Jim and the Flims, by Rudy Rucker


Jim and the Flims

Paperback: Night Shade Books, September, 2019, 3rd Edtion, with an introduction by Cory Doctorow.
Ebook: Transreal Books, 2014, 2nd Edition.
333 pages. Paperback ISBN  978-1-59780-993-1

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A mind-blowingly gnarly surfing SF novel.

Jim and the Flims is set in Santa Cruz, California . . . and in the afterlife. Jim Oster ruptures the membrane between our world and afterworld (a.k.a. Flimsy), creating a two-way tunnel between them. His wife is killed in the process. And now Jim faces an invasion of the Flims—who resemble blue baboons and flying beets.

Aided by a posse of Santa Cruz surf-punks, Jim plunges into a mad series of adventures in the underworld—where he just might find his wife. Jim and the Flims is like classic myth retold for the 21st century. Except that it's funny.


Jim and the Flims is a wild psychedelic romp that recasts the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the 21st century surf-punk/slacker world of Santa Cruz and its eartly and extra-earthly environs. Hilarious, profound, visionary, and genuinely moving, it vaults to the top spot on my list of favorite Rudy Rucker novels... A key component of Rucker's genius, it seems to me, lies in his ability to tackle his subjects on a multitude of levels simultaneously. There's a fractal beauty to it. If you're just into a weird and funny story, you've got it. If you dig mythic resonance—look no further. If theoretical physics is your bag, Rucker's witty allegories will delight you. Philosopher, Phil Dick fan, armchair theologian: there's something to challenge, satisfy, and delight any alert, intelligent reader.
—Paul Witcover, review in Locus

Jim and the Flims offers Rucker’s delightfully eccentric and transrealist approach to what turns out to be a kind of modern-day Orpheus tale. It’s often silly and lighthearted, but it’s buoyed by the emotional weight of Jim’s quest, and also by the often beautiful and moving view of life and death. And I can guarantee that it’s probably not at all like anything else you’re going to read this summer.
—Karin L. Kross, Tor.com

The parallel world kicks in around Santa Cruz's northern city limits, the defining line of the duality, the boundary between order and chaos, truth and fiction, professorial normalcy and freaky chemical mentalbrain stuff, worldly secularity and Egyptian gods, Los Gatos/Silicon Valley and the Continent's edge, life and afterlife. And when the line's porous, the paradox, rather than crumbling, becomes even more pronounced.
—Dan Pulcrano, article in Metro Silicon Valley

Jim and the Flims is a perfect showcase for Rudy Rucker's ability to craft a story that is both totally familiar and absolutely like nothing you've ever read before. ... Rucker's ability to create ordinary characters who must confront the extraordinary makes this book quite accessible to anyone willing to stroll on the beaches of Santa Cruz, check out the weird surfers and take in the gorgeous sunset. ... As Rucker's novel shows us, everyday life is weirder than we think and filled with more hope than we might expect.
—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

I love Rudy Rucker. The guy is simply incomparable when it comes to writing science fiction, managing to seamlessly blend highly intelligent existential and scientific speculation with wildly satirical and insanely imaginative plotlines... In this novel, Rucker reimagines the myth of Orpheus as only he can – Jim Oster is a former surfer dude, part-time stoner, and current Santa Cruz mailman who dabbles in high-tech research.
—Paul Goat Allen, Barnes & Noble Bookclub

Jim and the Flims...Rudy Rucker's weirdest, craziest, colorfulest book yet? That's saying a lot, I know. But when it is at its most bizarre, it is also most hilarious. Nobody else writes like Rudy.
—Marc Laidlaw, author of Kalifornia

Rudy Rucker should be declared a National Treasure of American science fiction.
—William Gibson, author of Zero History

Rucker puts the weird in science. String theory might as well have been invented to give rise to mind-benders like Postsingular.
—Cory Doctorow, author of Makers and For the Win

Rudy Rucker writes like the love child of Philip K. Dick and George Carlin. Brilliant, frantic, conceptual, cosmological... like lucid dreaming, only funny.
—Walter Jon Williams, author of Deep State and Implied Spaces

Everything Rudy Rucker writes make you look at reality a little bit differently.
—Charles Stross, author of Rule 34 and Halting State

From the Author

On July 1, 2008, I had a brain hemorrhage. I was gone for day or two—it was like dying and being reborn. A very strange experience. It took me a couple of months to get my head back together.

Naturally, being a writer, I wanted to write something inspired by my trip to the underworld. I ended up writing two books. The first of these became my autobiography, Nested Scrolls. And the second book became Jim and the Flims, a somewhat fantasy-like SF novel about a man who nearly dies and then, although still living and fully recovered, travels into the afterworld to deal with some potentially Earth-destroying beings called flims. Also he’s on a mission to bring back dead wife back from the underworld—it’s kind of an Orpheus and Eurydice tale.

Another influence was a series of surfing SF stories I’ve written with Marc Laidlaw over the years. These stories are somewhat humorous—and this attitude carries over to Jim and the Flims. I particularly liked the scene with a stoner surfer attempting to get high off the smoke from ancient Egyptian mummy that he’s gotten hold of…


Notes for Jim and the Flims, is a free booklength PDF file with links and illos. See notesforjimandtheflimsposted.pdf. You can download it or read it online.

When I'm working on a novel, I often make paintings to help me visualize the upcoming scenes. I made nine paintings while working on Jim and the Flims—rather a lot of them, even for me. I'll put images of them here along with comments. Some of my paintings are available for purchase, you can check them out on my Paintings page.

Surf Pilgrim

I trekked down to Four Mile Beach north of Santa Cruz with my painter friend Vernon and started this one en plein air,  getting the composition, and finding some of the colors.  Some of the surfers at Four Mile noticed me working on this canvas—and they approved. The Surf Pilgrim in the foreground looks determined. I visualized my character Jim of Jim and the Flims as resembling him.  At home, I dialed up the colors to match my memories, which tend to be brighter than reality.

The Flims

Jim and the Flims is about a man who finds a way to get to an afterworld beside our own reality. And this world is inhabited by the so-called "flims." I wanted to see what they looked like. The straight lines indicate this is a portal zone. I call the menacing beast at the lower right a "yuel."  When I was in Louisville in January, 2009, I’d imagined seeing something like this in the woods, with a Tibetan demon look. The other two beings are modeled on what the cartoonist Jim Woodring calls "jivas." Jivas appear, for instance, in his book The Portable Frank. For him they’re a bit like free-floating souls, or paintbrushes.  They’re villains in my novel.

The Clone Garden

As I moved forward on Jim and the Flims, I needed to get an image of another world called Flimsy.  And this was the picture I came up with.  My original inspiration was van Gogh’s painting, The Sower—I started with a man sowing seeds into a field.  Two people are greeting him, they just came out of that interdimensional tunnel visible in the house-like structure made of lavender spheres.  The kicker is that the sower is casting baby-seeds into the field, and we see human heads—and the head of one green alien growing up.


In painting this geranium I had something extra in mind. My characters in Jim and the Flims were about to make their way to the castle of the Duke of Flimsy. And I had the idea that the castle could look like a giant geranium. Those leaves are thick, you see, with rooms in them, and the flims are buzzing around them like gnats, only too small to see in the painting---but I later came back and painted this again.

The Abduction

In the background we have a giant geranium plant that’s being used as a castle by a race of flying people in Flimsy.  In the foreground, Jim's girlfriend is being abducted by an alien who’s taken on the shape of a dinosaur.  The sun is a glowing alien being known as a "jiva" and shaped like a beet.  On the left is my old dog, Arf. The woman isn't putting up much of a fight in my picture, and this affected the way that I wrote the chapter.

Fractal Skate Posse

I was working with higher-order fractals during the time period when I was writing the "Atum’s Lotus" chapter of Jim and the Flims, and I found a really nice double spiral that came from a cubic Mandelbrot set.  I saved off a high-res image of it, and then I decided to do a painting of this fractal, even though it's a quixotic effort to paint an infinitely complex object.  Once the painting of the fractal was done to my satisfaction, the image needed pepping up, so I put in five thrill-crazed skaters.

Topology of the Afterworld

This picture has to do with my image of Flimsy, the afterworld that I describe in Jim and the Flims.  I wanted to fit an endless world into a finite volume—that is, I wanted Flimsy to fit inside each electron. I turned to M. C. Escher's engraving, Smaller and Smaller I, as an example of how to fit infinity into a nutshell. He has things shrink as they approach the middle. I started with six streams of beings: humans, cuttlefish, dogs, ants, lizards, and birds. And then I filled in the blanks with globby beings designed to fit the extra spaces.

At the Core of the World

I considered calling this painting Unknown Legend as it's not very obvious what the story is here. I painted this is a previsualization of the second-to-last chapter of Jim and the Flims. Those flying beet thingies are called "jivas." The tall figure in back is the goddess of Flimsy, she’s made of mist. And in front, that's my  hero Jim and his wife Val. I was, in a way, surprised to see that big jiva appear in my painting, but it worked well in the chapter.

Amenhotep’s Ghost

I painted this in the very final stages of Jim and the Flims.  In my story, the characters have stolen the ancient gold sarcophagus of the pharaoh Amenhotep.  And Amenhotep’s ghost has emerged from the casket in the form of a menacing, unhappy scarab beetle holding an ankh, a crook, and a flail.  In my designs of the hieroglyphs on the walls, I was influenced by my daughter Isabel’s graphic novel, Unfurling.