Contest: Win A Copy of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

As part of the excitement of restarting this blog, it seemed like it would be fun to give something away to those of you who are reading this blog again early on in its rebirth. We anticipate a dramatic increase in traffic over the next few months as we push advertising and more social network buzz, so here is the time to reward those who are reading already: we will give away a copy of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick, in your chosen format (paperback or ebook) for simply commenting on this post and telling us what your favorite science fiction or fantasy novel is. Winner will be picked at random from the submissions.

As is pretty obvious from the title alone, this blog was named after the Philip K. Dick book, your dear editor’s very favorite science fiction novel. It features a man named Rick Deckard in a slightly dystopian future California who works to hunt down sophisticated androids who have escaped from colonies on the moon to return to Earth. It is a short novel, at just over two hundred pages, but is just about perfect. If you have already read it, you can give your copy away to a friend, and if you haven’t, we think you will be in for a serious treat. Just tell us your favorite science fiction or fantasy novel in the comments, and a little bit about the book and maybe what the genres mean to you in general. We’re not picky, we just want to see your smiling internet faces. Winner will be announced next week.

Four Science Fiction Books That Should NEVER Be Movies

There seems to be a compulsion in filmmakers to make movies out of just about everything in science fiction and fantasy that has any kind of success into a feature film. Producers see dollar signs, writers see easy work, and directors see the opportunity to probably ruin something a lot of people liked just fine the way it was. And the viewers pay to go see it, so everybody wins. There are certainly a few films in the canon of classic science fiction, however, that simply should not be adapted into film form:

  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – This Hugo and Nebula award winning novel is not only one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, but is arguably the first great feminist sci-fi novel ever written. It essentially follows the story of a representative of an interplanetary alliance making a visit to a cold planet called Gethen where all of the inhabitants change genders at will, and thus have no defined gender roles in their society. The Left Hand of Darkness is the perfect example of brilliant sci-fi with a message, and I can just see the fabricated action sequences jammed into the middle of the story, as well as the necessary plot elements lifted, in order to make a film out of it.
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov – Readers will point out that there are already plans to adapt Foundation into a film, and those readers would unfortunately be correct. Asimov is the master of intellectual tales; most of the sections of Foundation have to do with politicians standing around discussing a problem that has come up. Despite the strength of writing, the novel is certainly dry at times, and would surely be ruined with some kind of action added in. Frankly, a faithful adaptation of Foundation would not please the average moviegoer, and it is easy to see for anyone who has read the novel that it won’t work as a film without so many changes that it is unrecognizable as the source material.
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke – Essentially, Rendezvous with Rama should never be a film because it would make for a painfully boring one. Even if it was faithfully adapted, it would end up being two and a half hours of waiting for an alien first contact that never actually manages to happens. That’s what the book is. Many science fiction fans swear by the quality of this novel, but the truth is that it just isn’t all that, and it is hard to imagine anyone liking a film of it.
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick – The many works of Philip K. Dick have been frequent sources of material for science fiction films, and it is almost always a botched job that involves very little of the actual plot presented in the books. Blade Runner basically borrowed the aesthetic of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the main character’s name but little else. Total Recall is essentially completely different from “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale”, the short story it is allegedly based on. In the case of alternate history classic The Man in the High Castle, it is hard to imagine a film at all. It is science fiction but there is no action, and alternate history in general is not a genre that often finds it way to film (Inglourious Basterds is the only film that even comes to mind). It is likely that it will eventually be done anyway because it would seem that slowly but surely all of Philip’s works are being adapted, but let’s hope it never happens.


Review: Philip K. Dick – Radio Free Albemuth (1985)

Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick
Arbor House, 1985, 214 pp.

Rating: A

Philip K. Dick is nothing if not a paranoid genius. Perhaps, in his case, he had the right to be: in the middle of McCarthy’s Red Scare, Dick’s home was raided and torn apart by FBI agents probably looking for a connection between him and the Communist Party. They came back repeatedly to interrogate Philip, and it apparently did no good for an already troubled psyche. Radio Free Albemuth is essentially straight out of¬†this period, a novel full of paranoid government rebellion and a strange brand of Gnostic Christianity that is so bizarre that it feels true.

There are two primary characters of Radio Free Albemuth, a novel that was shelved by Dick after serious re-writes were demanded by his publishers. The first is Nicholas, a man born in Chicago who moved to Berkeley, California at a very young age, much like the writer himself. He works at a record store and receives very clear visions in his dreams that he knows to be messages from God, or from aliens. The other primary protagonist and narrator of the story is Philip K. Dick himself, a science fiction writer based out of Orange County known for the populariy of his novels The Man in the High Castle and Flow Your Tears, The Policeman Said among others. President Ferris F. Fremont is a kind of terrifying amalgam of real-life president Richard Nixon and crazed Senator McCarthy himself. This is the Red Scare in overdrive.

Nicholas and Philip are both harassed throughout the story by government ages trying to connect them to communist sympathizers in the area. Of course, Nicholas and his partner are indeed linked to the party, but do their best to hide it from FBI agents who pretty assuredly know everything. Philip K. Dick goes through similar interrogation and some entrapment, including being seduced by a drugged up agent who tries to convince him after the fact that she is in fact underage and he will be arrested for statuatory rape if he doesn’t come clean. Another character, Sylvia, is introduced in the second half of the book as someone who has a similar connection to the general scheme of things to Nicholas, and becomes his sort of partner-in-crime in the leadup to their final act of rebellion against the fascist state.

The novel as a whole is a perfectly executed criticism of the sort of Stalinist and neo-Fascist bent of the Republican Party of the era. It is brilliantly written with constantly flawless dialogue that never lulls—not for a second. Although this is one of Dick’s lesser known novels, it is also one of his most poignant; there are several scenes over the course of the novel that are extremely memorable for either their dark humor, brilliant political satire, or simple tragedy. While some readers have¬†criticized this novel for not being particularly accessible, and it may be a harder read than some of Philip K. Dick’s more mainstream efforts, it ought to be seen as one of his more essential novels. Radio Free Albemuth seems to imply that alien visitors from outer space are the source of all world religions; prophets are simply people receiving messages from benevolent (but not omnipotent) extraterrestrials who seek to help us cast off our chains. It may be bizarre, but Philip K. Dick’s brilliance is as prevalent here as it ever was.