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Self-Pub My JUICY GHOSTS Novel

Monday, 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

Friday, 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.

Fishing. Fort Bragg. Art.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

Jumping back to my 75th birthday in March, our three kids and their families gathered in our back yard and decorated it with streamers and helium balloons, including a pair of large ones shaped like the numerals 7 and 5.

And inevitably a certain grandchild let the 5 slip, and she was worried I’d be mad, but I thought it was funny and even, in a way, perfect. And I made a somewhat surreal painting of the event. The 5 Got Away! At a subtext level, the image shows the years themselves flying away from me, leading the way to Heaven. This is a picture that I reworked quite a few times until I was happy with it.

“The 5 Got Away” acrylic on canvas, May, 2021, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

And here’s a happy photo of me that week, taken by Georgia.

And here’s Georgia and me at Four Mile Beach, north of Santa Cruz.

On to newer events! Rudy Jr. chartered a small fishing boat and took me and and his family and a few of his friends out on the San Francisco bay near Treasure Island, to fish for California halibut, who lie on their sides on the bottom like flounders, but who are a bit smaller than the large Pacific halibuts way out at sea and in Alaska.

Marvellous feeling to set out to sea at dawn. The world is so beautiful.

The city still asleep.

Right away Rudy caught an extremely large sea bass. The captain said that ten years ago they weren’t up here, but the incremental warming of only a degree or two has brought them north. A big fish. Rudy could barely hold it up!

And near the end of the cruise, I caught a good-sized halibut. I felt a little bad about killing it. Like something in a fairy tale. But I took it home and we ate it.

Dig the cool fishing boat against the Bay Bridge. And the huge container ships in the background. Wonderful to be out on the water, all daily concerns gone.

The boat had a bunch of cool antennas on the roof.

Back in the harbor. Rudy’s son and one of his daughters caught fish too!

Busy in the harbor, with locals there to cadge unused fish carcasses that had been filleted by the cruise boats’ crews. The carcasses great for soup of course.

Sylvia and I drove up to Fort Bragg, California, just north of Mendocino. Visiting Isabel, who was showing off an art installation in the window of the Larry Spring Museum in the shaggy, boho artist-infested downtown of Fort Bragg.

Beautiful morning dew on the long grasses by the sea. We like to stay at this motel called the Beachcomber, right by the ocean. Fairly basic, in a perfect location.

Walking on the cliffs by the motel with Isabel, we spotted a pair of geese who naturally reminded me of Sylvia and me.

Isabel took us to a tiny redwood rain forest park in a corner of Fort Bragg, and we found a mysterious empty box. Door to the fourth dimension?

Isabel and her husband rent a large room for their living quarters and for Isabel’s studio. She’s best known as a jeweler, but she makes various kinds of light refracting assemblages, and she’s a painter as well.

I love this large painting by Isabel, which incorporates a bunch of patterns that she was seeing around her studio when she worked on it. The linoleum, clouds in the sky, splashes of rainbow light from crystals. And her bicycle here as well, kind of a Jasper-Johns-like addition to the painting. But of course she rides the bicycle away.

Isabel’s famous dog Rivers. A very mellow hound. He looks a lot like a dog named Arf we used to have in the family.

A nice stained glass piece by my mother Marianne von Bitter, no longer with us, but warmly remembered. I’d forgotten about this work, and it was nice to see it at Isabel’s. My mother was a painter and a potter as well. Lots of artists in our family.

A scene from Isabel’s jewelry workbench…a large table with several active zones. The blue stones are lapis. Isabel often works with hammered silver.

I love the tools of ancient crafts and trades…like jewelry and metal smithing. This curious bangle is a set of ring sizes!

Isabel grinds, buffs, and polishes a lot.

And check out the bouquet of hammers around the anvil / vise on a tree stump, no less. Highly traditional.

Pliers, pinchers, tweakers, nippers? She’s got ’em.

Isabel thinks a lot about her designs in advance, and her notebooks pages have their own artistic qualities.

World headquarters of Isabel Jewelry dot com. Kind of a Hopper quality to this street scene. Fort Bragg is quite peaceful.

Back to the Larry Spring Museum just down the block. Spring was a local character. An inventor, self-taught philosopher, and a handy man. He left a small estate that maintains his former house and workshop as a museum. He was into all kinds of things, such as these handmade solar powered motors.

A bit of a word smith as well.

And owner of some imposing electrical tubes. Perhaps this baby can amplify ambient messages from the ancient gods within our Hollow Earth! Who knows.

Here’s the sign/logo of the Headlands Cafe, also in downtown Fort Bragg. I love this drawing of the chatty, caffeinated coffee-mug, holding forth on schemes, visions, and dreams.

A very fine dolphin skeleton in a window display on the town’s main street, which is also Route 1.

Fort Bragg used to be home of a large sawmill, which decamped not so long ago. The city is still figuring out what to do with the open expanse of cliff side space that’s been freed up.

Isabel and Rivers. The dog has a very noble and aquiline nose.

Old man with a camera. I’ve been shooting with my Fujifilm X100V lately. I’d been defaulting to my cellphone camera and it’s sly software tricks for achieving a superficially nice finish. And when I don’t use the freaking X100V for a few months, I forget some of the tricks for using it’s intricate controls.

But when you come down to it, there’s no substitute for more glass in your lens. More glass means more photons means more information coming into your photosensor which means more accurate colors and edges.

The Point Cabrillo Light Station just south of Fort Bragg. Coming from Silicon Valley, it felt really nice to be in wide open space.

Good old laws of perspective. Nature computes in parallel and on fly.

A pot store in upscale Mendocino nearby. Not like the old days of backroom deals.

A scenic island or seastack or eructation called Sacred Rock, in Elk, south of Mendocino. Elk and Mendocino both have a bit of a New England look to their buildings. Elk of course is way smaller and more obscure. Sacred Rock is across the street from the Elk country store, which also features good pastry.

At times I can’t handle carrying the Fujifilm camera around and remembering how to use it, and I use my cellphone. Constant tempting advances in the phones. I’m using Google Pixel phones these days…after our trip to Mendocino, I got a new Pixel 5 phone. As I say, there’s much less glass, but the sensor is pretty big, and Google has built in a buttload of AI software to make the most of your image data.

Why not use an iPhone 12? For the types of pictures I take, the Pixel 5 images actually look a little better than the iPhone 12. And it’s cheaper. And, although Google is annoying, they’re annoying a somewhat different way than Apple is.

Vintage sticker for the world-famous Monkeybrains.Net ISP, run by son Rudy Jr. and Alex Menendez.

Reallly nice shot a morning-sun railing by the Pixel 5. The images don’t require as much Lightroom tweaking as do the images I get out of my Fujifilm X100.

That buttery morning light that makes me feel it’s good to be alive. I love she shapes of shadows and light.

Some of Sylvia’s quilting equipment. Like the rest of us, she’s an artist too. See her quilt page.

Sylvia’s brother came to visit us recently, and he stayed at the Garden Inn in Los Gatos, an old motel known for the possibly true tale that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe spend their wedding night there. They’ve decorated a special Marilyn Monroe room with glamour shots of the goddess.

The Pixel 5 has a decent wide-angle lens. Self-portrait of the author at ease in his library.

Goslings! Fuzzy. No arms, but even so they get a lot done.

Part of Sylvia’s collection of stuffed, felt, pinking-sheared hearts — a Hungarian thing. Thanks to Sylvia, most of my family members are in fact Hungarian. Georgia and Isabel in fact made two of these hearts.

The artist contemplates swirl and slant.

On Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz in the year of Covid.

Visual frag grab. For that one split second, I couldn’t decipher the meaning of the letters.

Mother’s day with some of our local cast of characters.

“Invaders” acrylic on canvas, May, 2021, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

My most recent painting. I did the background by “stamping” the canvas with the still-wet palette paper I used for The 5 Got Away. It made a nice, mysterious subspace continuum. It needed critters, and I thought of a flock of invaders. Kind of like eyeballs. Or maybe something else. You never know what’s coming next.

Lots of Book Covers + Fantasy Hive Interview

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

In March, Jonathan Thornton of Liverpool, England, interviewed me for The Fantasy Hive ezine. I’m reprinting most of the interview here with one change—I’ve started calling my new novel Juicy Ghosts instead of calling it Teep. For illos, I dug out a buttload of old cover images.

Q1. You’ve just finished your latest novel Juicy Ghosts. Could you tell us a bit about it?

A1. I started thinking about how digital models of people in the cloud could have more zap if they were in some way hooked into some physical living being. So they’d be “juicy ghosts.” I remember talking to Chris Brown about this after he did a reading in San Francisco, and he was, like, “That’s a great idea, and only you could pull it off.”

But I didn’t see a plot. So I spent a year or two writing stories on themes that might relate to each other and to telepathy and to juicy ghosts. And in the back of my mind I was thinking that eventually I could collage at least some of the stories into what’s called a “fix-up novel.”

In the end, I had three stories that fit together well. The first one I actually called “Juicy Ghost,” although now I’m going to call it “Treadle’s Inauguration,” as I need to keep “Juicy Ghost” for the title of the novel. And I did a story called “The Mean Carrot,” that was vaguely about the time in the ‘60s when a CIA op was paying hookers to drug Johns with acid to see what happened. And then I wrote the longer and more humane “Mary Mary.” The first two appeared in the free underground e-zine Big Echo, in 2019 and 2020, and “Mary Mary” is in Asimov’s in March, 2021. Besides the three stories, I wrote five more story-sized chapters to produce my novel Juicy Ghosts, which I finished early in March, 2021.

Two of the main ideas I write about in Juicy Ghosts are, as I maybe said already, telepathy and digital immortality. I’ve been writing fiction about digital immortality for forty years, starting with my novel Software, which appeared in 1980. Seems like I tend to keep thinking about the same things forever. Digging deeper and deeper.

I seriously see the technology for telepathy being commercially possible in the not-too-distant future. It’s not really all that much further out than cell phones with video calls.

My take on digital immortality has to do with a thing I call a lifebox. See my nonfiction book The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. The idea, which is fairly familiar by now, is that you might be able to emulate a person if you have a really large database on what they’ve written, done, and said. And if it’s SF, then we add some AI to the lifebox so it’s an intelligent mind. Cory Doctorow also wrote quite a bit about the lifebox idea in Walkaway, and others have written about it too.

In Juicy Ghosts I delve still further into the lifebox thing. Do you have to pay to have your lifebox stored? What if the company who houses your lifebox rents it out as a gigworker? How about growing a clone to be run by your lifebox? And how do you interface a human brain with an online lifebox?

Juicy Ghosts is also quite political. I was working on the novel from 2019-2021, and all along, in my mind, I was dealing with the possibility that Donald Trump might win a second term. In Juicy Ghosts, to push it over the edge, a very similar type of President is about to be inaugurated for a third term—and, well, he gets what’s coming to him. Big time.

Not to give too much away, but my characters kill the guy three different ways—his body, his lifebox, and his clone—and then they even topple the monumental statue of him at the Top Party headquarters. I was thinking of how, in the first Terminator movie, they had to destroy the monster over and over and over. A metaphor?

To make the synchronicity weirder, my plan for the novel’s ending turned unexpectedly turned real with the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Fortunately in both worlds, the evil President lost. For now. So maybe you’ve got me to thank!

Who’s going to publish Juicy Ghosts? We’re sending it out.

Q 2. You were part of the original cyberpunk movement, and your Ware novels are classics of the genre. On a different front, you writing transreal SF novels in which the characters mirror yourself and the people around you, and the SF goodies symbolize aspects of your characters’ psyches. How do you feel about cyberpunk and transrealism becoming popular modes of fiction in today’s world?

A 2. How do I feel? “Where are the movies of my novels? Where are my Sunday book section front page reviews? Where’s my adulation from high-brow lit- crit?”

I tend to be irked when I see a non-SF-literate critic being totally blown away and wonderstruck when a mainstream author pens an uninspired “speculative novel” based on some very well-known SF premise, such as a biotic robot who has a soul. The critics are, like, “Profound and wildly original. Well beyond the range of crude, subhuman SF writers.” And of course we subhumans been writing such books for forty years, and many of us dare to fancy ourselves as literary.

Wheenk, wheenk, wheenk. Wasting my breath. Bitter and old.

I’m happy to have gotten forty books published, garnered good reviews, picked up a couple of awards, and recruited loyal fans. And just this month I optioned the film and television adaptation rights for the Ware Tetralogy to a London-based production company. The deal was negotiated by Vince Gerardis and Matt Kennedy of Created By. Not the first time I’ve optioned the Wares, but maybe this time it’ll go somewhere. The guys are English! Somehow that gives me confidence.

All in all, I’ve have a great career—a lot better than I expected in my twenties. Back then I imagined I’d die in my 40s, like Edgar Allen Poe and Jack Kerouac. It helps that I got sober when I turned 50.

Q 3. The Ware Tetralogy novels feature a wonderful array of bizarre nonhuman life, from the boppers to the moldies to the Metamartians. Which ones did you have the most fun with?

A 3. I really liked the Happy Cloak. It’s a symbiotic or parasitic being, a bit like a coat or a scarf, and it plugs into the nerves in your neck and hangs down your back, and you get into an altered and somewhat ecstatic state of consciousness. Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore’s 1947 novel Fury introduces this notion, and William Burroughs read the novel during one of his drug-kicking treatments in a Tangier clinic.

Later Burroughs incorporated material about the Happy Cloak into in his 1962 novel, The Ticket That Exploded. As a teenager I read a lot of Burroughs. Not everyone realizes that Burroughs was, in his own way, writing science fiction. And that he’s very funny. And I read Brian Aldiss’s 1962 fascinating novel, Hothouse, where a morel fungus attaches itself to a character’s neck and begins helping him while controlling him. A bit like the Happy Cloak.

I always loved that expression Happy Cloak because of the contrast between the upbeat, childish name, and the rather sinister nature of the being. I included a Happy Cloak in my novel Software, both as an homage to Burroughs and because it was a very useful thing to have, in terms of the story. A Happy Cloak made of computational piezoplastic attaches itself to my character Sta-Hi’s neck on the Moon, and wraps itself around him as a space-suit. Happy Cloaks play a part in the later volumes on the Ware Tetralogy as well. I’m always looking for chances to talk about them.

As for the boppers, yes, they’re great. In Gravity’s Rainbow, Pynchon mentions a pinball machine painted with jiving “robobopsters,” which I liked. Maybe I got the word from that. Or from an imagined fragment about the character Cobb Anderson, “…who taught the robots how to bop.”

And the thing of having the bopper skins flow with colors was a lucky inspiration. I might have been thinking of the blinking lights on mainframe computers, or about the then-new Game of Life cellular automaton. But I wanted lots more lights, like pixels.

Later I did a lot of computer work on cellular automata, including (a) John Walker’s Cellab package for discrete-valued CAs, and (b) my own Capow package for continuous-valued CAs, which have many, many possible values in their cells. They generate gnarly, flowing patterns like lava lamps or like Belusov-Zhabotinsky scrolls.

It’s worth mentioning that the imaginary piezoplastic substance Imipolex which makes up the flickercladding or skin of the boppers is lifted from Gravity’s Rainbow as well. A lot of my career has been devoted to learning to write more and more like Pynchon did in Gravity’s Rainbow, and I think in Million Mile Road Trip and Juicy Ghosts, I’m getting close.

The moldies, who first appear in Wetware and come into their own in Freeware—they’re even better. Although I didn’t initially realize it, in some ways the boppers and moldies play the social role of people of color. The moldies happen to be made of flickercladding with a nervous system that’s based on fungi.

In the early 1980s, between Software and Wetware, a Texas fan who called himself Dusty Limestone mailed me a crate of brown rice with a culture of “camote” truffles growing inside it, and I foolishly ate some of them, and ended up staying up all night playing pool on the second-hand slate-bed table in our basement, and with a strong sense that I had a giant lizard tail like a T. Rex. The next day I destroyed all the rest of the camote to be sure I didn’t take it again. My friend Henry was mad I haven’t saved him any. Those were the days!

I wrote Wetware in six weeks in 1986, just before we moved away from Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg, Virginia to—the San Francisco Bay Area. Both Software and Wetware won the Philip K. Dick award. In the late nineties, I came back to the Ware series with Freeware in 1995 and Realware in 1997. They’re largely set in Santa Cruz.

Concerning the Metamartians in Realware, that name amused me. They’re not Martians, man. They’re Metamartians. You didn’t want them around, but here they are! Their freeware minds  arrived as cosmic rays. They come from a part of the universe with 2D time. Writing about that kind of idea is where SF can be like a thought experiment. I mean, it’s so hard to even begin to imagine 2D time, but if you try and work it into your story, then you’re forced to do the heavy lifting to get it started even a tiny little bit.

Q 4. I was fascinated by the idea of the vast “metanovel” that your character Thuy Ngyuen is working on in Postsingular. Tell me more about it.

A 4. Yeah, I had a lot of fun with the metanovel. And I really liked my character Thuy Nguyen. For about twenty years my day job was being a Computer Science professor at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley, and about half of my students were Vietnamese men and women, and I got used to seeing them and talking to them and helping them with their team projects and being friends. In Vietnam, Thuy Nguyen is a really common name. Like Jane Doe.

The Thuy Nguyen in Postsingular is a very cool woman, with a lot of attitude. If you’re a writer or a musician or an artist, and you’re good at what you do, then you know that, and you don’t necessarily care about what people think of you as a person, nor do you have to care if they like your work. You know from the inside that you’re doing it right. You’re in the groove, and with the Muse.

Thuy calls her giant metanovel Wheenk, which is kind of a joke word for me. Years and years ago I maybe have read about a rabbit being caught in a trap and making a desperate noise that was written out as, wheenk, wheenk, wheenk. Maybe it was in the SF novel Brainwave. Or maybe I saw wheenk used to represent the sound made by an agitated pig.

Anyway, I started thinking that this word is funny. And I say it or yell it at various times, like if I’m uneasy, or maybe if I’m enthused. It’s as if I have this faint, borderline touch of Tourette syndrome, in that, if a certain word or phrase enchants me, I might say it or ten or twenty times on some given day. And I’ll try to fit it into whatever I’m writing. Like a magpie tucking a shiny wire or a scrap of bright cloth into her nest. Caw!

Over time, when talking about my writing process, I began using wheenk to stand for a character’s repetitious inner thought loops. Like: “Will I ever find love?” “Will I get a job?” “Does everyone hate me?” And when a character is thinking that, they’re bascially going wheenk, wheenk, wheenk.

It’s very common for a bestselling novel to have lots of scenes where the hero or heroine is repeating some worry to themselves. And it can get boring, at least to me. By way of dissing a book like that, I say it has too much wheenk.

At the other pole, I myself have to beware of writing a thrilling superscience adventure so rife with gimmickry, incidents, and jest that my characters never pause to reflect on what’s happening to them, nor to ponder where they’re trying to go. In this case, I say my draft needs more wheenk. And I try to work some in.

I remember discussing this with my younger friend Richard Kadrey some years ago, when he was still starting out, writing the first of his hugely successful urban fantasy novels, and I was telling him that it’s good to include a romance plot as well as action.

“You need the wheenk,” I told him. “Do you have wheenk in the book?”

Richard paused, thinking it over. “Well, okay, I have my guy out in an alley behind a bar, and he’s just killed a demon, and then, in his head, he wonders how this woman he likes is doing.”

“That’s a start,” I said. “But more wheenk.”

Which brings us, via a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to Thuy Nguyen’s metanovel Wheenk. Here’s two bits of description lifted from Postsingular.

“Thuy was working on her own metanovel, an as-yet-untitled combine of words, links, video clips, images and sounds—she meant for it be a bit like a movie that a user could inhabit, the user coming to feel from the inside how it was to be Thuy, or, rather, how it was to be a version of Thuy leading a more tightly plotted and suspenseful life.”

“Thuy was making Wheenk into what she termed a transreal lifebox, meaning that her metanovel was to capture the waking dream of her life as she experienced it—while sufficiently bending the truth to allow for a fortuitously emerging dramatic plot. Thuy wanted Wheenk to incorporate not only the interesting things she saw and heard, but also the things that she thought and felt. Rather than coding her inner life into words and real-world images alone, Thuy was including beezie-built graphic constructs and—this was a special arrow in her quiver—music. The goal was that accessing Thuy’s work should feel like being Thuy herself.”

Welcome to my world.

Q 5. What’s next for Rudy Rucker?

A 5. Whenever I complete a novel—and I just finished writing Juicy Ghosts—after a long haul like that, I say enough’s enough, I’m too old and tired, don’t make me cross the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat again. But then some months go by, or even a couple of years, and I start missing having a novel to live in.

When I’m busy with a novel, I’m inside it a lot of the time. Thinking about the scenes and the characters. Sitting down to work on it nearly every day. The characters become my friends, and they make me laugh, or mist up, or worry. And it’s nice to have this illusion of an emotive social life.

The granular craft of writing is something I relish more and more—the matter of choosing the right word, having a tasty rhythm in the phrases, and knowing how to swerve—so as to keep the reader alert and off balance.

I love the subtle, indescribable way that the scenes and the dialog come to me. I don’t exactly get there by trying, as all followers of Yoda know. But I do have to keep showing up. And while I’m waiting for the Muse, I work on my writing journal, with notes about possible ideas or what I’m doing or how I feel. And when the Muse kicks in, I stop thinking and I do. The process turns subconscious. I’m just typing it out, chuckling and rocking—a grinning idiot. And as the novel goes on, I dive deeper and deeper. It’s paradise.

Before I can start a novel or a story at all, I need to have a place that I want to go. When I was younger, there was that default space-opera future that SF was supposed to be about. And cyberpunk was about breaking out of that. I never had any interest in being a hereditary aristocrat in the Space Navy! Misfits doing crazy things, that’s what I like. Mad scientists.

What might I do next? Maybe space travel as long as we don’t use a boring metal spaceship or, please no, not a generation starship. In Million Mile Road Trip I had them travel across the galaxy in a car. In Frek and the Elixir I had them do huge hops in a living UFO. And of course Robert Sheckley’s characters had space hoppers in their driveway, or they bought one at something like a used car lot—maybe I could go back and do that. Sheckley is forever the great hero of my youth.

Biotech has endless possibilities, and I touched on some of them in Saucer Wisdom (which is a “novel” in the same way that Nabokov’s Pale Fire is a novel), and in Postsingular, and again in Juicy Ghosts. I’m also fascinated by the notion of ubiquitous physical computation, and the “hylozoic” notion that things might be conscious and alive. I ran with that in Hylozoic.

I’ve always liked the 1940s or 1950s stuff, with the mad scientist in his or her garage. Gyro Gearloose! It would be fun to write about that totally new thing that a lone mad scientist might discover in the next thirty years, a fun idea like a new wind-up toy I can put through its paces.

The science news is eternally a holiday parade that doesn’t end. Grab hold of anything you see. Tweak it a little bit, and make it your own. Connect it in some way to your actual personal life—that’s the transreal move. And go a little meta—that’s a tricky tactic I’m forever trying to master—flip your idea up a level and into something having to do with states of consciousness, or with the nature of language, or with the meaning of dreams.

There’s still so much. We’re just getting started. We’re doing it wrong. We’re getting better.

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