Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Electric Sheep

Day 176 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and yesterday, late in the day, a young man walked in the store and asked, "Do androids dream of electric sheep?"

"I don't know! Do they?" was my not-so-cool-I'm-someone-who-reads-Barbara-Pym response, but it was fun to say, and he actually enjoyed it.

Of course, what he was hoping for was the novel by Philip K. Dick, which we seldom have on hand for more than a day or two. Amazingly, the boss leaned over and pulled out the mass marketback from a stack at his feet, and the guy got it for $4, a real bargain, as this particular edition is $13-20 online now. It pays to walk into our store. (More about that, and military history, tomorrow.)

We also have an ex-library copy of Maze of Death ($100) and an edition of the Uncorrected Proofs of The Golden Man ($300) in the rare book room. Dick is a popular guy that everyone who loves science fiction tells me to read.

Because I live in the Land of Random Coincidii, my son had just checked Blade Runner (Director's Cut) out of the library and wanted to watch it that night. I hadn't seen it for a really long time, so it was all new to me except for Daryl Hannah's black eyes and acrobatics and Rutger Hauer's amazing beauty. What a complete world is created in that film. We had seen Inception the night before, with its phenomenal special effects on a high-density huge screen, and yet Blade Runner was just as rich, real, and intriguing, partly through atmosphere, and the consistency of rain and search lights.

Anyway, as the credits rolled, I said to the family, "This is based on a novel by Philip K. Dick," and just then the credit appeared, so I spoke the title, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? exactly when their eyes were reading it, and they were impressed by my esoteric knowledge. Otherwise, they think I am goofy.

The title itself comes from something else, also credited at the end of the movie, with thanks to William S. Burroughs and Alan E. Nourse (also hard to come by at Babbitt's). Wikipedia explains that Burroughs did a film treatment of Nourse's novel, The Bladerunner, called Blade Runner. I remember somebody trying to explain all that to me in the store one day, but I am grateful to find the details at Wikipedia now!

OK, time to count my bishops instead of my electric sheep. (It's sort of a Barbara Pym joke, Some Tame Gazelle.)

Whoa. But wait. The random coincidii just got freaky. There is a website called electric sheep about collective dreaming (theme of Inception). It might be time to stop blogging....


ron hardy said...

I agree with you Kathleen. Bladerunner stands alone in its achievement. Pretty close to a perfect film, including Vangelis' soundtrack. Ridley Scott also did another wonderfully atmospheric film, Labyrinth. And collective dreaming appears to be on the upswing. It seems more people are reporting on what has happened in their dreams when they are capable of lucidity-the ability to be conscious of yourself while in a dream. Very freaky. Also in California there is a dream encounter center that focuses on groups of people taking turns reporting on pieces of dreams that recently occurred. This apparently can lead to moments of a group sense of synchronicity or coincidence. And not surprisingly blogging and the internet have led to bundles of coincidii, your incident being a case in point

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Ron. This is really fascinating! I hadn't realized people were getting together to dream in real life, not just as a plot element in Inception. I like the idea that maybe we do dream collectively, in a natural way, working out some things together. Also, our human need for sleep always amazes me. We are so vulnerable when we sleep.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to dystopia!

Actually, I really enjoyed the dystopian novels of Philip K. Dick, John Brunner ("Stand on Zanzibar," "The Sheep Look Up"), Alan Nourse ("The Bladerunner"), and L.P. Davies ("The Artificial Man," "The Alien," "Who Is Lewis Pinder?," "Give Me Back Myself" were all terrific books). The first two authors' works you can still find - but Alan Nourse and L.P. Davies? You have to work to find them, but I think they are rewarding if you do. Whenever I go into a used bookstore I look for Davies' works - when I find them, usually they're retired library copies from the 1960s and early 1970s.

But, thinking of dystopia - there's also Clifford Simak's "Time and Again." A philosophical / spiritual dystopia produced by the progress of humanity into outer space, and not to be confused with Jack Finney's more playful "Time and Again." (Though it too has it's darker side. Finney usually published more playful works - though his "The Body Snatchers" certainly livened up movie screens, and could be looked at as a whole 'nother kind of dystopian vision.)