More PKD on Bladerunner

Yesterday it was announced that the series of “Philosophy and…” (Buffy; the Matrix, etc) was finally getting round to Philip K. Dick. The call for abstracts stated that prospective authors should write as if people had only seen “his” movies, and tried to argue that PKD loved Blade Runner, quoting him as saying:

After I finished reading the screenplay, I got the novel out and looked through it. The two reinforce each other, so that someone who started with the novel would enjoy the movie and someone who started with the movie would enjoy the novel.

Putting aside the dubiousness of the first premise, actually PKD’s relationship with the movie varied very widely. He was alternately flattered by it, prepared to overlook it’s shortcomings, disgusted with it, and only well toward the end after the script had been rewritten by David Peoples, delighted and enthusiastic.

As evidence consider this from a letter he wrote in August 1981:

I do not have a love-hate relationship with Hollywood; I have a hate-hate relationship. What they have done to my novel (DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?) beggars description…A pair of testy baboons yoked to typewriters could have done better; my favorite line of dialog from it is: “Move and I’ll shoot you so full of holes you’ll think you’re a fart.” …I will be giving interviews; however; I plan to model what I say on Mark Anthony’s funeral oration in JULIUS CAESER (sic).

The line, of course, is “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him…”


One response to “More PKD on Bladerunner

  1. Dylan Wittkower

    It is true that his response changed over time, and I didn’t intend to misrepresent that. Perhaps I should have written this with relation to “the eventual final screenplay of Blade Runner” rather than with relation to “Blade Runner”? But then, when you speak of a movie, usually we are referring to the final product, not intermediary developmental stages. Still, I’m sure I could have put it better.

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to argue that PKD loved all/most of Blade Runner, but even if I had meant to, it wouldn’t have been relevant. I was presenting his eventual response to the finalized screenplay as a useful analogy. Just before the quote above, I wrote:

    “To put it another way, chapters should have the same relationship to Dick’s writing as Dick found Blade Runner to have to his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?:”

    My hope this that chapters in the volume should draw out, develop, and perhaps depart from philosophical elements of Dick’s writing, and I thought his quote here captured this nice middle ground: Not a mere interpretation, but also not a mere opportunity to talk about something unrelated. This is what the best volumes in this series do, in my opinion. The ones which merely interpret a cultural object I find to be interesting from a cultural studies perspective, but not so interesting philosophically, and the ones which merely use the cultural object as an opportunity to give a philosophy lecture I find to be pretty dull and condescending.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.