Matthias Penzel

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Rudy Rucker  

Rudy Rucker
im Gespräch mit Matthias Penzel

Matthias Penzel: Unlike with rock'n'roll interviews, the preparation for writers' interviews is immense (weak excuse, mediocre explanation). Unfortunately I have not managed to read all your books before this interview. Which one (talking about your fiction) would you single out as your masterpiece?

Rudy Rucker: That's like asking a father which child he likes best. I love them all in different ways. I do feel that as time goes by I get more mastery of my writing, so in that sense I usually think my most recent book is the best. Today that would be Realware. As a practical matter, it is in any case better for me to believe that my latest book is my best. I would not want to think that a book I wrote a long time ago is better than a book I can write now. I feel like I am still on the upward part of my trajectory.

Matthias Penzel: Although having been translated into German by Udo Breger who could probably be regarded as one of the country's leading translators, your books never quite cracked the German market - s that because they will always only appeal to a smallish cult audience anyway, or is it the matter of language?

Rudy Rucker: Maybe as the years go by, the mass of people will like my books more than they do now. It could be a matter of my being ahead of my time. Or it could be that my books are a little too esoteric for a true mass popularity. I write intellectual, high-literature, counter-cultural science fiction.
It could also be that my style of humor appeals more to Americans than to Germans. But at least one other country likes me: my books seem to be quite popular in Japan, perhaps even more so than in the U.S. I think all my novels are in print in Japan, which still remains an impossible dream for me in the U.S. But I still think my day will come. The trick is to try and have it happen before you die.
I'm sure that Udo Breger did a great job in translating my books into German, he was very meticulous and sent me lists of words he wasn't sure about how to translate, which is something very few translators think of doing. I wish they all would.
In any case, it's not in my interest to take the number of copies sold as my supreme yardstick of success. I'm happy that I'm published at all, and that my books do indeed speak deeply to some individual readers.

Matthias Penzel: What do you think is your most important activity?

Rudy Rucker: At the personal level, the most important thing I ever did was to father and help raise our three children. At the public level, my most important activity is writing, although maybe in the long run it's my sensibility that will have the most lasting influence: my combination of humor, anarchy and scientific engagement.

Matthias Penzel: Do you listen to your rock'n'roll on vinyl or CD?

Rudy Rucker: CD. I have a large collection of my old vinyl records, most in bad shape from much party use. The sound system I happen to have these days isn't compatible with a turntable so I can't play my vinyl records anymore. They're in boxes in the basement. My children want to inherit them.

Matthias Penzel: Who do you rate the most important writers of this century?

Rudy Rucker: I'll certainly vote for myself! Otherwise, not to make too long a list, let's say Kerouac, Pynchon, Borges, Burroughs, Kafka, Poe.
Pynchon is really the best of all. He is our James Joyce. The richest language, the deepest feeling. I was so sorry when I was done reading Mason & Dixon.
Borges has the best ideas, the fine language also, the dryness. Borges has a phrase that's of comfort to me (he's writing of Melville and Edgar Allan Poe), "Vast populations, towering cities, erroneous and clamorous publicity have conspired to make unknown great men one of America's traditions." Sometimes I like to imagine that's a description of me.
Kerouac and Burroughs are a special case. It's hard to point to many books by them that are really impeccably great. It's more a matter of great passages and of a great vibe, the beatnik vibe that had such an influence on me growing up. Speaking of beat sensibility, I always liked Charles Bukowski a lot as well.
I like to think of cyberpunk as a new kind of beat movement. The beats had Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso. The cyberpunks had Gibson, Sterling, Rucker, Shirley. Burroughs was the oldest of the beats, and I'm the oldest cyberpunk.
Poe and Kafka are a bit like the beats in that their sensibility has perhaps a greater influence than their individual works. In both cases there are not any fully successful novel-length works, although there are any number of perfect gem-like passages and stories.


Interview für: Frankfurter Rundschau.
Zitiert nach: Rudy Rucker: Seek! Four Walls Eight Windows, New York 1999

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