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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 5:37 am 
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Let me just add that frigid is right on the money about Monstress and Kings of the Wyld.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 9:31 pm 
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Rat Queens Vol 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing
Written by Kurtis Wiebe, art by Owen Gieni


Welcome back folks and welcome to the first review of 2019! Let me just say I hope your holidays were fun and relaxing and get lets right into it. We're opening the year with Volume 5 of Rat Queens. Created and written by Kurtis Wiebe, a Canadian comic book writer who has written for Grim Leaper, Debris, and also created the World War II comic Peter Panzerfaust. This volume's art was brought to us by Owen Gieni, a veteran artist who has worked on comics and webcomics since at least 2001. Mr. Wiebe has had some trouble keeping an artist, the first artist was dismissed when he was brought in on charges of domestic violence and since then artists have either had to quit due to ill health or conflicts between them and Wiebe. I cover this in greater detail in past reviews of Rat Queens. Speaking of, it's been a bit since we discussed Rat Queens so let me touch on the core concept of the series.

The Rat Queens are a group of lady adventurers out to slaughter monsters and make money; living in an anachronistic world of fantasy that would most likely remind you strongly of an old Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I call it anachronistic because the Rat Queens and other characters of the series don't feel like medieval characters but modern westerners living in a world where the technology just hasn't caught up to them. That said this is a fantasy so magic often steps in making up for the lack of technology. The Rat Queens are a group of friends who you sometimes wonder how they can stand each other but despite that, they're all willing to go to the wall for each other. Our characters are the wildly dysfunctional elf sorceress Hannah, the ever-sunny Halfling rogue Betty, the introverted human cleric Dee, the shockingly sensible Orc barbarian Bragi (seriously this woman is a responsible homeowner who invests her profits with an eye to retire while traveling a career path of murderous rage) and the dwarf warrior Violet who is the adult in the room whether she likes it or not. The worldbuilding in the story is honestly uneven in my opinion, there are parts that are great and interesting and there are parts that don't hold up so well. Which lends itself to the feeling that this world was born on a tabletop somewhere. The strength of the Rat Queens series, however, lies in these characters and their relationship to each other. This is not a smooth harmonious group, there's friction, conflict, resentments but there's also friendship and serious desire to do right by each other and that can carry you fair distance. The group is also buoyed by a revolving but strong support cast of characters like Dave the Orc Druid, or Sawyer the repentant assassin turned Captain of the Guard and Hannah's on and off boyfriend/sex toy among others. That said these girls aren't the heroines of epic fantasy; they're mercenaries willing to do a good deed, but they wanna be paid for the trouble and they intend to spend their pay partying hard enough to do a fair amount of damage to any town they save in their own right.

The series has had some rocky parts in its brief history including having to go on hiatus until returning after volume III in a soft reboot of sorts. This volume sets out to explain the reboot in-universe and bridge the gap between volume III and volume IV. To make the story short, volume III ended with Hannah tossed into an interdimensional jail (for attempting to rescue her father from a death sentence) and about to cut a deal with a demon to escape. Volume IV has everyone back in town as if nothing happened. I'll admit this drove me a bit nuts as the events of Volume III clearly happened in some form but there was no explanation. Well, this novel sets out to explain what happened and why there was such a change between the two volumes. It does so by tying in a mystery that only Betty our drug loving sneaky halfling can answer. People are disappearing and worse no one remembers the people who disappear into thin air. Except for Betty, so she has to figure out why the people around her are vanishing and what if anything she can do about it... Before she's gone too. Betty takes center stage here and we get a full look into her past which has been hinted at before and we also get a bit of a peek into Betty's mindset and how she views the world. Which is interesting all on its own.

There is a theme of loss and regret running through the volume and how we deal with it as well. Of how we deal with lost loves one, missed opportunities, or how we deal with the hole in our lives and relationships when someone we care about is gone and the effects on our remaining relationships. Even if we can't really remember who is gone, that hole is still there and has an effect. How we deal with that is shown in the contrast between Betty and our villain who I won't name because of spoilers. I will say it's an interesting way of having the Queens create their own nemesis and I'm really eager to see where it goes from here. This volume of Rat Queens worked a lot better for me than the last one, but I feel we're not quite at the glories of the opening volumes just yet but I can see the path back from here. Rat Queens Vol 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing gets a B from me.

So quick note, February we'll be looking at Philip K Dick, the writer of so books that you have actually watched as a movie. Movies like Bladerunner, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report and more. We're gonna jump right to Bladerunner or as the book is titled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” this February and look at the movie and the sequel as well as discuss its impacts. Which I've touched on before but we could stand to take a longer look at.

Before we do that though, we got one more January review. Let's look at what happens when an empire collapses. Keep Reading.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:35 pm 
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The Collapsing Empire
by John Scalzi

John Scalzi was born in Fairfield California on May 10th, 1969. He was a 3rd generation Italian American, with his grandfather coming to the United States when he was a young child. He was also one of three children to a single mother, which meant that often his family struggled. He covers this in his essay entitled Being Poor. He was, however, able to get a scholarship and attend the Webb school; a private boarding school in California, and later the University of Chicago where he graduated in 1991 with a bachelor's in philosophy. He began writing professionally in 1990 freelancing for the Chicago Sun-Times. After graduating he wrote opinion columns and movie reviews for the Fresno Bee. He would get married in 1995 and the next year moved to Washington DC to take a job as an in house editor and writer for AOL. He was laid off in 1998 and since then has been a full-time writer. His writing career has been a memorable one, his first published novel Old Man's War (I highly recommend it) was published by Tor in 2006. It was nominated for a Hugo and Mr. Scalzi would publish additional works in that universe. He is also well known for the novel RedShirts in 2012 (The audiobook is read by Will Wheaton and it is an absolute treat). Mr. Scalzi has received enough rewards that going into them wouldn't leave us with enough space to review the novel. Let me just say that John Scalzi is a very respected author and he has earned that by writing good stories.

The Collapsing Empire takes place thousands of years in the future. Humanity lives scattered in the 48 star systems of the Interdependency, all of them connected by the Flow. The Flow is a poorly understood natural phenomenon that allows for faster than light travel along fixed streams from system to system. The economic and political systems of the Interdependency are centered and built around encouraging stable trade among the systems. This is done by traveling one-way paths within the Flow called streams. They sort of function as FTL rivers or currents pushing ships from system to system. When I say built around encouraging trade, I may be understating it a bit. With the exception of a single system, there are no habitable planets in the 48 systems of the Interdependency. The vast overwhelming majority of humanity lives in orbital habitats and none of the systems are completely self-sufficient. The systems are controlled by entrenched noble houses with trade being handled by Merchant Houses who have been granted total monopolies over certain products. This structure is undergirded by the Interdependency Church, a religion founded by the first Emperox (it's a gender-neutral title) that holds up the current social system as divinely ordered. The result is what we would call a hydraulic empire. A classic hydraulic empire is an empire that maintains control of its territory by controlling who has access to water, whether that be through flood control or irrigation. In fantasy and science fiction other resources often take the place of water (He who controls the spice controls the universe). In this case each of the Merchant Houses control resources or skills that you need to maintain human life in artificial habitats isolated in the void light years from any natural environment that humans could live on and each Merchant House lives under the gun of at least one Noble House with the Imperial House controlling both the center of the trade nets (so it can cut anyone who gets too troublesome off) and in theory enough military force to squash any single House (The Interdependency exists on a political tripod, the most unstable of structures. I can go on with the Dune references…). It's an incredibly stable and unmoving system as long as there are no problems with resource access.

As you might have guessed, there is going to be a problem. It turns out that those fixed streams in the Flow? They’re not actually that fixed after all. In fact, the entire Flow is shifting and moving, on a timescale measured in centuries or perhaps millennia but unfortunately for us, it's moving day. To be fair, it's not like humanity didn't have a warning here, the Flow cut off contact with Earth over a thousand years ago in the story and more recently another system was cut off, so it's clearly possible. However, no one wants to consider that the very bedrock of the system that has lasted for a 1000 years could simply decide to up and move away, except for a couple of scientists and their patrons. One of those scientists is Count Claremont, who was sent to End. End is the one system in the whole empire that has a planet that people can live on without much in the way of technology. However, it's poorly placed in regards to Flow streams, having only a single stream connecting it to Hub, the center of the Empire. As a result, End is a dumping ground for rebels, lunatics, and troublemakers who are allowed to fight it out amongst themselves as much as they like as long as they keep it confined to the planet surface and don't trouble the rest of the Empire. Count Claremont was sent here by the Emperox of the Interdependency so he could work without anyone bothering him and his work could be kept utterly secret. Because the Emperox was utterly sure that if the work became public that the vast majority of humanity would refuse to believe it and would waste time and resources fighting him instead of preparing for the disaster to come. Because if Count Claremont is right, each system is about to be cut off from one another for a very long time. Perhaps even forever and that means the only place where humanity is more or less guaranteed to survive is End. The place where they parked all their maniacs.

If that wasn't enough there are a couple more problems thrown into the mix. First of all the Emperox is dying and his only son and heir was killed in a freak racing accident, shortly before he started his own slide into mortality. This leaves everything in the hands of his daughter, who was born as the result of a short term relationship while he had in college. Cardenia is a nice girl, well educated, honest and strongly motivated to do good by her fellow citizens and prevent suffering whenever and wherever she can. She's also utterly untrained and unprepared to be the sovereign ruler of the human race and not really emotionally or mentally suited for the kind of cutthroat intrigue that comes with a throne in the best of times (You know, if I were an emperor and only had one heir, I would groom a number of backup heirs…{the law limits his options, not to mention politics}). Never mind the kind of intrigue that gets kick-started when you realize the entire system that your civilization and the survival of your species is based on is about to change beyond all recognition and there ain't a damn thing you can do about it. Because where you and I gentle reader would be throwing everything we got at ensuring our survival and the survival of the people we care about, there's a certain type of person who sees this situation and thinks to themselves, how do I use this to make sure I'm at the top of the heap when it's all over. Because some folks are perfectly fine burning everything to ash as long as they get to be king rat of the ash pile when the flames die down. Unfortunately the kind of steady state with very powerful ruling classes tend to encourage that type of personality in the ranks, which mean Cardenia not only has to try and prevent a mass extinction across several dozen star systems, she also has to figure out how to avoid being murdered in her sleep by people more interested in using it as a chance to take power for themselves.

She doesn't have a lot of time either, because the streams are gonna start shutting down, sooner rather than later. In fact, the stream that lets people leave End is shutting down and when Count Claremont realizes that, he sends his son Marce Claremont to Hub to report to the new Emperox and advise her on what to do. Marce soon finds himself in a good deal of trouble as it seems a number of forces on End are willing to do all sorts of terrible things to keep him on End at all costs. Which brings in Kiva Lagos of the House Lagos, who agrees to get him off End on her ship and ends up getting pulled into the intrigues. To be honest, Marce and Kiva end up being my favorite characters in this novel. Marce is a scientist and a rather decent one who is completely out of his depth in dealing with people trying to kill him. Which is fair because if you develop a society where your physicists have to constantly fend off assassination attempts, you're likely doing something wrong and not leaving them a lot of time to do actual science. That said Marce isn't a coward or a bumbler and shows himself to be a fast learner. Kiva, on the other hand, is a foul-mouthed, oversexed, clever lunatic who isn't afraid to resort to whatever measures she needs to in order to solve the problems in front of her. If that means using an assassin as bait to blow up pirates so she can escape a system with a cargo of wealthy refugees fleeing a revolution to make up unexpected losses in trade then so be it. I'm not sure I would want to be locked in a room with her but I can respect that level of bloody-mindedness and lateral problem solving and honestly, she's fun to read. Kiva is gonna need every ounce of bloody-minded cleverness she can summon, as she is getting pulled by Marce's company into the highest level of power games where people are gambling over becoming the ruler of the human race. Whatever's left of it anyways. That said I will say Marce and Kiva kind of overshadow Cardenia because if nothing else they get to do more.

The Collapsing Empire is a book of political intrigue as society unknowingly rushes to the very brink of collapse and I imagine for a number of readers that will feel very topical on some levels. The intrigue and plotting are well done and the characters are fairly interesting, although Cardenia is a tiny bit on the bland side. I like the effort and work that Mr. Scalzi put into the book. That said I do think the Interdependency kinda opened itself up to this by working to prevent any single system from becoming too self-sufficient. Even without a habitable planet, you can create self-sufficient living spaces using the resources of a star system. Most star systems are vast territories with enough resources (yes even water and carbon) and space to keep a technological civilization going indefinitely. Our biggest issue today is accessing the resources of the Solar System as living at the bottom of a gravity well (by which I mean our planet) makes getting anywhere else very expensive and difficult. Once you're out of the gravity well it's a lot easier. Not as easy as walking, but easier. That said Mr. Scalzi does address this in the book by walking us through the thought process behind creating such a system. I won't spoil the surprise though. It's a pretty good book, but I felt the ending was a bit rushed and as I said, Cardenia comes off as a bit bland. That's all I can say about it negatively. So I'm giving The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi an A-.

Next week, we start our celebrate Valentine's day by examining the career and writings of Dick. Philip K Dick, the writer of Total Recall, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report, Man in the High Castle and of course, the work we'll be examining this month, Blade Runner. Next week will be our first ever biographical post as I go over Mr. Dick's life and times and then we'll be reviewing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the novel the film is based on), the final cut version of Bladerunner on the 3rd week of February and ending it with Bladerunner 2049 to see just how far Mr. Dick's influence reaches. Keep reading!

Red Text is your editor Dr. Ben Allen
Black text is your reviewer Garvin Anders.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:10 pm 
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So, before I start, it's not the intent of this overview of Philip K Dick's life and career to cast any moral judgment on the man, or to make you view him one way or another. That said Mr. Dick led a deeply troubled life and was a mentally and emotionally tormented person and I would ask everyone reading this to keep this in mind. Additionally, I wouldn't dare to consider this an exhaustive or in-depth treatment of Philip K Dick's life. In my defense, you try going in depth on a life of 52 years in just a couple of pages but I do want to give everyone a sense of the life behind the stories and the struggles that Mr. Dick was fighting while writing. As such, there is no grade attached to this, for honestly how do you grade a person's life?

Philip Kindred Dick and his twin sister Jane Charlotte were born 6 weeks prematurely in an apartment in Chicago in the month December 16, 1928. Their father Edgar was worked for the Department of Agriculture and served in the Marines in the first world war. Both Edgar and his wife Dorothy were from Colorado and born to farming families. Both Philip and Jane were very underweight and to make matters worse, Dorothy was not producing enough milk for both infants. However, no one would realize this until it was too late. Philip's life was saved when a nurse conducted a home visit in January of 1929 and realized what was going on. It was too late for Jane however and she would die on route to the hospital, not even 2 months old. She was brought to Colorado and buried in a small grave. This tragedy would be in many ways the foundation of Philip's life. He would remain obsessed with his twin until his death. He would invent imaginary friends who took her name and his imagined likeness of her. He would claim as an adult that he could hear her voice and would at times have visions of her as a full grown woman. Keep this in mind because I'll come back to this.

“I heard about Jane a lot and it wasn't good for me. I felt guilty. Somehow I got all the milk” Philip K Dick on his sister.

Edgar blamed his wife for the death of his daughter, and when Philip was about 4 years old divorced Dorothy. Dorothy kept custody of Philip however and went to work to support herself and her child. Like his father, Philip blamed his mother for Jane's death and their relationship was a deeply troubled one. While Philip admired his mother, calling her strong and intelligent, he also accused her of being a terrible Mother who was always trying to keep him down. Part of this was the insistence of many learned men (who due to the prejudices time would never bother actually caring for an infant) who insisted that it was best not to coddle infants and toddlers but to treat their physical needs without to much affectionate physical contact (which frankly explains a lot about that generation and certain things in our society I think). Dorothy being an intelligent, well-read woman whose confidence as a Mother had taken a near fatal hit, followed their proscriptions to the letter in an attempt to prevent her only remaining child from growing up into a damaged person. This not only backfired terribly but also in my view led to a lot of the issues that would prevent them from having a good relationship. Dorothy would be incredibly supportive of Philip the writer and he would constantly turn to her for advice and constructive criticism on his work but he would repeatably state his belief that Dorothy just didn't love him and was incapable of loving her children. Edgar on the other was an infrequent presence in his son's life and while Philip believed in his father's love, he also believed that his father was a weak man and not very bright. He would always maintain that Dorothy was the smarter and more driven of the two. Not that Philip was completely starved for affection, as after the divorce Dorothy's mother came to live with them, along with his aunt Marion. Philip's Grandmother treated him with the affection that was missing from his relationship with his Mother but there was a cost. Philip's Grandfather. A rather shiftless man who drifted into and out of his family's life as he saw fit, Philip's Grandfather would intrude on this life and become a figure of terror to Philip and was often abusive. While never proven, there is some evidence that his Grandfather may have sexually molested Philip as well. By the time Philip was seven however Dorothy packed up her son and moved to California, Berkeley California.

Philip would grow to adulthood there, his school attendance was a bit erratic but his grades were fairly good but by his own admission, they were never outstanding. Philip also developed a number of mental problems, he would first display the acrophobia that would haunt him on and off for the entirety of his life as well as issues swallowing food and a complete dread of eating in public (he would be able to combat this in his adult life but have relapses). Dorothy treated him in a fairly adult manner at this time, which did seem to keep him stable. It was here at the age of 12 in the year 1940 that Philip had his first experience with Science Fiction, buying an issue of a magazine titled Stirring Science Stories. He started devouring the pulps, reading any he could get a hold of. When World War II kicked off, Philip rooted for the allies but was always suspicious of FDR and the American government, wondering just how much he was told was actually true. He would start hearing voices, for example during a physics test he had a panic attack when he couldn't remember the theory the test was based on. He would then report hearing a voice that explained the theory and guided him step by step in problem-solving. He would pass the test. After high school, he moved out as soon as he could believing he needed to escape his mother's influence. He moved in with a bunch of artist friends and through them begun an exploration of classical music and literature that would continue until his death. He also started working in a record store at the age 15, where his boss Herb Hollis would become the model for a number of protagonist and antagonist. Herb lived a life of craftsmanship (the store would repair and rebuild radios as well as sell them), small business over large corporations and valuing personal loyalty, these values would really resonate for Philip and he would champion them often. That said Herb wasn't perfect, he fired Philip for consorting with another worker who was fired. I'll admit that rankles me on Philip's behalf since my view is that my employer pays me for my labor and has a right to it (the labor I mean) but doesn't have the right to dictate anything about my life outside of the time I'm being paid but let's move on. Philip would also be in and out of therapy throughout this time, seeking treatment for his phobias. Unfortunately, the understanding of the mind of the time wasn't up to the task and the therapists would often make things worse.

Philip's first and second marriages kinda come from that radio store along with a good amount of characters and stories. His first marriage occurred before he was 21 and was over in a matter of months, the breaking point being when his wife informed him that she was going to keep seeing other men. Philip then went back to college and... Dropped out of college. He began to dream of mainstream success as a writer, this was something that always eluded him. He wrote a number of books that would be considered mainstream but... No publisher would touch them. Between marriages, he engaged in a number of romances, including with the woman he would bemoan as his great lost love Betty Jo Rivers. That relationship ended when she won a grant to study for her master's thesis in France and Philip asked her to choose between marriage to him and France. Betty chose France. He would then met his second wife and the editor that would help start his career. Kleo Apostolides would meet Philip in 1949 and marry him in 1950. They would remain married for 8 years and quite frankly they were likely the most peaceful years of Philip's life. Additionally, through a writing class his mother Dorothy was taking he met Anthony Boucher (who was teaching the class) the editor of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Mr. Boucher convinced Philip to give science fiction a shot and damn if those stories didn't sell. Philip sold his first story for 75$ (for comparison his monthly house payment was 27.50, we will now pause while all the millennials pull themselves together after having a fit of envy over that). Philip began churning out science fiction short stories at a rate that I only envy and fear. In 1952 he produced and sold 4 stories, in 1953, he sold 30 (7 of which he produced in the month of June alone). In 1954 he took it easy and only produced 28. These stories can best be viewed as dry runs for the works he would produce later but they're still mostly solid tales if products of their time. Philip would quarrel with the pulp edits at times because most of them had no problems simply altering his stories, he would often demand they stop doing so or he would sell to someone else. This tactic met with mixed success.

By 1954 Philip decided to turn his hand to novels. This was a good choice since this was the year that the pulp magazines would meet their deaths. Not for a lack of sales but because the main distributor of all the magazines, American News Company was dismembered by corporate raiders who were more interested in the company's warehouse spaces than anything else. The pulps who despite a wide readership didn't have much in the way of liquid capital were then destroyed as no other distributor was interested in picking them up without a large up-front payment. The publishing company Ace books would buy the novels but at frankly rock bottom prices. This left Philip combating poverty and he felt a deep sense of shame about it, something that his wife Kleo didn't share but it inflamed a number of his mental disabilities, leading to him experiencing out of body episodes. Part of the problem was the status of science fiction at the time. Ace Books was the only company for a time that published science fiction on a regular basis and the genre was disdained to depths that would seem silly today but keep in mind this is before Star Trek, Star Wars and other shows and movies would really carve out a space for science fiction in the American mind. In the 1950s, science fiction was often widely derided as a childish concern at best (I would note some people still hold that view) or the sign of a disturbed mind. Additionally, he had his only confirmed brush with the FBI, due to a number of his friends being activists. The FBI even offered him a job at the University of Mexico if they would spy on communist students according to him and Kleo. They turned it down. Philip would spend the rest of his life convinced that the FBI was tracking and spying on him looking for an excuse to kill him That Philip K Dick could only sell science fiction stories while his more mainstream works went ignored and unpublished would also eat at his self-esteem. So, of course, he began to engage in self-destructive practices. He cheated on his wife Kleo twice, the first time the marriage survived but then they moved out of the Bay area and Philip met Anne, his 3rd wife. It was 1958 and Philip was about to plunge into the best and worst of the 1960s.

Anne Rubenstein was a young widow with 3 daughters and Philip fell head over heels in love with her. They began an affair and after Philip divorced Kleo, married. Their relationship was turbulent at best, much of that driven by Philip schizophrenia but it was here that he wrote such works as The Man in a High Castle, The Martian Time-Slip and others that would build in the New Wave movement of science fiction (I discussed that a bit here in my writing on Cyberpunk so I won't repeat myself). It's here that Philip really began to develop his themes and ideas that would run throughout his notable works. The question of what is and what isn't real? How flexible is identity? A preoccupation with trying to figure out what makes human's... Human and a struggle over religious experiences and ideas. Along with his life long experiments with the I Ching, which he would at times use to plot out novels. There are also some unpleasant strains that show up, Philip was capable of writing women characters of depth and agency but often during this time period they would be single dimensional characters and increasingly any woman who was a wife existed in these stories to cause problems and trails for their long-suffering husbands. In real life, he would accuse Anne of being overly controlling and a spendthrift, despite the fact that she was running a successful jewelry business. He would also accuse Anne of killing her first husband and plotting to kill him. Some of this likely comes from his increasing abuse of amphetamines and speed, which lead to nervous breakdowns of ever-increasing intensity. Philip would also start throwing LDS on the fire. Interesting enough, it's through Anne that Mr. Dick began his relationship with the Episcopalian Church. He and Anne started attending for both reasons of wanting to experience spirituality and to network with the local community. Religious thoughts and themes would often show up in Mr. Dick's work, you can see a prime example in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

It's here that we see the pattern that would emerge in his two future marriages to Nancy and Tessa. The beginning of the relationship starts with Philip being heads over heels, insanely charming if slightly smothering and moving heaven and earth to make his love happy. Then as time goes on he becomes increasingly demanding, expecting his wife to function as a caretaker and being jealous of her time. Both Nancy and Tessa were also decades his junior at the time of their marriages to him and that added another level of strain. As time goes on he becomes increasingly critical of his wife until the relationship cannot bear the strain and breaks apart. That's not to say that his wives were saints. Anne by her own admission would throw things and pick fights, another wife would cheat on him but between Philip's visions, drug use, and erratic behavior, he was the single strain on any relationship. Another cycle we see is that Philip would always loathe whatever state he was in. When a bachelor he would be on a frantic quest for a wife and would wallow in the gutter, he would open his home to young people mostly fellow drug addicts and throw himself into unhealthy relationships where he would attempt to rescue young women. It's from these periods we see novels such A Scanner Darkly and Flow My Tears the Policemen Said. Which deal heavily with the self-destruction of drug use mixed in along themes of government heavy-handedness and fears of a police state. I should note that one strain in his 4th marriage especially was the fact that the IRS was after him for back taxes, which he compounded by joining a movement pledging to not pay taxes until the Vietnam war ended. When he was married, however, he would decry living in what he considered a plastic stale existence and often state that he found marriage suffocating despite his rush to be married. Despite this, his 3 stepdaughters with Anne, two daughters (Laura with Anne, Isa with Nancy) and his son Chris all describe him as a good father if somewhat inconsistent. What I got out of this was that Philip was hunting for happiness but had no idea what would make him happy. I’m not going to criticize him for this because frankly, I think it’s an issue for at least 3/4ths of America and who knows how much of the rest of the planet. It’s more pronounced in Mr. Dick’s life than the rest of us.

However, he would attempt to at least learn what would make him happy. He would also wean himself off of drugs and after the collapse of his 5th marriage try to learn with live with himself without the distraction of crowds of junkies and squatters in his home. He settled into an apartment and started trying at least to break his more self-destructive patterns of behavior. A chance encounter with a young lady wearing an ornate necklace with a Jesus Fish on it would cause him to have visions that he considered divine encounters. Now Mr. Dick had experienced visions and heard voices before but in this case, he was convinced that it was an outside force speaking to him. It is possible that a prior friendship with Episcopalian Bishop named Pike influenced this. Bishop Pike was on a quest to find and understand the historical Christ and often discussed his thoughts with Philip K Dick during Mr. Dicks marriage to Tessa. Throughout his later life Philip would struggle to explain and understand just what it was he was hearing and seeing. He would claim it was his long passed sister Jane, a divine force, an alien, visions from his past life as Simon Magnus, a Christian Saint Thomas. None of these explanations seemed to stick for long. Even his last unfinished novel is a struggle to understand just what he is experiencing. You can see this in the novels he did complete before his death such as Valis, Radio Free Albemuth, The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Philip would die from a stroke that led to complications in 1982.

Before his death, he would publish 44 novels and 120 short stories in 30 years of labor. Many of those would go on to have profound influences on the world of science fiction. In addition, he would leave behind 2 daughters and a son. There are worse legacies to leave the world. We'll start by looking at Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Next week and after that examining the Blade Runner movies that were inspired by the novel.

For a more detailed look at Philip K Dick's life, I would encourage readers to try Divine Invasions A life of Philip K Dick. Which I read before typing this essay. As always keep reading!

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"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:39 pm 
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
By Philip K Dick


The idea that grew into Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was planted when Philip K Dick was researching his award-winning novel The Man in the High Castle. As that novel took place in a world where the Nazi's won World War II, Mr. Dick conducted research by reading the journals and diaries of Gestapo agents that had been seized after the war. The contents of which were so disturbing that they made Mr. Dick abandon any idea of a sequel, he simply couldn't bear to go back and look at them again. In one journal an official complains about the cries of starving children keeping him up at night, this official wasn't moved by the suffering of children; instead, he was annoyed that they had the gall to do so loudly. Mr. Dick was struck to the core by the profound callousness it took to reduce human beings - children - being starved to death to a nuisance and came to consider the man and his fellows as monsters in human skin lacking in empathy. It was the ideas of human-like creatures who have no empathy and the inner life of those who carry out violent oppression on those deemed unworthy that would slowly grow into Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The novel would be released in 1968 and was well received being nominated for a Nebula and receiving a Locus award, however, it would be overshadowed by the movie it inspired named Bladerunner but we'll talk about the movie in due course, here we're going to focus entirely on the novel.

It's the year 2021, in the wake of World War Terminus, the warring nations of east and west have not only slain a vast number of the human population of the world but have critically injured and perhaps killed the very ecosystem of planet earth. Radioactive dust spreads across the world and in its wake entire species of plants and animals go extinct. There are only a few shrinking enclaves of wilderness inhabited by the huddled remnants of what were once the most common creatures of the world. The only animals and plants that survive are those under the direct care of humans and it is considered immoral not to have a pet of some kind. In fact, animals are now so scarce that it is utterly against the law to eat meat or use any animal products. Through social engineering and the emergence of a new religion (which I'll come back to) called Mercerism animal life has become incredibly sacred to the point that even the abuse of insects is greeted with horror and disgust. Humanity itself huddles in dying cities, slowing collapsing from lack of maintenance and resources. Much like the forests and oceans of the world, the cities of Earth are slowly dying inch by radioactive inch and humanity no longer has the will or ability to stave it off. Humanity, however, isn't just huddling and waiting for the fruits of their actions to do the whole species in. The UN which is one of the few surviving governments instead prioritizes flight, turning every resource to moving humans off world onto colonies, chiefly on Mars. Those who are not considered hopelessly damaged by the radiation are constantly tempted by commercials and inducements to simply leave everything behind for a new life. Most of humanity has done so and the percentage of the human race that lives on Earth shrinks every year as we abandon the planet we murdered in our own quarrels.

Colonization, however, is a lot of work and requires large amounts of labor. On Mars habitats must be built, soil carefully treated and enriched within artificial environments to grow food for the new Martians. Living space must be created and maintained for human life to thrive. If you're trying to tempt people over to a new world, one they know is barren and hostile to human life and they have to abandon just about all their stuff to go there... Throwing in a lifetime of back-breaking labor isn't really a cherry on top is it? Considering that housing is free on Earth, there's often plenty of places to loot and still a good amount of work both under the table and above board... You can maintain a comfortable life even on a dying planet for a lot less effort. That's where the Androids of the title come in. To be honest the androids in the novel are kinda misnamed if you ask me. Traditionally Android refers to a humanoid robot, that is one that looks like a person on the outside but is still mechanical, constructed out of steel and plastic and driven by a computer. Telling such a being apart from a biological person is as simple as a combination of x rays and metal detectors (granted I'm assuming it would have a good amount of steel in its construction instead of something like titanium or carbon fiber but if you're building a hard labor force while fleeing a dying planet, it's not really the time to get fancy is it?). These androids, however, are biological, created from specially treated zygotes and can only be told from humans by an expensive bone marrow test or the use of a test to test their empathic reactions. These tests are needed because androids are self-aware, thinking beings... Who also have no legal rights and are property. Every human who leaves Earth is awarded an android as a personal servant to aid them in their life on Mars. An Android to do every dirty, hard, dangerous job that will be necessary to make Mars fit for human life, so you don't have to. Like every other slave population in history, androids resent their lot and some of them manage to escape, often killing their owners in the process (Good). The colonies, however, aren't safe for them, so they flee to the one planet where they aren't allowed to live, to try and hide amongst the shrinking huddled masses of Earth. Because of this, the police forces of Earth maintain bounty hunters to administer the tests to suspected androids and kill them if they fail.

Our main character Rick Deckard is such a bounty hunter. He's a fairly average guy in a lot of respects: he's married, wants to do well in his job and gain the respect of his peers and desires various luxuries that most people do. At the beginning of the story, what galls Deckard the most is that he has to settle for an electric animal instead of the real thing (I'll address this when we get to Mercerism so just hold on to it). Deckard has a number of tools to support his work as an escaped slave hunter, such as a laser pistol which will burn through any android quickly and is next to impossible to dodge. He also has the Voigt-Kampff test, which uses a machine to measure empathetic responses by measuring involuntary facial muscle reactions to a series of questions (I kinda read this as the machine reading microexpressions but that's just me (You are correct)). Now the reason the test is used is that androids lack empathy, or at least they're supposed to (Sociopaths are gonna be false positives… or more likely autists, but I’ll get to that later). Deckard is about to have a hell of a day, however. His senior in the bounty hunting department, Dave, was ambushed by the android he was hunting and was beaten within an inch of his life. That's not bad enough, this android is also a member of a six android gang that escaped Mars together and they're considered armed and dangerous. No one has ever managed to retire six androids in a short period of time, so Deckard's got a day. Just in case you thought this wasn't bad enough, these six androids are all from a new model line, the Nexus Six, said to be able to calculate a million times faster than a human, physically strong and fast as well. Deckard could likely win out anyways with some good old fashion grit and luck but a chance encounter at the corporation that produces the new androids sparks something within Deckard. He ends up seeing one android as a person and when he admits that, he finds that he sees all the androids as people. Deckard struggles with doing his job while realizing just what his job is. To top it all off, he's having religious visions of Wilbur Mercer, the central figure of Mercerism (wait for it, we're not there yet!).



On the flip side of this is John Isidore. John Isidore is what's called in the book a chickenhead. Someone who has been damaged by the radioactive dust to the point that his intelligence has degraded, as a result, he is not allowed to reproduce and isn't allowed to leave Earth (Yay for Eugenics! Still practiced in the US up until 1971! If you can’t tell the Yay was sarcastic.). The government has basically decreed him a dead end and condemned him to rot. John, however, has found work for a repair company that repairs electric animals, all while posing as veterinarians. This is done so you can call the repairman for your electric sheep without admitting that you cannot afford a real animal or worse, can't be bothered to care for one. The pose is important because while Mercerism calls for empathy and the raising and care of animals as a duty to those creatures who cannot care for themselves, it's become a symbol of status. The religious idea has been cast aside in favor of using the ownership and care of a living animals as status symbols and reinforcement of a person's own social worth and well being. This is further underlined by the fact that John doesn't have an animal. No one will sell one to him, because he's a chickenhead, a worthless freak who doesn't deserve such status (Wow, the irony in that… they have animals to showcase their empathy…). John, however, continues to believe in the message of Mercer and because of that is even willing to show empathy to androids, such as the three who show up in his abandoned apartment seeking to hide from the bloodthirsty bounty hunter who will kill them if he finds them. Despite his nervousness at their own cold-blooded behavior John decides to do his best to protect them because that's what Mercer would want him to do. Even as Rick has visions of Mercer telling him to kill the androids even if it's wrong because that's what he has to do.

Let me dive into Mercerism a bit more because it's honestly a pretty important pillar of the book. Mercerism doesn't have much in the way of creed or theology, beyond show empathy to individuals and work to uphold your community. There are no temples, no churches, no rituals, no rites. Instead, there's the empathy box, a strange device that when grabbed by the handles induces a shared vision of the same experience. That of Wilbur Mercer walking up a hill, to be hit by a rock thrown by an unseen attacker. While you grab the empathy box, you feel the same emotions that everyone else whose grabbing the empathy box at the same time is feeling. So you feel their joy, their depression, their anger, everything. That said, Mercerism doesn't offer salvation or enlightenment, a fact that Mercer himself says. What it offers is an intense community experience and a pair of simple rules, which makes it a fairly simple religion that most of the characters in the book still managed to screw up. It's also part of an intense social engineering effort to guide humanity into acting a certain way before I get into it let me talk about the other part.

Mercerism and the empathy box isn't the only piece of technology capable of screwing with someone's mood in the book. There's also the Penfield organ, a machine that allows you to dial in an emotion that you will feel. Everyone not only uses it, but uses it constantly and heavily. This device operates without any physical connection to the characters as well, so I can only assume it works through some sort of field effect (Could be chemical…). This technology is fucking terrifying in it's implications, you can be literally forced to feel anything with the turn of a dial! I actually had to stop reading the first chapter a few times because the device frankly scares me more than anything else in the book and everyone treats it the same way you would treat your bloody blender (Doesn’t really scare me that much to be honest, because it’s driven by the choices of the user.). However, when I went back and read the dialogue, where Deckard's wife Iran admits that she turned it off and immediately fell into a deep depression, I realized why it was necessary. Iran turned off her Penfield organ and her T.V and was alone in a large building and felt the utter silence of it. Because there was no rain, no insects or birds to hear, no human beings in the building at that time. Just the utter silence of a soon to be dead world and the realization that they have no one to blame but themselves for it. I realized then that the Penfield organ and Mercerism were all vitally necessary just to keep the ragged remains of humanity from jumping off the nearest high ledge in despair! That should tell you just how damn bleak things are in this book and you never hear the characters talking about how bleak it is. Instead, you watch them do everything in their power to avoid realizing how bleak and empty their lives are, which only hammers in the point harder.

So why all this social engineering, why this emphasis on empathy and a new religion stressing taking care of animals and trying to preserve the shattered remains of a dead world? There are several reasons for this I think. Before I get into it I want to stress that this is my own reading of the text and I have no idea if Philip Dick would approve so take it with a grain of salt. First is the practical effect. There is a massive amount of effort needed to try and preserve as many species from the reaper when the entire ecosystem is turning into literal dust. By making it into a religious devotion, something that we do fairly well, even if we are hypocritical about it, you enhance the amount of the population that will join in and the amount of labor you have access to. This also gives the population something else to focus on besides the realization that we've murdered our homeworld while standing on it and reduces the chances of mass insanity. When you're trying to stave off the extinction of your own species, you stack whatever bonuses you can on those dice after all. Third is that this emphasizes the differences between natural born humans and their artificially created slave androids. We see this happen in history as well, for example at the time of the American Revolution, most of the founding fathers were willing to admit there was little difference between them and their slaves in terms of human potential and feelings. Fast forward some 80 odd years to the 1860s and every member of the slave-owning class was loudly declaring that Africans were fundamentally different and less than Europeans and justified holding their fellow humans in bondage because of it. Every slave system reaches out for an ideological justification and drums up some difference between the slave and slave owner. If none exist, then one is invented. While the androids do seem at best socially awkward and at worse sociopaths (one decides to chop the legs off a spider that Isidore finds because she can't believe that the spider really needs that many legs), I can't help but wonder if this is the result of socialization or some effect of their fast growth not giving them the time to learn empathy (Doing things like taking the legs off a spider is something that many children do, it’s a natural part of their development to take the world apart and put it back together. The problem here isn’t empathy, but theory of mind. Even very young children do display empathy if its approached the right way. The difference between a child and an adult is theory of mind. An adult is capable of more easily understanding the consequences of their actions and how those actions are felt and perceived by others; and this is both a matter of experience and physical brain development. This is also the primary difference between neurotypical people and autists. We have a harder time understanding the minds of others, but it isn’t a lack of empathy. In this case, as you’ve mentioned, the failure of the android isn’t necessarily in empathy, but in their social performance of empathy, as a consequence of lacking that experience. So a natural-born human autist would likely fail the test, but a sociopath would not because they’re capable of faking performative responses including facial expressions that they don’t feel.) . The Voigt-Kampff test for example that no android can pass, would be impossible for the vast majority of us to pass. One of the questions asks what you would do if given a calfskin wallet, a lack of outrage is considered a sign of being an android. Other questions involve eating lobster, sitting on a bear hide rug and so on and so forth. These are things we would consider normal but the human characters consider their disgust and outrage at such things to be fundamentally human and the androids indifference as proof of their sub-human nature. Meanwhile, the failures of humans to empathize with each other, whether it be treating John Isidore as a thing rather than a person because of the damage he's suffered, the lack of such between Deckard and his wife Iran or even empathy for the androids from humanity at large is ignored. I find myself wondering if this sense of empathy and it's definitions weren't carefully engineered in order to enhance the gap between the natural born and artificially created branches of humanity so no one will question the enslavement of the androids (Yes).

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is able to present all of this while telling a complete story of the worse day of John Isidore and Rick Deckard's lives. The day they both become legends, both touch the face of god and are forced to face the very real shortcomings of their societies and themselves. It's also able to do this in 200 pages. I find myself very impressed with this given that there are modern fantasies can't tell half as meaningful stories and character arcs in 600 pages. Deckard starts the book as a rather cold-blooded greedy social climber that I found myself disliking but warming up to over the course of the book as he came to understand what he was doing and grappling with it. That said the book isn't perfect, Iran is less of a character and more of a plot device and is quickly shunted to the side. I'm not left with any impression that she means anything to Deckard or that Deckard really means that much to her. In fact, I kinda found myself wondering why they were married at all. The book much like Solaris also raises a lot of questions without providing much in the way of answers (I'm beginning to wonder if this is just a trait of science fiction books from the 1960s). Unlike Solaris however Mr. Dick does provide a sense of catharsis and a sense of ending in the book instead of just coming to full stop. As you can see from this review there's a lot to talk about and consider in this book, and you get a pretty interesting story on top of that. I honestly have to say I think this book stands up rather well to the passage of time, perhaps shockingly so. I'm giving Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick an -A. Sit down and give it a read sometime and then just think about it for a while.

Next week we're gonna confront the biggest legacy of the novel, the film Bladerunner in all it's 80s Cyberpunk glory. Keep reading folks.

Red text is your editor Dr. Ben Allen
Black text is your editor Garvin Anders

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"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:34 pm 
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Bladerunner 1982
Directed by Ridley Scott


“You were made as well as we could make you.” Eldon Tyrell


A quick note, I will be spoiling parts of the movie here but the damn thing is as old as I am. There's a limit to demanding a spoiler-free life folks.

Bladerunner is a movie that can and has fueled a small industry on the story of its troubled birth, examinations of its troubled childhood (as I extend the metaphor) and its rise into a celebrated and respected mature pillar of science fiction film. There have been documentaries, books and more about it. So this review cannot comprehensively cover everything, so I will simply attempt to hit the highlights. Let's start at the beginning, 1968 when the novel is released, it gains attention quickly. Martin Scorsese was interested in filming the novel but never made any move to buy the rights to it. In the early 70s a screenplay was written but was widely regarded as terrible so never got close to filming. In 1977 a screenplay was optioned and producer Michael Deeley convinced director Ridley Scott to direct it, although he had originally passed on it to try and direct Dune (that would fall through and David Lynch would direct Dune but that's a topic for another day). What changed Mr. Scott's mind in many accounts was the death of his brother Frank from skin cancer at the age of 45. This was a harsh blow and this left Mr. Scott in a grim and somewhat downcast mood understandably and you see this in the film. Mr. Scott never read the novel, to be fair that was normal for the time and neither anyone else working on the movie. They didn't even use the title, strangely enough, the title comes from a completely unrelated book written by Alan E Norse written around the idea of black market doctors and the men who smuggle them medical supplies called Blade Runners. It's probably fitting that the movie that has an almost Frankenstein like beginning given it's about a race of people created in labs to be slaves.

The role of Rick Deckard proved hard to cast, months were spent in discussion with Dustin Hoffman, only for that to fall through, various others were also considered, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, and Burt Reynolds but in the end, Harrison Ford won out based on his performance in Star Wars. The role of Roy Batty however easily went to Rutger Hauer and to be honest I struggle to imagine anyone else doing as well as he did in the role. Actress Daryl Hannah landed the role of Pris, a female replicant who is basically the second female lead of the movie. The role of Rachael, the main female lead had a lot of competition as well and required several ladies to undergo repeated screen tests with Harrison Ford before Sean Young landed the role (bit of a side note, Philip Dick saw a picture of her and was instantly smitten, he asked to be introduced to her in a very, Philip K Dick style note to Mr. Scott, who perhaps wisely decided not to do so). Of course just as the casting was nailed down the money was pulled, as the company that had signed on to finance the production pulled out, Michael Deeley would in two weeks, however, drum up millions of dollars to replace the lost funds and he would gonna need every dollar. Because Ridley Scott was determined to make a perfect film, even if he had to kill everyone involved in the most expensive way possible to do it. Worse as filming began, it became unclear if was murder was actually off the table. Mr. Scott a British director was not used to American Union rules and by American standards was a micromanager. This would also set off a brief war by T-Shirt as an unfortunate remark about how British Crews were easier to work with because you just give them orders and they would comply spread to the crew and they responded. Luckily Mr. Scott was able to break the cycle with his own T-Shirts. Mr. Scott would set up a video playback booth because he was frustrated in his attempts to get ahold of the camera at times (one of the things that infuriated the crew in the first place). This leads him into conflict with Harrison Ford who now felt isolated from the director and wanted to work more closely with him as he had his own creative ideas. Remember at this point Harrison Ford was coming off of not just Star Wars but Indiana Jones so he was a tried and tested veteran who wanted to be a partner with his director, not a minion. This fed into artistic conflicts, Mr. Scott wanted to run with the idea that Deckard was a replicant (I'll talk more on that later) and Mr. Ford hated the idea. On top of that Ms. Young and Mr. Ford disliked each other so much that the crew called their love scene the hate scene. Mr. Scott drove the movie over budget and the producers begin to threaten to take the movie away from him (so he was feuding with the crew, his star and now the producers, I feel like this movie was really just an extended super expensive session of conflict therapy in a way), on top of that there was the looming threat of a directors strike. Mr. Scott's reaction to this? To whip the crew and cast through several marathon filming sprees and finish the movie. In fact, when they filmed the final scene of the confrontation of Roy Batty and Rick Deckard, everyone had been working for a straight 36 hours.

But they weren't done yet. Test audiences were left confused and dismayed by the movie so it was decided to add a voice-over by Mr. Ford. At first, was Mr. Ford was lukewarm on the idea but he swiftly moved to hatred as he was forced to voice over the entire movie, 3 times. Mr. Scott wasn't too thrilled either as he was mandated to film a happy ending with Harrison and Sean driving off into a lush forest. The movie had a good opening weekend but bluntly it opened 2 weeks after E.T hit theaters and E.T just sucked all the oxygen out of the room and left Bladerunner kinda foundering in its wake. The critics at the time weren't kind either mostly panning the film. However, the film survived as a cult classic with fans often forming Blade Runner clubs and academics would fall over themselves to analyze the film and discuss the text and sub-text. Cyberpunk works across all forms of media and across the planet would take visual and plot cues from the movie making a major influence going into the 21st century. Hell, you can see its influence on things I've reviewed in the past like Altered Carbon. New life was breathed into it with the release of the Director's Cut in 1993 with audiences declaring it a classic and Mr. Scott releasing the final cut in 2007 (which is the version I watched for this review). Given that Blade runner finds itself deeply concerned with what is real and what is artificial, I find the fact that there are by some counts as many as 7 versions of the film to be an ironic echo of the theme. But let's talk about the film, shall we? Quick reminder, that for films I as always issue two grades, the first being a grade of how the movie stands alone and the second grade how it stands as an adaptation of the novel it's based on.

Taking place in the all to close year of 2019, Bladerunner gives us the story of Rick Deckard, a Bladerunner (a cop who specializes in killing replicants) trying to live in retirement but dragged back into the the line of duty to chase down 4 escaped replicants who are hiding out in L.A. These replicants are seeking to find a way to gain a longer life span as they are near the end of theirs, all 4 years of it. Deckard hunts down each one in turn while exposing Rachael, a new kind of replicant who was unaware of her lab-grown origins and implanted with artificial memories. It's during his battles with the 4 escaped replicants that Rick Deckard resolves to save Rachael's life (as she's fair game to any other Bladerunner that finds her) and falls in love with her. However, first, he has to survive a confrontation against a replicant that was designed to fight wars and has no problem killing to protect his own life. Throughout these confrontations, Deckard is repeatably asked “It's painful to live in fear isn't it?” as the replicants seek to express the stress of living as a slave, of being a living thinking person who is property. This is a life where you live based solely on the whim and desires of others. They mostly express this by beating the crap out of Deckard but they are only about 4 years old. Deckard's own understanding of that may be the motive for his desire to get out of the life of a Bladerunner, of course considering that Deckard is doing all of this under threat he might have a more first-hand understanding of what the replicants are going through. After all, the only reason he took the job was the fact that his Police Captain let him know if he didn't that the police department would come down on him full force. That can't be a very pain or fear-free way to live.

Bladerunner is a good movie although it's a flawed movie. The Cinematography is amazing in the movie and Ridley Scott uses the images to communicate a number of ideas and feelings. The world seems run down and decayed, while there is no lack of luxury, it seems to exists in isolated islands amidst the smoke and haze of an L.A made up of neon lights and dirty streets. The attention to detail in the settings and props is amazing even over 30 years later. The characters, even the human ones all seem very physically and emotionally isolated, everyone in this movie seems to live alone. Be it Deckard, the geneticist Sebastian, the billionaire Eldon Tyrell, no matter their station or situation everyone is incredibly isolated from their fellow human beings. No one has a live-in girlfriend or boyfriend, no one has a friend over, no one even has a generally disinterested roommate. But that plays to the theme of how no one is above from the alienation and isolation that the society of this future has forced on humanity. Even those who reap the benefits of that technology must suffer its negative effects. Technology is everywhere as well (Deckard is able to go to a biologist with a powerful microscope and computers operating out of a roadside stall for example) but has not seemed to aid or uplifted humanity in general and nature is absent, in fact every animal shown in the film is an artificial creation with the implication given through dialogue that real animals are rare and incredibly expensive to get and maintain. There are constant advertisements and encouragements to immigrate off-world to better lives. This gives us a dark future where the planet may, in fact, be dying and mankind is fleeing out to the stars to avoid the consequences of its decisions. The acting is great in this film as well, with Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah being the stands out. They had the difficult job of portraying replicants, lab created humans who only live about 4 years and spend those years in service doing jobs that no one else wants to do. Rutger plays Roy Batty, who is a military model and his girlfriend Pris is a pleasure model. Both actors were able to portray people who struggle with their emotions as they lack the context and experience to understand what they're feeling and react accordingly. One scene that really stood out to me was when Roy is informing Pris that the rest of their band is dead, killed by Deckard and Rachael. Rutger does this through using the same facial expressions I've seen on small children when I was tutor when they were deeply unhappy (sometimes over small things and sometimes upset over big things) and didn't have a way of expressing it. Pris' instant acceptance of the news and her reaction combined a small child and a feral creature's. Which made sense, for all their intellect, the replicants don't even have a handful of years and it takes humans decades to fully understand and come to grips with the emotions we're capable of. Hell some of us don't manage it even with half a century of experience! The replicant actors managed to convey a human being that is a mix of a small child trying to understand what they're experiencing and genius level super predator who will spare no effort to keep living.

This makes Roy's decision to save Deckard's life at the end all the more memorable since it would have taken no effort to let Deckard die. I've seen a lot of argument about it and frankly being arrogant enough to review this movie and the novel, I'm of course going to pitch in my 2 cents. Roy saved Deckard for a lot of reasons, but I don't think forgiveness was one of them as I've seen suggested. Rather I think it was a mix of Roy realizing he was dying whether he killed Deckard or not and thus killing him would be meaningless, a very human desire not to die alone and a simple point blank rebellion against his creators. Roy was built to kill, to be a war-machine that destroyed whoever he was told to without question or mercy. During his time on Earth, he continued this behavior has he murdered his way to his creator and when he was told that a longer life simply wasn't happening, he killed his creator as well. He also killed the one man who showed him nothing but kindness, the genetic engineer Sebastian. Which might be the one killing that he honestly regrets, as his last words to Sebastian are an apology. This time, this one time, Roy would show mercy on his own terms and prove he was his own man, not just a biological machine fulfilling its biochemical programming. Whether or not Deckard deserves to be spared is kinda irrelevant to the thought process here. It's about Roy making a decision as to whether or not he's going to spend his last moments as the piece of rampaging, malfunctioning military equipment everyone says he is or as the man he knows he is. Whether that gives Deckard any grace is completely up to Deckard's actions I would say. As you might guess this moment really stuck with me.

However, there are things I didn't care for. The pacing is kinda all over the place managing somehow to be a slow film that doesn't get enough character interaction to really cement the relations to me. Additionally, there's Mr. Scott's idea that Deckard is a replicant. I just don't see it in the film, I mean yes it's odd that Deckard doesn't have anyone in his life and there's the now-famous ending with one character leaving a unicorn origami in Deckard's apartment when he had earlier had a dream of a unicorn but that frankly lends itself to several interpretations. My own first thought was the fact that unicorns are often symbols of worthy but impossible goals. Deckard's unicorn is leaving behind an empty of violence to live in peace with a loved one and Gaff leaving that unicorn in his apartment was a silent encouragement to pursue his unicorn even if it was doomed pursuit. Because when it comes to a goal like that, the simple act of struggling to achieve it is worth something in and of itself no matter how doomed the struggle. I'm also going to note that I don't see the point of going through the trouble of making a replicant only to strip such a person of all the physical advantages that would bring. Deckard is clearly physically weaker than all of the replicants, even Pris the smallest and weakest of the replicants being meant for life in a whore house is able to physically beat the crap out of him without much effort. If you're going to design a policeman in a lab, you might as well make him capable of standing toe to toe with the people he's fighting or it's just a pointless waste. After discussions with friends who were big fans of the movie, the theory seems mostly held up by circumstantial evidence and a lot of reaching. If you disagree please, walk me through it! I would really like to hear from you in the comments.

That said let's wrap up. I think Bladerunner has earned its status as a strong science fiction influence and the film even in the face of its issues. So as a stand-alone movie I give it a B+. However as an adaptation? The plot bears next to no resemblance to the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The only thing they really have in common is a police agent hunting rogue lab-grown human slaves in California. Entire plotlines are chopped out, characters changed (Deckard is vastly different, as is Rachael and their relationship) and erased and the whole thing is barely recognizable beyond sharing the same visuals and starting idea. So as an adaptation I'm going to have to give it a D+. See it for its own sake but read the novel as well because you can look at one without having any idea of the other.

No editor this week as he is moving across the continent to further his career. Please join me in wishing Dr. Allen well and hopefully he'll rejoin us soon.

Next week, we tackle Blade Runner 2049 to see if any of Philp Dick's influence reached it. Keep Reading!

No editor this week as he is moving across the continent to further his career. Please join me in wishing Dr. Allen well and hopefully he'll rejoin us soon.

_________________
"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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