Rudy Rucker: High-concept mathematician, hard-core cyberpunk

Summary:Sentient robots made of fungus and plastic. 4D mathematically enhanced drug trips.

Sentient robots made of fungus and plastic. 4D mathematically enhanced drug trips. Hamburgers made of cloned human meat. If Rudy Rucker's vision of the future comes true, these are just a few of the things we'll see every day

Rucker is a true renaissance man for the information age. He is a mathematician, computer scientist, artificial life software developer and writer of nonfiction books as well as cyberpunk novels. His nonfiction works strive to translate the esoteric world of modern mathematics into terms non-mathematicians can comprehend. Perplexing mathematical constructs such as caustic nephroids and nonstandard transfinite numbers are presented in lay terms.

In a similar way, his fiction novels take complicated scientific concepts and overlay them with more down-to-earth surroundings. One main character is a superintelligent, shapeshifting fungal robot who spends her days as a maid. Another character designs four-dimensional tessellation algorithms, but spends most of his time surfing and smoking pot. High-concept science and mathematics is melded seamlessly with the underbelly of day-to-day life.

Recently, Rucker stopped by The Site's studio. Following is his reading of an excerpt from "Freeware." You can also read Soledad O'Brien's interview with him.

Excerpt from Freeware:

Monique was a moldie: an artificial life form made of a soft plastic that was mottled and veined with gene-tweaked molds and algae. Although Monique was a being with superhuman powers, she was working as maid, handyman, and bookkeeper for the Clearlight Terrace Court Motel in Santa Cruz, California. The motel manager, young Terri Percesepe, occasionally worried about Monique's motives. But the moldie's work was affordable and excellent.

Pulling clean sheets off her cart for room 3B on this sunny October morn, Monique resembled a short, Indian-blooded Mexican woman. Her skin was a coppery orange with irregular veins of green and blue lichen just below the surface. Rather than forking into legs, her lower body was a solid tapering mass that fluted out into a broad bottom disk-- Monique was shaped more or less like a chessman with arms, like a pawn or a queen or a knight. The exact appearance of her humanoid head and arms was something she could tweak according to the realtime situation. But when Monique relaxed, like now, she looked Aztec.

Monique's disk-shaped foot had ridges on the bottom, piezoplastic imipolex ridges that could ripplingly glide Monique across level surfaces. For more rapid progress, or on an irregular terrain, Monique could hop. If the utmost speed was called for, she could flip her body out of the chessman mode and go over into another of her body's stable attractor modes, a mode in which she could fly. In this alternate Pelican mode, Monique became a set of great, flapping wings attached to a big-eyed, tapered body resembling the Brown Pelicans who dive for fish along the Santa Cruz coast. But all in all, Monique looked like a woman, sort of, most of the time.

Bibliography

Nonfiction:

Mind Tools, Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
The Fourth Dimension, Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
Infinity and the Mind, Bantam, 1983; Princeton Science Library, 1995.
Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension, Dover, 1977.

Fiction:

Freeware, Avon Books, 1997.
The Hacker and the Ants, William Morrow & Co., 1994.
Transreal! , WCS Books, 1991.
The Hollow Earth, William Morrow & Co., 1990.
All the Visions, Ocean View Books, 1991.
Wetware, Avon Books, 1988.
The Secret of Life, Bluejay Books, 1985.
Master of Space and Time, Bluejay Books, 1984.
The Sex Sphere, Ace Books, 1983.
The Fifty-Seventh Franz Kafka, Ace Books, 1983.
Software, Ace Books, 1982; Avon Books, 1987.
Spacetime Donuts, Ace Books, 1981.
White Light, or What is Cantor's Continuum
Problem, Ace Books, 1980.

Topics: Tech Industry

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.