Rudy’s Blog

Buy Rudy's books! Click covers for info.                 Blog text and images copyright (C) Rudy Rucker 2013.


Archive for the ‘Upcoming Events’ Category

NYC Photos, April, 2014. Post #2. Plus Brainwash Reading

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Share

Last week I did a reading at this cool café / laundromat near 7th and Folsom St. in San Francisco. The Brainwash. And here’s a podcast of my reading, which was about twenty minutes long, including some brief Q&A.

(Note that Feedburner only shows my most recent podcasts. For older audio files, see my archive on Gigadial, which runs back to 2005.)

I read the ending of the new edition of my Kerouac-style scroll novel, All the Visions. In May I’ll be planning to run a Kickstarter for a Transreal Trilogy + All the Visions project. The trilogy will contain reprints of The Secret of Life, White Light, and Saucer Wisdom.

The event was organized by David Gill, who teaches at San Francisco State, and who runs a small SF magazine called Pravic. He’s shown here playing SF-style boop-whoop music on his computer. He doesn’t always look like this—I asked him to look like a sinister mad scientist, a request to which he responded with a perhaps disconcerting alacrity.

We had a decent crowd, including such luminaries as V. Vale, Marian Wallace, Ted Hand, and Dave Pescovitz.

So now let’s jump back to NYC. This is the foreshortened curtain at the new Woody Allen musical version of Bullets Over Broadway (seen from below). When the curtain came up some flapper-type dancers were in that same pose. Best musical show I’ve ever seen. Great to forget yourself in the laughter of a crowd.

Times Square is so freaking chaotic. Especially when, as I already mentioned, you don’t know which direction is which when you come up from the subway. Times like this, Google Maps on your cellphone isn’t all that helpful—the currents are too strong to let you figure it out, and maybe it’s not a great idea to be blindly waving around your phone in a crowd of a twenty thousand louche strangers. So you bumble along like an molecule in a rushing river.

Huge limos ply the streets.

People hurrying past. Such an anthill. And you’re one with the ants.

Buskers all over the place, good music. Classy Bethany (?) fountain area in Central Park, string quartet, kind of. The walls are, like, Renaissance.

The new World Trade Center tower is almost done. With the antenna it’s supposed to be 1776 fee tall. A fairly simple design, but strong, iconic. Takes awhile to get onto the grounds, like with airport-style searches and all that, although eventually I guess it’ll have to be wide open so people can actually be using the place.

Those big memorial holes are still there, they give me a lump in my throat, unexpectedly. Such a graphic image of death…you flow down in the sparkling waterfall, your life’s course runs in maturity along that calm plat area, and then it’s down into the deep dark hole of death.

We hit Washington Square Park just for old time’s sake. Like this tree. You do get hungry for plants in Manhattan.

Busker with a grand piano at Washington square. Playing good stuff.

I always like looking at Wall Street and Lower Manhattan too. No idea what this structure is, but it looks nice with the people. Kind of a Federico Fellini vibe.

All the way down at Battery Park where you can get the ferries, I saw an easy photo, wharf pilings and a number.

And then back uptown.

I like the buildings reflected in each other. It’s the One World Trade Center again here.

A slanted bottom façade on the building on the left.

And the makeup mirror in our bathroom…

Share

Free BIG AHA Paperbacks at Scribd Reading

Monday, March 24th, 2014
Share

Added March 28, 2014:

So I did my reading and Q&A session at Scribd yesterday. A good, responsive crowd.

I made a podcast of the event. You can click on the icon below to access the podcast via my Feedburner podcast station.

(Note that Feedburner only shows my most recent podcasts. For older audio files, see my archive on Gigadial, which runs back to 2005.)

Here’s a zoom of that group shot.

Original post below:

A talk, reading, and Q&A about writing and about The Big Aha , a cyberdelic novel which Rudy funded with a Kickstarter campaign.

“Rudy Rucker’s latest novel, The Big Aha, is pure transreal Ruckeriana featuring extreme biological and quantum technologies, steamy techno-sex, nasty aliens from higher dimensions — and all soaked in the unique atmosphere of the magical 1960s. … This is a great example of how science fiction publishing is being redefined.” — Giulio Prisco, io9

.

When? Date: Thursday, March 27. Doors open at 5:30 PM. Event begins at 6. Runs till about 7.

Goodies: Free coffee, tea, wine, non-alcoholic beverages and snacks
Plus free copies of The Big Aha in paperback for the first 30 guests or so. And maybe some other titles as well. Get more info and register to attend via Eventbrite.

The Big Aha gloriously and objectively exists on an absolute level with all of Rucker’s classic work, chockfull of crazy yet scientifically rigorous ideas embodied in gonzo characters and plots. Like a jazzman, Rucker takes his intellectual obsessions as chords and juggles them into fascinating new patterns each time out…a rollercoaster ride that is never predictable and always entertaining…straight out of some Kerouac or Kesey novel, yet with a twenty-first century affect. Rucker is remarkably attuned to a new generation. Ultimately, all the craziness and whimsy and otherworldly menaces of Zad’s mad odyssey induces true pathos and catharsis in the reader.” — Paul Di Filippo, Locus Online.

Where? At the Scribd space, 539 Bryant St. , Suite 200, near Bryant & Second, near South Park.

What is Scribd? As I understand it, Scribd has always been an ebook-sharing site where pretty much anyone can upload any non-pirated text. Recently they’ve been putting more focus on selling commercial ebooks and, even more than that, they’re starting a subscription service that’s something like the Netflix model. For $8.99 a month you can read any ebook that’s distributed via Scribd.

I’m not sure whether or not Scribd’s business model will take wings and fly, but it’s worth a look. They’re offering passwords for free two-month trials, and they have a bunch of my books on their site right now. And, as I mentioned, Scribd is paying for some of my paperbacks to give out at this event, which is pretty great.

Hope to see you there.

And by the way, I’ll be taking down the fourteen paintings in my Big Aha art show at Borderlands Books on Thursday, Mar 27…the show was extended from March 15. SoI’ll be taking the pictures off the walls a couple of hours before the Scribd talk. Come by Borderlands in person about 3 or 4 PM, and I might make you a deal…with no mailing costs. I’ll have some quality prints with me too.

Share

Gave Two Talks: Dorkbot & Transhuman Visions

Saturday, February 1st, 2014
Share

I gave two talks this week. Wednesday I was at the Cyclecide Swearhouse in San Francisco, reading from The Big Aha for a Dorkbot event. I didn’t tape it, but some video may appear on the dorkbot archive page for this event in a week or so.

Photo above shows Jericho Reese, Rudy Jr., me, Isabel R., and techie Mark Powell in his anti-tech T-shit. In the background we have John Law’s Doggie Diner icons.

Another picture of Mark Powell…reading a poem “I’m on TV!” Love how fervent he looks. It was a great evening for me, hanging out with the cool Dorkbot crowd.

===

Today I was at the Transhuman Visions conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco and gave a talk called “The Big Aha: Cosmic and Robotic Consciousness.” It went over well, got some big laughs. You can click on the icon below to access the podcast via my Feedburner podcast station.

(Note that Feedburner only shows my most recent podcasts. For older audio files, see my archive on Gigadial, which runs back to 2005.)

And you can view my slides online as a PDF file.

After my Transhuman talk, some nice people talked to me for awhile, and I took a picture of them shown below. Didn’t get all their names but starting second from the left, that’s David Dye, Jr. and Sr., Dan Dye, and a guy called Scott. These four forward-thinking men bought copies of my books.

One other event worth noting. I happened to mention one Frank Shook in my Transhumans talk, and incredibly, I ran into this man soon thereafter, the hero of Saucer Wisdom. Frank has resurfaced in the persona of an antiquarian bookseller Gregory Gibson, running a front organization called Ten Pound Island Books. His cover story was that he was at Fort Mason for the Antiquarian Book Fair.

Frank, who tends to disorder and undermine any and all aspects of consensus reality insisted I was talking about “transhumance,” instead of “transhumans.” And, now that Frank has said this, there is indeed a Wikipedia word “transhumance,” applying to nomadic people. A strange and powerful entity is Mr. Shook. I believe he’s re-manifesting himself because I am making some plans to republish my long-suppressed Saucer Wisdom exposé.

Share

Journey to Winterland

Friday, January 24th, 2014
Share

I haven’t done a regular blog post in awhile—in the first part of January, I was busy promoting The Big Aha and my art show. And in the latter part of December, my wife and I were on a trip to Wisconsin and Wyoming, visiting our daughters and their families.

So I’ll mention some upcoming events, and then I’ll run some of my snowy trip-to-the-midwest photos.

Next Wednesday, Jan 29, I’m part of a wild line-up of Dorkbot entertainment in SF. “People doing weird things with electricity.” I’ll be talking about how to get high off quantum mechanics—which is a theme of The Big Aha. I’ll probably run a slideshow of some of my paintings as well.

A couple of days later, Saturday, Feb 1, I’ll be part of an equally louche speaker-list at Transhuman Visions, a con at Fort Mason.

I’ll try and podcast one or both of these talks. I finally got a decent pocket voice recorder (it’s a solid little SONY digital recorder…I hated that piece-of-crap Zoom I was trying to use, the one with the inscrutable controls and a display as unreadable as a new San Francisco parking-meter’s).

Speaking of this, see a click-link for my podcast channel just above. You can find the podcast of my Big Aha talk, reading, Q&A, and art tour there already

The Big Aha reading at Borderlands was good. Some of my artist/author pals showed up, including Paul Mavrides and John Shirley, also Richard Kadrey and Michael Blumlein, these two guys shown above. I wish I got to spend more of my time talking to writers.

So now wah-wah-wah back to December 22, 2013. Flying from Sunny Californee to Salt Lake City and on to Madison. I just love the views you get when a plane’s about to land. Especially cool with snow on the ground. I view that image above as Gilbert Shelton’s cartoon character Philbert Desannex, implemented as vast grayscale Mormon-land earthwork. Philbert’s big wobbly nose is pointing to the left.

Fun with daughter Georgia in Madison. Her husband Courtney made these amazing cut-out snowflakes with the grandchildren…he’d researched the web about cool ones to make. This awesome young woman YouTuber Vi Hart has a great video on topic.

Nice and nostalgic to be out there in winterland, a part of my early past. Xmas-tide sundown in winterland, wow.

Sylvia and I stayed in a hotel with, of all people, the Harlem Globetrotters, out on some intense performing tour. I saw them in the Kentucky State Fairgrounds in 1956. They didn’t look much older. Goose Gossage! One morning it had snowed still more and we walked around the Madison capitol building. Snow always very nice on heavy-duty Beaux-arts-type architecture.

A beautiful Christmas together.

Caught the plane to Jackson, Wyoming, to visit Isabel and her husband for New Years Eve. Flew over a Magic Mountain.

Isabel and Gus live in Pinedale, a little wilder than Jackson.

We were staying in an inexpensive motel a few blocks from Isabel’s house. It enjoyed walking the half mile to her house and taking pictures along the way. I do my best photos when I’m alone and I’m, like, having a conversation with the camera.

The patent mysteries of solid, well-used sheds.

There’s the one house where the guy keeps an endless amount of junk in his yard. He’s just ouside the town line, so he can do as he pleases. I’m inordinatley fond of this one particular rusted old car. I think of it as “the R. Crumb car,” because it looks like one of Crumb’s drawings, maybe like the car on the cover of Zap Comix #0, or was it #1.

For me, a big highlight of the trip was that I got to go cross-country skiing with Georgia in Madison, and then again with Isabel in Wyoming. This picture shows me at the start of a blizzard off-trail on the edge of a huge canyon holding Fremont Lake, at the tip-ass-end Wyomingwhere. I was really proud and happy that I was able to get out on the trail one more time. Yeah, baby!

I’ve still got more trip pix, but I’ll save them for a later post.

Share

BIG AHA Art Show & Reading, Borderlands

Monday, January 6th, 2014
Share

Added Feb 12, 2014: I made a YouTube video of the art on the walls at the Borderlands Cafe show:

Added Jan 19, 2014: I made a podcast audio of my talk on The Big Aha and of my “art tour” at Borderlands. Visit my podcast station here:

Original post, Jan 6, 2014. I have an art show coming up, running from Jan 17 to March 15, 2014. A lot of the paintings were done for my new SF novel The Big Aha.


Poster for our show. These are the paintings I plan to hang. Click for a larger version of the image.

The show will also include four of Vernon Head’s table-top deco-style assemblagist California Funk sculptures.


Vernon Head’s “Constructions & Contraptions” for our show. Clockwise from top left: “Lost Mine,” “The Trout’s Dilemma,” “Mesa Motel,” “The Machinist.” 12 to 15 inches high. Click for a larger version of the image.

We’ll have an opening reception, reading, and guided tour of the exhibition from 5:30 until 7:30 or so. This will be on Friday, January 17, at Borderlands Books Cafe on 870 Valencia Street in the Mission district of San Francisco.


View Larger Map

Free pastries! This party is for the public, and it’s a thank you reception for my Big Aha Kickstarter supporters.

We’ll mingle, and around 6 or 6:30, I’ll do a short reading from the novel, then give the “guided tour” of the paintings, explaining their roles in the book, and then hang out some more. We’ll be selling hardback and paperback copies of The Big Aha, plus paintings, prints, and the latest edition of my art book, Better Worlds.

For more about my paintings, see my paintings page. I’m maintaining a public Facebook event page for the show as well. And you can find the event on the SF Chronicle’s SFGate listings as well.


“Frog Man,” oil on canvas, January, 2014, 20” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

By way of getting my final prep done, I just finished one more painting. This particular painting started out as a horizontal “landscape mode” canvas of a Monet-style scene with trees and cliff or a sky…made up of vertical daubs of paint left over from my painting before this one, “Woman With Jellyfish”. I let the landscape dry for two weeks, then had the idea of turning the picture to a vertical “portrait mode” orientation, and now the horizontal daubs were water. On a quick inspiration, I painted in the head and webbed hands of a “frog man.” He looks friendly, but I don’t think I’d jump into the water with him.

I also made some high-quality prints to sell at the opening. Ten-color giclee print on achival museum etching paper, with the prints mounted on acid-free mat board, individually signed, reasonably priced.


Prints of Rudy’s Paintings Click for a larger version of the image.

Share

Art Show & Reading At Borderlands Books (Coming Again in January, 2014!)

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
Share

[I'll be staging a new Borderlands art show starting Friday, January 17, 2014, in conjunction with a book release party for my novel THE BIG AHA. More info to come. The rest of the material in this old post is about the show in January, 2013.]

I’m venturing forth from my office this weekend to do some promo at Borderlands Books at 866 Valencia St. in San Francisco.


View of my home office from my desk chair. Click for a larger version of the image.

I’ll be hanging a show of my paintings in the Borderlands Books café with a reception on Friday, Jan 11, 5-7 pm. And I’ll give a reading and Q&A session for my novel Turing & Burroughs: A Beatnik SF Novel on Saturday, Jan 12, at 3 pm—you can visit with the paintings then as well. The show is scheduled to run until March 7, 2013.

Added Jan 13, 2013. I made a podcast of the first 20 minutes of my presentation on Turing & Burroughs, I’m describing the book and reading from it. Unfortunately I ran out of memory on my digital recorder, and the podcast stops abuptly at the 20 min mark. But it’s fun for as far is it goes. You can click on the icon below to access the podcast via my Feedburner podcast station.

(Note that Feedburner only shows my most recent podcasts. For older audio files, see my archive on Gigadial, which runs back to 2005.)

I number my paintings, and I have an overview image of all my paintings below, showing paintings #1 – #94. The pictures in the show will from the bottom rows, that is, in the range #79 – #94. Further down in today’s post I’ll put in images of the individual pictures that will be in the show, with notes on each picture.

For a limited time, the pictures are on sale at drastically reduced prices—up to 50% off! The current prices of the paintings can always be found on my Paintings page. Several of the paintings in the show have already sold, so do buy early if you want to be sure of getting a given picture at a low sale price.

Note that the Painting page also has a link for buying prints of the pictures, and a link for buying Better Worlds, an art book of the paintings. Better Worlds and a few prints are also available at Borderlands Books.


Overview of my paintings. Click for a larger version of the image.

All the pictures I’ll be showing have not been shown before, except for one, Turing and the Skugs, which relates to my Turing & Burroughs novel. This older picture appeared in my last Borderlands Books cafe show, which was in November, 2010.


“Turing and the Skugs”, 40″ x 30″ inches, Oct 2010, Oil on canvas.” Click for larger version.

I made Turing and the Skugs while gearing up for my Turing & Burroughs novel involving the computer pioneer Alan Turing, the beatniks, and some shape-shifting beings called skugs. I got the word “skug” from my non-identical twin granddaughters, aged three. When I used visit my son’s house in Berkeley, I always liked to open up his worm farm and study the action with the twins. We found a lot of slugs in there, and we marveled at them. The girls tended to say “skug” rather than “slug,” and I decided I liked the sound of this word so much that I’d use it for some odd beings in my novel. I’m supposing that Turing has carried out some biochemical experiments leading to the creation of the skugs. Here we see Turing outside the Los Gatos Rural Supply Hardware garage, with two skugs backing him up. Alan is meeting a handsome man who may well become his lover. Unless the skugs eat the guy.


“A Skugger’s Point of View”, 40″ x 30″ inches, January, 2011, Oil on canvas.” Click for larger version.

In A Skugger’s Point of View I wanted to render an extreme first-person point of view…in which we see the dim zone around a person’s actual visual field. The person in question is the Alan Turing character in my novel The Turing Chronicles. He has become a mutant known as a “skugger,” and he has the ability to stretch his limbs like the cartoon character Plastic Man. He’s traveling across the West with two friends, a man and a woman. In this scene, Turing’s cohort is being attacked by secret police, one of whom bears a flame-thrower. Turing is responding by sticking his fingers into their heads, perhaps to kill them, or perhaps to convert them into skuggers as well. We can see Turing’s arms extending from the bottom edge of his visual field. Even though it’s not quite logical, I painted in his eyes as well because they make the composition better


“V-Bomb Blast”, 40″ x 30″ inches, July, 2011, Oil on canvas.” Click for larger version.

This painting has to do with my novel, The Turing Chronicles. In the last chapter, my hero, Alan Turing gets inside a nuclear weapon called a V-bomb. I figured this lies beyond the A-bomb and the H-bomb. Turing is in there tweaking the bomb until the last minute. And due to Turing’s efforts, the bomb explodes in an odd fashion: it makes a fireball that shrinks, rather than growing—and then the bomb explosion tears a hole in space and disappears into another dimension or into another level of reality. The early nuclear devices really were hut-sized metal constructs, as shown on the right. Somehow I ended up putting a naked woman inside the bomb instead of Turing. In the middle we have a kind of sunflower/fireball with a zonked face on it. And on the left, a small explosion-ball disappears into a vaginal rent. The woman seems to be pulling a cord that sets the bomb off in the first place. I like the picture because, as with some of Bruegel’s paintings, it seems to illustrate a detailed parable whose precise meaning is forever a mystery.


“Painter Near Mt. Umunhum,” 24 x 18 inches, September, 2011, Acrylic on canvas.” Click for larger version.

My painter friend Vernon Head and I were painting en plein air in the Almaden Quicksilver Park south of San Jose near the Guadalupe Reservoir. I was about to get my left hip joint replaced, due to arthritis, but I led Vernon up to a nice oak I admired on a hilltop. I framed Painter Near Mt. Umunhum to include the reservoir, Vernon, the oak, and Mount Umunhum in the background. “Umunhum” is an Ohlone word meaning “home of the hummingbird.” The box on top is a leftover from an Air Force radar station, that’s due to come down…someday. I layered on my paint thicker than usual, using my palette knife to imitate the grooves of the bark on the tree, the waves in the water, and the long stalks of grass.


“Noon Meeting”, 40″ x 30″ inches, August, 2011, Oil on canvas.” Click for larger version.

Noon Meeting is one of those pictures that’s a bit like an unknown parable. I started out with a set of pebble-glass windows that I like, for the the background grid of green and yellow rectangles. I put three characters in front of the windows, happy to be getting together in the daytime: a woman, a dog, and an octopus. I feel like these three friends are people I know. Indeed, I might be the dog in the middle, bringing the two others together—I used to have a dog who looked a lot like that, his name was Arf. When I told my artist friend Vernon Head bout the theme of my new picture and he said, laughing, “Ah, yes, the three fundamental elements of any successful painting: a woman, a dog, and an octopus.” My other artist friend Paul Mavrides had suggested that I try using an impasto medium to build up more of a texture on my pictures and I did this here, with a nice effect.


“Santa Cruz Harbor,” by Rudy Rucker, 20 x 16 inches, September, 2011, Acrylic on canvas. Click for a larger version of the picture.

My friend Vernon Head and I went to Santa Cruz Harbor for a painting session. The waters were fill of life—apparently a school of mackerel had swum in, and the pelicans and seals were there feeding. I liked how this cute baby seal seemed to hover so weightlessly in the very clear water. I started my Santa Cruz Harbor painting on the spot, and finished it at home, working with some photographs I’d taken. It had been awhile since I used acrylics, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was done.


“Rigging,” by Rudy Rucker, 20 x 16 inches, September, 2011, Oil on canvas.” Click for a larger version of the picture.

The reflections of sailboat rigging fascinate me. I took some photos for my Rigging painting during the same session where I started Santa Cruz Harbor. Back home I copied one of the photos for an oil painting. I put on quite a few layers, and used a gel medium to emphasize the brush strokes on the masts and lines.


“Four-dimensional Ducks,” by Rudy Rucker, 30 x 40 inches, October, 2011, Oil on canvas. Click for a larger version of the picture.

I started Four-Dimensional Ducks as an abstract painting with seven globs. I made efforts to make the globs look different from each other, and to have intricate, three-dimensional forms. And then I started thinking of the globs as cross-sections of four-dimensional creatures. And then I realized they should be loosely based on the master cartoonist Carl Barks’s drawings of Donald Duck, as if they were rotating in and out of our space. Four-dimensional ducks. A way to move my pop surrealism style towards abstraction.


“The Lovers,” by Rudy Rucker, 24 x 20 inches, January, 2012, Oil on canvas. Click for a larger version of the picture.

The idea is that these two lovers are in a nearly telepathic state, sharing a single thought balloon. And in the thought, they’re merged like a yin-yang symbol. Her 1940s bob acquires an infinity symbol, and their lips form a pair of little hearts. An early Valentine’s Day picture!


“Loulou and Skungy,” oil on canvas, February, 2012, 30” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the image.

In Skungy and the Rat, Loulou is the somewhat mysterious woman in green, Skungy is the rat, and the guy holding the rat is an artist named Zad Plant. The picture is like an illustration of an unknown proverb or a forgotten fable. When I painted it, I didn’t entirely know what’s going on. But I did have some ideas, as the picture was painted as a previsualization of a scene in the novel I was preparing to write—The Big Aha. The woman character, named Loulou, is luring Zad and his “qwet rat” Skungy into following her. The composition was inspired by a Joan Brown painting The End of the Affair.


“Garden of Eden,” oil on canvas, May, 2012, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the image.

My frequent partner in art, Vernon Head, went out for an en plein air painting session with me on the bank of a stream that runs into the south end of Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos. It was a lovely spring day, and we daubed away. The one thing that caught my attention the most was a particular bend in the trunk of a tree overhanging the creek. That made it into my painting, Garden of Eden, but not all that much else about the actual scene. Instead I put in two of my favorite things: a dinosaur and a UFO. I’m not exactly sure what the scenario here is—perhaps the UFO is in some way bringing enlightenment to a prehistoric pair, an Adam and an Eve.


“God’s Eye,” oil on canvas, June, 2012, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the image.

I’ve always been intrigued by a certain image that one sees in old European churches—an eye inside a triangle. This icon also appears, of course, on the dollar bill. It’s meant to represent the all-seeding eye of God or perhaps the divine Mind within every object. In researching me novels with Bruegel and Bosch as characters, I got the impression that medieval people really did think God was watching them. So in God’s Eye I’ve painted the eye as looking down through clouds—like a spy-satellite. I made the “skin” in this image pink as a kind of joke on the fact that God is sometimes visualized as an old white man.


“Louisville Artist,” oil on canvas, October, 2012, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the image.

I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, so the title Louisville Artist is a bit of a parodistic self-image riff. In other words, that’s could be me on the right , shirt all untucked and with no fingers on my hands. The woman might be my muse. Another interpretation is that the two figures are characters from the novel, The Big Aha, which I’m presently working on when I made the painting. In making this picture, I thought it would be interesting to put in some figures that looked like children’s drawings, so I worked from a messy sketch I’d made. The colors are more pastel than usual for me, and there’s a bit of a Japanese quality.


“Night of Telepathy,” oil on canvas, November, 2012, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the image.

Night of Telepathy started out with the abstract background pattern, which I made using leftover paint from Louisville Artist. I decided to put in some figures in, and I thought I’d like to reuse the Louisville Artist figures. In my novel in progress, The Big Aha, my two characters Zad and Loulou had just spent a night in bed in in telepathic contact with each other. And I wanted to give an impression of an odd, dreamy night. The six little rats correspond to some subdimensional creatures that might be scuttling around inside people’s dreams. And the other creatures are just there for fun.

So…make the trek to the mirage-like realm of Borderlands Books at 866 Valencia St. in San Francisco.

And, as I already said, I’ll be hanging a show of my paintings in the Borderlands Books café with a reception on Friday, Jan 11, 5-7 pm. And I’ll give a reading and Q&A session for my novel Turing & Burroughs: A Beatnik SF Novel on Saturday, Jan 12, at 3 pm. Hope to see you there.

Share

Interview On My TURING & BURROUGHS Novel.

Friday, September 21st, 2012
Share

On Saturday, September 22, 2012, I’ll be at the Philip K. Dick Festival on the SFSU campus in south San Francisco. I’m scheduled to give a talk, “Haunted By Phil Dick” at 2 p.m. that day, and I’ll be on a panel with Jonathan Lethem and other Dickians at 5 p.m. as well.

For today’s longish post, we have the text of an email interview about my novel Turing & Burroughs that the young writer Nas Hedron conducted with me from Brazil.

Hedron is the author of the novel Luck & Death which, like my own novel, involves Alan Turing. You can learn more about Hedron via the links on his blog The Turing Centenary, where his interview with me also appears.


$16 paperback, $6 in ebook.

Q 1. I wonder if you can set the stage for us with reference to Alan Turing, you, and writing. Who was Alan Turing to you before you wrote Turing & Burroughs: A Beatnik SF Novel? And what gave you the impulse to write your novel about him?

A 1. In the course of getting my Ph.D. in mathematical logic, I learned the technical details of Turing’s theorems about the idealized computers that came to be called Turing machines. I read his epochal 1937 paper “On Computable Numbers” numerous times, and I was struck by the clarity and the depth of his thought.

Being interested in the possibilities of intelligent machines, I also studied Turing’s 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” a non-technical paper in which he proposes the so-called Turing imitation game as a test for true AI: you might say that a program is intelligent if you can’t tell it from a human when you’re exchanging emails with it. It’s worth noting that Turing initially framed his “imitation game” in terms of someone trying to distinguish between a woman and a man.

Later I became interested in using so-called cellular automata programs to simulate the patterns that emerge in the tissues of plants and animals—patterns like the the spots on leopards, the markings on butterfly wings, the zigzags on South Pacific cone shells. This is what Turing was working on near the end of his life. In 1952 he published an amazing paper, “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis.” In the morphogenesis paper he explains how, by dint of days of hand computation, he emulated a biological cellular automaton process to produce irregular black spots like you might see on the side of a brindle cow.

To me Turing is a heroic and inspiring figure. He worked on deeply fascinating things without getting lost in merely technical mathematics.

The other compelling aspect of the Turing story is that he was openly gay, he was persecuted for it, and that he had a strange and tragic death—which is usually described as a suicide.

Regarding Turing’s death by cyanide poisoning, I’ve always felt there’s a real possibility that he was in fact assassinated by agents of the British government. This seems even likelier now that we know Turing was involved in a top-secret code-breaking effort during World War II. In the 1950s, there was a collective hysteria over the possibility of homosexuals being a security risk.

Before I began contemplating my own novel, I’d read some stories and plays about Turing. But I didn’t feel that any of these works captured the vibrant image of Turing that I wanted to project. There can be a tendency to write about homosexuality in a lugubrious tone—as if a homosexual is a pathetic person who’s afflicted with a lethal disease. But Turing was anything but downcast about his predilections.

A 1 (Continued).

In the spring of 2007, I wrote a short story about Turing, “The Imitation Game.” And this story later came to be the first chapter of my novel. In the short story, Turing escapes being poisoned by British government agents. And to escape, he swaps appearances with his dead male lover. And here comes the science fiction: Turing grows two new faces by using principles that he described in that paper where he generates the shape of a spot on a black-and-white cow.

As sometimes happens to me, I had difficulty in selling my story. Maybe it wasn’t sufficiently solemn and lugubrious—and I was presenting Turing was a gay outsider, heedless of proprieties, and by no means a victim. In any case, in 2008 my story appeared in the British magazine Interzone and in 2010 in The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories, edited by Ian Watson and Ian Whates.

Early on, I began wondering if there might be some way to expand my Turing story into a novel. At the end of my story, Turing escapes to Tangier, and I formed the notion that he ought to connect with the Beat writer William Burroughs, who was living there at that time. Two brilliant men, gay, outcast—perhaps they’d hit it off.

I’ve been a huge Burroughs fan ever since I first came across an excerpt of Naked Lunch in the beatnik magazine, The Evergreen Review—this would have been back in 1960, when I was fourteen. My big brother had a subscription to the magazine, and I’d leaf through it, looking for smut. Instead I found a literary career.

I particularly admire the irresponsible and laceratingly funny style of the letters Burroughs wrote to his friends from Tangier. And so I decided to write my second Turing story in the form of letters from Burroughs to Kerouac and Ginsberg.

This second story, “Tangier Routines,” was so gleefully scabrous that I didn’t bother sending it to any magazines, science-fictional or otherwise. Instead, in the fall of 2008, I printed it in a webzine Flurb that I’d managed to start. And then in 2010 and 2011, I ran two further Turing & Burroughs stories in Flurb—“The Skug” and “Dispatches From Interzone.”

I was still unsure about how to build my tales into a full novel, but in 2010 I finally read Alan Turing: The Enigma, the wonderful biography by Andrew Hodges, And here I learned that Turing was everything I could have hoped. Stubborn, unrepentant, impulsive, and with a very warm and human personality.

I discovered that, as part of some psychological therapy he was undergoing, Turing himself made a start at writing a transreal speculative novel late in his life—and this allayed any uneasiness I’d felt about dragging his name into the gutter of science-fiction.

So why did I write a beatnik SF novel about Alan Turing? In short, I’d come to think of him as my friend, and I wanted to give his character a cool place to live.

Q 2. What interested you about bringing the mathematician Alan Turing together with the Beat writer William Burroughs?

A 2. To some extent this was a matter of convenience. I needed Turing to flee England in 1954 to escape assassination by the secret service. Even though Turing has changed his face in my novel, it seemed like he’d feel safer taking trains and ferries than in trying to get on a plane.

From my familiarity with Burroughs, I knew that Tangier was an open city at this time, a good place to take refuge—Burroughs often referred to it as Interzone. And, checking my references, I realized that he was indeed living in Tangier at this time.

Having my two heroes meet seemed perfect. Having them connect also solved a problem I was having in figuring out how to write a gay male character in an effective way.

William Burroughs is a queer writer whom I’ve always found easy to identify with. He has an outspoken zest and a defiant rudeness that make it seem cool and reasonable and entirely desirable to be a homosexual heroin addict.

Even though I myself am merely a punk SF writer, I sometimes feel a certain social opprobrium regarding my esoteric interests, and, over the years, I’ve occasionally girded myself by adopting Burroughsian attitudes and mannerisms. Wearing the old master’s character armor.

One of the challenges in writing a William Burroughs character was that I had to deal with the fact that, a couple of years before the start of my novel, Burroughs had shot and killed his wife Joan in Mexico City. At first I felt like this was too explosive and difficult to write about directly. But then I realized that I had to face the killing.

So my Turing and Burroughs end up going to to Mexico City, resurrecting Joan, and letting her run a number on Burroughs. I wanted to give Joan a voice, and to give her a chance to get even.

I wrote the Mexico City chapter from the Burroughs point of view, writing very fast. It was like I was possessed—but in a good way. The experience was heavy and ecstatic. For months I’d been anxious about writing the chapter, and all at once it was done

I’m always happy when I’m being Bill Burroughs. He didn’t give a f*ck what people think. And neither did Alan Turing.

Q 3. Its impossible to read Turing & Burroughs without comparing and contrasting Turing’s real life with his life in your novel. Two of the simplest ways in which one might develop a story about an outsider’s relationship with the world are victory and defeat. In a victory story, the outsider transforms the world into something more congenial; in a defeat story, the world crushes the outsider.

In Turing’s real life, defeat was the way things played out. But throughout much of The Turing Chronicles, it looks as though Turing is headed for victory or at least for a rapprochement. He and his allies are turning everyone into shapeshifting mutants like themselves—what you call “skuggers.” But then, at the end of your novel, you return to something closer to Turing’s real life, something like defeat. Your Turing character saves the world, and he dies. Did you plan this in advance?

A 3. That’s a very interesting question, and I hadn’t thought about this so clearly before.

I’ve always been piqued and annoyed by the defeat aspect of Turing’s actual life. Either he was goaded into suicide or he was murdered outright. So, as I mentioned before, In writing Turing & Burroughs: A Beatnik SF Novel, I wanted to create a world in which Turing escapes his tragic fate and lives on to have wonderful adventures.

But I knew from the start of my novel that, even though my Turing character has escaped England, he’s a marked man. The pigs, the bullies, the scumbag straight-arrows—they’re unrelenting in their efforts to bring down our Alan. So my novel takes on the quality of a long chase.

It would have been possible, at least in principle, to write a novel in which Turing manages to convert everyone in the world into a shapeshifting skugger like himself. But fairly early on, we begin to understand that this wouldn’t be a pleasant endpoint to reach. We want to be ordinary humans, not skuggers.

So I needed for Turing to somehow undo the mutations—but without killing off all the people who’d become skuggers. And this wasn’t going to be easy, with the cops and feds breathing down his neck. So before long, Turing was heading towards a world-redeeming self-sacrifice. But this felt like the most dramatic way to go. Turing as Savior. It’s a big, strong ending.

I think one can argue that Turing doesn’t truly suffer defeat here. He transcends. As the Beat writer Jack Kerouac would put it, Alan ends up safe in heaven dead. And in the context of my novel’s world, heaven is a real place.

Q 4. In Turing & Burroughs, Turing experiments with what one might call computational human flesh. This bears a certain family resemblance to “flickercladding,” the soft robot flesh you imagined in the Ware Tetralogy, in which each grain of the cladding acts as a processing unit. This particular feature of your work puts me in mind of the effects that director David Cronenberg uses in his movie version of Naked Lunch—I’m thinking of his Burroughs character’s soft, genitalia-like typewriters. Are you conscious of a reason why you like conflating computation and flesh?

A 4. I’ve always been bored by the idea of rigid, clunky, machine-like robots. I wanted robots to be funky and wiggly and sexy. I think it’s likely that if we ever have really useful and intelligent robots, they’re going to be more like tentacled octopi than like brittle ants. Of course thirty years ago, when I started writing about flickercladding and piezoplastic “moldie” robots in my Ware novels, this wasn’t at all a familiar idea.

Having gotten used to the idea of soft machines, it became natural for me to turn things around—and to have the cellular structure of human flesh become as malleable as the material of a computer display.

In my Ware novels there’s a drug called “merge” that lets people melt together inside a tub called a love puddle. And in Turing & Burroughs, a person who’s a skugger can turn into something like giant slug. There’s a scene where Turing and another skugger have sex by twisting themselves around each other while hanging from a rafter at Burroughs’s parents’ house. Mrs. Burroughs throws them out.

Reading a draft of Turing & Burroughs, my wife said, “Oh, you’re always doing this, having people merge together, it’s so icky.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but that’s sex, isn’t it? That’s how it is.”

We’re biological organisms—we’re not computers, and we’re not machines.

A 5. In your free downloadable book-length Notes for the Turing & Burroughs novel, you mentioned the possibility of having J. Edgar Hoover be a character. I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t make it into the book. I had a hankering to see Turing and Hoover go head to head. What kinds of considerations are important in making decisions about what to leave out and what to put in?

A 5. My sense was that I didn’t want to put too many famous people into my book. If you overdo that, then you’re name-checking, and it gets to be like a bus tour of the homes of the stars. And the stars dazzle away the reality of the characters whose lives you want to delve into.

If I am going to recreate a historical character, I want it to be an interesting person whom I like. And for sure that’s not J. Edgar Hoover! He’s a dead horse. Just because I write something in my notes for my novels, doesn’t mean I’m really serious about using it. Often in my notes I’m just killing time and goofing around. Waiting for the Muse.

Given that I had Burroughs and Turing in my novel, I did feel that I ought to bring in some other Beats and at least one other scientist. I went for Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam.

Ulam isn’t too well known, but he did a lot of fascinating things. He helped invent the hydrogen bomb, he wrote some of the first interesting computer programs, and he worked with lava-lamp-like continuous cellular automata. His friends thought he was too scattered, too much of a playboy. My kind of guy.

I was happy to have Ginsberg and Cassady show up in a Cadillac. My friend Gregory Gibson read a draft of the novel and he said that scene was like in a circus when you see the wild clowns getting out of a car.

I held back from putting Kerouac into Turing & Burroughs, as Jack would have been too much. He would have taken over. Remember that the main Beat I wanted to write about was William Burroughs.

When I was in the middle of writing the novel, I happened to see some video footage of Burroughs at his house in Lawrence, Kansas, taken a year or two before he died. And I knew right away I could use this scenario for the last chapter of my book. So the last chapter is set as a transcript of Burroughs talking to a video camera.

“And now I’m turning off the machine.”

That’s the book’s last sentence, with Burroughs talking. I like that ending. You might say that it captures the theme of the book.

You can turn off the machines and get wiggly. Even if you’re Alan Turing. Long may he wave.

[Curious? Go to Transreal Books or try browsing free sample version of Turing & Burroughs online as a webpage.]

Share

Rudy’s Blog is powered by WordPress