The Ticket That Exploded is a novel by William S. Burroughs first published in 1962 by Olympia Press and later published in the United States by Grove Press in 1967. It is the second installment in a trilogy of books created using the cut-up technique, often referred to as The Nova Trilogy. The novel follows The Soft Machine and precedes Nova Express in an anarchic tale concerning mind control by psychic, electronic, sexual, pharmaceutical, subliminal, and other means. Passages from the previous book and even from this book show up in rearranged form and are often repeated. This work is significant for fans of Burroughs, in that it describes his idea of language as a virus and his philosophy of the cut-up technique. Also, it features the cut-up technique being used by characters within the story. The Ticket That Exploded also lays the groundwork for Burroughs' ideas of social revolution through technology, which he would later detail in his essay The Electronic Revolution.
The basic nova technique is very simple: Always create as many insoluble conflicts as possible and always aggravate existing conflicts-This is done by dumping on the same planet life forms with incompatible conditions of existence-There is of course nothing "wrong" about any given life form since "wrong" only has reference to conflicts with other life forms-The point is these life forms should not be on the same planet-Their conditions of life are basically incompatible in present time form and it is precisely the work of the nova mob to see that they remain in present time form, to create and aggravate the conflicts that lead to the explosion of a planet, that is to nova-
The Nova Mob: "Sammy The Butcher," "Green Tony," "Iron Claws," "The Brown Artist," "Jacky Blue Note," "Limestone John," "Izzy The Push," "Hamburger Mary," "Paddy The Sting," "The Subliminal Kid," "The Blue Dinosaur," and "Mr. & Mrs. D," also known as "Mr. Bradly Mr. Martin" also known as "The Ugly Spirit" thought to be the leader of the mob.
While the narrative of this trilogy of books, called The Nova Trilogy or The Cut-Up Trilogy, can be quite confusing, its influence can be seen in many places. It is said that the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction began with these works. Additionally, its influence can be seen in the work of many popular musicians. David Bowie and Brian Eno have been known to employ the cut-up method in composing their lyrics. The band Soft Machine is named after the first installment in the trilogy. DJ Spooky calls himself "That Subliminal Kid" after a member of The Nova Mob. Grant Hart of Husker Du formed a band called Nova Mob, after Husker Du disbanded. Many avant-garde and electronic musicians such as Genesis P-Orridge, Negativland, John Oswald, and many other techno and industrial music artists have created compositions using the technique of cutting up audio tape and rearranging the pieces to create new sounds and new signification of sounds, as is described in The Ticket that Exploded. (The technique itself, however, has been used in a musical context since the advent of musique concrète.) Also, the German film Decoder, which stars Genesis P-Orridge and Burroughs himself, is largely derived from the ideas in these novels. The Dutch band The Ticket That Exploded was named after the novel. Iggy Pop, in one of his most famous songs "Lust For Life", mentions Nova Mob member Johnny Yen, and also sings "well, that's like hypnotizing chickens", a line from The Ticket That Exploded.