Anything local author Ernest Cline touches turns to gold. This is apparent in his debut and sophomore novels, both of which are New York Times best sellers. Additionally, his book Ready Player One has received a movie deal with none other than director Steven Spielberg.
In conjunction with the paperback release of his second book, Armada, Cline is currently on a national book tour and hosting two events in Austin. To give fans the opportunity to meet the local author in person, the first event features a talk, Q&A, and book signing at BookPeople on April 12. The second is a book signing at Austin Books & Comics on April 23.
Both Armada and Ready Player One infuse ‘80s pop culture references, appealing to a wide demographic and cultivating a loyal following, especially among gamers and sci-fi enthusiasts. You can expect both events to be packed with fans looking for insight into the futuristic worlds Cline creates through his books. And, if you’re lucky, you might get to see his time-traveling DeLorean, which he frequently takes to events.
We got a chance to catch up with Cline to discuss his books, new movie, and favorite Austin hangouts.
CultureMap: Both of your books and screenplay are inspired by ‘80s culture yet appeal to everyone. Why do you think they have cross-generational appeal?
Ernest Cline: The ‘80s were a golden age for movies, music, and video games, and many of those touchstones continue to resonate with people of all ages today. Like Star Wars, for instance. The ‘80s also gave rise to the home computer era, which led directly to the modern Internet age we live in today. And because of the Internet, there's no longer any such thing as an obscure reference. Any movie, book, song, or video game from the past can now be accessed instantly on your mobile phone. So readers who weren't even alive in the ‘80s can easily enjoy all of the artifacts from the past mentioned in my books as they're reading them, which makes them into a kind of multimedia experience.
CM: The project is still in its early stages, but how involved will you be with the Ready Player One movie adaptation?
EC: The RPO movie is actually about to start filming in two months! And I've been lucky enough to be very involved in the adaptation process so far. I wrote the first few drafts of the screenplay for Warner Bros., and the current screenwriter, my friend Zak Penn, has consulted with me frequently while working on the shooting draft of the script. It's a dream come true for me as a novelist, to have my book adapted by such an incredibly talented group of people.
CM: Can you give us the scoop on your new book?
EC: Sorry, no. It's still top-secret. But if you enjoyed Ready Player One and/or Armada, I think you'll enjoy my third novel too.
CM: If you could be Wade Watts [main character in RPO] or Zack Lightman [main character in Armada], who would you be?
EC: Well, one lives in a dystopian future and the other has to live through an alien invasion, so I wouldn't really want to trade places with either of them. But if I didn't have a choice, I'd probably go with Zack. He lives in the present day, and his circumstances are a bit less grim than Wade's situation.
CM: What are your go-to entertainment spots in Austin?
EC: The Alamo Drafthouse is my church. My daughter and I also love Pinballz Classic Arcade.
CM: What can people expect from the BookPeople event on April 12?
EC: I'll be giving a talk about the various inspirations for my second novel, Armada, followed by a Q&A and book signing. And my ghost-busting DeLorean, ECTO-88, will be parked outside the bookstore for photo ops!
CM: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
EC: To promote the Armada paperback, we're holding a high score contest for one of the video game's mentioned in the novel. Everyone who enters will receive a collectible Earth Defense Alliance patch, similar to the patches that Activision used to give out to Atari gamers back in the day. The grand prize for our contest is an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset, autographed by me and Palmer Luckey. I'm not personally eligible to win, but I'm still trying to get one of the top scores, just for the bragging rights.