Posts Tagged 'reality'

If you’re here, then you’re probably aware of the T-shirts that read, “1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual” It’s a satirical garment we’ve referred to before on Drozbot in relation to surveillance culture. But our thinking now is that the current state of the world requires something more messy, less didactic, yet equally dark and unhinged. Something more Philip K Dick perhaps?

It seems incredible that Dick’s multiple visions of our future continue to be as prophetic today as they were at their inception. For instance, with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump we’re facing a typical Dickian rift in reality that could easily be a plotline to match Time Out of Joint. Corrupt, self-serving leadership giving rise to a pressing need for voices of dissent to be heard above the agenda driven media – Radio Free Albemuth anyone? A simulacra of a president with no seeming referent? A seething pile of hyperreality that’s left us all feeling anxious and alienated?

How about increased robotics with machines in the service industry appearing in ever more friendly, more humanoid guises? How long then before automated psychiatrists are giving their human clients counselling as per The Preserving Machine? Or, in a more ambivalent forerunner of the Internet of Things, how soon before we’re arguing with machines about our failure to pay a opening fee, as per the automated doors in Ubik?

The key theme that the author never relinquished, no matter how destabilising the landscapes he created, was heart. There’s a famous PDK quote that goes, “A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake.” Something we should all learn from. With the empathy box, in the ever relevant Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the trials of the embattled Mercer and the blurred lines generated between humans and the ‘feeling’ machines of that book, Philip K Dick blazed a trail that we’re still feeling our way along today. At least, with the growing political outrage and anti-capitalistic sentiment, there’s a sense that working together is the only way to mend a tear in reality before it gets any bigger.

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What we’re not talking about here are the opiate happy pills of Soma, Bliss or Dust. Nor the spaced-out interpretations of our puny human minds trying to wrap themselves around the truly ‘alien’ – 2001 A Space Odyssey/Contact/Fire in the Sky…. And while there is a focus on shifts in perception, they’re more of the bat-shit, jaw-mashing, consciousness expanding, pharmacopeia than anything offered by virtual reality. So neck yourselves either the blue or the red pill – Morpheus always knew they were both spiked – and join us as we roll our eyes to the back of our skulls for a look see.

Philip K Dick has been haunting these pages for the past few months, and there’s no way we can discuss drug related reality breakdowns without reference to his invention. Can-D and Chew-Z both combine with the doll-like dioramas of Perky Pat’s world in miniature in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, while the psychological splitting of Substance D fuels all the tempered madness of A Scanner Darkly.

Examples from a potent, drug related SF tradition, and contemporaries of the 60s revolution in the genre that found a home in New Worlds magazine. Here, under the alchemical guidance of Michael Moorcock, journeys through inner as well as outer space were positively encouraged – no doubt influencing narcotic anthologies like Michael Parry’s Dream Trips and Strange Ecstasies. All of which were part of an ongoing creative experiment that spilled over from the Beats and, most notably, from the addictive metaphors of William S Burroughs. If you’re looking for a modern advocate of this tradition, Jeff Noon is probably the best gateway as his continued experiments with narrative styles echo this ongoing engagement with alternate realities.

On the filmic side of the perceptive doors there are fewer examples of Sci-Fi trips than you might initially think. Maybe it’s a pedantic definition but, as mentioned earlier, the VR excursions of Brainstorm, eXistenZ and Paprika don’t require anyone raiding the medicine cabinet. Conversely, Ken Russell’s Alter States, Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly and Pete Travis’ Dredd (see above) all come with a visual genealogy that reaches back beyond The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

So just a cursory, and slightly bitter taste of psychedelics within the realms of SF. Enough, perhaps, to assist a fresh appraisal of an era of gaudy book covers, radical shifts in
theme and style and the welcoming in of drug related experiences as viable, cross-genre source material.

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