Another of the second-hand pile that resulted from reading Jo Walton’s Among Others, and another of those big names of science-fiction. Whereas Philip K. Dick is easily equal to what I seem to have decided about him — probably because of Bladerunner, and Frederik Pohl was just so cleverly done that I’ll probably read more of him, Robert Silverberg and Thorns along with a couple of other ’60s/’70s authors I’m reading is just bizarrely awful.
There is certainly a kind of science-fiction that is build around an imagination of the future and the fantastic, with little else in the way of story-building or character-development, and this book, which I only finished out of amused perversity, is one. It does in fact seem to have both a story and actors, so perhaps it’s a specific, dated rendering of these vessels, who serve more to be tropes for ‘man’ and ‘woman’ than full individuals where the two-dimensionality lies. More curiously though, is the nature of the primary theme of the work.
Pain is instructive, is the first line and the last sentence, and in-between is recognisable only as a kind of BDSM play, voyeuristic, indeed psychic vampirism of others’ suffering, enjoyment of both receiving and inflicting pain, other lines or remarks that are like a code easily deciphered. It’s an odd and substanceless work, about which the cover art for once is quite apt.
Another one of the pile I recently collected of older science-fiction works. This one I’ve read before, and the film it became is perhaps my all-time favourite; director’s cut or original. I’ve just finished the mammoth Water Margin, so this is quite an abrupt change — only 200 pages, American science-fiction of the psychologically disturbing kind instead of classical Chinese epic of the drunken brawling kind.
Sometime long ago, but after seeing Bladerunner, I read Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but somehow don’t have a complete memory of it. Perhaps I stopped before getting all the way through, as even from the beginning it’s not that film, and by the tenth chapter has gone somewhere completely different, reminding me of the film of A Scanner Darkly, and the precarious conditionality of memory, identity and self. The language also is beautiful at times, a viscerally descriptive style that seems to confront the fragility of the mind with a that of slight but pervasive corporeal revulsion.
It’s amusing and awkward and curious to read these old sci-fi books that anachronistically manage to remain futuristic in some aspects, and yet fail entirely in other; the beginnings of interstellar colonisation by the early ’90s with a still existent Soviet Union, yet still dealing with carbon-copies and cathode-ray technology, compared with in 2012 the latter three barely remembered while the former a far more distant spectre than in 1968 when the book was written.
So I shall enjoy this, also knowing two of my favourite authors are waiting for me to collect; a treat I shall reserve until I’ve got through my books of the year list later next week, and got through a mass of art and dance and (oh horror!) funding applications.
Bladerunner is about the most influential film for me, I’ve seen in more times than I can recall, usually once a year, and I’ve never grown tired of it. Something I miss though, since the Director’s Cut came out is the original with Deckard’s voiceover, a dirty noir monologue, and all the attendant obscurity. The later version is far less ambiguous, but along with the implication Deckard is himself a replicant, and the coherence of the narrative, I still would love to see that first version again, with all its Kubrick stock footage. And Vangeles … one of the most sublime and appropriate scores ever composed for a film. So, happy birthday today for Bladerunner, 25 years old and still transcendental.