Monday, August 31, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 25.3 (Philip K. Dick)

Dick, Philip K.
Do Andriods Dream
of Electric Sheep?

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

Having recently watched Blade Runner for the umpteenth time (if you need a reason to upgrade to HD, Blade Runner is it), I have been thinking a little about the relationship of books to movies. My general feeling is this: that if a filmmaker tries to be too faithful to the book, the movie will fail. The best adaptations, with a few exceptions, are stories that have been wrested away from their origins in order to make them into something else.

Blade Runner is a case in point. It uses Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep? as a foundation upon which to build its own spectacular world. But it is the world of Ridley Scott, not of Philip K. Dick. I think the film is at least the equal of the book, which doesn't take anything away from the book. There is much that I love about the book that appears only tangentially in the film.

The whole problem of biological versus manmade animals and the criminality of owning the real deal is quite central to the book. Animals form the emotional core of the book and are one of the most interesting things in it. In the film, however. this is only briefly revealed in the scene between Harrison Ford and Joanna Scott, who does burlesque with an android snake. None of this takes away from my love of either the film or the book, but I think it does illustrate the point: had Ridley Scott tried to be too faithful to the book, he probably would have made a lesser film.

from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

"Do you have your ideology framed?" Phil Resch asked. "That would explain me as part of the human race?"

Rick said, "There is a defect in your empathic, role-taking ability. One which we don't test for. Your feelings towards androids."

"Of course we don't test for that."

"Maybe we should." He had never thought of it before, had never felt any empathy on his own part toward the androids he killed. Always he had assumed that throughout his psyche he experienced the android as a clever machine - as in his conscious view. And yet, in contrast to Phil Resch, a difference had manifested itself. And he felt instinctively that he was right. Empathy toward an artificial construct? he asked himself. Something that only pretends to be alive? But Luba Luft had seemed genuinely alive; it had not worn the aspect of a simulation.

"You realize," Phil Resch said quietly, "what this would do. If we included androids in our range of empathic identification, as we do animals."

"We couldn't protect ourselves."

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