What it Means to Be Human: Five Works of Fiction That Explore Blade Runner’s Core Themes

One of the reasons the original Blade Runner film has endured as a classic is its compelling exploration of what it means to be human. As the replicants struggle to extend their artificially brief lifespans, the seminal film probes our notions of empathy, slavery, identity, memory, and death, in profound yet subtle ways.

Blade Runner asks many questions of its audience. Does our capacity for empathy correlate with our humanity? Are we the sum total of our memories, or something more? Do our lives have meaning if no one remembers the things we’ve seen and done when we’re gone? How does questioning someone’s humanity perpetuate the institution of slavery? And what do our fears of a robot uprising tell us about our own human insecurities?

How one answers the film’s many questions is a Voight-Kampff test in itself. Blade Runner, in other words, is a two-hour long Rorschach test—no ...

Why Blade Runner is More Relevant Than Ever

When the original Blade Runner film was released in 1982 to mediocre box-office sales and lukewarm reviews, few could predict the film would have such a lasting legacy. For nearly three decades, the film’s neon-saturated, overcrowded, rain-swept dystopia served as the default backdrop for dozens, if not hundreds of science-fiction films. Even the Star Wars prequels borrowed (or ripped-off) the film’s noirish cyberdream vision for some of its urban landscapes. But more so than its look, Blade Runner’s themes have survived long past its inception date.

Consider the future Blade Runner that posits for November, 2019: a society of haves and have-nots. A world where the rich literally dwell above the poor in luxury skyscrapers, or migrate Off-world with personal servants/slaves. Meanwhile, the mass of citizens crowds below, eking out dreary lives, struggling against entropy and despair to make frayed ends meet. It’s a world of crumbling infrastructure and ...

queen-static

5 Fantasy Books with Awe-Inspiring Settings

In the best fantasy novels, settings are characters too. These created worlds are as rich and alive as the characters that inhabit their colorful landscapes. Of course characters—strong and fascinating ones—are integral to a compelling plot. But a great setting adds layers of dynamism and complexity to characters’ struggles. It’s Middle-earth and Westeros, Oz and Earthsea, Pern and Amber, and all the other fantastic worlds we love to inhabit which mold and shape the characters moving inside them into something greater.

The most memorable fantasy worlds feel as if they are real places that we’ve visited. In fact, we have visited them, in our minds. This is why we build interactive maps of Kings Landing, why we feel the hot ashen winds of Mordor on our cheeks, and why we can still taste the Mad Hatter’s tea on our lips.

Here are five fantasy novels with fantastic, awe-inspiring settings that ...

fifth-season
perdido-street
palm-wine
swamp-thing

The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)

lastnovelist_full

< p class="frontmatter">“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” by Matthew Kressel is a science fiction story about a dying writer who is trying to finish one final novel on the distant planet he settles on for his demise. His encounter with a young girl triggers a last burst of creativity. When I lift up my shoe in the morning there’s a dead baby lizard underneath. It lies on its back, undersides pink and translucent, organs visible. Maybe when I walked home under the strangely scattered stars I stepped on it. Maybe it crawled under my shoe to seek its last breath while I slept. Here is one leaf of a million-branched genetic tree never to unfurl. Here is one small animal on a planet teeming with life. The wind blows, carrying scents of salt and seaweed. High above, a bird soars in the eastern wind. I scoop up ...

How to Run a (Successful) Reading Series

author-reading So you want to run a reading series, do you? That’s fantastic news! The more places authors have to showcase their work, the better. But while running a reading series may seem like a cakewalk to the casual outside observer, there are many things you must consider to make sure your series is successful. I’ve been co-hosting the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in Manhattan alongside Ellen Datlow for over eight years (the series itself has been running since the late 90s), and in that time I’ve learned many things about how to run a successful reading series, some of which I’ll share with you here.

Be Serious

I’m not going to lie. It’s work to run a series. Granted, it’s not a lot of work. You won’t be up late the night before crying and pulling out your hair like you’re cramming for a college test. (Okay, you ...
queen-static

Five Fantasy Books with Awe-Inspiring Settings

SwampThing-5books

In the best fantasy novels, settings are characters too. These created worlds are as rich and alive as the characters that inhabit their colorful landscapes. Of course characters — strong and fascinating ones — are integral to a compelling plot. But a great setting adds layers of dynamism and complexity to characters’ struggles. It’s Middle-earth and Westeros, Oz and Earthsea, Pern and Amber, and all the other fantastic worlds we love to inhabit which mold and shape the characters moving inside them into something greater.

The most memorable fantasy worlds feel as if they are real places that we’ve visited. In fact, we have visited them, in our minds. This is why we build interactive maps of Kings Landing, why we feel the hot ashen winds of Mordor on our cheeks, and why we can still taste the Mad Hatter’s tea on our lips.

Here are five fantasy novels with ...

fifth-season
perdido-street
Updraft Sweepstakes
palm-wine
swamp-thing