Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams
Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams is a new series of single episode
renditions of PKD short stories. It's being broadcast on Channel 4 (UK)
and is/will be available on Amazon video.
There have been four episodes so far, the most recent one being "Crazy
Diamond", which I posted about in a newsgroup before the
series started. The story that one is based on had been discussed in the
group in the past, and it is the PKD short story I have most recently
read. (I have read his complete short stories, but most many years ago.)
Let's use that to discuss the series, since it offers a good lens on the
differences between the promise and the reality.
PKD's stories are often cynical about technology, question how we can
know what is real, and/or question if homo sapiens can or should survive.
They are also frequently changed a lot on the way to being filmed.
"We Can Remember it For You Wholesale" is a short story about a service
to implant memories. In that story a customer wants a Mars trip
implanted, and then the service tech finds that there was an different
memory that was activated. In the story it is clear that the different
memory is the real one. When the story became Total Recall, it became
a lot more difficult to separate real from fiction and introduced
mutants who might supplant homo sapiens as the new homo ... species. In
that way the story became more PKDish.
In "Sales Pitch", a robot tries to sell it's own services, and makes
life increasingly more miserable for the intended customer. The closest
model in today's world, might be if 4chan sold "not harassing you
online" as a service. Or ransomware.
In "Crazy Diamond", it's not a robot, but a "Jill", which looks like a
human, but is more like a replicant from Blade Runner. The Jill is
ostensibly selling life insurance, but has sidelines in seduction and
black market consciousness seeds for Jills like herself. Seeds that our
protagonist has access to at the office. So here we have a of things
added and changed, resulting in a much different direction.
The Jills, like replicants, have a shorter life span that limits them.
The seeds provide a way to extend that life span. Okay, sort of triggers
the new species themes.
There's a subplot with their house possibly going to erode into the sea,
and the corporation that supplies everything providing short dated
foods, and not letting people grow their own. There's a bit of unstated
implication that the corporation could be using the erosion "problem" to
sell new houses elsewhere.
The protagonist would like to stick it out until retirement, then sail
the world. His wife would like to buy a new house. And the Jill exploits
that difference for her seduction routine. There's nothing particularly
PKDish about that.
Eventually the protagonist signs on the line for the life insurance, and
it doesn't matter either way. Things don't get better or worse for him
because of that decision (other decisions, sure, but not that one),
which kind of robs this whole thing of the "Sales Pitch" connection.
On the whole, this TV series promised a Black Mirror like dystopian
view of the future, but perhaps a future further out than
Black Mirror. The chilling hook for Black Mirror is how easy it is to
imagine going from today to that future. Some of them are entirely
possible with today's tech, and some are just small incremements away.
Instead Dick's Electric Dreams has been delivering sci-fi stories that
are not very compelling and exist in a world that is not easily
connected to our world. As such they lack they punch of "are we headed
there" and the hook of good story telling.
Two days out of a five day egg expiration date.
ObDman: Black Mirror is not unlike a modern Twilight Zone, with each
episode a self-contained story, preying on psychological fears of the
current times. But Twilight Zone wandered more into fantasy than
Black Mirror does.
Final thought: it is, however, fun to be able to talk "dick dreams" and
not be referring to porn.