Million Mile Road Trip, Rudy Rucker
Million Mile Road Trip
Paperback and Hardback: Night Shade Books, May, 2019, with introduction by Marc Laidlaw.
See Rucker's other nine Night Shade books.
Rudy Rucker offers his smart, hilarious, and uniquely gnarly science fiction version of the classic road-trip story. When a seemingly-innocent trumpet solo somehow opens a transdimensional connection to Mappyworld, a parallel universe containing a single, endless plain divided by ridges into basin-like worlds, three California teens find themselves taken on a million mile road trip across a landscape of alien civilizations in a beat-up, purple 80s wagon . . . with a dark-energy motor, graphene tires and quantum shocks, of course. Their goal? To stop carnivorous flying saucers from invading Earth. And, just maybe, to find love along the way.
Million Mile Road Trip is a phantasmagoric roller-coaster ride—mind warpingly smart and wildly funny, with a warmly beating heart. Night Shade Books’ ten-volume series with Rudy Rucker collects nine of the brilliantly weird novels for which the mathematician-turned-author is known, as well as a tenth, never-before-published book, Million Mile Road Trip. We’re proud to collect in one place so much of the work of this influential figure in the early cyberpunk scene, and to share Rucker’s fascinating, unique worldview with an entirely new generation of readers.
Notes for Million Mile Road Trip is the length of a novel, and includes about 40 illos, plus my writing notes over the year it took to writeMillion Mile Road Trip. I'll entually print a black-and-white paperback edition, and distribute an ebook version. And I have an online webpage version of Notes for Million Mile Road Trip here for you to browse, with color illos and working links.
From the Author
I’ve always wanted to write an SF novel about a motley group of characters taking a long journey to visit a lot of planets, some of the travelers human, and some of them alien. To make it more fun, I wanted them to be riding in a car.
Why a car? Well, we already have plenty of SF novels about tourists in spaceliners, emigrants in generation starships, and troops in the space navy. In a car, there’s no captain, and you can ride with the windows open, and you stop wherever you like.
Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?
I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down many more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a vast floor. Behold mappyworld! As it happens, a million mile road trip in this world will run across about a hundred planet-like disks. Million Mile Road Trip!
To make the process more fun, I often do paintings of scenes in my novels while I write them, or before I write them. Above you see the novel's principal villain is a giant, living, alien bagpipe who spews out flying saucers. His name is Groon.
There’s a series of three moves that science fiction writers like me use. First, we cast off the surly bonds of fact and imagine a world we want to spend some time in. A place like mappyworld. Second, we use our finely honed bullshitting skills to craft an explanation for our world. A rubber physics, if you will. Third, as we’re writing, we work back and forth between the vision and the explanation. One the one hand, the explanation prompts new ideas for the vision. On the other hand, the expanding vision adds fresh elements to the explanation. I never know exactly where I'm going to end up.
The heroes of Million Mile Road Trip are three high-school kids with bad attitudes. And the aliens they encounter are, to say the least, flaky. Consider, for example, the tollah dog attacking the aristo pupa as shown above. And the kids are protecting the pupa.
A literary element that influenced my composition of this book is the style of Thomas Pynchon. I wanted to write a novel in the present tense like he does. Often readers don’t consciously notice what tense a novel is written in—like, is it past or present? But for writers it’s a fraught decision. I found that using the present tense gives a chatty feel, like someone recounting a tale. Another Pynchon move is to rotate the point of view from chapter to chapter. And he write very close-up to the current point-of-view character, producing an effect like a real-time stream of consciousness. I did both these things, and I put the name of the current point of view character at the start of each chapter. I like to make things easy for the readers. In yet another nod to Pynchon, I often used very long sentences, with phrase after phrase being added on, like a carpenter working his way out on an increasingly rickety scaffolding that he’s assembling as he goes along.
I love the classic gimmicks of SF in the same way that a rock guitarist loves power chords. The trick is to bring fresh life to the fab old tropes. Given that we don’t exactly see mappyworld floating around in our space, I needed to stash it in a parallel world. By way of revitalizing this very old notion, I brought in some little-known facts about the higher-dimensional geometry of tunnels between parallel worlds. Real math!
Also the book includes flying saucers—and they’re not boring machines, no, they’re live beings made of meat. The aliens don’t ride in flying saucers, dude, they are flying saucers. I don’t understand why more people don’t realize this! Be that as it may, you can’t really have flying saucers in a novel without a full-on “Attack of the Flying Saucers.” And what better setting for such a scene than—the annual graduation at my hometown local Los Gatos High School! Behold:
Million Mile Road Trip cover by Bill Carman. Page last updated Jan 8, 2019.