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The Old Writer Scheming. Nature & Art.

I’ve been at loose ends for a month or two. In the moonlight.

As I mentioned earlier, I published The Hollow Earth & Return to the Hollow Earth , and sent the reward copies to my Kickstarter backers, also some copies to reviewers. My old Tor Books publicist Patty Garcia is helping with this. So far, no responses. Discouraged. I mean—Return is a great book!

That old writer’s comfort: “I’ll be famous when I’m dead” isn’t working for me anymore. But I write on anyway. I like doing it or, put more starkly, I don’t know what else to do. It feels good to exercise my practiced skills. And I forget myself when I’m writing. And I do get some rewards. Never enough, but some.

But these days I’m not quite ready to get back into a canoe and paddle across an ocean again.

Sylvia and I went hiking near Carson Pass in the Sierras last week. Check out this gnarly tree. I mean, this is the gold standard meter of gnarl, no? It kind of looks like an eye on the left, and that branch on the right is kind of like an elefump trunk. Sculpted by the Sierran winds, roots twined sturdily to the schist of granite.

It feels so good to plug fully into nature. Always the same. Heedless of our human wheenks. Someone inevitably pipes up: “But won’t we ruin nature with our pollution etc?” Not in the long term. If we screw things up badly enough, all of us will die, and nature will still be there. Healing adapting advancing across the millennia.

We have trouble grasping the scale of deep time. A few years ago, Sylvia and I visited the Fossil Butte National Monument in southwestern Wyoming. The place isn’t much to look at, just desert with some low hills and a visitor center, although the center has some great fossils. Lots of fish, of all things to find here in this arid spot.

But the thing I want to get at is that along the winding mile-long road into the visitor center, the canny park poeple have erected signs with names of geologic eras like Mesozoic Era and Age of Wheenk and Stegographene Period. And the road is leading you forward in time across some millions of years, and at the very end, the timeline dwindles down to markings along a wood railing around the visitor’s center, and the last effin’ inch of the line that has our recorded history in it, and we humans strut onto stage in, like the final sixteenth inch of all. Strut and preen. “We’re the masters, and its up to us whether Nature continues.” “Sure, dude. Go ahead and think that.”

“The Tyrant’s Wife” oil on canvas, October, 2018, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Speaking of the occasional hideousity of humanity, many of us were stunned by our day of watching the Kavanaugh hearings. Wanting to transmute this dross into art, I did a painting of it. I used oils for a change, which are messier, and give a dirtier, grungier look, with lots of impasto, and allow for an ab-ex (that’s abstract-expressionist, friend) look in the details. And overall it’s plain old 1930s expressionist in terms of embodying the suffering artist’s bleating wheenk. A cri de coeur.

It was a hard painting to do. As the news cycles rolled by, I went for making it a bit more general, a bit less shituation-specific. And I began to realize that, in a sense, the wife was the center. I had a lot of trouble with the faces—I did some of them 4 or 5 or 7 times.

Every now and then I feel a bit hampered by the fact that, strictly speaking, I can’t really draw. But as guys like me say, “Well, you’ve got cameras if you want a photo. It’s more important to have something say.” Actually sometimes I don’t even have anything to say. I just want to play with paint. So wonderfully non digital.

Look at the way this tree has a toe. Isn’t that great?

And how about this log that’s a squid, I mean, see the eye and the tentacles? I read that if you take an overdose of the benzo drug Ativan, things begin looking like they’re alive. Hylozoism in a pill, eh. But you don’t need the pill, do you. You just have to pay attention.

But writing about a guy who takes drugs might be fun for me. Escape literature. A virtual high. Gives the story some color. A glaze. I’m thinking about a character who’s an assassin, a “good assassin,” tasked with taking down an evil tyrant. Seen any of those lately?

Coming back from the Sierras into the traffic on 580 was brutal. Dig the sun on this rolling death box. Great shot.

The otherworldly quality of the jam, with the hells-gate windmill guardians. Like a Bosch scene of Hell.

And the luminous fantasy of the missed exit to Peace. Thing is, if a you’re in a bum scene, and you’re getting good photos of it, then you’re, um, happy, right? Art redeems all.

Here’s me with Bruce Sterling at the “secret” Google X lab a week ago. Always energizing to hear Bruce, and to bathe in the flow of his words. That slightly sarcastic tone he always has, and the wealth of historical and modern data points, and the fastidious self-aggrandizing. More than a match for my patented and copyrighted line of bullshit. Our joint story collection Transreal Cyberpunk is a supreme masterpiece, although this slim, astute volume remains, oddly and vexingly, all but unknown. It’ll be famous when we’re dead, okay?

So, inching towards another foray into writing, I’m thinking of an old man who risks all to assassinate an evil dictator, a tyrant like our worst dreams of a certain type of guy reaching a full, Hitlerian. Not yet sure about the characters’ names. It’s set in a mix between near future and 22nd C.

The hard thing about assassinating the tyrant is that you need to kill him, not only in our physical world, but in the cloud. Heavy backup for the zottarich pigopolists, you understand. Kind of like how it wasn’t enough to kill the Terminator just once.

But I want it to be, in some dry sense, funny. That’s where I get the angle of having the old assassin taking some odd drugs. Reality Clipping. High Vibrance. I thought of Milgrim who was on Ativan in Gibson’s Spook Country. Or of the “old writer” in Burroughs’s The Western Lands. And, especially, of Elmore Leonard’s characters. It doesn’t absolutely have to be chemical drugs my guy is taking. Software highs are cool too. Like make the world seem to run twice as fast or a hundred times slower. I’m working up some bogus tech in my “secret” Rucker X lab.

As I’ve already mentioned in this blog, I did a painting called The Red Saucer last month. Things I never stop thinking about: infinity, the fourth dimension, flying saucers, hylozoism, uploading your mind into some other form.

Might my next novel include flying saucers? Well, maybe, but maybe they’re really small. Rizing up from the subdimensions. Or maybe they’re peripherals, that is, gnostic “gnoses” being “driven” by minds in the biotech-based cloud. The people in that cloud can sense what’s on Earth, and they can use their meaty little saucers for effectors. They’re embodied.

To make it sweeter, I’ll take another arrow from Gibson’s quiver—the minds and the sensor/effectors might be in different temporal locations. Thanks to the cross-time communication channel of subdimensional subquantum wheenk.

All this is “breaking news” to me. I’m making it up as I type. And here’s a premonitional painting I did of some of the people involved.

“People of the Red Saucer” oil on canvas, September, 2018, 24” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Early in 2018, Sylvia and I stayed at a hotel on 26th Street in Manhattan, near an imposing armory. I’d meant to paint that building, and then I did, using the leftover oil paint on my palette from The Red Saucer .

Drawing in perspective isn’t that hard, but it does take mental focus. I mean, I don’t always want to be a cartoony expressionist. And I liked putting scenes in those windows…I’ve always admired Wayne Thiebaud’s window-scenes, which are calligraphic and abstract.

So these people are connected with that red saucer I painted. So I put images of a red saucer on the posters, and the letters from the phrase “SAUCER PEOPLE,” writing some of the letters backwards or upside-down to make it seem higher-dimensional. And while I was at it, I signed my name backwards. Is that guy in the middle flying, or is he sitting on a girder? Time will tell.

3 Responses to “The Old Writer Scheming. Nature & Art.”

  1. failrate Says:

    Thank you for sharing your doubts, concerns, etc. Definitely makes us regular folk feel normal about our mere human inadequacies.
    In my own work, I have doubts about my quality, so ive decided to change my metric of success to be pure bloody determination.
    For example, I’m currently working on a musical project where I cut a 2 song EP worth of unique music almost every single day. I dont care if the music is good, because the work is good.

    Maybe a massive, room-filling Rudy painting as an art project would be a satisfying experience?

  2. Alex McLaren Says:

    Keep writing and I’ll keep buying your books!

  3. Alex McLaren Says:

    About drawing. It is fun and interesting to learn how to draw. Anyone can do it.
    This book has the best teaching method I think.
    Get the spiral bound edition.

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