Review: “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night” By K. W. Jeter (Novel)

Well, although I’d originally planned to read a thriller novel next, I was more in the mood for sci-fi (and for reading slowly too). So, I thought that I’d re-read a book that I’d originally planned to review last November. I am, of course talking about K. W. Jeter’s 1996 novel “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night”.

This was a novel that I first read in 2011. However, I lost my copy of it and didn’t remember that much about it. So, when l I happened to find a copy of both this novel and K. W. Jeter’s “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” in a second-hand bookshop in Petersfield in 2018, I was eager to re-read both of them with the hope of posting reviews of them in November 2019 (for reasons any fan of “Blade Runner” will understand).

Of course, I only got round to reviewing the previous novel and Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” back then. So, this review is long overdue.

But, before I begin, I should probably point out that you need to have watched the first “Blade Runner” film at least a couple of times – in addition to having read P.K.D’s “Electric Sheep” and also Jeter’s “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” too before reading this novel in order to get the most out of it.

Even then, you’ll probably still need to pay attention and take notes whilst reading. So, yes, this is very much a novel for die-hard fans rather than people new to the franchise. Likewise, ever since the release of “Blade Runner 2049” in 2017, this novel is no longer considered canonical.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 1997 Orion (UK) paperback edition of “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night” that I read.

The novel is set several weeks or months after the ending of “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”. Rick Deckard and Sarah Tyrell are living in a hovel on Mars under assumed names. Although there are rumours that the U.N. will resume transport to the outer colonies, the colonists are stuck on the planet and are slowly deteriorating psychologically from stimulus deprivation (something only staved off by either an expensive cable TV subscription or illicit religion-based hallucinogens called “dehydrated deities”).

Running low on cash, Deckard has agreed to be a consultant for a film adaptation of his career. Filming is taking place on a space station near Mars. The novel begins with a re-creation of his encounter with Leon, performed by an actor who looks identical to him (thanks to the wonders of CGI). However, when “Rachel” shows up and shoots Leon, Deckard happens to spot that the Leon replicant has actually been killed. Furious about this, he goes to find the director to get some answers. Or at least to beat some answers out of him.

Meanwhile, Dave Holden shows up at the station with a talking briefcase. He sneaks around for a while, trying to find a way to approach Deckard without getting noticed. One of the production crew mistakes him for the actor playing Dave Holden and insists on a rehearsal. Dave goes along with it, only to be shot and killed by another Leon replicant. A man called Marley then shoots the replicant just as Deckard arrives. After a scuffle and an argument, Deckard quits the job and storms off of the station. But, just as he’s leaving, a production assistant hands him the briefcase. It has his initials on it.

Back on the surface of Mars, Sarah Tyrell is alone at home. With the events of the past weighing on her mind and only a talking clock and calendar (both of whom are probably distant relatives of Talkie Toaster) to keep her company, she isn’t in a good place psychologically. She has recently bought an illegal gun and two bullets. One for Deckard and one for herself…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it was an absolute joy to read 🙂 Yes, the plot does get a little convoluted but – as a whole – it is very true to the tone and style of the original film whilst also adding lots of interesting new stuff too 🙂 In fact, some moments are even “More ‘Blade Runner’ than ‘Blade Runner’“, if this makes sense 🙂 Seriously, if you love the atmosphere of the film, then you’ll love this book. Plus, although this novel is non-canonical these days, it goes into a lot more depth about some of the stuff that eventually appeared in “Blade Runner 2049” too 🙂

So, I should probably start by talking about the novel’s sci-fi elements. Although this novel includes a few things which you probably wouldn’t expect to see in anything “Blade Runner”-related (like time distortions, “dehydrated deities”, morphogenic fields, memetic idea-weapons etc..), all of this “out there” stuff is very much in keeping with the weird 1960s science fiction of Philip K. Dick. Not to mention that all of this weird stuff is also there for important plot-related reasons and to add a bit more depth to the “world” of the story – even if it might seem a bit out of place at first.

As you’d expect from anything “Blade Runner” related, this novel is absolutely brimming with intellectual depth too 🙂 In addition to further exploring some of the central themes of the original film (eg: authority, humanity, moral complexity etc…), the novel also adds a few interesting themes of it’s own. In addition to further exploring the P.K.D-inspired concepts of simulacra and artificiality through several meta-fictional scenes that reference the original film and the idea of people becoming addicted to cable TV and religion-based hallucinogens, the novel is also a much more introspective story than you might expect.

Although this novel does have a complex and gritty “film noir”/conspiracy thriller-style plot, the main focus is on introspection and personal discovery. Both Deckard and Sarah go on weird inner journeys via hallucinogens or time travel. These are often heavily focused on their memories, which not only allows the novel to explore how the past affects the present day, but also to explore the concept of unreliable memory too. Not to mention that this also links in with the theme of memories from the original film too.

And, talking of the films, “Blade Runner 2049” probably took a lot of inspiration from this book. Whether it is the “rep-symps”, pro-replicant rebels who are only glimpsed in “Blade Runner 2049” but play a very large “off screen” role in this novel or the dusty desert landscapes or even the idea of replicants being able to reproduce, it’s fairly obvious that someone involved with the second film has probably read this book 🙂 Yet, at the same time, this novel is also very different from the second film 🙂

Plus, like with Jeter’s “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”, this novel also includes a few creepy horror elements that are in keeping with the style of the series. In addition to a few moments of gory horror and some creepy locations, this story focuses quite heavily on psychological and character-based horror too – which really helps to add a bit of unsettling darkness to the story 🙂

As for the characters, they are excellent 🙂 Not only is Deckard very true to the grizzled, rough and morally-ambiguous character that you’ll know from the films, but Sarah Tyrell also gets a lot of extra characterisation too. She’s this wonderfully complicated character who is both very sympathetic and extremely unsympathetic at the same time. In addition to the return of a few familiar faces (eg: Roy Batty, J.F. Sebastian etc..), the malevolent ghost of Eldon Tyrell also seems to lurk in the background (via his past actions and effects on the characters) too. Seriously, I cannot praise the characterisation in this novel highly enough 🙂

The writing in this novel is absolutely stellar too 🙂 Jeter’s third-person narration is written in a style that is both hardboiled and highly-descriptive at the same time. Whilst this slows down the pacing of the story a bit, it means that many scenes – especially those that reference the original film – are actually more “Blade Runner” than the original film. Although the main plot may be set on the dusty colonies of Mars, there’s still plenty of time for lots of beautiful, poetic descriptions of the “neon-veined” streets of future L.A and they are blissful to read 🙂 Seriously, the writing in this novel is an absolutely perfect fit with the film that inspired it 🙂

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is interesting. Although it is a fairly efficient 309 pages in length, the highly-descriptive writing style, ultra-complex plot, very tiny print and heavy focus on introspection mean that this will be a much slower-paced novel than you might expect. But, surprisingly, this isn’t a bad thing here.

Slow pacing is one of the strengths of the original films, giving the audience time to think and to drink in the amazing atmosphere and lavish visual details. It’s also an antidote to the rapidly-edited ultra-fast films that are so common these days. And it is great to see that the novel recognises this and uses it to full advantage – even if it means that this novel will take you longer to read than you might expect (and you’ll also have to pay attention and take a few notes to make sense of the plot too).

As for how this twenty-four year old novel has aged, it both has and hasn’t aged well. On the one hand, the novel’s descriptions of things like CGI and the opioid epidemic feel eerily prescient, not to mention the fact that the characters and writing are timelessly exquisite too. Plus, given how much of an inspiration this novel seems to have been on the modern film sequel to “Blade Runner”, it’s also ahead of its time in this regard too. On the other hand, you should also expect to see a few slightly dated and/or “politically incorrect” descriptions or moments every now and then.

All in all, although this novel’s plot can get a bit convoluted and also contains a few fairly “out there” sci-fi elements, it is a worthy sequel to “Blade Runner” 🙂 It is dripping with atmosphere, is true to the tone of the original film and is just an absolute joy to read 🙂 If you’ve seen the films and you want to learn more about their intriguingly mysterious futuristic “world” and the characters who live within it, then you absolutely need to read Jeter’s spin-off novels.

If I had to give this novel a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Review: “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” By K. W. Jeter (Novel)

Well, since it’s November 2019, I thought that I’d re-read another “Blade Runner” – related book. I am, of course, talking about K. W. Jeter’s 1995 novel “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”.

Yes, long before “Blade Runner 2049” appeared in cinemas two years ago, Jeter had written three totally different (and, now, non-canonical) official sequel novels to “Blade Runner”.

Although the final one (“Blade Runner 4: Eye And Talon”) seems to be somewhat rare and expensive, I happened to find cheap copies of the first two sequels in a second-hand bookshop in Petersfield a couple of months before I prepared this review (because I couldn’t find my old copies of both books).

Since it has been about eleven years since I first read “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” during a holiday in France, I thought that it was the perfect time to re-read it 🙂

However, since this novel is a direct sequel, you need to watch “Blade Runner” before reading this book. Likewise, although it isn’t essential, it is also well worth reading “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick (the novel “Blade Runner” is based on) before reading this novel, since you’ll get more out of it if you do 🙂 Of course, you don’t need to watch “Blade Runner 2049” before reading this book – since it tells a totally different story.

So, let’s take a look at “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

– This is the 1996 Orion (UK) paperback edition of “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” that I read.

Set nine months after the events of “Blade Runner”, the novel begins with Chief Bryant drinking alone in his office in the hours after Gaff’s funeral. To his surprise, a mysterious person enters his office and, after a short conversation, draws a gun and shoots him.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, Deckard is living in a cabin in the woods with his replicant lover Rachael. Since she is nearing the end of her pre-determined four year lifespan, she spends most of her time in a stasis booth that Deckard acquired from several of his contacts, only regaining consciousness every few weeks to spend a single day with Deckard. Most of the time, Deckard is alone. So, when he hears the sound of a spinner heading towards the cabin, he isn’t sure if he’s imagining things.

This is especially true when the spinner lands and a woman who looks exactly like Rachael emerges from it. She introduces herself as Sarah Tyrell, head of the Tyrell Corporation since the death of her uncle Eldon nine months ago. Sarah wants Deckard to return to LA and do a job for her and, with the contingent of armed Tyrell Corp security she’s brought with her, he doesn’t exactly have much choice in the matter…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that, even though it can get a little contrived and convoluted at times, it’s a really cool alternative sequel to “Blade Runner” 🙂

Not only is it reasonably true to the tone of the original film, but it is also darker, more spectacular and very atmospheric too. It’s the kind of sequel that was written for enthusiastic “Blade Runner” fans and, in some ways, is probably a more “accurate” sequel than “Blade Runner 2049” is.

In terms of the novel’s sci-fi elements, it is a “Blade Runner” novel. Not only is it set during the summer in a slightly more expanded version of the grim, dystopian proto-cyberpunk world of the original film (with some of the hot, dusty post-apocalyptic atmosphere of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” too), but it also expands on a lot of the film’s thematic material too.

In other words, this is a novel where – thanks to the existence of ultra-realistic robots – no-one can be quite certain who is human or even if they are human themselves. In addition to this, the novel also adds a lot of conspiracy-based paranoia which is evocative of the untrustworthy, unreliable world of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” too 🙂

The novel also expands on several of the moral questions posed by the film, with Deckard being presented in an even more morally-ambiguous way, several references to times that blade runners have killed humans by mistake and more disturbing details about replicant slavery in the off-world colonies.

This, of course, brings me on to the novel’s horror elements. Whilst this novel isn’t a “horror novel” as such, there are quite a few disturbing moments and/or psychological horror elements here.

Whether it is a chilling train-based scene that subtly references the Holocaust, the scenes involving a “repaired” version of Pris or some hints about Eldon Tyrell’s backstory, this can be a surprisingly unsettling and disturbing novel at times. Yet, all of this horror is very much in keeping with tone of the original film – even if there is more emphasis on it than you might expect.

Surprisingly, this novel is also more of a thriller novel than you might expect. In addition to a few spectacular fast-paced action set pieces (some of which reminded me of “Blade Runner 2049” and the spin-off anime), this novel also focuses a lot on conspiracy-based paranoia, suspense and things like that too. Whilst this novel as a whole isn’t a particularly fast-paced thriller, it’s certainly a compelling one.

However, as mentioned earlier, some elements of the story’s conspiracy thriller plot can get a little convoluted at times. There are also a couple of small plot holes (eg: video filtering technology that works inconsistently in one scene) and a few scenes can also feel a little contrived too. Still, the level of plot complexity here is vaguely reminiscent of Raymond Chandler at times 🙂

In terms of the writing, it’s really good 🙂 This novel’s third-person narration uses a very descriptive, but appropriately hardboiled, style that goes really well with the story. Given that the original film is a masterpiece of visual art, it is really cool to see narration that captures this level of harsh hardboiled beauty. Yes, the descriptive elements of the narration do slow the story down a bit, but they also make it feel like a genuine part of the “Blade Runner” universe too 🙂

This novel also rewards your knowledge of both the film and Philip K. Dick’s novel, with numerous references to familiar locations from both things, a plot point involving a script error in older versions of the film, a dramatic scene involving the off-world advertising blimp, slightly more focus on background characters from the film (eg: Holden, J.F.Sebastian etc..) etc… Seriously, if you’re a massive fan of “Blade Runner”, then this novel is the kind of sequel you were probably secretly hoping for in 2017.

In terms of the characters, this novel is fairly good. In addition to seeing what has happened to familiar characters from both “Blade Runner” and “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”, they also get a bit more depth too (after all, this is a novel).

In addition to this, the novel also contains a couple of new characters who are interesting alternative versions of familiar characters. If you’re a fan of the film, then all of this extra characterisation is an absolute joy to behold 🙂

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is interesting. At 340 pages in length, it doesn’t look too long, but it will take you longer to read than you might expect. In other words, whilst this novel contains a few fast-paced moments, the story’s pacing is a little bit closer to the slightly slower, more atmospheric pacing of the original film. Even so, this novel can probably best be described as a moderately-paced thriller.

As for how this twenty-four year old novel has aged, it has mostly aged well. Yes, there are a few “politically incorrect” moments (eg: some of Bryant’s dialogue, a somewhat transphobic scene etc…), but the novel as a whole feels almost as timeless as the original “Blade Runner” film. Not only that, the focus on post-apocalyptic wastelands and spectacular action set-pieces in some parts of the novel is also fairly evocative of the recent “Blade Runner 2049” film too 🙂

All in all, whilst this alternative sequel isn’t as good as the original film, it certainly comes close 🙂 Even though it may no longer be canonical, it is still well worth reading if you’re a fan of “Blade Runner”. It’s atmospheric, dark, complex and dystopian. It’s also somewhat closer in style and tone to the original film than “Blade Runner 2049” was too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” By Philip K. Dick (Novel)

Woo hoo! It’s November 2019! So, it seemed like the perfect time to re-read Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” 🙂

For those of you not in the know, this sci-fi novel was later adapted into the cinematic masterpiece “Blade Runner” (which is set in the distant future of November 2019). And, yes, there are some fairly major differences between the book and the film. But, more about those later.

Although I first saw “Blade Runner” on VHS at least a year or two before I discovered the novel, I read it at least twice during my mid-late teens (and even ended up getting two different editions of the book, one of which I can’t find). So, I was curious to see whether it was as good as I remember.

So, let’s take a look at “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 1986 Grafton Books (UK) paperback edition of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” that I read.

Set in the dystopian future of 1992, most of the Earth’s population have emigrated to other planets following the nuclear devastation of World War Terminus. Even so, some people still live in the habitable parts of Earth. One of those people is Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco police who tracks down and kills android labourers who have illegally returned to Earth.

Rick is having a bad day. After having arguments with both his wife and his neighbour in the first hour after he wakes up, he goes into work and learns that the police’s top bounty hunter, Dave Holden, is in hospital. Holden had been tracking an escaped android called Polokov, who had got the drop on him and let rip with a laser tube.

But, whilst Rick is eager to collect on all of Holden’s outstanding bounties, Chief Bryant wants him to go to the offices of the Rosen Association and run some tests on their latest android model – the Nexus Six – to see if they can still be detected by the police’s testing equipment.

Meanwhile, in a run-down block of flats in one of the abandoned parts of the city, a driver for an artificial pet repair company called J.R. Isidore is getting ready for work. Isidore is stuck on Earth because he didn’t pass the IQ requirements for emigration. Stigmatised as a “chickenhead”, he finds solace in the empathy box – a virtual reality device central to the new religion of Mercerism. But, just before he is about to leave his apartment, he hears someone else in the building….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it’s even better than I remembered 🙂 It’s an atmospheric, quirky, hilarious and thoroughly imaginative retro sci-fi novel that has stood the test of time surprisingly well 🙂 It is a novel that has a lot of personality and manages to cram a surprisingly large amount of detail, story and worldbuilding into what, by modern standards, is a fairly short novel.

I should probably start by talking about how this novel differs from the film adaptation. Basically, although a few character names, several themes, a couple of plot elements and a few lines of dialogue are the same, everything else is different. Yet, at the same time, you can see where the inspiration for pretty much everything in the film came from. In fact, even the Las Vegas locations in the recent “Blade Runner 2049” film take heavy inspiration from this novel’s dusty, kipple-filled, decaying locations.

Yet, despite all of these major differences, the novel and the film adaptation are pretty much as good as each other. Both have very detailed fictional “worlds”, both have a lot of intellectual depth, both are wonderfully unique things etc… Seriously, don’t let the numerous differences put you off of reading this book.

In terms of the novel’s sci-fi elements, they’re really brilliant. In addition to the laser guns and flying cars that you’d expect, this novel has a lot of brilliant worldbuilding. With Earth being a semi-apocalyptic irradiated planet, almost everything in the novel’s world is defined by this.

Whether it is the lead codpieces men wear to stave off infertility, whether it’s the more prosperous off-world colonies, the much higher (financial, legal and emotional) value placed on the few surviving animals, the prejudice towards those born with radiation-induced brain damage, the empathy-based religion of Mercerism etc… Everything in this novel feels like a logical extension of the story’s dystopian premise.

Another awesome thing about this novel is it’s atmosphere 🙂 Although the novel is set in a realistic semi-apocalyptic version of Earth, all of this bleakness is balanced out with lots of subtle moments of comedy and brilliantly quirky background details. If you’ve read any other Philip K. Dick novels, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. Seriously, this is a story that has a lot of personality to it 🙂

Thematically, this novel is really interesting too. In addition to being an exploration of the value of empathy and how it makes us human, this novel is also a critique of nuclear war, a psychological tale where reality is never an entirely certain thing, a humanist exploration of the emotional/social nature of religion, a tale about old evils still existing in the future (eg: slavery, jealousy, violence etc..), an exploration of nihilism and a tale about how ideals and reality often come into conflict.

Not to mention that some of the novel’s other themes feel more relevant than ever. Whether it is the unprincipled tech company owners who always try to stay one step ahead of any official oversight, the scenes involving emotions being manipulated by technology (which are somehow more ethical than their real equivalent) or the possible implication that human androids aren’t allowed on Earth because of fears that they may replace humanity, this novel still feels surprisingly relevant at times.

In terms of the characters, they’re fairly interesting. Rick Deckard is the sardonic, morally-ambiguous main character than you might recognise from the film. However, he gets a bit more depth in this novel and is also portrayed as much more of a middle-class suburban “everyman” than the “film noir” detective you might expect if you’ve only seen “Blade Runner”. In addition to this, the novel clearly states that Deckard is a human rather than an android.

Like in the film, the novel’s android characters are presented as being fairly “human”. However, they are presented in a much less sympathetic way than in the film, with their lack of empathy meaning that they act in a much colder, crueller and more selfish way than most of the novel’s human characters. In fact, this in itself is a really interesting plot point – since, when Rick meets a cynical and cold-hearted guy called Phil Resch, he can’t be entirely certain whether Resch is human or not.

The novel’s other main character, John Isidore, is really well-written too. He’s a really sympathetic, if slightly naive, guy who gets a decent amount of characterisation and is also designed to evoke empathy in the reader too. Plus, although many of the novel’s other characters don’t get a huge amount of characterisation, they get enough to come across as interesting and/or realistic people.

In terms of the writing, it is really good 🙂 The novel’s third-person narration is written in a descriptive and atmospheric way which, whilst slightly more formal than most modern novels, has a lot of personality to it 🙂 Seriously, I cannot praise the narration in this novel highly enough 🙂 Yes, it’s a bit more slow-paced than you might expect but it’s good enough to justify this 🙂

As for length and pacing, this novel is really good. At a gloriously efficient 183 pages in length, this novel tells a story that most other sci-fi writers would struggle to tell in 300-400 pages. But, due to all of this detail and worldbuilding, this novel is a bit more slow-paced than you might expect. Even so, this isn’t a bad thing. Thanks to a compelling story and lots of fascinating background details, you’ll probably want to spend more time with this novel 🙂

In terms of how this fifty-one year old novel has aged, it has aged surprisingly well. Yes, the novel’s gender politics are a bit dated at times, there are a couple of references to the Soviet Union and the writing style is a little bit more formal than most modern sci-fi novels, but the novel as a whole has stood the test of time really well 🙂 It’s atmospheric, the settings feel believable, the quirky humour still works and the story still remains compelling too.

One other interesting thing about reading this novel these days are the novel’s references to the old sci-fi novels of the 1930s/40s. In the book, these are presented as artefacts of a more imaginative and optimistic age. Of course, now that this novel is also an old sci-fi novel too, this adds a whole new dimension to these parts of the story.

All in all, this novel is brilliant 🙂 If you love the movie “Blade Runner” or if you just want an imaginative and quirky dystopian sci-fi novel, then this one is well worth reading 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

How Much Do You Have To Explain About Your Fictional “World” If You Want A Re-Readable Story?

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about worldbuilding and re-readability. But, although this is an article about writing, I’m going to have to spend most of the article looking at stories told through the mediums of film and computer games – mostly because there are two brilliantly contrasting examples that I really want to talk about.

The first is a classic computer game from 2004 called “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines“, which I seem to be re-playing at the moment. Despite the fact that I’d started playing another game called “Under A Killing Moon”, I got distracted by re-playing this game:

This is a screenshot from “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (2004). It’s a bit like that “Hotel California” song – you can check out, but you can’t leave…

In addition to being a really interesting mixture of several types of game, one of the most fascinating parts of “Bloodlines” is the incredibly detailed fictional “world” that it takes place in.

Not only does the game have you navigate a secret society of vampires in mid-2000s California, but the game also gives you lots of detailed background information about different types of vampires, different political factions of vampires and many of the game’s characters.

This is another screenshot from “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (2004), showing one of the characters explaining a tiny part of the game’s backstory.

Even the game’s loading screens take the time to explain even more about the fictional “world” of the game. And, I found myself so fascinated that I not only began to replay the game, but I also even ended up spending quite a while looking at fan sites online in order to learn even more about this fascinating fictional world.

In short, this game explains a lot about it’s highly-detailed fictional “world” and it is fascinating enough to make you want to return to it again and again.

By contrast, my favourite film is a sci-fi film from 1982 called “Blade Runner“, which I must have re-watched at least five times. Although there was a sequel last year that expands more on the futuristic “world” of the film, the original film explains relatively little about the world it takes place in.

Yes, we get to hear a bit of basic backstory and we meet a few characters but, for the most part, the film only shows us a relatively small (but visually-dense) part of an absolutely fascinating futuristic world. It’s kind of like the old writing adage of “show, don’t tell“:

This is a screenshot from “Blade Runner” (1982), showing a tiny part of the film’s fascinating setting.

And, yet, this lack of obvious background information is one of the things that makes this film so fascinating. It makes you search for and extrapolate from the film’s many small visual background details, like you are some kind of detective who is looking for clues. This, of course, makes you want to return to the film again and again.

This lack of explanation also means that you have to use your imagination if you want to “see” more of the film’s fictional world. Needless to say, this also makes it an absolutely great source of creative inspiration too.

So, “Blade Runner” and “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” take completely opposite approaches to worldbuilding, and yet they are both the type of thing that just begs to be revisited again and again.

Whilst both approaches to worldbuilding have their merits, one interesting thing to note is that both creative works not only have a detailed (and atmospheric) fictional world but also one that is populated by fascinating and unique characters. So, characterisation is an important part of making your audience want to return to your story.

But, more importantly, both things rely heavily on curiosity. “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” gives the appearance of satisfying the audience’s curiosity, whilst also hinting that there’s a lot more to learn (through brief descriptions of complex things etc..).

On the other hand, “Blade Runner” presents a tantalising glimpse at a fully-formed fictional world and then just says “you’ll have to work it out for yourself“. Both things rely heavily on curiosity in order to make the audience return again and again.

But, I guess that the best lesson to take from all of this is that detailed, complex, unique and imaginative fictional worlds are inherently fascinating things. It doesn’t matter if you explain a lot about them, or explain next to nothing about them. They are fascinating things that will make your audience want to come back again and again.

———–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Great Stories Don’t Always Need Complex Plots – A Ramble

Although I’m busy making this month’s webcomic mini series at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk very briefly about writing and storytelling today. In particular, I thought that I’d talk about how great stories don’t always have to have complex plots.

The idea that great stories have to have ultra-complex, intricate plots can be something that can be off-putting to new writers. But, this is something of a misconception. In fact, great stories can have incredibly simple plots…. and still be great. But, how?

Simply put, it is more about the journey than the destination. Many great stories (in a range of mediums) are more about the characters, the atmosphere, the emotional tone, the style etc.. of the story rather than because of how detailed or complex the plot happens to be.

To use a cinematic example, take a look at the classic 1982 sci-fi masterpiece “Blade Runner“. On the most simple level, it is a film about a detective who is ordered to find and kill several human-like robots who have travelled to Earth illegally. There’s also a romantic sub-plot too.

But, of course, the film is much more than just this. Despite the relatively simple premise, this film is revered as a masterpiece for so many reasons.

First of all, this basic premise is used to explore a host of complex themes (eg: the meaning of life, corrupt authority, morality, capitalism, discrimination etc..). Likewise, the film’s characters are often intriguingly ambiguous and fairly distinctive. Finally, the general “look”, atmosphere and style of the film is a brilliant blend of science fiction and film noir that has been hugely influential on many things made afterwards.

So, a “simple” plot can be used as a skeleton to build a much greater story around. Because, as I mentioned earlier, great stories can often be more about the journey than the destination.

So, if you want to tell a really brilliant story, then it’s ok to use a fairly simple or obvious premise. The trick is to focus on everything else, like the characters, the dialogue, the style of the story, the atmosphere of the story etc…..

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Apologies for the ridiculously short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 30th August 2018)

Well, today’s art is a monochrome piece of “Blade Runner” fan art. If you’re interested in the reasons why I made this piece of fan art (and the creative decisions I took whilst making it), then check out this article of mine.

Since this is fan art, this drawing is NOT released under any kind of Creative Commons licence.

“Fan Art – Blade Runner – But, Then Again, Who Does?” By C. A. Brown