Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, September 26, 2011

On the Shelf with Ernest Cline

One of the surprise literary hits of the season has been Ready Player One,a sci-fi novel set in a future where just about all of humanity escapes from the misery of the real world by living out their wildest dreams in OASIS,the ultimate in online virtual reality games.

The focal point of the plot is for young Wade Watts to discover the hidden Easter egg hidden within the game in order to inherit the company that still controls it.

As written by Ernest Cline,this book is a rollicking adventure that salutes not only video games but those who possess a vast knowledge of pop culture trivia(with an emphasis on the 1980s). The advance praise for the book was truly well deserved.

RPO is Cline's debut novel,which has already been optioned for film,and his previous credits include the screenplay for the cult movie Fanboys. He is currently on book tour,driving a Back to the Future style DeLorean decked out with a touch of Ghostbusters ECCO mobile,and we here at LRG were lucky enough to get a few words with him about RPO,the influence of the '80s and other geek subjects galore:

1) The plot of your novel,Ready Player One,is centered around an online video game played worldwide. How would you persuade someone who is either not into video games or unfamiliar with them to read the book?

Through hypnosis and subliminal advertising? I'm kidding. I honestly don't think you need to be at all familiar with video games to enjoy the book, any more than you need to be familiar with archaeology to enjoy an Indiana Jones movie.

A lot of people who don't play video games (like Charlaine Harris) have told me they still love the book, and that it works for them as a pure thriller about an epic high-stakes treasure hunt. I hope it does, because that's one of the things I was trying hard to accomplish with the story.

2) You wrote the screenplay for the 2009 cult film Fanboys-did you ever consider writing Ready Player One solely for the movies?

I briefly considered it, but then as the story took shape in my head, I eventually decided it would have to be told as a novel, and that it could probably never work as a movie.

Which is ironic, because I sold the film rights to Warner Bros the day after I sold the book to Random House. And since I was attached to write the first draft of the screenplay, it became my job to figure out how to adapt my unfilmable novel into a film. It was a really difficult job, but ultimately a very rewarding one. I have high hopes the movie:

3) Pop culture trivia from the 1980s is a key element in the book. What do you think accounts for the still strong appeal of that decade upon this generation?

I think my generation is nostalgic for the 80s because that was when we grew up, so many of our childhood memories are wrapped up with the pop culture of that decade. I think it was the same for our parents and their nostalgia for the 50s and 60s. But there was also something really unique about the 1980s.

It was the dawn of the video game and home computer era. We were the first generation to grow up with computers and video game consoles in our homes, and that also left a huge impression on us.

4) What is your favorite book,movie and video game from the '80s?

I have a hard time narrowing it down to just one favorite, but I can give you three of my favorites:

Book: Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
Movie: Real Genius
Video Game: Defender

5) Do you find it more encouraging or distressing that more and more people are willing to immerse themselves in the latest technology as soon as it's on the market?

I think it's natural, as strange as that may sound. We live our whole lives surrounded and assisted by technology now, so there will always be a huge demand for the latest and greatest gadget or application.

But there will also always be people who shun technology altogether. I think you have to find a balance between the two:

6) Are there any plans for a RPO sequel?

I have a rough outline of what the story might be, but I want to tackle a several other projects before I can actually start writing the book.

7) Total geek question-War Games or The Last Starfighter?

I can't answer this question! I love them both to pieces. You might as well ask me to choose between Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. I can't do it.

Since that is a hard choice to make,we will conclude by thanking Ernest Cline for his time and generosity,as well as wish him best of luck on his tour. If you're interested in seeing his amazing car for yourself,he will be making one more stop in Seattle next month.

Even if you don't get to check out the DeLorean,Ready Player One is a must read for geeks and non geeks alike who love a good old fashioned quest tale.

Guys like Ernest Cline do their part to hold up the torch of solid storytelling by blending the best of the old and the new school of pop culture delights with compelling characters and engaging dialogue,plus page turning narrative. Of course,a cool car doesn't hurt either:

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