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Television Sci-Fi

Is There a Warning in 'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams'? ( 51

An anonymous reader quotes io9: That signature feeling feeling of queasy, slow-burning tumult comes through in Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, which originally aired in the UK last September, but is making its American premiere on Amazon Prime this Friday, January 12. The breadth of interpretations across the show's 10 episodes is the real draw for Electric Dreams. One episode will be set in something meant to recognizably stand in for the real world while others are trippy explorations into realities that could never exist. Unfortunately, Electric Dreams' episodes don't just vary in aesthetics; they vary wildly in quality, too...

When Electric Dreams fires on all cylinders, it energizes these short story adaptations by drilling down into the minutiae of how science fiction concepts would alter our everyday existences in real life. The series' common theme is how scientific and technological advancement shears the soul away from our bodies...Electric Dreams' most important task is to show both new viewers and conversant fans why Dick's oeuvre matters, which is hard in a world where we're eerily close to some of his fictional realities...

We're so busy trying to ground ourselves amid constant change that it can be hard to pull out and see society's sweeping shifts. In the '50s and beyond, Dick's science fiction writing mapped out the darker corners of where hi-speed techno-fetishes could take us. For all its unevenness, Electric Dreams adapts his work to show us where we are, relative to his prognostications. If you feel weirded out while watching, that just means the show is doing its job.

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Is There a Warning in 'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams'?

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  • Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Someone just redlined my pretentious-meter.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's, like, just your feeling feeling, man!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    He concentrated on the human experience having to live with the technology. It was never 'oh, that's cool.' It was always 'Why are we having to deal with this?"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's pretty much what everyone's thinking when having to deal with anything related to Microsoft.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      It wasn't even always very much to do with technology. In "Eye in the Sky" I think he only threw in enough technology to qualify it as Science Fiction, it was really more an exploration of some aspects of medieval theology: "Thou, O God, seest me.", as often illustrated by a picture of an eye hovering in the sky. Or Ubik. The technology is really just window dressing.

      • It wasn't even always very much to do with technology.

        Yes it was.

        But he didn't focus on the technology per se. His focus was on how that technology could influence our reality.

        And Ubik is a prime example. It was (ultimately) about a possible result of technology that could keep people "sort of" alive after death.

    • Issac Asimov posited that there are three kinds of science fiction: gadget, adventure, and social. He gives a lovely example of the three kinds of story, were they written about a new invention called the 'automobile:

      Writer X spends most of his time describing how the machine would run, explaining the workings of an internal-combustion engine, painting a word-picture of the struggles of the inventor, who after numerous failures, comes up with a successful model. The climax of the yarn is the drama of the m

  • Same old warning. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @12:59PM (#55926931)

    Note how many of PKDs stories had no ending, note same thing in series (I've only watched the first 4, #3 had no ending). Then read PKDs later works, the ones turned into a pseudo religion, get the warning.

    Warning: DON'T USE SPEED! In the long term it will make you batshit! Minds need sleep.

    • No, the warning is new, and reads:


      The message gets a wee bit tiring after the third or fourth episode.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @01:01PM (#55926941)

    ... that someone realized Black Mirror was popular and wanted to get on the gravy train.

    • This seems to be the real reason the show is on. The first episode, the only one I've seen do far, was predictable in how it would end, and annoyingly far left-wing in it's use of characters
    • And that "someone" was Channel 4, who launched Black Mirror before losing it to Netflix.

      • And that "someone" was Channel 4, who launched Black Mirror before losing it to Netflix.

        That's just the thing though, Black Mirror my have been popular but Channel 4 didn't seem to realize it, or else they would not have lost it/let it go in the first place.

        Netflix deserves a lot of credit for finding things that it realizes are actually popular, and rescuing them to give them a new home.

        However with Black Mirror in particular, I personally do not like it much. The warnings they give I think are good ones,

        • That's just the thing though, Black Mirror my have been popular but Channel 4 didn't seem to realize it, or else they would not have lost it/let it go in the first place.

          They're not made of money. They are, in fact, a public service broadcaster - albeit one funded largely by advertising, but even regardless of that fact, $40 million (which is what Netflix coughed up) is a lot of dough.

    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @03:21PM (#55927711)

      PKD was just ripping off 'GroundHog Day'...wait, it was the other way around.

      Phil's plots are constantly ripped off, unattributed.

  • by alternative_right ( 4678499 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @01:26PM (#55927083) Homepage Journal

    Well, you see, there's this queasy feeling that somehow life has gone off the rails, that our civilization is not a source of goodness, and that our future is in the hands of incompetents or sadists or maybe both. We have no expectation that we are part of something that makes us feel good to be alive, and are merely corporate stooges waiting out our days so that we can briefly entertain ourselves before passing into oblivion. PKD noticed this -- along with the other writers of his generation and the few before -- but by now, our society is so deeply in denial that we cannot even articulate what he saw. Instead, we just say that it makes us feel unsettled, as if we ate one too many Big Macs during our Soviet-style mandated 52-minute lunch at our mandatory jobs doing unimportant things so that we can all claim we are good workers contributing to the future, tovarisch.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @01:42PM (#55927137) Journal

      We have no expectation that we are part of something that makes us feel good to be alive

      That's been the case for most of humaity throughout the ages. Most people do not derive a sense of meaning to their lives from the grand sweeping events of the day, instead they derive pleasure from the small things in life: seeing a good movie, enjoying a nice meal with friends, that trip to the Bahamas, an enjoyable hobby or your amateur soccer team's last match where you scored a nice goal. All pretty meaningless stuff. Which is fine as long as you don't let that bother you too much. If it does, you'll have to get off your arseL society is not going to provide your life with meaning, you have to do that yourself.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The historical anomaly is that people would expect that their lives should be meaningful as part of sweeping society-scale changes for the better. Peasants didn't expect to sit at the table with the king and tribes didn't have much going on at any scale beyond what we'd today consider a tiny village. Life is better than ever, but expectations have risen to compensate.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        ... society is not going to provide your life with meaning ...

        That's why religion is useful. It means people don't define their lives by their tiny effect on, and material existence in the world. An existence after death seems to resonate within the human psyche, becoming an ultimate expression of the ego. Religion also allows the ruling elite to set the base rules of society, elevating themselves and limiting the power of the poor. Being pious or heretical, was the first form of class warfare.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think more of what well connected US academics got to see the US mil needed for the 1960-70's wars in and around Vietnam.
      What the US was using to track people of interest in Vietnam and what would later be used in the USA domestically.
      Voice prints, radio tracking, informants, party political management of a war.
      Scale that up and project it forward and the reality of war looks like predictive science fiction to later generations of readers.
    • by sad_ ( 7868 )

      choose life.

  • ...the show is awful. Well, the first two episodes anyway. I hear the last two or three are worth watching. Tempted to just jump right to those.

    • Funny, because I found the first episode to be the only good one... in fact, with a very small amount of work I think it could have been worthy of theatrical release. Unfortunately, after that I found the episodes dragged a lot and didn't feel very 'sci-fi' OR 'PKD', and felt perhaps they would have been better either more heavily adapted or simply not made at all.

      I watched the first five, watched the sixth but skipped a lot, and will not seek out the next batch unless they get some major acclaim.

    • It is basically Black Mirror but without a proper sense of direction, just a ready back catalogue of short stories to adapt. They'd be much better off using the same team to produce some original stories.

    • by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @02:58PM (#55927579) Homepage Journal

      I love Black Mirror and can tolerate the varying styles and 'quality' of episodes, even the ones I think are less successful I can appreciate because something different is being tried and I value the intention behind it all. Also I love the black humour.

      I watched the first three episodes of Electric Dreams and tapped out. It did just seem like an uninspired 'me too' cash-in on what BM is doing which is a damn shame. PKD's work can serve as great inspiration, but they need inspired work to translate them into a movie/TV show and the people behind this offering don't seem to have bothered.

  • by rklrkl ( 554527 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @02:51PM (#55927523) Homepage

    UK viewers did get to see 6 episodes last year on Channel 4, but episodes 7-10 appear to be exclusive to Amazon Prime Video in the US (Amazon Prime Video in the UK bizarrely only seems to have episodes 5 and 6 and also wants to charge money for them on top of your Prime sub despite those two episodes having aired nationally for "free" in the UK!).

    I did find "Electric Dreams" to be quite variable over the 10 episodes (yes, as a UK viewer I had no choice but to source episodes from, ahem, "elsewhere"...and there was a total balls up with the episode numbering of downloads particularly for Autofac - which I thought was one of the better episodes - and "Safe and Sound").

    I did think some episodes just ended without tying up the storyline - almost as if they were trying to be a TV pilot or something. Still, a reasonable series overall - it's rare for a UK channel to bother with sci-fi drama, so Channel 4 should be applauded for that, even if they failed to air 40% of the episodes (maybe they'll turn up later this year?).

  • Of course they exist. Everything must exist.

I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable of reasoning. -- Plato