Some may say that I went a little overboard in my review of Ernest Cline’s geek anthem Ready Player One, comparing it to such genre classics as Stranger in a Strange Land, and A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. To that I say , Pshaw!. What’s the point of being a audiobook blogger if I can go all fanboy every once in a while. Ready Player One is the sort of epic science fiction tale I love, with the added bonus of being chock full of pop culture references from my youth. Author Ernest Cline was kind enough to answer a few questions about Ready Player One, geekdom, and the audiobook version of his novel.
Bob: First off, I listen to around 150 audiobooks a year, and read a fair amount of print as well. Ready Player One is easily one of my favorite listening experiences of the year. I think the great appeal of Ready Player One is how much your love of the subject matter shines through the material. You definitely put a lot of yourself into the novel, and readers and listeners have definitely responded. When did the initial idea for the novel leap forward, and tell us a little of the process from idea to an actual physical book you can hold in your hand?
Ernest: I had the initial idea for the story way back in the summer of 2001. I was working tech support at the time, helping people use the Internet, and so I spent a lot of time thinking about the future of the Internet, and I imagined it evolving into a sprawling virtual universe, sort of a cross between World of Warcraft and Facebook. When I start imagining what sort of person would create such a virtual world, I pictured a Willy Wonka-eque video game designer holding a Golden Ticket-like contest inside his creation. The rest of the story grew out of that first idea.
Bob: Now, as a member of the geek culture, you must have some idea of what you are in for now that you made the leap from consumer to producer of geek products. You should expect emails detailing and discrediting your work down to the last bit of minutiae. Add to that calls for a sequel, a trilogy, animated versions, big screen movies, action figures, lunch boxes, video games and of course, an actual working version of OASIS, all of which, if not provided, will be your fault. So far, how has the geek culture treated you, and have you received any particularly odd requests or suggestions?
Ernest: Your prediction is spot on. I’ve been receiving many such emails, pointing out small errors and making demands for an immediate sequel. And I love them all! Being a geek myself, I take it as the highest form of flattery. When a geek cares about something enough to pick it apart, it’s usually done out of love.
Bob: As an audiobook blogger, I must note the awesomeness that is Wil Wheaton and go all fanboy on his performance of the audio version of Ready Player One. One thing I like about Wil as an audiobook narrator is that he is very selective in what he chooses to take on. Ready Player One was the perfect fit for him. How much influence, if any, did you have on bringing Wil into the project, and how excited were you to find out that he would be narrating? Also, any plans for an 8 Track version of the audiobook?
Ernest: I get to take all of the credit for choosing Wil to do the audio edition. Initially, Random House planned to have me read the audiobook, because I’d done some spoken word performance a long time ago. But I’m not an actor, and I knew I wanted someone who could bring all of the characters to life. I also needed an actor of my generation, who would be familiar with (and be able to properly pronounce) all of the pop culture and video game references in the story. That’s a tall order. Before I even finished the book, I think I knew I wanted Wil to do the audio book. I was certain he’d be perfect, and I was right. When I heard the first clips of his performance, I squeed like a little girl.
If we put the audio book out on 8-track, it would have to be spread across fifteen or more tapes. Unwieldy. On the plus side, then we could listen to it on the 8-track player in Leopardon!
Bob: Besides having the frakkin’ awesomest author website I have ever seen, you have a site for your car, The ECTO88, which is a totally geeked out DeLorean (of Back to the Future fame) which is similar to Wade’s OASIS vehicle in Ready Player One. Tell me some of the amenities of the ECTO88 and what you had to go through to get it just how you wanted it.
Ernest: Well, when I bought the car, I knew I wanted to trick it out like Parzival’s DeLorean in the book, which combines elements from Doc Brown’s Time Machine, KITT from Knight Rider, the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, and Buckaroo Banzai’s Jet Car. So I went on the Internet and found a Flux Capacitor, and Oscillation Overthruster, and a wide array of Ghostbusting equipment, including a screen accurate Proton Pack (which rides shotgun). Then I installed a blue KITT scanner on the front of the car and got some personalized ECTO88 license plates. Then I took my time traveling, Knight Riding, Ghostbusting Jet Car out on the road. It was a big hit on my tour.
Bob: On a totally unrelated question (OK, maybe not totally) Do you think that Dan Aykroyd can actually pull off a somewhat decent Ghostbusters 3 whether or not Bill Murray participates?
Ernest: Definitely! Actually, I already think of the Ghostbusters Video Game that just came out as the Ghostbusters sequel I’ve always wanted to see. All of the original actors (including Murray) do the voices, and Aykroyd and Ramis wrote the script.
The notion of a new Ghostbusters feature film both excites and terrifies me. It could be amazing, or it could be a train wreck like GB2. Fingers crossed that it’s the former.
Bob: Were there any uber-geekish ideas or products that you wanted to fit into Ready Player One, but just couldn’t or ended having to edit out that you would like to share with us?
Ernest: No, I didn’t have to leave out anything. I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Of course, now that the book is published and out in the world, I keep discovering that I somehow failed to mention several of my favorite bands or movies. Like the Talking Heads, for example. They’re one of my favorite 80s bands, but somehow I left them out of the book. I would like to publicly apologize to David Byrne..
Bob: Finally, what does the future have in store for Ernest Cline? Any upcoming projects that you are able to talk about?
Ernest: I have a lot of different irons in the fire. Right now I’m working on a geeky coming-of-age movie set in the late 80s. Sort of my version of Dazed and Confused, but instead of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, my characters are steeped in Dungeons & Dragons, arcade games, and comic books.