Luigi Pachi Interview to Rudy Rucker for The Italian zine DELOS SF. Rome, 1/25/2002

Q: Let's talk about Freeware, which is about to appear from Urania books in Italy. This time we have to face a Virus that destroyed the Boppers, artificial being able to vie the Human being. What can you say more about this novel to our readers? A: Freeware is about robots made of soft plastic veined with mold and fungus like a very ripe Gorgonzola. They're called moldies. The "Freeware" of the title is the information in the minds or souls of aliens who travel as energetic waves like radio waves or cosmic X -ray bursts. The waves carry the information that is the personality of the alien. In order to become manifest, one of these cosmic "chirps" needs a receiver. And the rich flesh of the moldies is, it so happens, just right for this. Q: Is it true that the Boppers is also the name of one of the CAD products you worked on in the past along with John Walker, met at the Hackers conference in 1987? A: Yes, that was a deliberate thing on my part, to give this early crude artificial life program of mine the same name as the robots I science-fictionally dream of evolving. The program boppers.exe was part of my book Artificial Life Lab, which was published by Waite Group Press, as Autodesk fired me before it was done. The program and book are available for free from my web page. Q: In Freeware, one of the main character is Randy Tucker, in love with an artificial being. His name sounds really similar to yours. Is it a case, or there is special reason in order to choose it? A: I once invented the name Randy Karl Tucker as an alias when a park ranger was asking me my name for bicycling in a forbidden zone. It was a spontaneous thing, although obviously it's close to my own name. In English "Randy" also means "wanting to have sex," which is appropriate for this character. Using his full name, with the middle name, is a thing that makes him sound Southern, sort of like a serial killer you might read about. Note that Randy Karl is from Louisville, as am I. But in most important ways, he and I are different, I hasten to add. Q: What do you like most about Freeware? A: I think it's very visual and surreal, very spaced-out and trippy, loaded with funny extra little things. Like a Bosch or Bruegel painting. Q: In 1982 you won the very first edition of the PK Dick award with your novel Software. Critics underlined your role as a bridge between earlier innovation in the genre and the most recent experimentation. Do you agree with this view and do you think Freeware is part of this ongoing process as well? Or, instead, you picture yourself in a different manner, nowadays? A: Oh sure, my writing is absolutely at the cutting edge of what's possible to do in science-fiction. And it's not like a lot of younger writers are following along and doing the same thing as me. I'm still blazing new trails. The mass of science fiction is fairly unimaginative, safe, and unliterary. What I do see happening is a certain number of "straight" literary writers are starting to use science-fiction in their books and in this way are moving closer to what I do. But a "straight" writer who's not from the SF tradition will sometimes be unable to really make the science be hard and rocking. Speaking of awards, Iíd like to mention that I was in Rimini this year to get the Medal of the Italian Senate for my science-fiction writing. This was at a conference sponsored by the Pio Manzý Center. They compared me to Lewis Carroll, which is a different way to think about what I do. Q: About your novels, I know that Software was under option for 10 years from Phoenix Picture. Then I recently watched The Sixth Day and the central idea of taping someone's brain software loading it onto someone else seems coming out from your Wetware. Have you been involved in this Schwarzenegger movie, then? A: No, I was not consulted. I saw Schwarzenegger walk by once when I was at Phoenix Pictures in Hollywood trying to get them to keep the Software option alive. But Phoenix killed my option and released The Sixth Day. I do feel that Phoenix ripped off some of my ideas. What really got me angry was that they went so far as to name the villain of The Sixth Day after me --- I think this might have been an unconscious act of confession. He's called Drucker = Dr. + Rucker. I guess I should sue them, but thinking about suing someone makes me bored and tired. So I keep putting it off. Q: SF can be very often the mirror of our reality. After the latest disaster in New York (I am just writing you after the new crash at Queens in NY), how do you think the entire SF community and the SF writers themselves will react to what's going on in the world? A: Certainly it makes you think. I prefer writing about basically sunny kinds of futures, and I don't even like to think of the world being enmeshed in endless terrorism and the filth of biological warfare. It's not the future I want to see, and it's not the future I want to write about. I think you will definitely see a wave of downbeat future terrorism books. As for me, there are so many other things I'd rather think about. I resist having the hyenas and running dogs of the media dictate what I should or shouldn't be thinking about. I have only one life to write in, so why should I have my topics conform to the manias of political propaganda! Who's going to care about the Taliban in fifty years? We'll all be fighting other wars by then. We've always been fighting wars. War isn't a topic that interests me. Iíd rather write about love, about science, about ideas, about art, about creative programming, about the things that make life worth living and worth fighting over. Q: What is your view about this terrorist attacks, which strangely happened timely with the economic recession? Perhaps a great mathematician and SF writer like you has a personal theory/view about it... A: My impression is that the root cause of the terrorism has to do with demographic trends. Doctrinaire religious zealots all over the world discourage birth control --- you see this in both Christianity and Islam. One of the reasons for this is, in my opinion, economic: any religion wants its adherents to have a lot of children so as to make new members of the religion. Perhaps the leaders don't even consciously realize this. But clearly there are better ways to honor life than to forbid contraception. In a country like Italy, the women have enough economic power to simply ignore the strictures of the priests and to limit their reproduction rate. Given a choice, women tend not want to have a huge number of children. But in less well-off countries such as the Arab nations, the women have little power, and no way to get around the religious injunctions to have a lot of children. In the Arab nations, something like half the population is under 20 years old. This makes a natural source of disaffected people prepared to die for terrorism. Young men tend not to really grasp their mortality, and to be more willing to cast their lives away. A country that has some birth control and in which women have some power is a country unlikely to promote terrorism. Given these fairly obvious facts, itís a little unbelievable that, thanks the Fundamentalist Christian right-wing, the United States does so little to promote birth control world wide. Q: Any idea when Realware will appear in Italy? I've read that it should be the last of the Ware series... Can you still confirm it? A : I don't know if or when Realware will come out in Italy, you'd have to ask my Italian agent. I have sold a lot of books in Italy of late, so the chances seem good. For now, yes, Realware is the last of the Wares. It rounds things off nicely. In terms of my career it's also not a good idea to keep piling books onto one series, its better to make fresh new books. But if I live long enough it's likely I would do another Ware some day. I do love that universe and the characters in it. Speaking of Italian publication, I donít know if you are your readers will all be aware of a small book of my non-fiction writings called Filosopho cyberpunk (Di Renzo Editore, 2000). This book exists only in Italian, and has a cover painted by me. Q: Can you say something about Spaceland, your novel which should be published in the US in 2002? A: It comes out from Tor in June, 2002. You can read an excerpt of it online at Spaceland is about a Silicon Valley manager who travels into the fourth dimension. It's somewhat comic. The title refers to the classic novel by Edwin Abbott, Flatland. My non-SF novel As Above So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel will come out from Tor books in Fall, 2002. And my textbook Software Engineering and Computer Games will be published by Pearson Educational in Summer, 2002. Q: Are you working at a new novel right now? Can you anticipate anything about it? Plan for the future? A: I'm working on a novel set in the year 3000 called Frek and the Elixir. It's about a world that's been ruined by biotechnology and a young boy's quest for an "elixir" to restore Gaia. Q: Will the war against Taliban will be in a certain way speculatively reflected in one of your future SF stories? A: I really think that chasing the news is a stupid way to write science fiction. And, as I mentioned above, I prefer not to magnify this kind of thing by writing about it. If I did for some reason write about the Taliban, certainly I wouldn't want to write any militaristic gung-ho Sylvester Stallone kind of thing. When you see photos of Afghanistan, the heart fills with sympathy and pity. It would be reasonable to include the viewpoint of someone on the "bad" side, that is, the point of view of a young Taliban enlistee. On the other hand, Iíve visited the Ground Zero in New York last month, and being there filled me with a much greater sadness than any photo could cause. And the victims there are my own people, I can so easily imagine their lives. So the story would need to include the viewpoint of a terrorist victim. Maybe to make it science fictional you could try fusing the minds of the terrorist and the victim. But that might be too simple, too cheap. The whole situation is so unutterably sad. Another way to go about it would be to transfer it to an alien world. Sometimes there are things about our own world that we don't allow ourselves to see, but which we can see when we cast it into a fable about aliens. But this, again, might be too cheap. Itís all such a bummer, that the little tricks of genre science-fiction seem unequal to the task. Isnít science-fiction supposed to be escape literature? Maybe expecting SF to express true tragedy is to ask a butterfly to pull a hearse. Iím in no rush to try. Q: Finally, can you tell us which SF author, from the new generation, we should keep an eye on, as far as your opinion is concerned. Any titles to underline, in particular? A: Writers --- at least writers like me --- arenít good people to ask about other writersí work. Weíre too self-centered and too envious of the success of others. I can never give an objective, disinterested answer to a question like this. And, frankly, I donít read much other science fiction as it never seems to measure up to the impossibly high standards of being as good as mine! Among slightly younger writers, I like Marc Laidlaw's work a lot.