Daniel H. Wilson and Ernest Cline Talk
Author Wilson take on Ready Player One
Time to sing the praises of the 80s. And there are many.
by danielhwilson on Jun.17, 2011, under Daniel H. Wilson and Ernest Cline
And now the time has come for my last post to Babel Clash. Thanks to Borders for having me, and to the readers for, well, reading. Ernest Cline has been a great partner in crime during my time here, and in his last post he earned my affection for life by dropping some pretty convincing reasons why he loved Robopocalypse.
But let’s be clear, I loved his book before he loved mine.
I got READY PLAYER ONE in the mail as a word document printout a fair while ago. These types of books come pretty regular — folks looking for blurbs. I’m honored to be asked to blurb, but usually don’t. I stick to an old rule: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
When I put down RPO, I started yammering away to everybody I knew.
The book nails the 80s in a personal, fist-pumping, covering-your-face-and-laughing kind of way.
Yeah, I grew up during the 80s. Playing Nintendo and eating Big League Chew and bestowing relatively giant Voltron swords to my most prized GI Joes. We had coffee tables that hung from the ceiling, burnt orange carpets, and quad rollerskates that had yet to be replaced by their fancy inline cousins. Wood paneling ruled supreme as the wall covering of choice.
Cline effortlessly nails these sorts of details, which provide a completely consistent and convincing background to an action-packed adventure that takes place hundreds of years from now. That’s right. People in the future are obsessed with the 1980s.
How in the heck do you use the 80s as the background to a story set in the future? Trust me, Cline pulls it off.
Without ruining anything, RPO tells a treasure hunting story that hinges on knowledge of the 1980s. The protagonist is endearing and the stakes are shockingly lethal. And the world. Oh, the world. It keeps opening up bigger and bigger, in surprising ways and populated by a surprising array of 80s fiction-turned-real. Yeah, there are giant robots really piloted by kids. And yeah, it makes perfect sense once you’re there.
Think of it like this: READY PLAYER ONE is a vintage cherry arcade game lurking in the back corner of a dusty room. You’ve never played it before, but an array of the most amazing badass imagery is flickering across the screen. Step up to it. Don’t be shy. Wipe your hands on your jeans and plug a quarter in there. Trust me, you won’t look back.
Questions for Ernest Cline, Author of Ready Player One
Q) So it seems you’re a bit of a pop-culture buff. In your debut novel Ready Player One you incorporate literally hundreds of pop culture references, many of them in ways that are integral to the book’s plot. What’s the first thing you remember geeking out over?
A) Sesame Street and the Muppets. I thought Jim Henson ruled the universe. I even thought it was pretty cool that I shared my first name with a muppet. Until the first day of kindergarten, when I quickly learned that “Ernie” was not a cool name to have. That was about the time I segued into my next childhood obsession, Star Wars.
Q) Like the book’s hero, you possess a horrifyingly deep knowledge of a terrifyingly broad swathe of culture, ranging from John Hughes movies to super-obscure Japanese animation to 8-bit videogames to science-fiction and fantasy literature to role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. What the heck is wrong with you?! How do you have so much time on your hands?
A) Well, I’m raising a toddler now, so I don’t have as much time to geek out as I used to. I think I amassed a lot of that knowledge during my youth. Like most geeks, I was a sponge for all kinds of movies, TV shows, cartoons, and video games. Then as an adult, I worked at a long series of low paying tech support jobs that allowed me to surf the Internet all day, and I spent a lot of my cubicle time looking up obscure pop culture minutiae from my childhood while I waited for people to reboot their PCs. Of course, I spent most of my off hours geeking out, too. Luckily, all those hours can now be classified as “research” for my novel.
Q) You’re stranded on an island and you can only take one movie with you. What is it?
A) Easy! The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition. (Can I take all of the DVD Extras and Making of Documentaries, too?)
Q) You’re given free tickets and back stage passes to one concert (artist can be living or dead)- who is it and why?
A) Are we talking about time travel back to a specific concert in the past here? Because it would be pretty cool to stand on the roof of Apple Records and watch the Beatles jam up there. But my favorite rock band that’s still together is RUSH, and I just bought tickets to see them this June!
Q) Favorite book of all time.
Q) Best failed TV show pilot available on Youtube?
A) The unaired Batgirl pilot starring Yvonne Craig.
Q) Favorite episode of Cowboy Bebop?
A) “Ganymede Elegy.” Or maybe “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui.”
Q) What’s the first arcade game you ever played? What’s your favorite?
A) I was deflowered by Space Invaders. My all time favorite coin-op game was probably Black Tiger.
Q) Your idea of the perfect day…
A) Play Black Tiger. Then go see Big Trouble in Little China at the Alamo Drafthouse with Kurt Russell and John Carpenter doing a live Q&A afterwards. When I get home that night, I accidentally invent a cheap abundant clean energy source that saves human civilization. I celebrate by staying up late to watch old Ultraman episodes with my daughter (who loves Ultraman even more than I do).
Q) True or False. We hear you own a DeLorean and that you plan on tricking it out to be a time-travelling, Ghostbusting, Knight-Rider car.
A) False. I actually plan on tricking it out to be a time-traveling Ghostbusting Knight Riding Jet Car. It’s going to have both a Flux Capacitor and an Oscillation Overthruster in it, so that my Delorean can travel through time AND solid matter. My personalized plates are ECTO88, just like a DeLorean that appears in my book.(I’m so glad that you asked this question, because now I can justify buying the car as a “promotional tool” for my book. Everyone reading this is a witness! My DeLorean is helping me promote my book! The fact that I’ve wanted one since I was ten years old is totally irrelevant!)
Q) Speaking of DeLoreans: biggest plot hole in the Back to The Future Films?
A) The Back to The Future Trilogy is perfect and contains no plot holes! Except for the plot hole inherent in nearly all time travel films: The planet Earth is moving through space at an immense speed at all times. So if you travel back in time, you are traveling to a time when the Earth was in a different location, and you and your time machine would appear somewhere out in deep space. For a time machine to be useful, it also needs to be able to teleport you to wherever the Earth was/is at your destination time.
Q) But there are two DeLoreans in 1885–why doesn’t Doc dig out the one he buried in a cave for Marty to find in 1955 and use the gasoline from it to get the other DeLorean up to 88mph?
A) Doc would have drained the gas tank before he stored a car for 80 years, so there wouldn’t have been any gas. And tampering with the DeLorean in the cave at all could conceivably create a universe-ending paradox, because it has to be in the cave for Marty to get back to 1885 in the first place. Totally not a plot hole!