the contextual life

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cultivating your geek cred: sci-fi for non sci-fi fans

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it doesn’t feel natural to me to like science fiction. i was never a superhero person. i liked Archie Comics. the characters were super-normal teens with super-normal problems. archie had confusing issues with two girls, betty and veronica (who may or may not have been best friends). jughead, an asexual, skinny hamburger-lover was chased relentlessly by gawky, love-struck “big” ethel. there was nothing fantastical about it. i tend to enjoy realism. i watch dramas. i read biography, science, and politics. i think using Photoshop is cheating. yet, i felt as if i was missing out on something.

i came across Heroes before i knew it could be classified as sci-fi. it didnt hit me until after i was nearly done with the series that that’s precisely what it is. it’s format is inspired by a marvel/dc-type comic book. i absolutely loved this show. the characters are layered and the creepy cliffhangers will hook you. it was a sad day to see this one end. now available at netflix for instant viewing.

Blade Runner, the book. i have the movie in vhs format but never got around to watching it. a few weekends ago, listening to podcasts, i’d heard novelist jonathan lethem talk about philip k. dick, the classic sci-fi author. i was already headed to the bookstore but never thought i’d go to the science fiction section. it was an odd feeling. all those so-called boy books. i headed straight to D on the shelf with the title jonathan mentioned in mind. i couldnt quite bring myself to buy it but was forever chronicled by my camera phone. the following week i was early for a train to long island. i found a place to sit outside and looked in my bag for something to read. after half-grabbing at what i saw i realized i didnt feel like reading anything i’d brought with me. in normal circumstances i wouldve made do but  at that moment i was staring straight at the Penn Plaza Borders. ‘just buy a cheap mass market’, i thought to myself. surely a $7.99 paperback in a time of reading-material-crisis wouldnt count towards my terrible book hoarding habit.

sci-fi is notorious for it’s mass market format. the small, cheap throwaways. and luckily, probably due to their popularity, the section was on the first floor, across from the cashier. i dug through my mental index and came up with a few names: gaiman, bradbury, asimov, dick. as i made a quick round through the alphabet, i had a few books in my hands but nothing that stood out, until i saw Blade Runner. i never knew philip k. dick wrote it, an embarrassing oversight by someone who owns the vhs. with a deep sense of shame in tow, i made my way to the checkout counter, hoping the guy or girl ringing me up wouldn’t mock me, silently, for jumping on the Blade Runner bandwagon a few decades too late.

i’m almost finished with it and can definitely say it’s worth reading if you’re curious about sci-fi. the humans in the story have this quirky fascination for animals. before the author makes it clear why, you get a sense that they’ve become scarce. you soon find out why. the bounty hunter, our protagonist, has an electric sheep but leads his neighbor to believe it’s real. live animals are more expensive than the knock-offs so having one speaks to your social status. their religion is interesting too. although kept in the background and semi-vague, the people have something called Mercerism, named after its creator and figurehead. it appears to tranquilize the people and give a feeling of  communalism, although through a solitary, sterile process.

the action takes place in the story of the bounty hunter and the hunted. the human and the androids. robots—androids—are used by the humans for mundane tasks but increasingly, they’re becoming more like humans and getting harder to tell apart. if this book hadnt been written in 1968, the premise would seem stale, but it works and stays fresh this many years later.

definitely a great intro to sci-fi literature.

other links:
To the Best of Our Knowledge: Writers on Writing – Jonathan Lethem discusses Philip K. Dick

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Written by Gabrielle

September 5, 2010 at 10:44 am

Posted in books, film

Tagged with , , ,

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