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Author Ernest Cline visits Bellingham on tour

Author Ernest Cline signs his new book, "Armada," after speaking at the Chuckanut Radio Hour on Thursday, July 16, at Whatcom Community College.  Photo by Jesse Nichols
Author Ernest Cline signs his new book, “Armada,” after speaking at the Chuckanut Radio Hour on Thursday, July 16, at Whatcom Community College. Photo by Jesse Nichols

Best-selling author Ernest Cline spoke at the 90th Chuckanut Radio Hour at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham on Thursday, July 16, during the tour for his latest science fiction book, “Armada,” released Tuesday, July 14.

Cline is the writer of “Fanboys,” a 2009 comedy movie about Star Wars fans, and “Ready Player One,” his 2011 best-selling debut novel.

Steven Spielberg is currently set to direct the movie adaptation of “Ready Player One.” Cline said he estimates that the movie will begin production in 2016 and be released as early as 2017, depending on production schedules. Universal Pictures also bought the rights to “Armada,” he said.

Cline described “Armada” as a science fiction story in which humans have to fight off an alien invasion with drones controlled by video game consoles and other digital devices.

“It’s sort of an alien invasion where the outcome is decided by the video game skills of the two civilizations,” Cline said. “What if all the video gamers of Earth could use their video game consoles – their Nintendos, PlayStations, Xboxes, and their phones and their iPads – and use all their gamer skills that they’ve all kind of accrued over the last four decades to control drones to fight off an alien invasion?”

Cline said the virtual reality company Oculus gave him a pair of virtual reality goggles, which he used to research themes for “Armada.”

“When playing video games is research, you’re going to have a hard time stopping doing research,” Cline said.

Paul Hanson, general manager at Village Books and host of Thursday’s episode of Chuckanut Radio Hour, said he is a fan of up in the 1980s and enjoyed the science fiction cultural references in “Armada.”

“I felt like I was sitting in a room with my high school friends that I hadn’t seen in 20 years and we’re sharing these shorthand references about movies we’ve seen, about ‘Dune’ or ‘Conan the Barbarian,’” Hanson said. “I felt like I’d gone home.”

“Ready Player One” is currently a staff pick at Village Books. Lauren Sommer is one of the employees at Village Books who helped nominate the book as a staff pick.

“I just thought a lot of people would really like it,” Sommer said. “For his first novel, it’s incredible.”

Cline said he has been a science fiction fan since he was a teenager growing up in Ashland, Ohio. Cline said some of his main inspirations include “Star Wars,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Enders Game.”

“I would go to comic book conventions. I’ve waited in line to get my signature from Stan Lee and Gary Gygax and other kind of geek heroes of mine,” Cline said, while he signed autographs after the radio performance. “I know what it’s like to wait in line and be all nervous to get your stuff signed.”

Cline said he asks fans whether they like “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” during signings, writing “may the force be with you always,” or “live long and prosper” in their books, depending on their answer.

Chuckanut Radio Hour is a variety show presented by Village Books on KMRE 102.3 FM, said Sam Kaas, event coordinator for Village Books and 2013 Western graduate. The show has featured guests including Garrison Keillor, Cheryl Strayed and Sherman Alexie.

Kaas said he sent a proposal to Cline’s publisher in early 2015 for Cline to stop in Bellingham on his “Armada” tour. Kaas said the local culture makes Bellingham a great place for touring authors.

“We have this kind of mecca of arts and culture and technology here in Bellingham,” Kaas said.

Kaas said this show attracted many new audience members who he hopes will return for future shows.


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