Interview - Ready Player One Author, Ernest Cline

Recently released on paperback and reviewed by us here at Geek of Oz, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and, suffice it to say, this is the kind of novel that only a true geek could write. In my own words, Ernest Cline is the Gandalf to my Frodo, the Merlin to my Arthur or the Doc Brown to my McFly. What I'm trying to say is that through his debut novel, it is immediately evident that he is some kind of magical pop-culture warlock who presumably has an eidetic memory.

Thankfully for me, Mr Cline pulled over his DeLorean mid road trip for just long enough to answer a few questions!

Ryan: It is obvious that you have a genuine love for pop culture. Ready Player One is brimming with pop culture references and almost feels like the love child of The Last Starfighter and The Wizard. How would you describe the story?

Mr. Cline: I usually tell people that it's sort of like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, if Willy Wonka were a video game designer obsessed with pop culture, instead of a candy maker obsessed with candy. I've also heard people say that it's like the DaVinci Code, but with riddles based on classic video games and 80s movies instead of mythology. In the simplest terms, I think it's just a fun adventure story about a futuristic video game scavenger hunt. 

Obviously, we here at Geek of Oz have a life long love of pop culture, it permeates our daily life. What is your relationship with popular culture? 

Pop culture is the only real culture I've ever known. I've been surrounded by it and immersed in it my entire life, so it's impossible for it not to influence my writing. 

Does Willy Wonka + Steve Jobs = James Halliday? 

I would say that's a fair description. When I was writing the book, I was thinking more along the lines of Willy Wonka + Howard Hughes + Richard Garriott = James Halliday. 

To what degree is Wade Watts a reflection of yourself? 

I'm a geek who loves pop culture and drives a DeLorean, so we have that much in common. But Wade is a lot more isolated and anti-social than I ever was at his age. I spent a lot of time playing Dungeons and Dragons and classic arcade games, but I also had a large group of real world friends (geeky ones, admittedly) and a healthy social life. I tried to make Wade's isolation and social awkwardness much more extreme, due to the extremely grueling nature of his environment. 

After reading Ready Player One it seems as though it isn't the usual Sci-Fi novel where doom and gloom abound (thank you Phillip K Dick). How do you view the future of our species? 

Like all thinking people, I wrestle with bouts of extreme pessimism about the future of humanity. But overall, I try to remain optimistic. No matter how bad things get or how much we've screwed up our planet, you can never rule out human innovation. We have a knack for solving big problems with our big brains, especially when the survival of our species is on the line. 

You famously received a book and movie deal within the space of a day, an impressive feat to be sure! Can you fill us in on the current state of the film? 

The film is still in the early development stage at Warner Bros. I wrote the first draft of the script, and now they're looking for the right director. I'm hoping to announce big news about the movie later this year. Fingers crossed. 

What's next for you? 

I leave on my book tour for the Ready Player One paperback release next week. I'm driving my DeLorean across the country from bookstore to bookstore. After that, I plan to come back home and continue working on my next novel. It's a more personal coming of age story based on my own experience growing up as a huge geek in the Midwest during the 80s. 

Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us and thanks for such a brilliant novel. You really have captured the voice of geeks everywhere.


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