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Reader’s Den, eReading Room

Reader's Den: "Software" by Rudy Rucker (Discussion #2)

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Thanks for tuning in for the second discussion of Reader's Den for June! This month we are discussing the science fiction classic Software by Rudy Rucker, which is the first book in The Ware Tetralogy.

This book exemplifies a style of writing Rucker has termed "transrealism." In his 1983 Transrealist Manifesto, he argues that the tropes of science fiction can be viewed as symbols for the "modes of perception," i.e. time travel can be seen as memory, while telepathy can be viewed as unfettered communication between two individuals.

Another important aspect to this approach is the way in which the author incorporates autobiographical details into the work. For instance, the character of Cobb Anderson is loosely based on the writer's father, who had recently suffered a heart attack, undergone bypass surgery, and subsequently left his wife for another woman at the age of 60. Rucker describes how, in many ways, writing this character was a way to "inoculate" himself from ending up like his father, who was haunted by thoughts of death, drank heavily, and was estranged from his family.

Sta-Hi Mooney, another key character in the book, is based on the author's friend Dennis, who he remembers as having "no internal censor." His fictional counterpart constantly speaks in slang, using terms like wiggly, stuzzy, and come shot! The text also abounds with curious words like pheezers (freaky geezers who fled to Florida after the collapse of social security in 2010), boppers (evolved, self-aware robots), and flickercladding (an insulating armor designed to protect temperature-sensitive circuitry).

This melding of the imaginary and the real is something found in almost every work of fiction. However, such autobiographical specificity calls to mind Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth, which rather consciously blurs the line between fact and fiction.

Discussion questions:

  1. Have you come across any other works that might be considered "transrealist"? Also, do you think science fiction is generally more or less realistic than other genres?
  2. Cobb Anderson, Sta-Hi Mooney, Ralph Numbers, and the Little Kidders are just some of the memorable characters that populate the book. Do you relate to any of them in particular and/or does it change your assessment to know that some of them are based on real people from the author's life?
  3. Did you find the language of the novel (such as slang words or terms for futuristic technology) easy to follow or distracting throughout the text?

This online book discussion is part of Sci-Fi Summer Reading 2011. Find more science fiction-themed programming at bit.ly/scifisummer.

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