SFmag.hu: Why do you feel so excited about the eighties? Just because it was the decade of your childhood or for other reasons?
Ernest Cline: Primarily because that was when I grew up. I was seven years old when the eighties began and seventeen when they ended, so that was the most formative decade for me, and I’m still very nostalgic for it.
What is the source of the novel idea?
The original idea came when I wonder „What if Willie Wonka had been a video game designer.”
What kind of science fiction novels did influence you? In other words: what do you think, what are the literary antecedents of RPO?
Many of them are mentioned or referenced in the book. I would say the primary influences are Snow Crash, Neuromancer, and the Wonka books by Roald Dahl.
The story is like an old video game: levels, secret keys etc. Was this structure deliberate?
Are not you afraid that readers born after 1990 find the story irrelevant, and they can not sympathize with your enthusiasm?
I may have been worried about this a little before the book was published, but now that it’s been out for over a year, I’ve learned that it appeals to a lot of readers who weren’t even alive the eighties. In fact, it won an Alex Award, which is given to adult books that also appeal to younger readers.
What about the movie based on your novel?
The film rights were purchased by Warner Bros. I wrote the first draft of the script, but the project is still in development. They’re in the process of finding the right director at the moment.
In RPO the future world, including the U.S., is quite gloomy. Were you influenced by the dystopian writing of other American authors?
Somewhat. But my primary reason for making the future world so unpleasant was to give the virtual world of the OASIS more appeal.
Who was the model for James Halliday? A real person or somebody else?
He was inspired by a lot of different real people – primarily Howard Hughes and Richard Garriott.
Should we fear the coming of a powerful company like IOI today?
Big corporations are always a bit frightening, because they have so much power and no conscience. But corporations have also accomplished a lot of good things. I think you have to just each of them on their own merits.
Although the RPO is absolutely a geek novel, the ending suggests a different message. Do you agree?
I do disagree. The whole book is meant to be a celebration of what it means to be a geek. The ending of the book does make a case for spending part of your life offline and engaging in non-geek activities, which I think is a healthy attitude to have. It’s possible to overdo anything.
How do you feel as a successful first novel author? What does it mean to you?
Hopefully it means I’ll have the opportunity to continue to make a living doing what I love, writing books and movies.
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