Philip K. Dick on Blade Runner

First off, Philip K. Dick didn’t write Blade Runner, but he did write Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the story on which Ridley Scott’s science fiction masterpiece was based.

Also, Dick never had a chance to see the completed film, but he did apparently have a chance to see a short clip, which was enough to inspire him to write this letter to the Ladd Company (producers of the film) expressing his pride and enthusiasm for Blade Runner.

If you know much about Dick, you know he was very troubled, and it made me feel good to read this letter. It’s too bad he didn’t get a chance to see the entire film, which is one of my favorite films in any genre. Speaking of which, I’m going to create a page on this blog to list some of my favorite books and movies. Lists are fun!

Via Kottke.

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We want our artists to be crazy

Last week I read an interview with Thomas Ligotti (who, in case you don’t know, if a very interesting, uncompromising and very strange writer of psychological horror fiction. I’d read about Ligotti before, but in the course of reading this interview I realized a very high percentage of the creative people I’ve admired are somewhere between “troubled” and “completely nuts.”

Just look at who else I’ve written about in this short-lived blog… Hemingway (suicidal alcoholic), Fitzgerald (depressive alcoholic), Philip K. Dick (who, let’s just say, has a five paragraph section under the heading “mental health” in his Wikipedia entry), and now Ligotti. For a catalog of Ligotti’s psychological troubles I’ll leave you to read the above-linked article, if you’re interested.

Add to that list some of my other favorite creative inspirations, for example painters –Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo — and a pattern begins to emerge. One begins to wonder, do individuals of the sensitive nature who might excel at creation just naturally have a hard time in life due to that sensitivity? Or is it that unbalanced, obsessive people have more time or energy to focus upon their creative work, and are thus more likely to be productive and to succeed? Or is there something in the inward searching all creative artists must undertake that is somehow troubling or corrosive to one’s happiness in the long term?

I really don’t know the answer to this. It does seem, though, that a quick rundown of my list of favorite poets, artists, composers and so on, yields a rate of incidence of psychological problems greater than what’s seen in the general population.

Picking this back up again

Probably 99.99995% of new blogs never make it fast the initial few posts, I’m sure. I never quite established the habit of visiting here every day, and sort of forgot about it, but I’m going to take another stab at posting here.

The purpose of this blog, as I said at the beginning, is to talk a bit about my own recent writing and reading (and I include audiobook listening when I say “reading”).

So, to quickly catch up from where I left off, halfway through Eye in the Sky

The second half of that early Philip K. Dick novel was slightly better than the first. As I haven’t read a Dick novel since probably the late 80s, this has got me thinking, “Is he just one of those writers that’s better in theory than in reality?” I mean, his concepts are interesting, but the writing…

On the other hand, this is an early book of his, certainly not considered one of his better works. So I’ll just set it aside, and certainly NOT be in a hurry to read Dr. Futurity or Solar Lottery any time soon.

At some point, I’ll give another look at one of the books from his last decade.

I’ll keep this short, and try to make shorter, less ambitious posts in the future (at least until I establish a routine of posting here) so I’ll be more likely to keep posting regularly. I’m sure this blog’s many readers are saying in unison, “Sounds great, Griffin!”

More Dick

OK, I’m somewhere past the halfway point of Eye in the Sky, the Philip K. Dick audiobook I’ve been listening to. I said before that I felt Phil Dick was more of an “idea guy” than a prose stylist and that has only been reinforced by this book.

Yes, his writing became more sophisticated and careful later in his career, and I suspect these early novels of his were written in a quick rush of a week or two, just for the money. But still, the quality of the writing is very poor. Sentence after sentence follows precisely the same template.

“Flinching wildly, she set the glass down on the table…”

“Ducking suddenly, he turned to his wife and said…”

“Blinking incredulously, Hamilton tried to think of the right words…”

Almost very sentence starts with someone verbing something adverbially. Ugh. It becomes pretty distracting after a while.

Eye in the Sky, by Philip K. Dick

At any given time I’m usually reading (at least) one book, and listening to an audiobook during my commute.  Sometimes I work on similar books for “reading” and “listening” at the same time, but most often I try to go down different paths with the two books.

Right now, I’m listening to Philip K. Dick’s The Eye in the Sky.

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It’s one of Dick’s earlier novels, in fact arguably the earliest one that really had that provocative Phildick quality. It was first published in 1957, and the super-quickie plot summary is as follows: Following an industrial lab accident, an out-of-work engineer finds himself, along with his wife and a few others, catapulted into an alternate world of Old Testament religious fundamentalism, where prayer and miracles and plagues of locusts are part of daily life.

Philip K. Dick is one of those writers I find interesting enough to think about and talk about, but I don’t actually find myself reading his work very often. I think he’s more notable for his ideas, for pushing the envelope and questioning assumptions, than for his actual writing. Certainly he’s a beloved name in the realm of science fiction, but he’s one of those writers whose books are more interesting in summary than they actually read on the page.

Still, I’d say he has a lot of value even as just a provocateur. And Dick was certainly one of the more interesting personalities or “characters” in science fiction when I was growing up, along with Harlan Ellison.

Speaking of Philip K. Dick, there’s a Dick biography by Lawrence Sutin that is one of the more interesting author bios I’ve ever read. It’s focused quite a bit on Dick’s late-life religious/metaphysical/psychotic experiences, hence the title Divine Invasions.

I’m no more than 1/4 of the way through this audiobook so I’ll write more about it later. Just wanted to write a little something about it, as I’m having fun revisiting a writer I think about a lot, and regard highly, but don’t actually read often enough.