Philip K Dick

Blade Runner. Original theatrical release poster by John Alvin.

I’m currently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick. Timely, I think, with the Blade Runner movie reboot rumors. But also because two memos of note surrounding the movie have gained recent attention. The first, io9 posted the article (via Reddit), Meet the three Blade Runner producers who hated Blade Runner and in particular the voice over they’d asked for to begin with. In retrospect, they were pretty far off base.

But the second one is a letter from PKD himself. Who was not offbase one little bit. He saw Blade Runner as a movie that’d have a great impact. I think he was correct.  He wrote the letter just before his death in 1982 just before the movie hit theaters. Unfortunately he missed seeing that impact.

In the letter he says, “Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day ‘reality’ pallid by comparison.”

As far as adaptations go, the movie didn’t stick to the story verbatim, but the changes made the movie compelling while still showcasing the amazing world that PKD created. One in which the meaning of humanity is explored in such a compelling way.

But reading the letter he wrote, I was struck by his conclusion: “My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER.”

He’d yet to see the amazing film legacy he left behind with the additions of Total Recall (1990/2012), Screamers (1995), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), A Scanner Darkly (2006), The Adjustment Bureau (2011) and others. To me, he’s left an enduring legacy of some incredible films directly adapted from his work, but also in his influence on so many others.

I’ll head back to my reading of androids dreaming of sheep and wait on the new Blade Runner. I certainly hope it lives up to the tradition started by the first movie.

I just wonder, what do you think PKD would think of his legacy now? And have you read any of his other stories you’d hope to see in the movies, or what other author do you think has had such success in well-written screen adaptations? Blade Runner and all the movies I listed above seem to be the exception to the rule, don’t they?

***

Ella Drake is a dark paranormal and science fiction romance author. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, & Goodreads. Her Science Fiction Romance, Desert Blade is a near-future post-apocalyptic romance from Carina Press. Currently available SFR: Silver Bound, Jaq’s Harp, Braided Silk & Firestorm on E’Terra. And now from Lyrical Press, MetalMark.

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7 comments

  1. Coincidence–I read “Do Androids Dream…” for the first time a few weeks back. Found it fascinating. Didn’t love it, but Dick addressed some great questions about what it is to be human.

    I’ve always found the movie absurdly overrated. There are awesome moments in it–the opening, some of the FX, Batty’s death, and the world-building is fabulous. But for me the film’s dead at its core. Deckard is the single most boring character Ford’s played. The narrative is inert and unengaging. Clearly Dick was dazzled by the technical achievements and the dense, dark world-building.

    Critics have completely changed their tune since they panned it in 1982; it’s now widely regarded as a masterpiece. Am I the only one who still thinks it’s a yawn-a-thon?

    Of the other adaptations, I’d say Total Recall (1990) is a far better movie. So is Minority Report. Though I suspect Dick wouldn’t be impressed by either–they aren’t “enigmatic” enough.

    I’m curious to read some of his other books.

    1. I can say you’re not the only one who thinks Blade Runner is overrated! My husband does as well. He’s always said his second favorite author is Philip K Dick (first being Roger Zelazny) and he really can’t stand that movie. So while I might blog about the influence of it on Science Fiction movies, he’d say it’s too dark to portray the characters in the original story. But we both enjoyed all the other movie adaptations we’ve seen.

      As for if Philip K Dick would’ve seen the other films as “enigmatic”, no way to know. From the letter I get the impression he saw his story more as a starting point for Blade Runner and he viewed the movie as something of a new direction for Science Fiction–but I wonder how much of his own story he actually saw in it in the end. Both Total Recall and Minority Report were well done movies and Total Recall had some amazing effects in its day. I haven’t seen the new one.

      One thing is for certain, PKD seems to have written stories filmmakers love to tackle. (As opposed to say, Zelazny).

  2. Glad I’m not the only one! That’s interesting, though, with your husband being such a big PKD fan. I think most PKD readers discover him through Blade Runner, so it’s unusual to find one who doesn’t like the movie.

    I’ve never seen such a zealous turnaround in public (and critical) opinion on a film as this one. It’s grown from a moody, murky misfire to something so dazzling and sophisticated that anyone who disparages it instantly loses SF street cred. Really fascinating. I have a few theories as to why it’s happened, but I’ve probably ranted enough. lol

    Yeah, the other movies are a bit hit-and-miss for me. Didn’t like Payback or Scanners, but I enjoyed A Scanner Darkly and The Adjustment Bureau. I wonder, are any of them close to PKD’s original stories? Your husband probably knows.

  3. I love Bladerunner so damn hard. The world, the cinematography, the darkness, the characters. The only thing that didn’t quite work for me was the Deckard/Rachel romance.

    I watched it for the first time so many years ago, alongside a yawning boyfriend who couldn’t stand the slow pace. Me, I was enthralled. I’d never seen anything quite like it. Instant and eternal love.

    1. I do love the movie, too. I’ve somehow lost my DVD of it & want a rewatch. I might need to plop down the money and replace it. But yeah. Picture my husband as the yawing boyfriend. LOL

  4. Interesting post, Ella. I’m (re)reading some things by Dick right now as well. It strikes me that his is one of the most fertile bodies of work for subsequent rework into film and audio. Long after his death we continue to see various dramatic treatments of his stories. It speaks to what a deep chord he struck with his writings and his imagination. To be that lingeringly thought-provoking is indeed an accomplish. Blade Runner was certainly an influence on my own science fiction, and his other works always grab me and then I go, oh, wait, that was by PKD *too*?? A true measure of his success.

    1. I agree. He really had such an incredible ability to create amazing worlds and put them to paper. And to add to do it in a way that leads us to question things without doing it in a heavy-handed way. His work is inspirational.

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