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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Philip K. Dick; letter to Jeff Walker regarding the film, Bladerunner (1981)

Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982) was an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist whose published work during his lifetime was almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states. In his later works, Dick's thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences and addressed the nature of drug abuse, paranoia and schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS.

The novel The Man in the High Castle bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction, earning Dick a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, a novel about a celebrity who awakens in a parallel universe where he is unknown, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel in 1975. "I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards," Dick wrote of these stories. "In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real." Dick referred to himself as a "fictionalizing philosopher."

In addition to 44 published novels (as of January 2010), Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, nine of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

Blade Runner (1982), based on Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford. A screenplay had been in the works for years before Scott took the helm, with Dick being extremely critical of all versions. Dick was still apprehensive about how his story would be adapted for the film when the project was finally put into motion. Among other things, he refused to do a novelization of the film. But contrary to his initial reactions, when he was given an opportunity to see some of the special effects sequences of Los Angeles 2019, Dick was amazed that the environment was "exactly as how I'd imagined it!", though Ridley Scott has mentioned he had never even read the source material. Following the screening, Dick and Scott had a frank but cordial discussion of Blade Runner's themes and characters, and although they had incredibly differing views, Dick fully backed the film from then on. Dick died from a stroke less than four months before the release of the film.

More on PKD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick

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