Last night I made the hour-long drive up to Seattle to meet a true inspiration of mine.
When I first came in contact with Ernest Cline’s work, it was sort of out of happenstance. At that time I had been listening to a weekly podcast called Writing Excuses and had become a fervent fan. The podcast is run by an experienced group of writers who, throughout each segment of 15-minutes, give helpful writing advice to eager listeners. Halfway through each episode, the crew gives an audiobook recommendation. On one particular episode, they plugged Ready Player One.
Whatever, I thought. Sounds fine. I wasn’t really busying myself with any grand mission, and if it meant fueling my mind with more of what interested me, then I was cool with it. I downloaded the audiobook and let the voice of Wil Wheaton sing me the rest of the way home. And that was all it took.
I was hooked.
So as to keep this spoiler-free, I’ll just give enough to tantalize.
The setting of the story is in the not-too-distant future. No one spends life in reality any longer as everything takes place in the virtual world – a digital reality. After you put your mask on and log in to the Oasis, you can see, hear, smell, taste and even feel any part of the new world. You can both go to school and go off on adventures, killing monsters, or traveling to different planets.
The creator of this virtual world, Mr. Halliday, has died, and is leaving his entire estate to the one who can find an egg hidden somewhere within the near-limitless digital universe he’s created. Obsessed with the 1980s, Halliday leaves clues in a mountain of media from his favorite decade.
Years after the contest is announced, one young protagonist without a penny to his name finds the first of three keys, earning him both prestige and a bounty. The race is on, as is the chase, as Wade Watts (username: Parzival) runs through a gamut of ‘80s movie and video game knowledge to get to the finish line, alive.
I left the buds in my ears and stayed high until I had to come down. As a child of the 80s, I wanted to live in the world that Cline created. It was nostalgia to the Nth degree. Movies, games, characters, actors, directors, all of it was there. It was nonstop amazing.
When I was done, I needed to have a signed copy of that slice of literary love, no matter what. I checked his website and sent an e-mail asking how I could get a copy, but never heard back. I knew the dude was probably busy and actually had a life, no worries.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. You must understand that since I finished that book, I have been telling people about it incessantly. It was the best book I’ve read in two years, hands down, and dammit, people have to know about this. So, I decided to check his web-site one more time. I find out that he’s going on a book tour, and that he’s going to be in SEATTLE!
BAM! Slam a Sharpie down on my calendar, circle the date, and it’s happening.
Yesterday, Kerrie came home from work, dropped off the car for me and I rolled. Got a parking spot right in front of Elliot Bay Bookstore with five minutes to spare, and took a seat just before his introduction.
What a cool cat Ernie is. He announced right away that he wasn’t going to read from his book because no one could do it better than Wil Wheaton. Instead, he just talked to us a bit about his life and how he arrived at where he was.
He talked about his love for all things geeky his whole life, his attraction and discovery of this “geek culture”, the people he surrounded himself with, what motivated him, his love and passion for Star Wars (which was the impetus for writing the screenplay for Fanboys) and on and on. He talked about how when they shot part of the movie, he gathered up all his Star Wars toys and sneaked them on the set so they would forever be immortalized as a true part of the SW universe.
He spent over 10 years conceptualizing and working on the novel. That’s such a powerful idea. It was another reminder to live your passion. It brought to mind one of my favorite quotations by Thoreau:
“If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life that you have imagined, you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Long story, short, I shook his hand and he signed my book. I told him what an inspiration he was for me and he was humble and all. What a cool cat.
Okay, so if I haven’t praised it enough, allow the following to so. If you love adventure, video games, anything ‘80s, technology, sci-fi, fantasy, action, or just want to read a cool, creative story, you must read Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. You must.
*Oh, I should also mention that Ernie’s giving away a Delorean (yeah, the Back to the Future car). Check out his website here for more info. Here’s a picture of me sitting in the aforementioned vehicle.
I must say, knowing that I’m sitting here, where Marty McFly sat (with the futuristic Almanac from BTTF2 behind me), and I’m doing it before the car is given to the winner of the contest, feels good.