Every Geek worth his Lego bricks should be a fan of the movie Fanboys. It is by far one of the funniest tributes to the Star Wars saga that has ever been made. When I heard that the writer for Fanboys was releasing a new book based on a sci-fi future that is obsessed with ’80s geek-life, I had to check it out. Lucky for me, I had a chance to check out a preview copy. This is a great book. If you grew up with an Atari or maybe had a Commodore 64 back in the day, you are going to really enjoy this one. Cline really captures the feeling of those good old days in Ready Player One.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
GeekDad interview with Ernest Cline:
GeekDad: This book has been a huge hit with me! I have not been able to put it down. The characters are very relatable even though it takes place in the future, but the main driver (to me) in this story is the character Halliday. Where did the inspiration for this character come from?
Ernest Cline: My initial inspiration for Halliday came from Willie Wonka – the idea of a rich eccentric holding a fantastic contest. But I envisioned Halliday’s personality as more of a cross between Howard Hughes and Richard Garriott — an incredibly intelligent, slightly mad video game designer. I also made sure that Halliday and I were born about the same time, so that his pop culture obsessions/interests would overlap with mine and the other middle-aged uber geeks I know.
GD: From where did you get inspiration for the other characters?
EC: Wade, Aech, and Art3mis are each based on geek archetypes. The characters are amalgams of myself and different geeks I’ve known over the years, both male and female. The character of Aech is partially based on my friend Harry Knowles (but not entirely). The two Japanese characters, Daito and Shoto, are based on all of the Otaku (Japanese geeks) I’ve encountered in movies and anime, and on research I did into Hikikomori, the name given to young Japanese kids (usually boys) who lock themselves in their rooms for months or years at a time and retreat from society.
GD: We know that you can create movies; what made you want to tell this story in a book?
EC: After my experience making Fanboys, I wanted to tell a story with total creative control, so that I could make it as geeky and referential as I pleased. That’s really difficult to pull off when you’re making a movie for millions of dollars and someone else is putting up all of the money. But when you write a book, you can do anything you want, and that’s why I decide to write this story as a novel.
GD: Could you see yourself writing a screenplay for Ready Player One? Would it be a movie or television series – live action or animated?
EC: Actually, the film rights to Ready Player One sold to Warner Bros. the day after I sold the book to Random House. And since I was already established as a screenwriter, I was allowed to write the first few drafts of the screenplay. I handed in my last draft a few months ago, and that is what the studio is using to find a director. The movie will definitely be live action. The studio wants it to be a big budget summer movie, on the scale of Harry Potter or Avatar.
GD: You speak of ’80s culture with such high regard in this book, what does the ’80s mean to you?
EC: I was 7 years old when the ’80s began and 17 years old when they ended, so it was an incredibly formative decade for me. That was when I fell in love with movies, video games, computers, and a lot of the books and music that I still love today. I’m incredibly nostalgic for the ’80s, because I think that’s when Geek Culture really kicked in to high gear.
GD: Ok, I have to ask – Which is your favorite Star Wars movie and who is your favorite character?
EC: My favorite is the original Star Wars (Episode IV – A New Hope). I think it’s a perfect movie. And my favorite character is Luke Skywalker. A dorky farmboy stuck in the middle of nowhere who eventually becomes a bad ass Jedi Knight that brings down the whole Galactic Empire. Luke is the man.
GD: You started a really great debate in Ready Player One, which needs the artist’s opinion now: how do you feel about the movie Ladyhawke?
EC: I love Ladyhawke! It’s a really fun fantasy film with great performances by the entire cast. And that synthesizer-laden score gives it a healthy coating of ’80s cheese that makes it even more enjoyable. In fact, I may go rewatch it right now, as soon as I finish this interview.
GD: Can you tell us about your favorite D&D character?
EC: Saccloth of Shadowdale, the 18th level Thief-Acrobat I played all through high school. He wasn’t very tough, but he made up for it with bravado and smartass remarks.
GD: What video games are you playing now? What is your gaming obsession (until we get a real life OASIS)?
EC: I just finished Portal 2, which is amazing. I’m still somewhat obsessed with Quake Live and log on whenever I have a few free minutes. I have to avoid things like World of Warcraft or Minecraft, otherwise I’d never get any work done.
GD: What is next for you?
EC: I’m working on a geeky coming of age screenplay set in the ’80s. Sort of a cross between Stand By Me and Dazed & Confused – but with lots of roleplaying games, 8-bit computers, and vintage geekery. I’d like to make it as a low-budget indie film in the next year or so.
Be sure to keep on the look out for Ready Player One to hit shelves on August 16, 2011.