Rudolf von Bitter Rucker (born March 22, 1946) is an American mathematician, computer scientist, science fiction author, and one of the founders of the cyberpunk literary movement. The author of both fiction and non-fiction, he is best known for the novels in the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which (Software and Wetware) both won Philip K. Dick Awards. Until its closure in 2014 he edited the science fiction webzine Flurb.
Rucker was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the great-great-great-grandson of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
Rucker attended St. Xavier High School before earning a B.A. in mathematics from Swarthmore College (1967) and M.S. (1969) and Ph.D. (1973) degrees in mathematics from Rutgers University.
Rucker taught mathematics at the State University of New York at Geneseo from 1972 to 1978. Although he was liked by his students and "published a book [Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension] and several papers," several colleagues took umbrage at his long hair and convivial relationships with English and philosophy professors amid looming budget shortfalls; as a result, he failed to attain tenure in the "dysfunctional" department. Thanks to a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Rucker taught at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg from 1978 to 1980. He then taught at Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, Virginia from 1980 to 1982, before trying his hand as a full-time author for four years. Inspired by an interview with Stephen Wolfram, Rucker became a computer science professor at San José State University in 1986, from which he retired as professor emeritus in 2004. A mathematician with philosophical interests, he has written The Fourth Dimension and Infinity and the Mind. Princeton University Press published new editions of Infinity and the Mind in 1995 and in 2005, both with new prefaces; the first edition is cited with fair frequency in academic literature.
As his "own alternative to cyberpunk," Rucker developed a writing style he terms transrealism. Transrealism, as outlined in his 1983 essay "The Transrealist Manifesto", is science fiction based on the author's own life and immediate perceptions, mixed with fantastic elements that symbolize psychological change. Many of Rucker's novels and short stories apply these ideas. One example of Rucker's transreal works is Saucer Wisdom, a novel in which the main character is abducted by aliens. Rucker and his publisher marketed the book, tongue in cheek, as non-fiction.
His earliest transreal novel, White Light, was written during his time at Heidelberg. This transreal novel is based on his experiences at SUNY Geneseo.
Rucker often uses his novels to explore scientific or mathematical ideas; White Light examines the concept of infinity, while the Ware Tetralogy (written from 1982 through 2000) is in part an explanation of the use of natural selection to develop software (a subject also developed in his The Hacker and the Ants, written in 1994). His novels also put forward a mystical philosophy that Rucker has summarized in an essay titled, with only a bit of irony, "The Central Teachings of Mysticism" (included in Seek!, 1999).
His non-fiction book, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning Of Life, and How To Be Happy summarizes the various philosophies he's believed over the years and ends with the tentative conclusion that we might profitably view the world as made of computations, with the final remark, "perhaps this universe is perfect."
Rucker was the roommate of Kenneth Turan during his freshman year at Swarthmore College. In 1967, Rucker married Sylvia Rucker. Together they have three children. On July 1, 2008, Rucker suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Thinking he may not be around much longer, this prompted him to write Nested Scrolls, his autobiography.
Rucker resided in Highland Park, New Jersey during his graduate studies at Rutgers University.