Rudy’s Blog

Buy Rudy's books! Click covers for info.                 Blog text and images copyright (C) Rudy Rucker 2014.


Thoughts on Writing a YA novel. “Million Mile Road Trip.”

January 11th, 2015
Share

I’ve mentioned in this blog that I want to write a novel about a very long road trip in a universe where Earth, instead of being a sphere, is more or less endless prairie, interrupted by mounts and seas, and with an utterly different civilization every ten thousand miles or so.


[Painting by Keith Haring, vinyl paint on a vinyl tarp.]

My working title is Million Mile Road Trip, and here’s a link to my blog posts about it.

I’ve decided to slant this new SF novel towards being a YA book. I might have a better shot at that fabled wider market that way, and it would be a nice change of pace for me. My 2004 novel Frek and the Elixir was in fact YA or even middle-reader (the hero was 12), but somehow nobody noticed.

The thing that makes YA seem feasible for me is that I’m free to write a YA without downgrading what I do. I realized this when went to the 2014 Nebulas in San Jose for an afternoon last year, and I attended a panel on YA writing. It included the writers Cynthia Felice, Erin Hoffman, Bennett Madison, and the redoubtable Ysabeau Wilce. They totally are regular writers, and I liked how casual they were about the middle-reader and YA genres, saying these were mainly marketing niches, and that older books such as Huck Finn or Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird might well have been put into those categories. They also said you should use whatever language you like, and not be hung up on using a limited-vocabulary word-list.

I’m free to write my YA SF novel as I see fit because, if I can’t get a publisher to take the novel, then I’ll just self-pub it via Transreal Books like I’ve been doing of late. But it might be fun to get a traditional publisher once again.

My agent John Silbersack pointed out to me that middle-reader and YA book editors are prickly about adult writers thinking they can just parachute in and do a book in their market. You have to be serious about it, or they reject you. You can’t be pretending. So it’s a matter of getting my head in the right place. In some sense thinking like a young person. Or like several of them. Not impossibly hard for me, given the kind of person that I am—a rebellious dreamer who refuses to “grow up.”


[Seen in the New Guinea collection upstairs at the DeYoung Museum in SF.]

Superficial observations:

A lot of YA books have short chaps. Makes them seem easy to read, I guess. Bam, bam, bam. Short attention spans these days (including mine).

In a YA novel, the main character has some special characteristic that the outer world has failed to recognize, or which the o. w. even views as a fault—but it just this particular quirk which allows our protagonist to access his or her wondrous adventure.

YA can allow you to make the book somewhat cartoony and parodistic. Like an episode of Futurama. You can use familiar tropes with new twists. Let the readers relax and wallow.

By way of research, I’ve looked at quite a few books on the YA shelves of bookstores and libraries, and some of them are really awful. Like TV. The book I don’t like use a limited-vocabulary first-person point of view that I find tiresome. The gushing, the slobbering, the emoting, the repetitious wheenk. Filtering everything through one limited person’s attitudes. This first person narration sucks all the air out of the room. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ll want to make the narration contemporary and colloquial—without descending into a corner full-bore Valspeak. I mean, don’t make it corny, don’t try too hard.

While waiting to start my novel, I’ve been rereading Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow once again. And, as usual, I’m trying to get a handle on the nuts and bolts of Pynchon’s narrative technique. Somehow I find this very difficult. I get so mesmerized when I’m reading the book that it’s hard to slow down and look behind the curtains. Putting it another way, peering at Pynchon’s style is like trying to stare at the sun.

I recently found a very useful description of the man’s style at the start of a longish 1996 work by Michael Davitt Bell (1962-1997), “Some Things That ‘Happen’ (More of Less) in Gravity’s Rainbow .” Here’s a lightly edited excerpt of the opening paragraphs of Bell’s valuable survey of the novel:


[Detail of a quilt by Sylvia Rucker.]

The book is narrated, throughout, in the present tense. Flashbacks (or events remembered by various characters) usually begin in the past tense, but they tend to shift rapidly into the present tense. The narrator is also capable, upon occasion, of flashes forward. Point of view shifts frequently and is sometimes indeterminate (or omniscient). And much of what ‘happens’ (it’s hard to say how much) is fantasy (it’s often hard to say whose).

So we’re talking about writing in a present tense head-hopping third-person point-of-view. You narrate it like you’re describing a movie, cutting from camera to camera in real time. Telling the story movie. You are there.

I had a first-person past-tense opening passage that I didn’t fully like. But then, working by the light of poor dead Bell’s pellucid lines, I switched my opener to the present tense, and put in a few spinning-wheels-of-the-mind asides, and looked into the minds of both my current chracters. I feel the story opening up. I think of compressed tea that comes in a block, and you flake out the stuff to brew it.

It’s working, I’ve started, I’ve got two very short chapters with two good characters, Zoe and Villy, on the eve of their high-school graduation, cantankerous off-beat kids, and they’re about to meet a pair of aliens.


[Rudy Rucker Jr. preparing Christmas dinner.]

As is often the case, I find it hard to actually be writing new material in my novel for more than an hour or so a day. I’m always looking for distractions. Waiting till my head is in the right place. Waiting for the level of dread-that-I’ll-never-write-again to build up to a sufficient level. Building up a big enough head of steam to turn the rusty wheels of this ooold locomotive.

And when I’m not exactly writing new words in the actual novel, I can pass my time correcting what I’ve written, or making plans in my already-30K-words-long Notes for Million Mile Road Trip document—I always make these huge book-length notes for each of my books, you can find them on my Writing page.

“Endless Road Trip” oil on canvas, Sept, 2014, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

I already did a painting that relates to the novel, like the Endless Road Trip one I did a few weeks back. It’s good that I previsualized these two characters from “unfurled Earth,” as they just showed up in the novel, looking pretty much exactly like I painted them. That’s Pinchley on the left and Yampa on the right. The capybara and the spider monkeys will come later, I guess.

For my novel I shifted down from an “Endless” Road Trip to a “Million Mile” Road Trip, as the first option seemed too far! As another way to make starting this new project less intimidating, I told myself it might just be a novella. I’m always scared when I start a novel. Like getting in a rowboat yet again, with an intention to row from San Francisco to, like, Palau in Micronesia.

Whatever works. I may get this mofo going yet.

Share

Aliens Coming Down a Pointed Ladder. Magic Rabbits.

December 30th, 2014
Share

There’s some woods near Los Gatos where I’ve been walking for twenty-eight years. Ever since we moved here in 1986. I always see new things.

Like these pinecones resembling (to my eye) rabbit ears. The broken wood is the rabbit’s face.

We had a nice Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family. It always does my heart good to see the grandchildren. The wheel of life—I’m on the way out, my children are middle-aged parents, and the new crop is coming up.

Dig this oak leaf resting on the gnarly leaves of a red hot poker cactus. Maybe my mind is like the oak leaf, resting on the cosmic, living biome-swirl.

My wife and I are always going down to Santa Cruz, looking at the ocean over and over. I like these stairs, on West Cliff Drive near the statue of the surfer. The stairs go right down into the water. Something richly symbolic about this photo, too.

I put out The Secret of Life as a single-volume ebook the other day. It’s also a part of the three-books-in-one Transreal Trilogy. But I wanted Secret out as a single, in case anyone is looking for specifically that book As usual, I used one of my paintings for the cover; this one is called “He Enters Her Room.” It works as a cover for Secret, as the guy looks like he could be an alien in a human body. With that small head. I myself have a head the size of a grapefruit, or a satsuma, or a Meyer lemon—it gets smaller every year.

We went to see the Keith Haring show at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. It’s quite good. Keith did some remarkable things—like he drew five or ten thousand large chalked graffiti pictures on rectangles of black paper in the NYC subway system over a period of five years. The rectangles of paper were in place to cover up ads whose space-rental time had expired. A very nimble guy with a small head. I’m planning to look at some videos of him.

The picture shown above, drawn on a prefab urn, has some nice aliens, he didn’t draw these particular figures over and over, and it’s fun to see them.

He draws a certain kind of dog a lot, also UFOs. I think of the series of drawings above as, “Keith Haring Explains It All.”

Keith’s UFOs look different from the way I like to paint them. That’s one of mine above.

I’m on the verge of starting to write a long story or a novella with the working title, “Million Mile Road Trip.” I was calling it “Endless Road Trip” before, and saying it would be a novel, but that felt like too long to walk on my bare feet. I’ll just do a million miles for now.

It’ll have a couple of aliens in it, and I already painted them back in September. These days I think these two aliens are called Yampa and Pinchley. My outline for the story was too complicated before, and I’ve been making it simpler and simpler so it’ll feel easy enough to actually write.

I’d been puzzling over how the two aliens manage to show up on Earth. Probably at first one of them is chasing the other. The boy chasing the girl, right. Or vice-versa. And today I had the idea of making their arrival really simple. There’s a ladder that tapers up to a point. It’s like “forced perspective,” the point is, like, a thousand light years away. Or in another dimension. And the aliens come climbing down that ladder. Which I saw while walking near Lexington Reservoir. Gift from the Muse. Took the photo with my iPhone’s feeble camera and really it’s not bad. Just don’t zoom on it or you’ll see the quantum space-foam speckle.

And I saw a second magic rabbit in the woods. Maybe put the magic rabbits in the novella too. “The Million Mile Road Trip,” yeah.

Share

“Laser Shades,” A Free Read! And Transrealism News.

December 20th, 2014
Share

Today I’m posting the text of my story, “Laser Shades” for your holiday reading pleasure.

The story was commissioned for The Superlative Light, a photo book by Robert Shults, but it has not been otherwise published as yet.

Two news items before my story.

The writer and columnist Damien Walter posted “Let the Strangeness In,” a good interview/discussion about transrealism between me and Monica Byrne, author of the excellent novel The Girl In The Road.

And, on the same day, synchronistically enough, my film-maker friend Edgar Pêra posted Trans-Realist Maniphesto a video from Lisbon, 1994, with me and good old Terence McKenna.

And now…on with the show..

Laser Shades, by Rudy Rucker

If you want, you can listen to the story online while you read it.


“Laser Shades,” oil on canvas, February, 2014, 24” x 20”. Painted to go with this story. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Adrian was entranced by Carla. She’d hooked him fast, and she was reeling him in—smiling with parted lips and nodding her head in rhythm to the cadences of his speech. Jack, off to one side, wasn’t really listening to the words, no, he was reviewing tonight’s plan. Step one: bump into Adrian. Step two: get into to the laser lab. Step three…

This was a nice club, on Austin’s merry Sixth Street, out towards the dark end of the spectrum. The Scales Fall. They featured yowly music here, one of Adrian’s hobbies—he talked about The Scales Fall all the time, which was how Jack had known they’d find him here. Tonight a hairy guy was playing a “beam guitar,” which was like a steel guitar, but with sensitive light rays in place of the strings. The man wore his hair a hundred-percent over his face, like a cartoon hermit, and the only skin you could see was the tip of his nose. A happy nose.

The beam guitar had a mellow, aethereal tone, sounding like one of those old-time gizmos—theremins. A woman was singing along, kind of a Russian steppes sound, her voice dank and husky, reminding Jack, as so many things did, of his dead wife Yulia. Yesterday it had been six months. A prion infection from her lab. Horrible.

“Did you hear what Adrian said, Jack?” Carla was looking at him brightly. Humoring him.

“Uh, no,” said Jack. “I’m lost in the music. A jellyfish.” He made wiggly motions with his arms, managing to knock over one of their empty Shiner beer bottles. It bounced off the floor, unbreakable nanocrystal.

“Vintage slimefabber move,” said Adrian, laughing at Jack. He was a tidy man with chiseled features.

“Slimefabbing is king,” said Carla, sticking up for Jack. “Forget about brittle, thuddy machines. Jack cultures a wad of fabslime, he sings to it, and it makes what you need. Like the way a peach makes a pit.”

“I know all about that,” said Adrian. “Jack fabs components for my group at the yottawatt laser lab. I’m a plasma ultraoptics tech, right? Jack here’s the only slimefabber in Austin who can make mirrored surfaces. You’ve known him for awhile, huh, Carla? Have you ever heard him singing to his slime?”

Carla giggled and nodded. “Kind of rank,” she said. “All burbly and wet. But maybe a little magical, too.”

Truth be told, Carla had once had a crush on Jack. She’d been Yulia’s research assistant, and with Yulia out of the picture, Carla had half-expected to take her place. But nothing was happening along those lines, and Jack was getting ever stranger. Carla was about done with Jack. As a farewell, she’d let him rope her into helping him with this insane last-ditch scheme he was running tonight. Not that Carla even remotely expected it to work. Because if it did—but never mind that.

“I enjoy my work,” said Jack evenly. “How’s your project going, Adrian? Got those pocket stars happening yet?”

“Pocket stars?” said Carla, playing dumb. As if Jack hadn’t been steadily talking about this stuff for the last month. “What a beautiful name. Did you coin it, Adrian?”

Adrian would have liked to say yes, but he couldn’t. “This guy,” he said, jerking his thumb at Jack. “Good with words. I was going to call them femtoscale fusion reactors. You’ll use them like batteries, see. The technology of batteries is a millstone, a bottleneck, hopelessly stalled. Pocket stars will disrupt the paradigms.”

“What about hard radiation?” asked Carla.

“Not a show-stopper,” said Adrian. “That’s the part I’m working on, matter of fact. Mirror mazes around our little suns. Phase-shift cancellations. Troughs and crests. Optical wizardry. That’s where Jack’s components come in.”

“How’s the latest upgrade working out?” asked Jack in a studiously neutral tone.

“Spectacular!” said Adrian. “We’re past the point of inflection, guy. Up onto the gigabucks slope of the growth curve. One more round of funding and my group can productize.” He lowered his voice. “The latest prototypes—they shed megawatts like dogs losing hair. I even sold some power to the lab. In the right matrix, one of these pocket stars could last indefinitely.”

“Can I see one?” asked Carla. “Pretty please.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be authorized to take you into the lab,” said Adrian. “It’s class-seven secure.”

“Oh, it’s Saturday night,” said Carla. “Nobody’s gonna be there. And I’ll show you one of my secrets if you’ll play.” She smiled, working her charm. “Two secrets, maybe.” She drew a little box from her purse, all angles, darkly gleaming, cupping it in the palm of her hand. “The first secret is that Jack slimefabbed something off a sample from my lab. Wouldn’t you love to know what it is?”

“Maybe,” said Adrian, not all that interested. “What’s the second secret?”

Silently Carla mimed a juicy kiss.

“Carla is a postdoc in the mitochondrial genomics group here,” said Jack, before Adrian could properly respond. “Specializing in the Golgi apparatus. She was working with Yulia right up to the end. She even found the fix to neutralize the prion that killed Yulia. Saved the others in the lab. They called her a hero.”

“Soft, wet science,” Carla told Adrian, her voice a tiger’s purr. “Not like those yottawatt laser-beam swords you boys play with. Not like your pocket-pool hydrogen bombs. Genomics is the only femtotech that matters. A cornucopia from the living mother of life.”

“The living mother of life, huh?” said Adrian with a crooked grin. “Does that have anything to do with your second secret?”

“Everything,” said Carla. “Dim things matter, Adrian. Not just bright things.” She was hefting the dark little container in her hand. It had sides like pentagons. “Take us into the laser lab, and this little stash box opens like a clam. You’ll be flabbergasted.”

“Say yes,” Jack urged Adrian, his voice very intense. “You know I’ve been putting in an extra effort for you. And you’ve only let me into the lab that one time when you hired me. I need feedback if I’m going to keep working for you. Don’t worry about Carla. I know all about her.” A touch of ice in his voice.

“Carla is single?” asked Adrian, rudely direct. “Not your girlfriend?”

“Jack’s the grieving widower,” said Carla. “I’m the perky, yearning, star-struck ingénue, rejected once too often. And you can be Prince Charming, Adrian. If you don’t act like a jerk. And if you’re not too chicken to let your friends see what’s in your lab. And if you really do have your pocket stars working. Which I’m starting to doubt.” She paused for effect. “Maybe we should leave, Jack. I don’t think I like this man.” Carla rose to her feet, enjoying her power. She took two steps towards the door. Glanced back over her shoulder.

“Wait!” said Adrian, right on cue. He threw money on the table for the beers and followed Jack and Carla outside.

“I can drive,” said Jack. “I’ve got my whale. I parked it down a side street.”

“Great,” said Adrian. “I came by bus.”

It was a warm November night. The pecan trees were droppping nuts. Carla scooped up a handful, squeezing them together in pairs, eating the ones that gave way.

“The champion pecan,” she said after a bit, holding up a final nut. “He cracked all his friends. But can you even see? It’s so dark tonight.”

“We need our laser shades,” said Adrian, pulling out two pairs of sunglasses. He handed one pair to Carla.

“You’ll like these,” Jack told Carla. “I’ve got my own pair in my car. I helped slimefab them for the lab.”

They were standing by Jack’s car now, an old-school convertible with its top down, a massive construct of Detroit steel. Cars like this were generally illegal to drive, but Jack had a historical preservation permit for his. He drew his pair of laser shades from the glove compartment, and now the three companions were standing there, goggling at each other, goofing on the scene. Although the laser shades had dark lenses, they had infrared laser crystals set into the rims of their frames.

“Ghostly,” said Carla.

“The crystals vibrate,” said Adrian. “Scanning across the things you want to see. Scanning them with infrared, you understand, and the rays bounce back to your special lenses. So you’re seeing a moiré image contour map. With pseudocolors based on temperatures. You look like a singer in a yowly music band, Carla.”

She did a little dance in the street there, brandishing her faceted box and her champion pecan. Jack was in the driver’s seat, ready to go. But now, as often happened, the car failed to start.

“I’ve been working on a fix,” said Jack. He twisted around, rooted though the debris on his back seat, drew forth a crufty glob of fabslime the size of a coconut, and warbled an open-sesame command. Obligingly the hairy orb split in two, revealing a glittering carburetor part, quite unobtainable on the commercial market. Jack flipped up the car’s flappy old hood and installed the piece. Accustomed to this routine, Carla worked the starter until the car let out a dinosaur roar.

They cruised through the warm dark Austin night, the three of them on the car’s wide front seat, Carla in the middle, the air beating, pecans crackling beneath the wheels, the passing scenery like cartoons seen through their laser-shades.

Adrian had to pass all kinds of thumbprint and eyeball scanner routines to get them down the elevator and as far as the actual entrance to the yottawatt laser lab. And then it became a matter of jollying their way past the gatekeeper, Cruz Sordo, who was somewhat distracted by a holographic ballet-dancing game.

“I’ve nailed my arabesques and fouettés,” said Cruz, rocking back and forth. “I need three perfect grand jetes to reach the next level—which is the virtual Bolshoi. Your two guests are cleared, Adrian?”

“Jack’s already been in this lab before,” said Adrian.

“And Carla’s from a genomics research group,” put in Jack. “She’s bringing an add-on for Adrian’s run.” Adrian let the unexpected claim pass.

“Okay, fine,” said the feckless Cruz. “But I want you folks out of there in ten minutes. Before the lab’s next autoscan.” He backed off and took a running jump across the hall. “Yes! I might even be on the Bolshoi level by then.”

The laser lab was deserted, a bit sinister, with sagging cables, panels with jiggly readouts, work-benches like sacrificial plinths. The place was dimly lit, with stark pools of brightness in certain spots. Filtered through the laser shades, the potentially hazardous light came through in sour greens and tender mauves, in meaty reds and shinbone whites.

A vacuum pump was thumping, with a wheezing sound. “Chirped pulse amplification,” said Adrian. “Like an accordion. Working the light up to the yottawatt level, back and forth, strong enough to zap protons to the petavolt scale. Enough to spark a pocket star. My set-up is over here.” They proceeded down the aisle, first Adrian, then Carla, then Jack.

Jack noticed an intense glow of infrared body-heat coming off of Carla. She was scared, more than scared—terrified. Jack formed a sudden conviction that she was planning to sabotage tonight’s run. Lurching into her from behind, he seized her wrist and pried the precious, crystalline case from her hand.

“Jack! I’m the expert on mitochondria.”

“You killed Yulia, Carla. I have to say it. It was your fault. You did it on purpose. To get your hands on me.” There. Laying it out at last.

Carla’s voice rose by two octaves. “You are so crazy! I don’t even like you anymore! Adrian! We need to get out of here!”

“Cruz said we have ten minutes,” said Adrian, not really understanding. “Be quiet and pay attention, you two. My target is right here on this little platform, a piece of foil. See Jack’s mirror-maze next to it? The laser pulse is going to make a pocket star. And then a magnetohydronamic vortex pulls it into the maze. Keep back. The pulse is coming in ten seconds.”

Jack shouldered past them, holding out his faceted box. He flipped a dark pink object onto the workbench—it was a fabslime-woven matrix for Yulia’s mitochondria. Jack was singing, his voice liquid and weird. The magic bean was twitching like a pet.

ZzzzzZZZttt!

The yottawatt laser beam drilled into fleshy lump. The pulse was lasting much, much longer than usual, as if the biotech lump were impossibly sending signals up the beam to its source, jamming all the switches to on. One, then two, little stars bloomed within the shuddering bean. Though scorched and smoking, it held its shape. Jack still hadn’t stopped singing. Adrian and Carla were backing away.

Fueled by the yottawatt beam and by the two pocket stars, the Yulia lump grew larger, taking form, extending arms, legs, and head, channeling energy like a babe at breast.

The thumping of the hidden vacuum pump had risen to a wild tattoo, and now came an explosion. The laser beam winked out. Somewhere in the lab an alarm horn was hooting. Perversely, idiotically, a set of ceiling sprinklers kicked on, raining down upon the scene. Jagged sparks, swirls of smoke, shattering glassware. The remaining lights cut out. Footsteps rushed to the lab door—Adrian and Carla escaping.

In the soft dark, wearing his laser shades, Jack could still see a little bit. Yulia was sitting up. Reborn. Smiling at him.

And now she opened her eyes.

Merry X and a Wild Y!

Share

Trip #3. My YouTube Channel. Giant Ants. Paris.

December 10th, 2014
Share

Here’s my third and final post of pictures from Geneva and Paris today—but first a few announcements before our scheduled show.

I’m into resurrecting my archives these days, and I’ve been moving a number of my old videos onto my YouTube channel.

Recent additions include a “Brain Food” playlist: six videos of me talking about books and art, on public access TV in 1986 Lynchburg, VA…which was then the home of the right-wing Moral Majority religious movement. Seeds of transrealism, computer culture, and cyberpunk—all are here.

Another new video upload is “James Gleick’s CHAOS: the Software.” I made this video in 1990 to demonstrate the 1990 Autodesk program of the same name. The program was written by me, Josh Gordon, and John Walker. Topics include dynamical systems, strange attractors, Mandelbrot set fractals (including a 4D cubic version), cellular automata, and fractal landscapes. The software is available as a free download, although you need to screw with a free helper program called DOSBox in order to get it to run on today’s machines (Unix, Mac, or Windows all can be made to work).

One more scrap of hype: my story “Attack of the Giant Ants” went online at the Motherboard site today, as part of their SF-oriented ezine section called Terraform, which is edited by Claire Evans.

The story has a wonderful illo by Koren Shadmi.

If you want, you can hear me reading the story online as well:

My story was inspired by two things: Blondie’s song, “The Attack of the Giant Ants,” and the primeval SF movie Them. There’s exists an amateur YouTube video combining these two—although the sound’s not all that great, so listen to the Blondie song elsewhere as well. The roaring of the ants at the end of the Blondie song is particularly great.

And now let’s move back into the higher real of Parisian art and architecture. Here’s three of the insanely large columns within the Pantheon. I like how the lighting happened to put different shades onto them.

The crowds were such that Sylvia and I didn’t try going inside the Louvre, but we wandered around the nearby section of the Tuileries gardens. Love these receding box hedges. Like scrims on a stage set.

On a little plot of grass we found two men boxing. It made me think of Hemingway trying to get his friends to box with him back in his 1920s Paris days. Who would want a friend like that? He was so crazy. But even so a lovely writer. The stories of In Our Time and the first pages of A Farewell to Arms still live in my memory.

The size of the buildings they used to undertake. I mean, we think we build big stuff now. But… I think this one is the Grand Palais, which is a museum now as well. Here, too, the lines were such that we couldn’t get in. And newly renovated Picasso Museum was out of the question. Even in late October. Thing is, there’s twice as many people on Earth as there were when I was younger.

Our friend Leon Marvell from Melbourne, Australia, turned out to be in Paris, leading a group of college kids on a trip—Sylvia noticed this fact on Facebook. So we spent a day with Leon, a lot of fun. He and I once published a paper together, called “Lifebox Immortality—and How We Got There.”

We made our way over to the Beaubourg art museum, passing this cool ad on the way. What a concept, calling your couture company Acne. There’s this thing with using words from a language that’s foreign to you—the words don’t carry the onus that they might to a native speaker. Note the Acne hand in the zippered glove is giving the Finger.

There was no line at all to get into the Beaubourg—it’s a huge place, a more contemporary museum than the Louvre or the Quai d’Orsay, and not so much of a bees-on-honey kind of a scene, tourist-wise. I found one of my favorite constructions still there, a model of Vladimir Tatlin’s, Monument to the Third International. If you want more info about this object, check out my SF story of the same name from 1983, a mere thirty-one years ago. Who knows where the time goes.

This is a cool cubist painting of a wolf—I can’t remember the artist’s name, could it have been Francis Picabia? [No, it’s Luis Fernandez, and it’s not a wolf, it’s a “Head of a Dead Horse.” My quondam partner in crimes against good taste and against po-faced solemnity, Paul Di Filippo, unearthed this fact with a Google image search, leading to the painting’s page at Beaubourg.]

I’ve always had an itchy fascination with cubism, like never quite fully getting what the underlying idea of it is—of course looking at explanations written by painters is not going to be all that illuminating in a context like this. There’s also a whiff of cubism having to do with the fourth dimension—see the article on Wikipedia, also my friend Linda Dalrymple Henderson wrote a good book on this topic.

There’s always a real scene outside the Beaubourg—lots of people sitting on the ground, most of them young, along with various street performers. A guy was making giant bubbles, and a swarm of kids was running around. Another story link: my 1980 tale “The Indian Rope Trick Explained,” is set exactly in this spot. So many memories in dear Paris.

A bum was distributing great sacks of bread to thousands of flocking pigeons. As a private joke to myself, I pretended that this man was my old pal Greg Gibson. Greg in Paris.

Wandering around the neighborhood of our hotel and the Pantheon, I came across the Oceanographic center, with am imposing sculpture of an octopus.

Also a really cool and surreal graffito of a boy walking through a wall.

By the end of our stay, our legs were exceedingly tired, and we were moving very slowly. I took a little walk around the Isle de St. Louis, a tiny residential island in the Seine. It’s a spot that’s always interested me, especially the river’s-edge walkways around it.

I found some cool hawser-tying rings in the walls down there. Also I dropped my pen into the water, something of a tragic experience for me, watching my good pen drift away—it would take me nearly a whole day to find another one. You can’t exactly buy a pen from a tourist shop; pens like that barely even write. But even without my pen, I had my camera.

It was quiet down by Seine at the edge of the Ile de Saint Louis. Loved it. Felt like I was truly on vacation from my life. What you want from a trip.

Up on the cobblestone streets I spotted a really nice reflection in a flat window. As a mathematician and an SF writer, an image like this totally gets to me. The smooth deformation of reality within a magic mirror.

I met up with Sylvia again, and we went by this church from, like, the 1400s. Dig the curve of that tree branch. Later that evening, we came back here and heard an organ concert. Love those free church concerts in Paris.

After the concert, we stopped by an oyster place where we’d gone about twenty years before. It wasn’t really what it used to me, much more commercialized, with the menus on frikkin’ iPad-like devices, and the oysters not overly fresh. But fun to see these two jolly ladies next to us who ordered the “Triple Royal Platter,” with three levels of crushed-ice-plus-dry-ice trays bearing the fruits of the sea. Washing it down with champagne.

The next night, for a final treat, we caught a ballet at the old Palais Garnier, which holds the Paris opera. Remember us like this…

Share

“Mathematicians in Love.” “Flying Cone Shells.”

December 3rd, 2014
Share

Later this week, I’ll put up more photos of Paris. But right now I’ve got something else in mind. My 2006 Tor Books novel Mathematicians in Love had gone out of print, so today I’m publishing a second edition of it, in paperback and as an inexpensive ebook. More info in on the book’s home page.

I’m slowly learning something about book production. I use the InDesign typesetting software for the interiors, and I make multilayered Photoshop images for my covers. Thankfully you can export a decent ebook file directly from InDesign and then tweak it into an EPUB with Sigil and into a Kindle MOBI with Calibre. There’s ten or twenty or maybe it’s fifty or a hundred or even two hundred gotchas involved. Making books is like a hobby of mine by now. Like crossword puzzles or knitting, maybe, or like building model zeppelins out of balsa wood and silken cloth. I think a lot about fonts—these days I’m fond of the Janson font I bought from Linotype.

“Flying Cone Shells” oil on canvas, November, 2014, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting. And see my Paintings page for more info.

I made a new painting for the cover of Mathematicians in Love. At first I didn’t realize that’s what the painting was for. I started out with those three fat lines that weave over and under each other. And then I wanted to decorate the sectors of the canvas that the lines made. I was thinking of an Aboriginal painting, or of an aerial view of crop fields, like Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of the California Delta region that lies northeast of the Bay area.

For the longest time, my painting reminded me of the works you see hanging on the walls in art schools. Unfinished, harsh, dissonant, the paint colors right out of the tubes. I kept at it, layering on the tints and shades, blending, toning, and glazing. Finally the painting seemed warm and harmonious to me. And right about then, I was like, “What painting can I use for the cover of Mathematicians in Love?”

There’s a scene in the novel when my character Bela and his pal Paul and his lover Cammy are driving along the coast of Big Sur, looking to surf over into a parallel universe through a natural doorway in one of the big rocks at Pfieffer Beach. And this giant flying cone shell is following them—I think her name is Rowena. So I added Rowena and one of her smaller friends to the painting, also a tiny image of Bela’s car. Yeah, baby.

On the local scene, we went to a giant potluck Thanksgiving in the Mission district of SF, organized by our son Rudy and his friends. It was a blast. Our daughters Georgia and Isabel were there with their families as well—adding up to thirteen of us in all.

At one point during the visit we thirteen were relaxing under a cypress tree in the SF Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. I felt the atavistic joy of being in a tribe. A golden oasis encountered along my life’s long journey, a moment to mentally revisit over the years. Thank you, world.

Share

Trip #2: Jim and the Flims. Transreal. Paris.

November 23rd, 2014
Share

Now that I’m back home, I’m working on my writing biz again. To start with, I published my novel Jim and the Flims in ebook and paperback via my Transreal Books. You might call it transreal magic realism—it’s about a Santa Cruz guy who travels to the afterworld in hopes of resurrecting his wife.

More info is on the book’s page.

Long story short, you can now get my Jim and the Flims ebook on Amazon, or on my Transreal Books page. (A Transreal Books purchase gives you two files: MOBI format for Kindle and EPUB format for all other e-readers.)

And the Jim and the Flims paperback is available via Amazon.

Night Shade Books published Jim and the Flims book in hardback in 2011, by the way, and a few copies of that edition are still kicking around as well.

Another note from the writing biz. By way of leading into it, dig this mural of St. Denis in the Pantheon in Paris. St. D’s head as been chopped off, but the dude is using his halo to think. He’s picking up his head, and he’s gonna plug it back in. Can’t bust him, can’t shut him down.

A symbolic representation of an author, against all odds, keeping his shit together? Art imitating life imitating art? Transreal, dude. One of my preferred modes of literary creation. I am Jim, facing the flims.

I first described transrealism in my 1983 essay, “A Transrealist Manifesto.” Philip K. Dick was definitely a precursor of transrealism, but for a number of years, I was the only self-avowed transrealist writer around. The style finally seems to be catching on.

In an October 24, 2014, essay in the British newspaper, The Guardian, critic Damien Walter proposes “Transrealism: the first major literary movement of the 21st century?”

Yeah, baby!

Oh, one more writing thing, Tor.com published a story by Terry Bisson and me, “Where the Lost Things Are.” With this great illo by Chris Buelli.

Transreally enough, the book is about two aging friends who can’t keep track of their stuff…

Back to my travel notes. We moved on from Geneva/Nyon to Paris for a week. Lovely to be in Paris, my favorite city, along with San Francisco, New York, Vienna, and Lisbon.
You see these great iron business signs here and there in Europe. Everything’s so old.

Sylvia and I went out to a far corner of Paris to see a little Monet museum. On the way we passed this amazing carousel in a little park. The thing had about six or eight horses hanging from a rotating center, and it was powered by…a man pushing the ride around in circles. The kids had wands for spearing rings, and the carousel-man helped them. And then he’d put the rings back into the rickety feeder.

The younger kids didn’t try and spear rings…they were in that Eden before you know there are reward rings that you’re supposed to be gathering.

The museum was someone’s old mansion, I forget whose. Great wrought iron railing here, a yin-yang Zhabotinsky kind of thing.

My feet aren’t what they used to be, and after about ten days in Europe, I’m slowing down.

We stayed in a hotel on the square holding the Pantheon monument…it’s a giant domed building with pillars around it, and with famous dead intellectuals in tombs in the cellar. Weird statue on the main floor…some French revolutionaries hailing a bad-ass goddess of Liberty. “Live Free or Die” it says on her plinth.

The philosopher and author Jean Jacques Rousseau was one of the people in the cellar. Great respect for thinkers over there.

Over the years, I’ve been in the Pantheon a number of times. I love the huge, empty, vaulted spaces within. And more than once I’ve dreamed of floating off the floor and flying around in there.

A woman outside striking a sexy pose for her photo.

All over the place in Paris, you’ll just see a random marble statue. Like these ladies on a roof.

An antiquarian bookshop specializing in old books about flying machines. Dig the deluxe seats for this balloon.

For sure we hit the Eiffel tower. Staggering how big the thing is, I always forget unless I’m actually there. Like I’m a rat under the Golden Gate bridge. Didn’t go up in it, lines too long…lines like you’d see at the pearly gates on Judgment Day.

I love to look at water flowing, the great gnarly undulations in a liquid sheet.

Here’s a nice composition with a statue and a building near the Louvre. More pix from Paris still to come.

Share

Trip #1: Nyon, Geneva.

November 15th, 2014
Share

Sylvia and I went to Geneva, Switzerland, for a family event. We stayed near Geneva in Nyon for five days, and then went on to Paris for a week. So now I’m photoblogging some of the things I saw.

This is a garage near Levis stadium in San Jose, completely irrelevant, although the dark image does set the tone for William Gibson’s The Peripheral, which I was reading on my ebook for much of the trip. Well, actually I didn’t get it till we’d been there a few days, waiting for the download.

We stayed in a once deluxe hotel now on the skids and run by unpleasant people, but handy for our purposes, the Beau Rivage in Nyon, looking out at Lake Geneva. It’s kind of a wonderful lake, so clean, with the Rhone running through its length, and huge mountains along the edge in spots.

Vineyards all along the lake. The Swiss white wine is good stuff, kind of dry and sour. Not that I drink it anymore, but it’s worth sampling. Not sure if they export much of it.

Like so many European town, Nyon has a little castle from yore. When you get up in a high place in Europe, like in a plane or on a mountain, you can see that there’s a village every two kilometers or so. Really settled in. When you fly over the US, most of it is stone cold empty. Even California. We have a few megalopolises, some towns, and that’s about it.

I’ve always liked coin operated “rides” for kids. The spotted fly agaric mushroom is a big standard icon in Europe. According to the ethnomycologist Gordon Wasson, the Siberian shamans and the Greek Eleusis cult got high off these. And saw overly animated caterpillars in red top hats. Cf. my story with Bruce Sterling, “Storming the Cosmos.”

It was nice, walking around Nyon one morning, everything a little misty, and these European constructs, like a crane of a string of lights, everything a little different from how we’d do it. Like, not quite as SAFE. Sadly, the assumption in the US has to be that, whatever you set up outdoors, there will be people who are blindly bent on destroying it. More communality in Europe, I’d say.

I love when birds fly low across the water. In Santa Cruz, when the pelicans do that, I always think of Hells Angels.

This is a nice, mysterious, paradoxical image. A marble and alabaster statue on the left, and on the right is a doubly reflected image of the statue.

This was in the Beau Rivage Nyon. Good breakfasts and terrif views. But they actually wanted to bill us separately for each cup of coffee we made in our room. And they flatly wanted to refused to drive us half a mile in their van to get to the train station. “The van is only for business guests. People from the Gulf.” “I’m a business. Transreal Books.”

Sylvia and I went into Geneva a few times. Over the years, we’ve been here more than forty times. Sylvia’s parents lived in Geneva during the latter half of their lives. We’ve always liked Geneva’s big old museum of art and history. Dig this armor, it looks so SF. And the light glaring on the glass could be death ray beams from the dude’s eyes.

All marble in there, so frikkin’ deluxe.

Love marble nudes. It doesn’t show here, but in back there’s a marble dog sniffing the guy’s butt.

There was a wonderful artist in Geneva, Ferdinand Hodler, and his works are one of the reasons we like to come to this particular museum. I think you’re not supposed to take photos in here, but usually I sneak one or two. Love the door here with the Hodler in the background.

Gotta get a shot of the famous Jet d’Eau fountain in Genva. During the World Soccer Cup one time they filled a giant soccer-ball balloon with helium and tethered it so that it was hovering right at the top of the water, so it looked as if, cartoon like, the huge ball was indeed floating on the fountain’s spurt.

We went to Lausanne one afternoon with Sylvia’s brother Henry. Fab statue of the Sphinx lady were with her afternoon shadow.

And within the Lausanne cathedral, the Reaper lurks.

Share

Rudy’s Blog is powered by WordPress