If you got into the driver’s seat of Ernest Cline’s Ghostbuster-themed DeLorean, drove it to 88 miles per hour (the speed necessary to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electric energy via the plutonium powered nuclear reactor), engaged the flux capacitor, and traveled back in time to tell 13-year-old Ernie what success his novels would generate, he likely wouldn’t have believed you. “I sometimes look around hoping to see two cats walk past me, again and again, just to make sure that I am not dreaming,” present-day Cline notes.
Fortunately for Texas A&M University-Kingsville, this is not a dream. Cline, author of New York Times Bestseller “Ready Player One,” which is currently in pre-production for a 2017 motion picture release, visited campus grounds on Thursday, Feb. 4, as his breakthrough novel was selected as this year’s University Common Read. The author, who is screenwriter for both “RPO,” as well as his second novel, 2015’s “Armada,” remains humbled amidst all of the commercial acclaim. “The fact that both novels are being adopted into feature films and the fact that I get to go to universities all over the country based on the literary success of these novels is something I could have never imagined.”
The journey from screenwriter, to novelist, then back to screenwriter, is one that Cline describes as being done out of necessity, allowing him to make sure that the vision of his work stays true to its original form. When discussing what that transition has been like, Cline says, “The main difference is that you have a lot more liberties when you are both the author and the screenwriter.” Having written the screenplay for the 2009 indie film “Fanboys,” Cline describes the experience as being unpleasant at best, not only for himself, but also for director Kyle Newman.
“A lot of what I wanted had been edited and changed. Eventually a lot of things got taken out of my hands, and then the director’s hands. This was my way of cutting out the middleman, so even if what I adapt to my screenplay eventually gets changed, at least I’ll know the majority of what comes out came from me.”
While grateful for all of his success, the Austin-based author remains grounded by the fact that he is able to do what he loves for a living. It’s a message he hopes to get across when speaking to any group of young people that may be hindered by the fear that they are not able to achieve their dreams. “I say follow your passions. [Steven] Spielberg grew up making movies with his Super-8 camera, as did J.J. Abrahams. I ended up doing the same thing and never stopped,” Cline advises.
What brings Cline’s story full circle is that Spielberg has been announced as acting director for the screen adaptation of “RPO.” “I grew up on ‘Indiana Jones,’ ‘E.T.’ and so many of his movies. They all had such a huge impact on me, so now that he is going to be directing ‘RPO’ is really just another dream come true.”
Besides being the perfect choice to bring his dystopian-future sci-fi story to life, Cline says having Spielberg as the director is beneficial in more ways than one. Not a stranger to referencing film and television franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek, or using influential rock music from the band Rush, Cline says Spielberg is already at work trying to ensure that this film project goes much smoother than his last experience. “Since there are so many cultural references in the book, he’s already begun using his connections to make sure that we’re able to attain the rights to as many resources as we possibly can.”
While the author has little to say about his third novel, which he is currently working on, Cline admits that at some point he would like to at least play around with the notion of a videogame centered on the events of “RPO” would be another perfect collision of worlds. “The world of OASIS is centered around virtual reality and is something I can definitely see taking form in some kind of MMO [massive multiplayer online] experience.” Cline, well aware that his film is set to coincide with the release of two virtual reality gaming displays, the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, by Microsoft and Sony respectively, says, “They’ll all be coming out in 2017; sounds like a perfect fit.”