Fellow Intellectuanauts, Let's Change Gears; or the Ware Trilogy as Comic Spoof

Matthew Hutson

Okay, fellow intellectuanauts, let's change gears. I know it's kinda hard coming down off of those Baudrillard/Harroway highs, but dude . . . take a look at the Ware covers, for dog's sake. I mean, it's just like they say -- if you can't judge a book by its cover, then get out of the kitchen. Or, um . . . . yeah. I think one phrase says it all: "Don't worry, we've saved your free will subroutines." (I don't know the page number because I'm paraphrasing from memory.) That should have been enough of a hint to relax our theoretical discipline a little bit and encourage a different perspective, but no, we had to go and tear the thing apart anyway.

I'm not innocent. Halfway through Software, I was planning my essay on the topology of consciousness as suggested by Rucker, but then I caught on. It's too bad this didn't happen before we talked about Rucker in class, because I pretty much dismissed his entire trilogy on the grounds that the software/hardware dichotomy was so far out as to make anything related to it irrelevant to any kind of intelligent discussion. Soon after, I outgrew this view and realized that the books are funny as hell.

Software is a game, a cartoon, a comic book, a trip. It's not a formal dissertation on the state and future of artificial intelligence or sociopolitical theory of capitalism and biological engineering in the near future. I mean, Rucker probably wrote the damn thing in a haze of smoke and colors. Reading this book at the beginning of the course could have put a destructive spin on the rest of our discussion of relevant issues by establishing a warped precedent, but at this point, I think it serves well as an instigator of tangent issues spawning from our considerable foundation of theory and literature.

Some feel that Rucker disqualifies his book from the category of lighthearted play by infusing the plot with offensive racial and sexual stereotypes. Perhaps my status as a white heterosexual male provides immunity from such offense, but I had two different reactions to these political monstrosities: either I laughed at them or I ignored them. "Velly nice! Happy Croak! Alla same good, ferras! Something rike yellyfish!" (86) Hee hee.

Despite popular opinion, I quite enjoyed the prose. Rucker described certain altered forms of consciousness convincingly, for instance the cocaine&pot scene in the Boltsadrome (150): "He started to giggle, thinking of the tiny note-shaped bumps traveling down the wires like white mice swallowed by a python. God, he had good ideas!" . . . "Sta-Hi sizzled off a few more hot chords and then threw his hands in the air. 'You're talking to Sta-Hi Mooney, fluffy. I've got the weenie, you've got the bun, put em together and have some gum.'" What?! That made no sense. But it's funny shit.

I especially appreciated how Rucker's style molded to the current mind set of the relevant character. "Old. Getting old. Coming down gets too old. Does that even mean anything? Language was a flat tire. Talk broken, but keep talking. Regroup." (Wetware 11) After that in Wetware Rucker goes into the stuff about people melting together, and that squealing, hissing universal-animal thing in a cage. Am I going to try to critique Rucker on the medical authenticity of such a claim and thoroughly derive its implications, or am I going to laugh myself silly? I mean, this is the kind of thing that appears in South Park ("In this cage I have spliced a beard, a piece of chalk, and some cheese. Over here you can see my four-assed monkey.")

Regardless, the plot did touch upon many sufficiently interesting issues, though it may have dealt with them poorly. Rucker gave me few answers but incited many questions. Thus,I think if we are to draw depth from his works, we should not concentrate on how Rucker handles complex issues, but rather focus on the complex issues themselves and, if necessary, leave Rucker's interpretations in the dust. Come shot!

[To other discussions of Rudy Rucker's - Ware trilogy (Software, Wetware, and Freeware) by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]