“We Can Sell It for You Wholesale: Philip Kindred Dick, Chronotopal Science Fiction, and Cinematic Spectacle”

Shawn E. Fullmer

Fort Lewis College


In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, blade runner Rick Deckard is married to Iran, whom he loves deeply. So deeply that, after retiring three andys, Deckard spends the bounty on a female, Nubian goat. The goat is meant to bring Rick and Iran closer. The goat is also a social trophy purchased to elevate his status with his neighbors, particularly Bill Barbour, who owns a pregnant horse. Deckard’s neighborly inclination and romantic intuition prove correct. Bill offers to trade a colt for a couple of kids, and Iran feels closer. So close that she asks Rick to use the empathy box and share this love with religious leader Mercer. In Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s cinematic, future noir adaptation of the novel, Deckard is a whiskey-drinking bachelor, whose closest encounters with animals are Zhora Salome’s ersatz snake scale, and blade runner Eduardo Gaff’s origami figures. These examples from the book and the film display a sharp contrast. PKD’s emphasis is on empathy. Readers are asked to consider what it means to be human. Scott touches upon this at the end of Blade Runner when replicant Roy Batty delivers his tears-in-the-rain, pathos-filled monologue. However, Scott’s primary focus is on the surface of things; visual spectacle, materialism, and commodification. In this presentation, I will use Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope to discuss six of PKD’s short stories and novels and the corresponding cinematic adaptations, including Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner. PKD’s representation of time and space manifests through domestic and personal acts in vaguely apocalyptic landscapes. Contrastingly, the corresponding cinematic versions of PKD’s texts, such as Blade Runner, draw upon antagonistic/protagonistic storytelling, hero time, and vivid action sequences. Through a comparison of written and cinematic versions, I argue that the characteristics which define PKD’s writing are exchanged for elements from another genre, that of action/adventure, in the cinematic versions.

2018 National Conference
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