Why is Blade Runner called Blade Runner? Though the viewer is told in the opening text of Ridley Scott's 1982 original that "special Blade Runner units" hunt renegade replicants -- and though the term "Blade Runner" is applied to Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard a few times in the film -- we're never given an explanation of where the proper noun comes from. The novel upon which Blade Runner was based, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, offers no clues either.Readers share a report: Our story begins with a mysterious writer by the name of Alan E. Nourse. According to the Des Moines Register, he was born in that city in 1928 to Bell Telephone Company engineer Benjamin Nourse and a woman named Grace Ogg. Young Alan moved to Long Island with his family at age 15, attended Rutgers, served for a couple of years in the Navy as a hospital corpsman, and was awarded a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955 before moving to Washington state to practice medicine. Whatever Nourse's skills as a doctor may have been, they were outweighed in the scales of history by his other passion: writing about the medical profession and fantastical worlds of the future. Before he was even done with medical school, he was publishing sci-fi on the side: first came short pieces in anthology magazines like Astounding Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction, then he started publishing novels with titles like Trouble on Titan (1954), Rocket to Limbo (1957), and Scavengers in Space (1959). In 1963, he retired from medicine to focus on his writing, but wrote about learning the healing arts in a 1965 nonfiction book called Intern, published under the intimidating pseudonym "Dr. X." Sci-fi author-editor Robert Silverberg, who knew Nourse, tells me the latter book "brought him much repute and fortune," but in general, he just "wrote a lot of very good science fiction that no one seemed to notice." That changed on October 28, 1974. Sort of. On that day, publishing house David McKay released a Nourse novel that combined the author's two areas of expertise into a single magnum opus: The Bladerunner. It follows the adventures of a young man known as Billy Gimp and his partner in crime, Doc, as they navigate a health-care dystopia. It's the near future, and eugenics has become a guiding American philosophy. Universal health care has been enacted, but in order to cull the herd of the weak, the "Health Control laws" -- enforced by the office of a draconian "Secretary of Health Control" -- dictate that anyone who wants medical care must undergo sterilization first. As a result, a system of black-market health care has emerged in which suppliers obtain medical equipment, doctors use it to illegally heal those who don't want to be sterilized, and there are people who covertly transport the equipment to the doctors. Since that equipment often includes scalpels and other instruments of incision, the transporters are known as "bladerunners." Et voila, the origin of a term that went on to change sci-fi.
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