Features & Columns

Rudy Rucker: The Journals

Fractal Broccoli on the Millenial Edge

Intro | 1992-1993 | 1999-2012

September 2, 1992.
At the Black Watch.

In the Black Watch bar, sitting in a booth facing the street. I see a riot of color and hear a mass of sound. Initially it is truly horrible Tom Jones shouting "Delilah." So loud it hurts. Then after the bellowing, rutting finale of "Delilah," as if in cosmic forgiveness, the music switches to mellow space music, and later on to heavy metal. The bartender is a guy I've seen working at the liquor store, he's languid and weary, as if he's not fully inflated.

I found out today that I can pick up the equivalent of three-month's salary if I buy my Autodesk stock options. Copacetic! I'm really not going to go back to teaching at State yet this spring is what I think today. I want to be unemployed for awhile, like in the magical four years at Lynchburg when I wrote six books.

Thursday I went up to Autodesk and met the Human Relations Director. He told me that I wouldn't get some of the severance pay I'd thought I would. He had zero empathy, of course, why else would he be in charge of Human Relations. It's like the Ministry of Peace in 1984.

September 25, 1992.

Doing research for a courtroom scene in The Hacker and the Ants, I went into San Jose today to the Hall of Justice, right next to the Main Jail for Santa Clara County.

I went to Dept. 33 on the fifth floor where a trial was just beginning. Judge Robert P. Ahern presiding. He was a heavy-set guy who spoke very slowly and clearly. He was still inspecting and instructing the jury. Sometimes he'd start asking a juror questions and would pile one question on top of the other bang bang bang. What college do you attend? What courses are you taking? How long have you gone to De Anza?

The trial room: five rows of fourteen chairs with an aisle in the middle, the aisle goes through a low partition that separates off the court. On the partition is a sign: "All communications with the prisoners—verbal, written or signal is unlawful without the permission of the deputies."

One of the jurors: I'm a retired pilot. I worked for Fidelity Insurance company. A corporate pilot. My wife works in personnel at Lockheed.

September 27, 1992.
Back to Teaching?

Tonight, Saturday, we went to a party for the SJSU math department at Professor Jane Day's in Palo Alto.

At the party, I had major culture shock and disorienting depression. I'm supposed to go back to this? To these…professors? After running with the hard-guy industrial hackers for four years? After freaking with the finest of the bay-lit nuts? Did someone say committees?

Everyone was nice and friendly, but inside my head I had a vision of being a screaming kicking rabbit in a trap. The trap being my teaching job. Rabbits can make a sound, you know. It's a high-pitched squeal, like wheenk wheenk.

What a burn. I'm not ready to start teaching again next spring. What I need to do is to finish Hacker and the Ants and then get my head together about what it is that I've been doing in Silicon Valley for the past six years out here with computers. Write another nonfiction book.

Titles? Why Computers Suck. But they don't. Why Computers Don't Suck. Forget the suck. Inside the Machine. It's almost like A Season in Hell, or maybe Mathematical Hacking. Accurate and to the point. But not actually a good title.

October 16, 1992.
Flensed at Autodesk.

Monday is my last day of official employment at Autodesk. I feel nervous about it. I had to buy myself new computer equipment, most of the stuff I've been using at home belongs to Autodesk. I still don't have my new email set up—I can't get my new system's modem to work.

Today, Friday, I went up to Autodesk and got flensed (whaling term for removing the blubber from a whale). On the way I hit Fry's Electronics on the Lawrence Expressway off Route 101 in Sunnyvale one more time, my sixth visit in the process of getting my new machines to work.

Up at Autodesk, I turned in my Autodesk machines in the area that used to be Advanced Tech. There were some young kids sitting around laughing in our old "Cyberia" room. One of them was tapping a golf-ball with a club, doing putting practice. They all looked so happy and relaxed. They were the Help group of Information Systems. I got the putting boy to carry in the heavy stuff: the laser printer and the Compaq CPU.

"Oh were you the guy who sent the email today? I saw that," he says.

The next thing was that I went to the third floor of the execs' building to meet an Autodesk lawyer, who had the contract ready for the artificial life code package that I've been calling Boppers. The lawyer was a very junior person—I'd been imagining a big wheel assigned to my deal, but they don't care that much. The contact gave me a free perpetual license to use the Boppers code as I like…which made it seem like the code was a real thing, anyway.

Walking down the low white halls I was thinking, "This is just what you've been writing about in The Hacker and the Ants. This is so great." I'm living in my novel. This morning when I called the Galaxy 2000 video chip people about my new graphics card, they were all Vietnamese, like my Vinh Vo character in Hacker, I recognized the calm accent. And when I took my Galaxy 2000 Windows Accelerator Board back to Fry's this morning the guy in front of me in line was none other than Steve Wozniak—the Woz—buying four Apple Powerbooks plus 5 thousand dollars' worth of boards and chips to stuff in them. It's a trip to be here living in the transreal world that I'm really writing about.

Back to my Autodesk visit. I go to see a young woman named Lori in "Human Relations." She takes me into a conference room full of packing boxes. I sign forms, give her my Autodesk AT&T phone credit card, my office key. She is flensing me, rendering me, butchering my corpse.

The so-called exit interview is a formality where I fill in answers to three printed questions about my work experience at Autodesk. Nobody will ever read my answers. I keep them short. Lori leads me back into the halls and I happen to see that programmer kid who was working with me at Autodesk at the end. John Castellucci.

"Hey, Rudy!" he calls down the long hall. "Is that Rudy?" John is freakin and geekin, it's fine to see him.

Lori recognizes Castellucci, he's potential meat for her to flense, he may be on his way out too.

"I'm here with the undertaker," I tell John. I'm resentful about being flensed and embalmed.

"Don't call me an undertaker," says Lori a little sharply. I begin to notice how really skinny she is. Like this was a subterranean afterworld experience.

She drops me with a friendly old lady who's in charge of stock options, and I pay the money to exercise them and I actually leave with some shares. I feel like the lady thinks I'm a real sport.

Before emptying out my office at Autodesk, I went through all my old email on the desktop machine I had there, and I selected out the good parts.

Looking back, it was funny how much effort I expended writing up "business plans" that nobody ever fucking looked at.

After three hours of ruining my eyes scrolling through the email and selecting shit, I slipped up and crashed the computer without having saved the doc. So typical of doing things with computers.

I think, never mind. No use selecting all that crap again. Let the email be gone for good. I read over it and that's enough. Times like this I always remember G. I. Gurdjieff's line, "No effort is ever in vain." If you work with computers you end up saying that line a lot.

February 9, 1993.
Time Cover Story on Cyberpunk.

I finished the second version of The Hacker and the Ants on Wednesday, January 27, (adding about six thousand words,) and mailed it in.

Time magazine had a cover story on "Cyberpunk" in the February 8, 1993 issue. I can hardly grasp the wonder of this. It happened because of the Mondo 2000 User's Guide, which happened in some part because of me. I brought cyberpunk to the West Coast, and we made it into Time. Incredible.

Needing to visit the Waite Group to talk about my Artificial Life Lab software package, I drove up to Marin in my new red Acura Legend with the black leather upholstery. California has been good to me.

February 23, 1993.
Bill Clinton.

Sunday night, Bill and Hilary Clinton were in Los Gatos to have dinner at the California Cafe with some local Valley execs, including the new Autodesk president Carol Bartz, who fired me. Watching the cars go by, I yelled, "Carol, I want my job back," and the people around us laughed, they understood. We saw Prez Clinton looking alert, waving out the window. Incredible, I've seen him three times now. It gave me a funny feeling, like history overlapping with reality.