Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Party Like it's 1989

To every geek girl and nerd boy who's ever wanted to ride a lightcycle or wear a browncoat, I give the ultimate party blend of every cult film, gaming, music, comic or literary pop culture reference from the last 25 years of the 20th century.

In Ready Player One, it's 2044 and the world is so heavily ridden with poverty and crime that most of the population immerses themselves in a virtual reality where magic is real and technology rivals that of Star Trek. When the designer behind this online escapist fantasy dies and leaves his fortune to whoever can journey through one last great gaming adventure, our hero Wade Watts determines he will win it all and leave the real world behind for good. What happens next is a new adventure of epic proportions complete with a kiss to rival Westley and Buttercup's.

This is the perfect book for anyone who has ever purchased items while traveling the Oregon Trail, knows what to do with two halves of a coconut, frantically rolled a die and scribbled with a pencil, pumped their fist in the air in rebellious triumph, danced if they wanted to, or spent an afternoon dropping quarters in slots listening to the sounds of beeps and boops. It is the novel of a generation inside of which beats the heart of our collective future.

Calling it the "geek book event of the year," Drew McWeeny writes in his review on 'Motion Captured' at hitfix.com: "It is a preposterously great read, and a richly imagined science-fiction world that uses the very idea of nostalgia as a thematic jumping-off point. By embracing the idea full-force, Ernie's crafted one of the first truly significant works of art about the '80s generation and their refusal to let go of their childhood, and what value there is in shared cultural experience."

The author, Ernest Cline, will be appearing at Boswell Book Company on Monday August 29th at 7pm. Check out our Facebook event listing for more fun links and share with friends!

Thanks to a little bit of pre-release bookseller fun at the retro record store and video game arcade Logan Hardware in Chicago, we managed to connect with Ernie for a little Q&A.


While I'm sure you had a lot of the pop culture references floating around your brain already for the writing of RP1, was there any book, movie, game, or album that you discovered for the first time and really fell in love with? Or perhaps a pop culture area that you hadn't been familiar with that you really got into?

I've always been fascinated with late-20th century pop culture, so I'm not sure if I "discovered" anything new in that vein while writing the book, but I definitely re-discovered a lot of stuff. In fact, I think that's probably one of the reasons it took me so long to finish the book. Whenever I didn't feel like writing (which was most of the time), I would throw in an old 80s movie like Ladyhawke that I hadn't seen in years, or boot up MAME and play some classic video games - all under the guise of "research" for my book. It's bad news for your productivity when your "research" is indistinguishable from "goofing off." That's actually a problem that confronts the characters in my book.

You did a lot of spoken word work in your earlier years. I find “Nerd Porn Auteur” to be hysterically funny, and am constantly making people listen to it. Do you have any other spoken word pieces stashed away that have yet to see the light of day, and will we perhaps be honored with one at any of your live events?

Thank you for forcing my work on your friends! I wrote nearly all of my spoken word stuff back around the turn of the century, and I threw all of it up on the Internet - even the pieces that weren't that stellar. I stopped performing and writing spoken word on a regular basis in 2001, but since all of my work is online, new people are always discovering it, which is extremely cool. I still continue to come up with great ideas for spoken word pieces. A few of them wound up in my novel, but most of them are just sitting in a folder on my hard drive. Once my book tour is over and things calm down a bit, I've considered putting together a new spoken word album, just for fun. We shall see.

And yes, I totally anticipate a few fans of my spoken word showing up at my book signings to demand that I recite "Airwolf." If that happens, I will dutifully comply.

Did you get to meet Kristen Bell when she filmed Fanboys? I want her to be my best friend, can you introduce us? Or, at the very least, get her to play the part of Art3mis in the film version of RP1?

Yes, and she is just about the sweetest person you'd ever want to meet. When we met, I still hadn't seen any of Veronica Mars, but I had seen her appearance on the show Deadwood, and in a cast of amazing actors, she totally stole the show. So I totally geeked out on her about how amazing she was on Deadwood, but she was totally cool about it. And since she's one of my favorite actresses, I think she'd make a fantastic Art3mis! (But you'll have to wear a brunette wig like you did in Fanboys, Kristen. Sorry!)

(And sadly, no, I can't introduce you to her, because she took out something called a "restraining order" against me, and I'm not supposed to go within a hundred yards or her now.)

Speaking of stars, another one of my childhood crushes, Wil Wheaton, has recorded the audio version of RP1, and it's no secret how you geeked out over getting him to do it. Did you also know he's been a fan of yours for about ten years? How awesome is it that he's just as excited about your book as you are to have him narrate it?

It is BEYOND AWESOME, just like Wil himself. When he linked to my spoken word website on Fark back in 2003, it resulted in me selling about a gabillion CDs, and it also gave my self-confidence as a writer a huge boost, right when I really needed it, because I'd just started working on Ready Player One. So it's total karma that Wil ended up narrating the audio book. He's been an inspiration to me for ages, so it's pretty amazing to have him work on my book.

You have to pick one book, one album, one game, one movie, and one snack to take to a deserted island that only allows for retro items - nothing from the 21st Century can be brought with you... What do you take?

Book: The Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Game: Black Tiger

Movie: Real Genius

Snack: Twizzlers

Greg asks: "If OASIS was real right now, would you make use of it and how often?"

If the OASIS was real right now, I'd probably be addicted to it. In fact, I'd probably be answering these questions from within my virtual underground stronghold, talking to you via a live vidfeed.

Carl wants to know what your favorite number is and Jason wants to know, how many gigawatts does it take to go back in time?

My favorite number is 42, and it takes 1.21 gigawatts to go back in time.

Speaking of gigawatts, is Ecto88 making the tour?

Yes, I am driving Ecto88 on the tour. But it is a 30 year old Irish-made sports car, so I'm hoping it will survive the 2000+ mile journey.



"I'm a geek, and I think that made me appreciate even more the ambitious narrative structure and the incredible creative detail... This is a 'frakking' good read." -Carole Barrowman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Ready Player One is a great read for all the geeks out there and something you can hand off, unashamedly, to your friends and family when you are finished reading." -Geek.com

"Cline strikes the nerves of nerd culture as expertly as Andy played that skeleton organ in The Goonies." -Entertainment Weekly (A-)

"Ready Player One’ provides a most excellent ride. Once the story is up and running, and the novel blasts to its world-ending climactic battle, I found the adventure story and its revenge of the dorks dream fully satisfying." -Ethan Gilsdorf, 'Geek Pride', Psychology Today

"I loved every sentence of this book, and was a little sad when I reached the end and re-entered reality." -Mark Frauenfelder, boingboing.net

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hail to the King

The worst part about sequels is having to wait for them. I learned this lesson very early in my literary life, when I was reading the Goosebumps series. As a kid, I was what you could safely call a ravenous reader, finishing the newest book in the series the day it came out, and then having to wait for the next one. This doesn't seem particularly impressive until you take into account that there were over 60 of the suckers.

Fortunately for younger me, the Goosebumps books were released at a breakneck monthly pace. While it didn't feel particularly fast at the time, it has certainly felt expedient when compared to the wait I have had to endure for the sequel to Lev Grossman's The Magicians. Amusingly, I learned of the sequel's existence the same way I learned about forthcoming Goosebumps book - from a blurb in the back of the first book. That was in 2010. July, I think. I had to wait a lot longer than a month.

Jason, Daniel, and Amie get first dibs on new galleys. A few months ago, Jason came into the receiving room and rather hesitantly told me that he had obtained a galley of The Magician King. I think he was concerned that I was going to mug him in the back alley and take it. Admittedly, the thought crossed my mind. He quickly added that a few additional copies were on the way. He retreated safely, my jealous bloodlust temporarily stayed. And a few days later, I had my own copy.

For those unfamiliar with the general premise of The Magicians, I would refer you to one of our previous blog entries. We rejoin our protagonist Quentin Coldwater back in the magical land of Fillory, where he and his friends are royalty. Quentin literally has the entire magical world at his fingertips - and he's bored out of his mind. To break the monotony, he volunteers to lead an expedition to a faraway island who has neglected to pay taxes for a long time. He doesn't really expect an adventure to come from this seemingly mundane journey, but he quickly discovers that something exceedingly powerful is threatening his magical home - as well as all magicians everywhere.

Grossman's trademark style is everywhere in this book, and that's a good thing. While still firmly grounded in the realm of fantasy, he effortlessly weaves in literary and pop culture references (there's a particularly clever Lisbeth Salander reference) that makes the text accessible to general fiction readers as well as diehard fantasy fans. The pacing is excellent, the characters are quirky and relatable, and the twists and turns of the plot will keep you up late into the night.

I drew these conclusions from the advanced reader copy. And then, I came upon this entry, while perusing Lev Grossman's blog. And this, from slightly earlier. Everyone knows that galleys aren't necessarily the finished product, but apparently the galley I got was just a step above a draft. Some might feel cheated in my position, but instead I'm incredibly optimistic. If I liked the story as much as I did in its unfinished form, I can only imagine how fantastic the final finished copy is.

If you haven't read The Magicians, go pick up a copy and read it. And then call and reserve your copy of The Magician King, which lands on 8/9. You won't be disappointed. But regardless of whether or not you read the book, if you stumble across anyone with tattooes like these...

...think twice before crossing them. Especially if you spot the 50.