The Past, 1929
Jane died on the 26th January, 1929. She was six weeks old and born six weeks premature. Her twin brother survived, and lived to the age of 53. He was continually haunted by Jane's passing, and the tragedy prompted a fascination with death and longevity. As he grew up he wrote short science fiction stories, where he collected his thoughts on life, the future and the meaning of existence. His name was Philip Kindred Dick.
Philip suffered from visions. He suspected they were the voice of god, although they may have been induced by the drugs he took throughout his adult life. It is certain that these visions and his sister’s death inspired his writing. Books such as Ubik and The Man in the High Castle, definitely come from the mind of a genius, but a troubled one. It is said that arguably his most famous book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, was inspired by the journals of a SS officer and the lack of empathy he felt towards his fellow humans.
His career as an author began in 1951 when he sold his first short story. These short stories show the breadth of Philip’s work, and are the stories I re-read often. His collected short stories chart his career, from the fun and frightening 1950s stories, through his amphetamine induced spiralling tales, to the visionary fictions he wrote up till his death in March 1982.
The Future, 2019
Blade Runner, one the greatest science fiction films ever made, is a departure from Dick’s novel. The story follows Deckard, a Blade Runner who hunts rogue Replicants to retire them from existence. We are treated to a visual feast, a future of flying cars, skyscraping neon billboards and the grotty filth beneath it all.
When Philip K Dick was shown some test shots of the film, he was simply confused: how did the film makers get inside his mind? How did they capture his dark perception of the future so clearly? The film, when released, received mixed reviews - all spectacle and no heart. Others saw a complexity that would stand the test of time and live on. Philip never saw the finished film; he died a few months before its release.
Present Day, Blade Runner: 2049
Nostalgia is ripe at this time. Many a reboot and rehash have hit our screens in the past few years. After many attempts, a sequel to Blade Runner is about to be released. The director of the original Blade Runner, Ridley Scott, is producing the film, and directed by The Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve. Will Blade Runner: 2049 match it predecessor's success or will it be found lacking in longevity? We can only guess at the future, make of it what we will and thank Philip K. Dick that the future can be as visionary and as strange as we wish it to be.