Phoenix from the Ashes: The Literature of the Remade World

By Carl B. Yoke | Go to book overview

18
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF RIDLEY SCOTT?

David Desser

Like many science fiction authors, the late Philip K. Dick was fond of using a postcatastrophe setting for his tales. In Dick's case, however, the concern was not with the specificity of the apocalypse and the scientific issues that arose from there but rather with the posing of certain fundamental issues within this dramatic context. Dick utilized a variety of postcatastrophes over the course of his work, ranging from personal tragedies (as in Valis [ 1981] to more global holocausts. Two of his most significant works may be said to be in this latter mode: The Man in the High Castle ( 1962) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? ( 1968). Both stories are set in an imaginative San Francisco and both raise essentially similar questions revolving around the issue of what it means to be a caring person. In The Man in the High Castle, Dick works in the dystopian fiction of an "alternate history" and wonders what life would be like in the United States if the Axis powers had won World War II. His research into and thinking about the Nazi mentality also formed the foundation for his philosophical musings in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel on which this essay will focus.

If Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is set in a postapocalyptic world of nuclear irradiation, it is so partly to present a veneer, the veneer of "science fiction," in order for Dick to examine what is really on his mind. He fills this futuristic tale of life following "World War Terminus" with a host of science fiction icons, including hovercars, laser guns, and colonies in space. However, the only futuristic technology that really concerns him is androids. And it is the disjunction, the bottom-line difference, between the human and the android that forms the central structural concern of this significant work.

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