Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Been reading a lot of Philip K Dick short stories recently. The idea was to put myself into an ‘inspired to have lots of great SF ideas’ frame of mind without having make the effort of reading whole novels.
When I’ve finished the five short stories collections I’ll share my impressions, and no doubt make a list, but a few general thoughts.
Philip K Dick is a popular source of plots for recent SF blockbusters – the list includes Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, with no doubt more to follow. Plus films like The Truman Show, The Matrix and Being John Malkovich which aren’t adaptations of specific Dick stories but which certainly seem to be drawing on his themes.
Those themes tend to be quite high-concept, and all about the nature of consciousness in a universe where what you think you know to be true isn’t necessarily what is actually true. Whether it be the case that you don’t have free will, or that your memories have been faked, or that you’re a robot and you don’t know it, or that you’re living in a virtual reality and the bad guys have already taken over and no-one has noticed. A combination of philosophy and solipsistic paranoia that appeals to the adolescent in all of us.
The other reason I’m guessing his stories are popular is that firstly, many of them are detective stories, with him using a criminal investigation as a way ‘in’ to his fictional universe as the hero discovers that Something Is Not Quite Right With The World, and secondly that his stories are set at a time before computers, with punch-cards and tape-spools, which means there’s a lot of scope for the technology side of things to be sexed up with special effects.