[I stopped updating this page in January, 2010. To have the most current view of what I'm up to, check the text and links on the "About Rudy" page on my blog.]
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 22, 1946. At that
time my father had a small business making inexpensive furniture
and my mother was a housewife. I have one sibling, my brother Embry,
who is five years older than me, and still lives in Louisville.
I went to private schools in Louisville, graduating from St. Xavier
High School --- I was one of the few non-Catholics to attend that
school; my parents had the idea it was very good for science. "St.
X". While I was in high-school, my father became ordained as
an Episcopal priest, and worked as parish priest for the rest of
his life. My mother, who was born in Germany, was an enthusiastic
gardener, amateur artist and potter.
I went to Swarthmore College
from 1963 - 1967, majoring in Mathematics and getting a Bachelor's
degree. I had a lot of fun there, and was sorry to graduate. At
this point, my choices were the draft or grad school, so I had no
hesitation in going to Rutgers University: from 1967 - 1972. I
got my Master's and my Ph.D. in Mathematics. My area of specialization
was Mathematical Logic, with my thesis on Transfinite Set Theory.
In 1967, I married my college sweetheart Sylvia, and not too long
after that we had our three children: Georgia, Rudy, Jr., and Isabel.
After grad school, I got my first job in the Math. Dept. at the
State University College at Geneseo, New York, a job which lasted
from 1972 - 1978. I started teaching the "Higher Geometry"
course there, and turned it into a series of lectures on the fourth
dimension. Eventually I wrote the lectures up as Geometry, Relativity
and The Fourth Dimension, and managed to get them published
by Dover Publications, a house which primarily publishes public-domain
books by dead authors. They didn't pay me much, but it was enough
to throw myself a good thirtieth birthday party --- and my writing
career was on its way.
The next thing I wrote was a science fiction novel called Spacetime
Donuts. This was in the summer of 1976. I wasn't sure I could
write a novel, but I just kept going and after awhile it was done.
Nobody wanted to publish it, but then I came across a new magazine
called Unearth which was willing to serialize it in three
parts. As it happened, Unearth went out of business before
publishing Part Three.
We were interested in finding a way to move out of cold, rainy
upstate New York, and in 1978-1980 I luckily got a grant from the
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which is funded by the German
government. The five of us lived in Heidelberg for two years, the
kids making their way through German schools, and Sylvia struggling
to keep everything together. (Bad news: in Germany, all the kids
come home for lunch. Every day!) I had a peaceful office in the
Mathematics Institute of the University of Heidelberg, and ended
up writing most of Infinity And The Mind as well as two novels
there: White Light and Software. White Light
was picked up by Ace Books in the U.S., and by Virgin Books in the
U.K. And then Ace bought Spacetime Donuts and Software
as a package, and I was really a writer.
The only Math professor job I could find back in the states was
at a tiny college called Randolph-Macon Woman's College, in, of
places, Lynchburg, Virginia, the home of then-prominent Jerry Falwell.
After two years at Randolph-Macon (1980 - 1982), I decided to give
full-time writing a try. Sylvia and the kids and I stayed in Lynchburg;
we had a nice big old house and it wasn't a bad place for the children
to grow up. In the years 1982 -1986, I wrote six books. This period
marked the birth of cyberpunk science-fiction, and I became recognized
as a founding father of the movement. My cyberpunk novels Software
and Wetware each won a Philip K. Dick Award for best paperback
SF novel of the year.
As my own alternative to cyberpunk, I also developed a style of
writing which I call transrealism. The essence of transrealism
is to write about one's real life in fantastic terms. The Secret
of Life, White Light, and The Sex Sphere are examples
of my transreal novels. The first recasts a traditional coming of
age memoir as a UFO novel, the second is about my time as a mystical
mathematician in Geneseo, while the third turns my two years in
Germany into a tale of higher dimensions and nuclear terrorism.
Being a full-time writer in Lynchburg got to be too hard and thankless
a way to make too meager a living. I wrote Mind Tools, a
nonfiction book about mathematics and information, which got me
to wanting to teach Math again. When an old friend told me about
a job opening at SJSU, I applied for it, and to my delight I was
hired in 1986 and am still there in 1997.
When I started my job in the SJSU
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, I was urged
to consider teaching computer science as well as Math. I did not
know a great deal about computer science at the time (understatement!),
although my doctoral work in Mathematical Logic had certainly familiarized
me with theoretical computing. The first computer science
course I was assigned was anything but theoretical: it was Intel
chip Assembly Language! Fortunately, another professor was teaching
the same course, and I was able to attend his lectures to help myself
figure out what was going on. And soon I found something I was really
interested in programming: Cellular Automata,
which are parallel programs that produce rapid-fire self-generating
computer graphics animations.
During this time period, and perhaps in reaction to my high-tech
surroundings, I wrote a historical science fiction novel called
The Hollow Earth. I also got involved with the magazine
MONDO 2000, edited by a collection of Berkeley characters interested
in cyberculture. Thanks to MONDO's influence, "cyberpunk"
became something of a household word, taking on a broader meaning
and even appearing on the cover of Time. I co-edited the
MONDO 2000 User's Guide with R. U. Sirius and Queen Mu. As
R. U. put it, "We need a mathematical logician, or we'll never
put this thing together."
As well as teaching me a lot about computer science, my interest
in Cellular Automata led to a very interesting part-time job during
the years 1988-1992. This was with Autodesk, Inc., of Sausalito,
California, makers of the popular AutoCAD program. It seemed that
John Walker the co-founder and then-chairman
of Autodesk, was fascinated by Cellular Automata. After I met Walker
at the Hackers 2.0 conference in 1987, he hired me to work on some
Cellular Automata software with him. I worked on three shipped software
products at Autodesk: CA Lab:
Rudy Rucker's Cellular Automata Laboratory, James
Gleick's CHAOS: The Software, and BOPPERS:
Artificial Life Laboratory. My transreal novel The Hacker
And The Ants was heavily influenced by having worked inside
a Silicon Valley software company.
A drawback of working at Autodesk and SJSU at the same time was
that I had very little time to write. These days I'm back to my
main interests: teaching and writing. And I seem to use up an awful
lot of time hacking Java and C++ graphics programs for the Object
Oriented Programming and Software Engineering classes
that I teach. Almost everything has to be done over again every
semester. Computer science is a Stairmaster.
In recent years I've focused a lot of my programming efforts on designing
and coding a "software framework" that makes it easy to
write Windows videogames. I call this shareware code package the "Pop
Framework". At the same time I wrote a textbook which teaches
something about software engineering, also documenting the Pop Framework,
and explaining how to use it. The title for the book is Software
Engineering and Computer Games. The book teaches Object Oriented
design and Software Engineering in a context of the reader creating
an MFC C++ Windows videogame such as Asteroids, Pong, Pac-Man, Mario,
Donkey-Kong, etc. It took me years to organize the material, as programming
knowledge has a kind of fractal structure: the details have details
with yet more details. Also the platforms and the languages kept changing.
The final improvement was to incorporate Open GL, so that now the
games can be 3D. I'll be using the text in my CS 134:Computer Game
Design and Implementation courses in Fall, 2003 and Spring, 2004.
In 1999, Tor Books published my text and drawings for a novel called
Saucer Wisdom. The book recounts
my (alleged) experiences with a UFO contactee named Frank Shook.
The saucers purportedly showed Frank Shook many bits of Earth's
future ---- right up through the year 4004! Saucer Wisdom
gives detailed and illustrated accounts of Frank Shook's experiences,
and was in this respect a Millennial work of future extrapolation.
My SF novel, Realware, the fourth book in the *Ware
series was published as an Avon Eos book, in June, 2000. This is
the fourth and the last (for the foreseeable future) of the *Ware
In 1999, the Four Walls Eight Windows press issued a collection
of my selected nonfiction called Seek!. And they published
a complete anthology of my stories called Gnarl! in
May, 2000. The names come from one of my favorite slogans:
"Seek ye the gnarl!"
"Say, have you ever thought of selling one of your books to
My novel Software was under option from 1990 - 2000 at Phoenix
Pictures. A lot of preproduction work was done, but the option
died. What made this especially galling was that right after Phoenix
dropped my option, they released the Schwarzenegger movie The
Sixth Day, which seems to have drawn some inspiration from my
work. The central Sixth Day idea of taping someone's brain
software and then loading that personality onto a tank-grown clone
of the person is straight from my book Wetware. And in Software,
it is a flash of light that puts a man's mind onto his new body,
just as in Sixth Day. These are not at all "obvious" ideas
that were "in the air," in fact it took me a lot thought and effort
to come up with them back in 1980. The fact that the villain in
Sixth Day was called "Drucker" seems almost like someone
was driven by a Raskolnikov-like obsession to confess his crime!
"Yes, I killed the old woman with an axe! Yes, I stole Dr. Rucker's
ideas!" Oh well.The digital effects maven Scott Billups made a little
Software-inspired digital trailer called
Mid-Century. Not much came of Scott's effort, and the Software
option remains available for purchase from me by any interested
During 1999-2001, I was involved with another film project, a script
for an IMAX movie with working title, The Search for Infinity,
and to be directed by Ron Fricke of Baraka fame. The movie
was to be a science-fiction tale featuring some prolonged zooms
into a famous mathematical fractal object called the Mandelbrot
Set, and possibly starring Arthur C. Clarke. The deal hinged on
getting a big grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant
didn't go through, so it looks like another movie project dead in
the water. Just for kicks, here's the last version of the Seach
for Infinity treatment that I wrote.
In 2002, I sold a film option for Freeware to a Seattle-based
group called Directed Evolution
Networks, and the renewed the option in 2003, but later let it lapse.
In 2003, I sold an option for Master of Space and Time to
the French production company Midi Minuit Holding, SA.
Michel "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" Gondry was going to make a movie of Master of Space and Time, starring Jack Black and Jim Carrey and with a script written by Dan Clowes. A dream project.
But now, in 2007, it's dead, Gondry's company let the option expire in January of 2007. He didn't fill me in on the details, but I gather from one of Gondry's online interviews that he and Clowes had trouble getting the project funded by the producers. In his words,"It's very hard, because all of the reasons why we both like the book are reasons why the studio would not do a movie. It's quirky, it's unpredictable, it's absurd, it's funny, and it's not slick at all. It's rough and grotesque."
In 2000, I wrote a story with John Shirley called
"Pockets," which appeared in an anthology edited by Al Sarrantonio,
Redshift, (Penguin, Fall 2001). I also wrote an essay on
"Infinity" for the Encyclopedia Britannica. A new story
written with Bruce Sterling, "Junk DNA," was the cover
story for Isaac Asimov's SF magazine in December, 2002. I
wrote an SF story about Jenna Bush called "Jenna
and Me" with my son Rudy Rucker,
Jr, but we had trouble getting it published! In the end we went
for an online SF magazine.
In 2000-2001, I wrote a new science-fiction novel called Spaceland,
inspired by Edwin Abbott Abbott's classic Flatland. It's
about a Silicon Valley middle manager named Joe Cube who encounters
some beings from the fourth dimension. Spaceland
appeared from Tor Books in June, 2002, and has been getting good
reviews. An excerpt appeared in the online SF magazine Infinite
In Fall, 2001 and Spring 2002, I was mostly finishing off my Software
Engineering and Computer Games text and the accompanying Pop
Framework code. The book came out in December, 2002, with a
cover by my daughter Georgia.
During 1998-2000, I wrote a historical novel (not science fiction!)
about the life of the Flemish painter Peter Bruegel the Elder(1527-1569).
And then, in spring of 2002, I rewrote it. The book, called As
Above So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel, was published
by Tor Books, in Fall 2002. By the way, Rucker is probably a Flemish
name, so just call me Rudy the Elder. A paperback edition appeared
in November, 2003.
In Spring, 2003, I finished work on an intergalactic far future
epic quest SF novel, called Frek
and the Elixir. The story starts out when the hero, a boy
named Frek, finds a UFO under his messy bed. Inside the UFO is an
alien helper who resembles a cuttlefish.
To help myself visualize the book, I did a painting
of the alien cuttlefish, and of a future
city that Frek passes through. I did three rewrites of the novel
over the Summer and Fall of 2003, and now Frek and Elix the Elixir
is scheduled to appear from Tor Books in April, 2004.
I recently did a painting of
The Hacker and the Ants as well. Four Walls Eight Windows reissued
the book (Hacker and the Ants, Release 2.0) early in 2003, with
a cover by my daughter Georgia (not based on my painting.)
I was on leave from teaching in Fall, 2002, and spent some time
in Brussels as a guest of the Royal
Flemish Academy of Arts and Sciences. I taught a graduate seminar
on Computers and Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the
University of Leuven . I also did some research on Heironymous
Bosch, another favorite Flemish master, as well as on Rene Magritte.
In addition, I gave some lectures and worked on chaos-based electronic
music with Gerard Pape at CCMIX
in Paris, providing the video for a Christmas concert.
In the summer of 2003, I wrote a funny SF/horror short story I
always wanted to do, "The Men in the Back Room at the Country
Club," about aliens attacking my old home town Lynchburg, Virginia.
Although it's one of my best stories, it's already been rejected
by three mainstream SF magazines. This reminds me of why I don't
write stories very often: the magazine market is so much more conservative
and constrained than is the novel market.
Staring in Fall, 2003, I began working on a nonfiction book called
The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. My publisher will
be Thunder's Mouth Press, part of the Avalon Publishing Group. I'm
hoping to finally explain exactly what it is I've learned during
these last twenty years or so in Silicon Valley --- and to make
sense of the viewpoint that everything is a computation, while validating
my everyday sense of not being a robot.
By the way, my title The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul
is a dialectic triad. Thesis: you can build a computer "Lifebox"
model of a person, kind of an interactive blog-based data-base.
Antithesis: each of us knows ourselves to have Soul that wholly
transcends mere bit-flippery. Synthesis: it's at least conceivable
that a digital lifebox-style data-base could be animated by an unprectibable
yet deterministic rule such as a cellular automaton, the prime poster
child for cellular automata in nature being Stephen Wolfram's friend
the cone shell. All will be revealed. Note the triumphant upward
siphon on this li'l gaah!
In Fall 2003 and Spring 2004, I was teaching
CS at SJSU, mostly computer graphics and game programming.
In the Summer of 2004 I retired from my job as professor. I loved
teaching at San Jose State, but I wanted like to have more time for my
writing. I was fully ready to walk away from computer programming. I taught for well over thirty years. Even so, I may still teach
as lecturer here and there from time to time.
In Fall, 2004, I finished work on The Lifebox, the Seashell,
and the Soul, which appeared in Fall, 2005. The
book has a long subtitle: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About
Ultimate Reality, the Meaning Of Life, and How To Be Happy.
In 2004, I also wrote a fairly complete and literary autobiograhical note about myself for Contemporary Authors, and I put it online. Though all of Fall 2004 and spring, 2005, I worked on Mathematicians in Love, an SF novel about a pair of mathematicians in love with the same woman, with guest appearances by a couple of giant cone shell snails like the one shown above.
In Fall, 2005, I went back to SJSU and taught a course in the philosophy department, using my Lifebox tome. I also got started on my novel Postsingular, which I finished in fall of 2006.
I'm writing more than ever, putting out a few short stories as well; I had a collection called Mad Professor come out in January, 2007. I had cover stories in Asimov's SF magazine in August, 2007, and January, 2008, the stories were "Hormiga Canyon," co-authored with Bruce Sterling, and "The Perfect Wave," co-authored with Marc Laidlaw.
Another recent activity is that I publish a twice-a-year webzine called Flurb.
My novel Postsingular came out from Tor, in October, 2007. In 2007 and the Hylozoic appeared from Tor in June, 2009.
I'm painting more all the time. I had an art show at the Live Worms Gallery in the North Beach area of San Francisco early in November, 2007.
In Fall, 2008, I wrote a book-length memoir called Nested Scrolls, which will in appear in 2011. In Spring, 2009, I started work on a new novel with working title Jim and the Flims, and I hope to finish work on this by Summer, 2010.
--- I stopped updating this page in January, 2010. To have a more current view of what I'm up to, check the text and links on the "About Rudy" page on my blog.