Friday, August 17, 2007

SF transcending itself

Posted By on 08.17.07 at 07:44 AM

If Adam Gopnik did not exist, we would have to invent him. In the new New Yorker he nails Philip K. Dick.

"Although 'Blade Runner,' with its rainy, ruined Los Angeles, got Dick’s antic tone wrong, making it too noirish and romantic, it got the central idea right: the future will be like the past, in the sense that, no matter how amazing or technologically advanced a society becomes, the basic human rhythm of petty malevolence, sordid moneygrubbing, and official violence, illuminated by occasional bursts of loyalty or desire or tenderness, will go on. Dick’s future worlds are rarely evil and oppressive, exactly; they are banal and a little sordid, run by a demoralized élite at the expense of a deluded population. No matter how mad life gets, it will first of all be life."

Thus, in “Ubik” (1969), "The first premise is that the ancient human dream of communication with the dead has been achieved at last—but, when you go to speak with them, there is static and missed connections and interference, and then you argue over your bill."

There's more. Read the whole thing. In that generation, Robert Heinlein was a better writer and a better storyteller, but Heinlein was merely obsessive, not stark raving mad. That way lies depth. The empire has never ended.

 

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