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Why Is 'Blade Runner' the Title of 'Blade Runner'? ( 221

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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Why Is 'Blade Runner' the Title of 'Blade Runner'?

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  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @12:08PM (#55343439)

    Damnit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a transporter!

    No! Damnit Jim, not that kind of transporter!

  • Because a blade runner runs around, looking for lost replicants, and then literally or figuratively stabs them until they stop moving.
  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @12:11PM (#55343471)
    Here:- []
    • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @01:46PM (#55344173) Journal

      Why not just link what stack links to? The ACTUAL explanation: []

      Blade Runner (a movie) is a science fiction novella by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs, first published in 1979.[1]
      The novella began as a story treatment for a proposed film adaptation of Alan E. Nourse's novel The Bladerunner. (Some sources describe Burroughs' work as a closet screenplay.) A later edition published in the 1980s changed the formatting of the title to Blade Runner, a movie.
      Burroughs' treatment is set in early 21st century and involves mutated viruses and "a medical-care apocalypse". The term "blade runner" referred to a smuggler of medical supplies, e.g. scalpels.
      No film was ever made; the title Blade Runner was later bought for use in Ridley Scott's 1982 science fiction film, Blade Runner.[1] The plot of that film was based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and not the Nourse, Burroughs source material, although the film does incorporate the term "blade runner" into dialogue.

  • The Blade Runner sequel is just a money grab, like Prometheus. It is used to setup multiple sequels for the franchise. People who are saying it was an amazing movie are delusional.
    • Meh. It's not great, but it is waaayy better than Prometheus.
      • As in, worth to go see or wait until Blade Runner 2364?

        • As much as the film was essentially a failure, I at least felt like I got my money's worth. I kind of feel the same way about it as I did the Robocop remake: Great movies if you have no knowledge of the originals.
    • I thoroughly enjoyed it, loved the deafening soundtrack, and can see the premise for the third installment, making more sense than another Star Trek reboot.

      It doesn't take much to make me happy with a movie, and this has such cinematography that I'm pleased. The lousy opening weekend ticket sales are as much the overstatement of Blade Runner fandom as anything, but patience - this is at least as good as anything from Marvel.

      Oh, and Flame On!

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      It wasn't bad, and it has its moments.

      But everything is relative. There have been a bunch of sequels or reboots to classic movies from the '80s and '90s recently, of which Harrison Ford has starred in two.
      I would say that, what sets Blade Runner 2049 apart the most from the others is that it does not insult its audience, which is primarily the fans of the original movie.

      Too bad that it took this long for Hollywood to finally realise that if you are going to reinvigorate an old franchise - and to successfull

      • >if you are going to reinvigorate an old franchise - and to successfully play on nostalgia to sell it - you will have to respect the original.

        I've never understood why you wouldn't. When you don't, you're essentially starting a new franchise, while simultaneously limiting your creative scope AND pissing off the previous incarnation's fans.

        Either make something new (which can often mean nothing more than a new title and switching the character names if you're not particularly inspired), or make something

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @12:15PM (#55343499) Homepage

    I'm baffled that Alan Nourse is refered to as "a mysterious writer by the name of Alan E. Nourse"-- mysterious? Nourse?

    There's nothing mysterious about Alan Nourse, [] who is pretty well documented. He was a quite popular writer mostly of juveniles (*) back in the 50s and 60s.

    The only mysterious thing was how his name was pronounced: "nurse." Which was apparently amusing, since he interned with a doctor whose family name was "doctor", leading to paging over the intercom of "Paging Doctor Doctor, Doctor Nurse."


      footnote: a classification that no longer exists. "Juveniles" has now become either "young adult" or "middle grade".

    • I'm baffled that Alan Nourse is refered to as "a mysterious writer by the name of Alan E. Nourse"-- mysterious? Nourse?

      There's nothing mysterious about Alan Nourse, [] who is pretty well documented. He was a quite popular writer mostly of juveniles (*) back in the 50s and 60s.

      Ah, I'd forgotten that he wrote "A Tiger by the Tail"... Cool story, that.

      He also at one time wrote a medical column for one of the glossy magazines. One of the "Womens' Magazines", I think.

      (Paging Doctor Google....) Yep. "Good Housekeeping."

    • Agreed. He was very well known back when he was writing. I devoured his stuff back in the early sixties when I was in junior high. The list of his works in Wikipedia is by no means complete.
  • Originally it was "Braid Runner" after Deckard's fabulous locks but Hollywood kept it after the old Asian guy's stereotyped mispronunciation. :P I kid, I kid!
  • by whitroth ( 9367 ) <`whitroth' `at' `'> on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @12:23PM (#55343547) Homepage

    Is the author of the article A. Idiot? What's "mysterious" about Nourse? Don't think I ever met him at a con, but... oh, right, maybe what's "mysterious" is that the author doesn't actually know diddly-squat about SF, and hasn't actually read anything that doesn't tie to a movie or tv show.

  • I just read this bit ( on CBR. The comic book tried to put in an explanation for the phrase (and did a pretty good job of it), but of course that doesn't make it canon.

  • Based on old saying? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by magusxxx ( 751600 ) <> on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @12:46PM (#55343717)

    I always thought it was an updated term for 'walking on a razor's edge.' - Someone who is precariously balanced between safety and danger. And between being human or a replicant.

    • I also had always inferred a similar concept with the title. It might not have been THE reason, but, to me, IMHO, it bespeaks a certain "tell" of the morality of the story. Excepting for the discussion the nonsense of Ridley Scott saying Deckard was a replicant, the role of a "blade runner" was effectively that of a stone-cold killer operating under the color of law. Even in the opening crawl that moral quandary is pretty directly alluded to: "This was not called execution. It was called retirement."

      I alway

      • While visually stunning I can't suspend my disbelief of the premise. Why couldn't the replicants have a serial number encoded into their DNA? Why not simply take a photograph of each one before they were turned loose and use facial recognition to identify them?
  • The concept of a "bladerunner", bootlegging vital medical supplies to those who can't afford them, showed up in another movie based on a different Philip K. Dick story: "Impostor". While it occupies a few characters and a fair amount of screen time in that movie, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the print story.
  • Philip K Dick was a certifiable genius, but he was also certifiably insane.

    Trying to comprehend his world is a lot of fun, but trying to understand his naming convention is to a certain extent an exercise in futility.

  • This question is straight from the Captain Obvious department IMHO.

    Besides, the "Blade Runners" are mentioned in a dialog in the opening scene.

  • The short version of the explanation:

    From the movie "True Lies"

    Faisil: [in a conference room in their counter terrorism sector] They call him the Sand Spider.
    Spencer Trilby: Why?
    Faisil: Probably because it sounds scary.

    i.e. because it sounds cool.

  • Seriously, not everything has to have a detailed backstory.

  • Hollywood titles (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The work that goes into a title is huge. They engineer it like an OCD tweeker re-arranges toothpicks, or a rocket scientist tests his system for failure.

    They have to be poetic. They have to have no less than 3 meanings relevant to different takes on the plot. It has to work in with key-phrases in the dialog, and imaging. They have to sell, and appeal to the right demographic. There are copyright and marketing issues.

    A blade runner runs on the edge of a blade. Madness and genius. The razors edge. Wha

  • by Derec01 ( 1668942 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @03:35PM (#55344865)

    I had always assumed (I suppose without justification) that this was a direct reference to all of the sci-fi/horror (e.g. the Thing) in which the humans run a blade across their hand or body to show that they have flesh and bleed, and are thus truly human and not a robot.

    This was probably a reasonable tactic for early replicants that may have used more artificial components or a blood-like substance that was less like blood. Later replicants were "more human than human", but the name would stick for the group that was meant to ferret out replicants amongst the human population.

    I always liked that origin as it implied some very interesting, untold replicant horror stories.

  • I always assumed that name as a synonym of 'assassin'. (blade runner = making the blade to run on someone's skin)

  • Newsflash: It's a remake!
  • I'd assumed "blade runner" was a reference to that act, trying to run along a sharp edge, being extremely difficult and dangerous, as was identifying and terminating replications.

  • I remember Alan E. Nourse's medicine-centric science fiction as uniformly excellent. The man could write, and, being an M.D., he knew medicine, too. His novel The Bladefunner was first published as a series of short stories and novelettes in Analog that were later reworked into a novel.

    I also read his non-fiction book The Intern (although, because it was published under a pseudonym, I had no idea it was by Alan Nourse). As I recall it was something of a bestseller. I found it engrossing. It was really the f

  • I've never read the book. From the book title I assumed the androids were mechanical robots with rubbery skins. In the film, Deckard refers to them as "skin jobs", and this reinforced my original assumption.

    Hence, running a blade meaning to (obviously metaphorically) slice off their skins, and thus reveal their true nature.

    Interestingly, in "The Terminator II", Arnold slices open his organic skin with a large knife, to prove that he's a robot underneath.

    I figure that the idea was so compelling that Scott ke

    • Actually, I stand corrected, it was Deckard's *commander* that used the term "skin jobs", and Deckard was clearly disgusted by the term. That's an important distinction, since Deckard may have been a replicant himself, among many other reasons.

  • Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human, by KW Jeter, has it as distorted German (

    The etymology of the term "blade runner" is revealed to come from the German phrase bleib ruhig, meaning "remain calm." It was supposedly developed by the Tyrell Corporation to prevent news about replicants malfunctioning

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