing with you, everything fitting, overheard scraps of conversation, dreams, articles in the paper, things people say, here it is.

[A thermostat in an art gallery, plastic-encased, casting an odd shadow. “Vhat is?”]

It was fun being in Kauai, a nice break, we went there right after I finished the first draft, and I didn’t bring the draft along for correcting, so Sylvia and I were just kickin’ it. As a bonus our old friends Marc Laidlaw and wife Geraldine have a house there now, up on the funky jungly northwest end of Kauai, almost at the Na Pali cliffs.

Naturally Marc and I started talking about story ideas. Somehow I want to have a character who is, in some sense, a humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish. I even did a watercolor of him and his friends. He’s kind of a hoodlum.

And here’s a close-up of the pig-like humu in the corner of the watercolor above. Love this guy.

Sylvia and I did a lot of snorkeling. I’m not in the greatest physical condition this summer, and I’d practically die from holding my breath and exerting myself, but it was worth it.

We all went to a luau organized be the Hanalei Canoe Club—it was maybe not quite so generic as a hotel luau. Next the Hanalei River, and it was raining and you could drink coconuts and then get a tray of more-or-less cafeteria-style food and sit with a bunch of locals under a big tent, it was kind of great.

I get pretty excited when I see rain.

And the worn canoes.

I bought a t-shirt from some beautiful young Hawaiian women. Wahines, I guess you can say.

And then, oh my god, they had hula dancers. So great.

I can never quite figure out how the women attain such a high vibrational frequency in their harrumph motions.

A guy came out and did some routines with fire. He mentioned that normally it was too dangerous to do this show under a tent, but since it was raining—oh well.

He had dancers too.

It was a really nice vacation for Sylvia and me. And then when we got back, I cranked on my revisions for about three weeks and got the second (and possibly final) draft of Million Mile Road Trip done.

Finis coronat opus.

SF in SF, Blumlein, End Draft MILLION MILE ROAD TRIP, Gunnar, John Shirley

I did a reading event with Michael Blumlein  for an SF in SF event in San Francisco on June 12, 2016.  I read my story “Knobby Giraffe,” about a woman rescuing her girlfriend from the dead, and Michael read an essay/memoir called “Unrestrained and Indiscreet,” which turned out to be about the fact that Michael is dying of cancer.  It was deep and profound.   I posted a podcast of my story. And I posted a podcast of Blumlein’s amazing performance as well.

Here’s the audience. The discontinuity is because Richard Kadrey and Pat Murphy were off to the side.  A good crowd. If you were there and want to find yourself, view the larger version. Many thanks to Jacob and Rina of Tachyon Press for keeping the SF in SF readings going, and to Terry Bisson for serving as the leathery emcee.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve been talking about my novel Million Mile Road Trip for nearly two years. I finished the first draft this week. What you see above is a sketch for a scene that’s in the second to last chapter, entitled “Cosmic Beatdown: Part I.” The attack of the giant saucers. A classic, classic theme.

“Saucer Bagpipe” acrylic on canvas, June, 2016, 24” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

In the very last chapter, “Cosmic Beatdown: Part II,” my characters finish off a certain evil alien bagpipe named Groon. Who’s he? He’s a mountainous bagpipe that spews flying saucers, and who forces the saucers to act as leeches. But you don’t need to know that. As I’ve said before, I like to regard many of my paintings as being illustrations of unknown parables or proverbs. Like medieval illos of tales gone missing in the flow of time. Just from the image, we have no way of knowing of the horn is sucking or blowing. We also have to wonder about the outer, wider horn, what is it for? And why does that top saucer look more alert and disturbed than the others? And who are the three tiny people watching? No answers are really needed. The bagpipe and the flock of little saucers are enough.

I had a nice time working on this painting in my backyard “studio.”

Priliminary sketch of how to eliminate Groon. Click for a larger version of the drawing.

Here’s a quote from Million Mile Road Trip where the characters discuss how to kill Groon. The “Figures” mentioned in the text relate, somewhat, to the frames in the preliminary sketch above.

“A new era’s coming,” says Villy. “Scud’s talking about how we’ll kill Goon. He’s giving us an illustrated lecture.”

Scud is glad to have Zoe here. “For my pictures, I’ll draw two parallel universes that are 2D planes in 3D space,” he says. “But really it’s supposed to be one dimension higher. Two parallel universes that are 3D spaces in 4D hyperspace.”

“Hyperspace,” echoes Villy in the dumbest hick accent imaginable. “Haahpurspayce.”

“Saucerpeople” oil on canvas, Sept, 2015, 24” x 18”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

By the way, Maisie is a saucerperson, that is, she’s half flying saucer, so she has a rim or flap around her waist that Scud can draw on. The rim has a cuttlefish-skin-like ability to change colors.

Scud starts drawing on Maisie’s flap. “So we’ve got two universes that are like 2D planes. And in one universe we’ve got a really and truly flat cow, like a cut-out piece of paper. Also a flat bagpipe with a flat horn. And in the other universe we’ve got, well, let’s put a flat person with a flat eye. These creatures can’t normally travel from one universe into the other. They’re inside their home surfaces—you shouldn’t think of them as sliding around on top of the surfaces. They’re like inkblots in paper. And they just see what’s in their home world.”

“And now you want to show how they do sometimes go from one universe to the other,” says Maisie.

“Exactly, says Scud. “We travel from world to world by using unny tunnels. And I happen to know a lot about unny tunnels from reading popular science books about the fourth dimension.”

“Doesn’t everyone?” goes Villy.

“An unny tunnel is what we call a wormhole or an Einstein-Rosen bridge,” says Scud, drawing his second picture. “The idea is that you bulge down the space of one world, and bulge up the space of the other, and they meet and join together like soap films, and there’s a, like, throat connecting the two worlds. Unny tunnel.”

“The flat bagpipe and the flat cow fall through the hole in the middle of the hole?” says Villy.

“Precisely not,” says Scud. “Remember that these guys slide around inside the surfaces. Moving ink blots! What they’ll do is creep down the side of that wormhole I’ve drawn.”

“Which side?” asks Zoe. “The inside or the outside.”

“Riding the Flat Cow” acrylic and oil on canvas, April, 2016, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

[As I mentioned before, the novel has a character called the flat cow, or Yulia, although she’s not really flat, she’s just flattish, like partly squashed. Turns out she’s able to fly into the fourth dimension. But back to the quote from the text.]

“Wrong question!” cries Scud. “I’m telling you, they’re not really on one side or the other side of the surfaces. They’re like tattoos. They go all the way through. But! Our flat cow, she’s different. She has real thickness. She can peel free of the surface and fly around.,”

“And if you’re flying around in hyperspace outside the tunnel, what do you see?” asks Zoe.

“You’ll see a sphere that keeps bulging and warping and changing size while you move. Like this.” Scud runs his finger along Maisie’s rim, enjoying himself.

“And what does an unny tunnel look like to regular people in 3D space?” asks Villy.

“To us, the gate to the tunnel looks like a sphere with another world inside it,” says Scud.

“And what about when we’re inside the tunnel?” asks Villy. “Sliding down along the wall. What do we see then?”

“It’s effed up,” says Scud. “In one direction you see the back of your own head. And maybe you see a ball that has your old world inside it. And in the opposite direction you might see a ball holding the world you’re going to. We saw stuff like that when we hopped over here from Los Perros. But I don’t want to draw it. Too hard. Let’s show something easier.” His finger moves caressingly on Maisie’s rim. “Here’s a bagpipe going through the unny tunnel,” continues Scud. “That’s supposed to be Groon, right?”

“Kill Groon,” goes Maisie.

“I want to see the attack of the flat cow,” says Zoe.

“Yulia’s out there in hyperspace. Let’s suppose she has an agile person squeezed inside her flesh like a maggot. A heroic helper to pull the strings tight around the unny tunnel at either end.” Scud looks at Villy.

“Thus trapping the evil bagpipe in Nowheresville,” goes Zoe.

Some of my old friends have been leaving town lately. My neighbor Gunnar Vatvedt, 82, who’s been renting up the street from me for thirty years—his landlord decided to sell the house, and Gunnar’s outta here. I’ll miss him. He was a real character, very enlightened, but not via book-learning. With a great Norwegian accent.

My fellow Dark Lord of Cyberpunk, John Shirley, is moving up to the vicinity of Portland with his wife Micky. Here again, the Bay Area’s current real estate bubble and price inflation played a role. It’s been nice having John and Mickey around. You never know what John is going to say next, which is why it’s fun to talk to him. We had a farewell dinner at a tapas place in the Mission, with the oddly distorted artist Paul Mavrides and fellow cyberpunk Richard Kadrey there as well.

And here’s me, Sylvia and Micky. We were laughing about the Mondo 2000 party where we’d met Tim Leary around 1989. Tim asked Micky if she had some drugs. And then he asked Sylvia…where she had gone to high-school. Ow! Sylvia says that Tim asking her that proved that, just like me, he was, deep-down, kind of a preppie. Preps gone freak.

John and Micky left town via a teleport through this odd slab gate on the shores of Santa Cruz. The flat cow was busy that day.

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