From the Mind of Philip K. Dick

events , science fiction 1 comments

Friday night at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum (@EMPSFM on Twitter), I got to see an advance screening of the movie “Radio Free Albemuth”, Written, Directed and Produced by John Alan Simon and co-produced by Twitter friend of Causality, Elizabeth Karr (@elizabethkarr).

I first became aware of Philip K. Dick after being positively stunned by “Blade Runner” and then reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” I know, that’s the most mainstream way to have been introduced to his work, but the truth is, that movie and the book it was based on were very instrumental in my development of what has become a lifelong appreciation of Science Fiction.

By the time I saw “Blade Runner”, I was already a fan of Star wars (like just about every boy born in the 70′s), watched the original Star Trek re runs as often as possible, and dreamed of being a test pilot and  Astronaut. But those movies, shows, and dreams at that point were just idle entertainment for an imaginative kid, who might have grown out of Sci Fi altogether if it weren’t for a few key stories that really affected me. The politically charged, darker stories like “Blade Runner” and “Dune” really made me think, and provided what seemed to be a more realistic and possible future (or alternate universe) than the brightly lit and basically innocuous “Buck Rogers” and original “Battlestar Galactica”.

I’ve always meant to read a lot more of Philip K. Dick’s novels, and so far have only read one more other than “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. (Don’t ask what it was…I don’t remember.) Seeing “Radio Free Albemuth” reminded me that I need to get back to reading more of his work, and of how many other movies that I like are based on his work. Sometimes I forget that Dick wrote the stories that “Total Recall” and “Minority Report” were based on, and that there are other movies like “A Scanner Darkly” that I’ve been meaning to watch that are also based on his work. (See the official website for a full list of novels, stories, and films based on Philip K. Dick’s writing.)

So, that is why I was excited when I heard that “Radio Free Albemuth” was screening in Seattle, and that it was at the Science Fiction museum, which I have (surprisingly) never been to, despite the recent “Battlestar Galactica” exhibit. Though my Causality cohorts were not able to make the showing, I went and was very glad I did. I’m always glad to meet someone in person who I’ve met on Twitter (Elizabeth Karr) and of course meeting directors who have successfully brought their visions to life is also pretty inspiring to me (John Alan Simon).

I’ll admit, I really didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t read the book, though I had heard that some of Dick’s later work is a bit…challenging, to say the least. And I know that it’s pretty hard to make a science fiction film on an indie budget and do it well, so I went in with medium expectations. From the very beginning, I was impressed with the production values, and how the pacing gradually and effectively introduced the many story elements. The concepts are, as I had heard, challenging. And the somewhat convoluted plot weaves in many directions. But director John Alan Simon really guides the viewer along, making sure that each new offering that comes from the mind of Philip K. Dick is as clear as possible. Would a mainstream studio cut out and/or rewrite much of the story to make it fit better in to a traditional Science Fiction formula? Probably, but Simon (also the screenwriter) stayed relatively faithful to the original (as he discussed in the Q & A after the film), leaving in some elements that were important to Dick even though they complicated the story. Overall, I was quite impressed with his ability to make sense of some really out there concepts, and present them as real, the way the characters perceived them.

A strong cast and quality effects make this film a must-see for any Philip K. Dick fan, as well as for anyone who is making a Science Fiction project without the benefit of a major studio. The producers should be commended for taking the time to do the film right, getting talented people involved, and staying true to their vision, until finally being able to bring it to life. The film has already won some awards at festivals, and the producers are currently looking for theatrical distribution. The truth is, this will never be a mainstream hit, but it does deserve a theatrical run so that more fans of Philip K. Dick and science fiction in general can see it. There should be more opportunities for people to see challenging, thought provoking work, and I hope that “Radio Free Albemuth” can take its’ spot among those that do break through to the general public.

What do you think? What other challenging sci fi works are there that have been made into movies? What books/stories that aren’t particularly mainstream would you want to see on screen?

Posted by   @   June 29, 2011 1 comments

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Jul 26, 2011
6:04 pm
#1 Jon :

Great article! I can’t wait to see this film! I am a huge Phil Dick fan, I first heard this movie was being made years ago and so excited it’s finally done. Just waiting for it to come to Chicago! Yes Dick’s later works are like “Radio Free Ablemuth” and “Valis” can be challenging for newer readers I reccomend “Ubik” and “Counter-Clock World.” Great stuff!

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