Features & Columns

Rudy Rucker: The Journals

Fractal Broccoli on the Millenial Edge

Intro | 1992-1993 | 1999-2012

One of the more interesting and least probable characters around Silicon Valley is Rudy Rucker. Mild mannered and grandfatherly, the retired San Jose State professor and prolific author lives simply in a Los Gatos home with his wife of almost 50 years. That's pretty much where the normalcy stops. He listens to the Ramones and the Replacements and paints colorful folk art-like canvases of the afterlife featuring spaceships, human head farms and characters who look like they were borrowed from a Russ Meyers movie set. A contemporary of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and other cyberpunk writers and one of the core contributors to the seminal cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000, he spent the '90s in dive bars and brainhacking into the black holes of human consciousness with the aid of exotic synthetic drugs. And while he was mentoring future engineers and learning to wield a paintbrush, he flushed his vested stock options in a corporate downsizing and managed to heckle, during a presidential visit, the CEO who terminated him.

Rucker's 828-page compilation of journal jottings capture, with the proper dose of absurdity, Silicon Valley at the millennium's cusp, a digitized microcosm of the human paradox, simultaneously beautiful and futile, like a wry batch of contaminated ethanol torched by humor. Rucker always surprises. He mentioned, before Ann & Mark's Art Party last year, that he'd lived in a small New Jersey college town as a Rutgers grad student, which means he was living four streets over from me while I was growing up. While that kind of Twilight Zone theme-worthy coincidence can't be guaranteed, readers who have spent time in and around the valley will connect with the local touchstones that abound in his readable and witty chronicles.

With more than 20 books out, Rucker no longer bothers with traditional publishers and funded "Journals: 1990 - 2014" with a Kickstarter campaign. It's available on Amazon for $24.95 in paperback, and in hardcover for $10 more. In April, he cryptically posted "Don't Worry About the Hyphens" to his Kickstarter backers, which I figured was either a play on the Sex Pistols' first album title or a computer warning message that appears on a form for social security or telephone numbers. As we went to press, Rucker sent a clarifying email about "some ‘bad' hyphens that had slipped into the book text." Scholars will analyze his body of work in years to come, and interpretation, no matter how incorrect, will trump actual reality. Nonetheless, purged of bad hyphens, Rucker's latest work shines some 4D sunlight on a human time period when the collective brain punched through former perceived limits with code and chemicals, and which is just now taking its place in a literary context.