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Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick

This well-indexed collection of nineteen essays plus a rather complete bibliography of Blade Runner and Androids criticism "attempts to look at the multitude of texts and influences which converge in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner" (2). This statement, appearing near the end of Kerman's two page introduction, accurately prepares readers for a series of essays that, with few exceptions, privilege Scott's film while defending it against charges that it is flawed or a lesser work than its source novel. Kerman arranges the essays in four sections--"Social Implications: Blade Runner as Thought Experiment"; "Genre Issues: Sources and Synthesis"; "Film Sources and Adaptation...

The Nature of Dick's Fantasies

The Selected Letters of Philip K Dick 1974 is the first of a projected series encompassing all of Dick's letters deemed publishable. In Pursuit of Valis is the first published selection of Dick's legendary "exegesis" of his visionary experiences of 1974. Given that, for a variety of overlapping reasons--literary, political, psychological, philosophical, among others--Philip K. Dick has earned a place as one of the most significant authors of the last half of this century, these books are perforce recommended for all collections. Edited well or edited badly, any selection of Dick's letters or journals is automatically of value, particularly to...

Editorial Introduction: Postmodernism's SF/SF's Postmodernism.

Linking postmodernism and SF is hardly a new thing; many of SF's most sophisticated commentators have been doing it for the past 15 years. Roger Luckhurst, in "Policing the Borders: Postmodernism and Science Fiction,'' shows that theorists of postmodern genres have often taken up SF as a cause célčbre to prove that the traditional boundaries of genre have collapsed in the fluid new culture of Postmodernity. N. Katherine Hayles, in the recent book on the chaos paradigm reviewed in this issue, turns to SF texts as touchstones for understanding the transformation of Western culture into a culture of chaos. Larry...

Postcards from the Posthuman Solar System

Abstract.--At the intersection of cybernetics and phenomenology, the body already operates as an interface between mind and experience, but in contemporary science fiction and horror, the body is also narrated as a site of exploration and transfiguration through which an interface with an electronically-based postmodern experience is inscribed. The obsessive restaging of the refiguration of the body posits a constant redefinition of the subject through the multiple superimposition of bio-technological apparatuses. In this epoch of human obsolescence, however, a remarkably consistent imaging/imagining of both body and subject ultimately emerges. The essay examines the refiguration of the body in the performance...

The SF of Theory: Baudrillard and Haraway

Abstract.--With the expansion of the technological construction of social life in the postmodern period, SF ceases to be a genre of art and becomes instead a mode of quotidian awareness. At the heart of this mode are two hesitations: a) about whether scientific-technological transformations are merely conceivable or actually realizable, and b) about the possible implications of their realization. As previously barely imaginable social conditions emerge through the effects of technology--particularly informatic technology--the objects of cultural theory become concrete, and theoretical reflection about their future becomes indistinguishable from SF. Jean Baudrillard and Donna Haraway are two of the most acute...

In Search of Dick's Boswell

Although, as I have already discussed in the pages of SFS, the years since Philip K. Dick's death in 1982 have witnessed a marked increase in the amount of critical attention devoted to him, there has probably been even more biographical work on Dick in the last eight years or so; and there is the promise of still more to come in the near future. Why has the life of a troubled, often irresponsible man provoked more interest than the body of fiction which I--and by no means I alone--take to be the most fascinating and important produced by any...

The Two Faces of Philip K. Dick

Abstract.--Within the last year or so, letters of Dick's have become known indicating that his "relationship" with the FBI was not solely passive on his part, nor chiefly that of victim. Over a span of six months (or more), he sent the FBI at least 21 denunciatory communications detailing a paranoid fantasy of Dick's: that he was a target of a worldwide Marxist conspiracy involving a multitude of agents and agencies, SFS among them. The facts in the case admit of any number of interpretative hypotheses, psychoanalytic and otherwise. Indeed, that the materials, especially in relation to the many interpretations...

The Portrayal of Scientists in Science Fiction

Science fiction has influenced our cultural attitudes towards science and scientists from its earliest days. Memorable characters such as Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll, and Dr. Strangelove have entered the common cultural lexicon, and have become paradigms of our fears of and attitudes towards science and its practicioners. Over the years, science fiction has been a gateway through which young people have been introduced to the excitement of scientific discovery. In this way, science fiction has encouraged people to learn about science and, in some cases, to become scientists. In his 1990 article "Scientists in Science Fiction: Enlightenment and After," Patrick...

AI: Changing Us, Changing Them

Dr. Mark Humphrys of Dublin City University defines artificial intelligence as "engineering inspired by biology." Today's robots and AI systems are no smarter than insects. Despite this current limitation, there are many reasons to sit back and enjoy the myriad of services technology has created for humanity through AI systems. AIs now play chess, checkers, bridge, and backgammon at world-class levels (e.g., IBM's chess computer, Deep Blue, beat Garry Kasparov, the world champion, in 1997). They compose music, prove mathematical theorems, synthesize stock option and derivative prices on Wall Street, make decisions about credit applications, diagnose motor pumps, and act...

Mesoamerican Calendars

The Mesoamerican cultures of the pre-Conquest Aztecs and Maya appear dauntingly foreign to Western eyes, with their sacrificial rituals, vigesimal (base twenty) counting systems, and names like Huitzilopochtli. A few authors, though, have tackled the challenges of these cultural frameworks, producing fantasies which stand out against the often-criticized homogeneity of fantasy settings. Marella Sands, for example, has written two novels, Sky Knife and Serpent and Storm, which are set in the ancient Mayan world; in these works, human sacrifice is not only necessary but sometimes good. Alexander C. Irvine's novel A Scattering of Jades brings Mesoamerican ideas further forward in...