Philip K. Dick


ON the 5th October 2017, Blade Runner 2049, the long await sequel to the science fiction movie classic, Blade Runner, is released. These two movies (certainly the first at least) are amongst many seminal science-fiction films that owe their origins to the author Philip K. Dick.

Although Philip K. Dick died in 1982, his legacy looms large over popular culture. Blade Runner (adapted from Dick’s 1968 story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), isn’t the only movie that has been adapted from his work. Dick also wrote the books that formed the basis of Total Recall (from the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale), and Minority Report (from the short story of the same name). Dick’s stories have a dystopian ethos, dark and despairing but often with intelligent rebellion, against authority or personal circumstances, with a quality few others have captured on paper. Film director Terry Gilliam claimed, “For everyone lost in the endlessly multiplicating realities of the modern world, remember: Philip K. Dick got there first.”

Philip Kindred Dick was born 16th December, 1928, in Chicago. His first publication came in 1952, with his short story, Beyond Lies the Wub, which triggered an amazing career. He worked on dozens of short stories, and then published his first novel, Solar Lottery, in 1955. His work was often based around the idea of things not being quite as they should, about worlds and societies being out of kilter with what they were intended to be. Stories such as Time out of Joint (1959), The Man in the High Castle (now a popular television series), and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), all reflect the dangerous possibilities of living in a world alternate to our own.

Sadly, Philip K. Dick did not live a life without conflicts of his own. He suffered from years of mental illness and drug abuse, which led to him dying, not as the hero of modern science fiction and dystopian ideals, but as an impoverished man with little literary reputation. It was only after his death that his value as a great writer was appreciated, and he is now regarded as a master of paranoid science fiction.

After his death in March 1982, Philip K. Dick left behind him a legacy of novels and short stories which perfectly depicted the psychological struggles of characters trapped in destructive situations. This legacy now continues in Blade Runner 2049, which sees a young blade runner discover a long-buried secret, that in turn leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.

How long will it be before another film is made with a Philip K. Dick novel at its heart? Not long I suspect.

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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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