PKD Predicted…Well, Everything.

new_letters_walker-bladerunn

Five months before he died, Philip K. Dick (PKD to obsessive fans such as I) wrote this.

The movie Blade Runner which was adapted from his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep has, as we know, become a classic of modern cinema.

But PKD died a month before the movie was released and never got to see it in full.  It’s important to remember that, apart from being one of the most influential movies of all time, Blade Runner was also a huge commercial flop.  It completely bombed out in the cinemas and it was only through the gradual accumulation of cult status that the movie was saved from the dustbin of history. Which makes PKD’s prediction all the more Nostradamus-like:

The impact of Blade Runner is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people – and I believe, on Science Fiction as a field.

I have for a long time been a compulsive viewer of this movie.

Some people turn to Lord of the Rings. Some to Star Wars. Some to Harry Potter. Some depraved individuals even turn to Willow.

But I have always been a Blade Runner man (and to an equal extent, Alien) and so it was of no small importance to me when I came across PKD’s letter of October 11 1981.

I have to admit, I have read pretty much everything that PKD wrote.  And I still enjoy re-reading his short stories and novels.  Given there is less time to read than there once was, I turn to his shorts more often; somehow in their brevity they seem to contain the zaniness of his philosophy more fully.

Anyhow, I won’t rant about the glory of PKD any longer.  This short clip of a Nexus-6 replicant can do the talking.

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4 Comments

Filed under Books, Film

4 responses to “PKD Predicted…Well, Everything.

  1. I saw Bladerunner when it first came out. I tried to watch it again not long ago and for me it just doesn’t survive the 80s. (I finally turned it off at the rape scene, just couldn’t stand it any more). No reflection on PKD, who is indeed brilliant. Clockwork Orange, on the other hand, does.

    • Clockwork Orange is a brilliant movie – and an even better book. No argument there. Every time I open the Age and see another mindless bashing or violent brawl, I think how Clockwork Orange is moving from fiction into reality.

      But Bladerunner! How can you turn it off! The rape scene is problematic (I’ve met people who didn’t even realize it was a rape scene) but it simply boils down to another demonstration of Deckard’s character. I think it’s one of the best aspects of the film: that it shows us humanity through a glass darkly. All of the (supposed) human characters come across as morally bankrupt, whereas the replicants come across as more human than human.

      Whether you it or not, I think it’s impossible to argue against the film’s aesthetic impact. Look at the corner of Swanston & Burke and tell me our cityscapes aren’t starting to morph into scenes from Bladerunner? I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before we have giant zeppelins flying overhead telling us to move to the offworld colonies!

  2. A Clockwork Orange is fantastic, but Blade Runner has been one of my two favourite movies since I first saw it. Watching the “Final Cut” on the big screen (twice) 25 years later only underscored the timelessness of the film: it could have been released yesterday, some outdated references aside (google “Blade Runner curse” for instance).

    Granted, its strengths are more in depth of visualisation rather than depth of characterisation, deftness of theme rather than deftness of plot, but what visualisation! what a theme!

    Ridley Scott, Syd Mead, Douglas Trumbull, Jordan Cronenweth, (and Vangelis) et al – inspired by Dick – created a landscape (and soundscape) so rich in stratas, textures and implied back story, so high in impact, that it influenced cinema for decades to come and, as noted above, possibly the real world as well.

    And Dick’s novel and Hamptom Fancher and David Peoples’ screenplay raises questions about human perception and purpose so neatly ensconced in a detective/chase wrapper that it makes similar efforts by films such as The Matrix look as clumsy as they really are.

    Now, having put back the unicorn, fixed the ending, thrown out the voice over and corrected a raft of minor mistakes (such as the leftover reference to the replicant Mary), all they need to do is get rid of the rather expository opening slide and it’d pretty much be, for me, perfect.

    But am I the only person who can see Blade Runner on stage as a musical?

    • Hi Jean

      Thanks for the comment.

      I agree with you about the timelessness of the film. In fact, it still feels more ‘futuristic’ to me than almost any Science Fiction film since. The Matrix is a good case in point: it has truckloads of flashy CGI, a library-full of postmodern theory, and an enormous budged, and yet it feels bloated and overwrought next to Blade Runner. I think you are right when you say that a lot of the film’s success turns on the fact that they managed to combine a number of genres so flawlessly – detective, noir, and Sci Fi – generating a whole host of new meanings. It’s what Michael Chabon would call Borderlands Fiction.

      I think Blade Runner and Alien are the two most perfect expressions we will see in the genre. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they – along with a lot of Cronenberg’s best work and the Cyberpunk school – came about in the 80s. The literary unconscious of Reaganomics perhaps?

      But a musical…hmm I’m not so sure? “Tyrell Corp. More musical than human is our motto.”

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