A Teaser Trailer for Fahrenheit 451: A New Film Adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Ever-Relevant Novel

From HBO comes a teaser trailer for an upcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a film that went in today production a year before the 2016 election--that is, before things in America took a turn for the worse and the weird. That life has started to imitate Bradbury's art hasn't been lost on the film's director, Ramin Bahrani, who told critics at the Television Critics Association:

Politically things are going in a very strange direction in terms of what is real and what is not real... I think we’ve been going in that direction for a long time, it’s just now kind of being revealed to us more clearly. So I think from a high level, that’s a problem....

I don’t want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don’t want to excuse the 30, 40 years prior to that. He’s just an exaggeration of it now...

I don’t want us to forget what Bradbury said, that we asked for this... We are [also] electing again this thing [a smartphone] in my pocket . We are electing to give it all away to this.

Between the technological advancements in last 20 years and politics, I think Bradbury’s biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now… and the speed at which this is advancing is exponential.

Will we actually get ahead of the dam, or will it just be a flood and up to some other generation to bring back all of Bradbury’s heroes?

The new film starring Michael B. Jordan, and Michael Shannon will come out this spring. Stay tuned.

via Devour

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Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, the New Series Starring Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin & Steve Buscemi, Now Streaming Free on Amazon Prime

Do I like Philip K. Dick? Do androids dream of electric sheep? Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to answer such questions about the subjective experience of artificial beings. But I know for certain that I like Philip K. Dick. Deeply admire, respect, fear, even… there are many words I could use to describe the way I feel about his imagination and vision. And I could say much the same about the film adaptations of Dick’s work, up to and including Blade Runner 2049, which wasn’t as visually overwhelming on the small screen after its release on streaming video but still as emotionally captivating in its narrative, pacing, score, and director Denis Villeneuve’s fidelity to, and expansion of, the original film’s use of color and monumental, future-brutalist architecture to tell a story.

Though he very much wanted to break out of science fiction and achieve the status of a “literary” writer—the distinctions in his day being much harder and faster—Dick’s fiction has provided the ultimate source for the cinematic sci-fi epic for several decades now, and shows little sign of falling out of favor. The commercial and creative question seems to be not whether Dick’s stories still resonate, but whether they translate to television as brilliantly as they do to film. Critical opinion can sharply divide on Amazon’s adaptation of Dick’s alternative history novel The Man in the High Castle (about a world in which the Axis powers triumphed), which might be “ponderous,” “boring,” and—in its second season—“the worst TV show of the year,” or “the second best show Amazon has ever made.”

How much this latter judgment conveys depends upon how highly, on the whole, one rates the quality of programming from that corporate mega-juggernaut threatening to overtake nearly every aspect of consumer culture. To say that I find it ironic that such an entity possesses not only one Philip K. Dick property, but now two, with its latest Dick-inspired anthology show Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, would be to grossly understate the case. The author who imagined an intrusive internet of things and a dystopian world where advertisements appear in our minds might also find this situation somewhat… Dick-ian (Dick-like? Dick-ish?). But such is the world we live in. Putting these ironies aside, let’s revisit the question: do Dick's stories work as well on TV as they do on film?

Find out for yourself. The first season of Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams is now streaming on Amazon (see the trailer above), and you can either purchase it by episode, or binge-stream the whole thing gratis with a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. Given that the series, which adapts stories from a collection of the same title, is not the product of one singular vision but a different creative team each time, you may agree with Evan Narcisse at Gizmodo, who writes that the episodes “don’t just vary in aesthetics; they vary widely in quality.” It has a star-studded cast—including Anna Paquin, Janelle Monae, Terrance Howard, Steve Buscemi, and Bryan Cranston (who co-produced)—and some impressive production values.

But Electric Dreams also has a significant challenge set before it: “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.” Indeed—as we ponder whether we might be characters in a simulated reality, our thoughts and beliefs manipulated by powerful companies like those in Dick’s unsettling Ubik—watching the show might add yet another layer of bewilderment to the already very strange experience of everyday life these days. But then again, “if you feel weirded out while watching, that just means the show is doing its job.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear a Complete Reading of the Newly-Discovered Kurt Vonnegut Story, “The Drone King”

Twenty some years before a young engineer named Ray Tomlinson invented email, writer Kurt Vonnegut invented bee-mail in “The Drone King,” a story that didn’t see the light of day until his friend and fellow author Dan Wakefield unearthed it while going through old papers for a new Vonnegut collection.

The collection’s co-editor, Vonnegut scholar Jerome Klinkowitz, estimates that it was written in the early 50s, likely before the publication of his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952.

This early work, recently published in The Atlantic as well as Wakefield and Klinkowitz's collection, shows an author whose gallows humor is already firmly in place.

Several of his favorite themes crop up, too: the enthusiasm of the misguided entrepreneur, the battle of the sexes, and technology taken to absurd extremes (i.e. bees delivering scraps of messages in soda straws tied to their thoraxes).

If we’re not mistaken Indianapolis, Vonnegut’s boyhood home, now host to his Memorial Library, puts in an unbilled appearance, as well. The story’s Millennium Club bears an uncanny resemblance to that city’s Athletic Club, now defunct.

The self-pitying male haplessness Vonnegut spoofs so ably feels just as skewer-able in the post-Weinstein era, though the doddering black waiter’s dialect is rather queasy-making, especially in the mouth of the white narrator reading the story, above.

You can buy "The Drone King" as part of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories collection or read it free online here. The Atlantic was also good enough to create an audio version. It's excerpted up top. And it appears in its entirety right above.

"The Drone King" will be added to our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A New 2-In-1 Illustrated Edition of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? & A Scanner Darkly

FYI: Illustrators Chris Skinner and Andrew Archer present a new illustrated edition of two Philip K. Dick's novels, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? & A Scanner Darkly. And it comes in a great format. Read one novel, then flip the book upside down and enter the next altered reality.

The 2-in-1 book is only available through the Folio Society website.

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Watch the New Trailer for Electric Dreams, the Philip K. Dick TV Series, Starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi & More

If you had told critics and film executives thirty-five years ago that Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner would be one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time—that it would transcend cult status to become a near-religious object in science fiction and anime filmmaking—you would likely have been laughed out of the room. If you had predicted that, thirty-five years later, it would spawn one of the most spectacular sequels imaginable, you might have been met with concern for your sanity. The world was just not ready for Blade Runner in 1982, just as it was not ready for Philip K. Dick in the 50s when he began his writing career and “couldn’t even pay the late fees on a library book.”

In the following decade, however, Dick’s work came into its own. Many years before it provided a near-infallible source for technological prescience and existential futurism in cinema, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novella from which Blade Runner adapted its story, got a Nebula award nomination, one of three Dick received in the 60s. Five years earlier, he won a Hugo award for The Man in the High Castle.

Now, after the success of that speculative historical novel’s grim Amazon adaptation, the company has partnered with Channel 4 and Sony for another small-screen Dick project—Electric Dreams, co-produced by Bryan Cranston, a longtime fan of the author.

An anthology series based on Dick’s stories, Electric Dreams first airs on Channel 4 in the U.K., and will soon move to Amazon, where Prime users will be able to stream the whole 10-episode season for free. (If you aren’t a Prime user, you can get a 30-day free trial to watch the series, then keep or cancel the membership.) Electric Dreams reminds us that a couple of phenomena from Dick’s heyday have made a significant comeback in recent years. First, imaginative, high-concept anthology shows like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and the Duplass brothers’ Room 104 hearken back to the success of The Twilight Zone and lesser-known shows like Roald Dahl’s Way Out.

Secondly, we’ve made a return to the paranoia, social unrest, authoritarianism, and threats of nuclear war that formed the backdrops of Dick’s visionary fables. These are indeed “anxious times,” as Cranston says, but he and the show’s other producers instructed the writers to “use the original material as a springboard to your own re-imagining of the story—keep the core… or idea behind it and enhance that and see how that affects not a Cold War period when it was written, but now. How does it affect the modern-day audience?”

Given the all-star cast and high-dollar production values evident in the trailer above, we can likely expect the same kind of quality from Electric Dreams as we have seen in nearly every Dick adaptation thus far. And if it doesn’t catch on right away, well, that may be everyone’s loss but those viewers who recognize, as Dick himself recognized when he saw Blade Runner in 1982, that they have experienced something truly unique.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Three New Prequels Get You Ready to Watch Blade Runner 2049: Watch Them Online, Then See the New Film on Friday

Even if you've spent each and every day since you first saw Ridley Scott's Blade Runner waiting for a sequel, you still might not be fully prepared for Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 when it opens in theaters this Friday. The 1981 original took place in the Los Angeles of the then-far-flung future of 2019, meaning that 30 years have elapsed in the Blade Runner universe between its first feature film and its second. Much has taken place over those three decades, some of it portrayed by the three official short prequels released to the internet over the past month. Today we present them all in chronological order to catch you up with what happened after Harrison Ford's Blade Runner Rick Deckard picked up that origami unicorn and left the building.

In 2020, the year after Blade Runner, the artificial-being-making Tyrell Corporation introduces a new model of replicant, with a longer lifespan, called the Nexus 8S. Two years later comes "the Blackout," an electromagnetic pulse attack that destroys all technology within its reach. You can see it happen in Blade Runner Black Out 2022, the short at the top of the post directed by respected Japanese animator Shinichiro Watanabe (and featuring a score by Flying Lotus as well as a reprisal of the role of the quasi-Esperanto-speaking police officer Gaff by Edward James Olmos).

Replicants having taken the blame for the Blackout, their production gets legally prohibited until the efforts of an organization called the Wallace Corporation get the ban overturned in 2030. The man at the top of the Wallace Corporation, a certain Niander Wallace, first appears in 2036: Nexus Dawn (middle video), directed by Ridley Scott's son Luke.

In that prequel we see Wallace, who rose to prominence on his company's solution to global food shortages, submitting for approval his latest replicant, the Nexus 9 (although his negotiation strategy leaves little room for compromise). The younger Scott's 2048: Nowhere to Run (below), which introduces a new and imposing replicant character by the name of Sapper Morton, takes place just a year before the sequel, by which time, according to the timeline unveiled at this past summer's Comic-Con, "life on Earth has reached its limit and society divides between replicant and human." Enter Ryan Gosling's K, one of a new generation of replicant- hunters, who goes out in search of a predecessor who went missing some 30 years ago. All of this, of course, still leaves questions unanswered. Chiefly: will Blade Runner 2049 deliver what we've been waiting even more than three deacades for?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Émile-Antoine Bayard’s Vivid Illustrations of Jules Verne’s Around the Moon: The First Serious Works of Space Art (1870)

What does space travel look like? Even now, in the 21st century, very, very few of us know first-hand. But we've all seen countless images from countless eras purporting to show us what it might look like. As with anything imagined by man, someone had to render a convincing vision of space travel first, and that distinction may well go to 19th-century French illustrator Émile-Antoine Bayard who, perhaps not surprisingly, worked with Jules Verne. Verne's pioneering and prolific work in science fiction literature has kept him a household name, but Bayard's may sound more obscure; still, we've all seen his artwork, or at least we've all seen the drawing of Cosette the orphan he did for Les Misérables.

"Readers of Jules Verne’s early science-fiction classic From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune) — which left the Baltimore Gun Club’s bullet-shaped projectile, along with its three passengers and dog, hurtling through space — had to wait a whole five years before learning the fate of its heroes," says The Public Domain Review.

When it appeared, 1870's Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune) offered not just "a fine continuation of the space adventure" but "a superb series of wood engravings to illustrate the tale" created by Bayard. "There had been imaginary views of other worlds, and even of space flight before this," writes Ron Miller in Space Art, "but until Verne's book appeared, these views all had been heavily colored by mysticism rather than science."

Composed strictly according to the scientific facts known at the time — with a departure here and there in the name of imagination and visual metaphor — the illustrations for A Trip Around the Moon, later published in a single volume with its predecessor as A Trip to the Moon and Around It, stand as the earliest known example of scientific space art. Verne went as far as to commission a lunar map by famed selenographers (literally, scholars of the moom's surface) Beer and Maedlerm, and just last year the Linda Hall Library named Bayard a "scientist of the day." As with the uncannily accurate predictions in Verne's earlier novel Paris in the Twentieth Century, a fair few of the ideas here, especially to do with the mechanics of the rocket's launch and return to Earth, remain scientifically plausible.

Whatever the innovation of the project's considerable scientific basis, its artistic impression fired up more than a few other imaginations: both Verne's words and Bayard's art, all 44 pieces of which you can view here, served as major inspirations for early filmmaker and "father of special effects" Georges Méliès, for instance, when he made A Trip to the Moon. Disappointed complaints about our persistent lack of moon colonies or even commercial space flight may have long since grown tiresome, but the next time you hear one of us denizens of the 21st century air them, remember the work of Verne and Bayard and think of how deep into history that desire really runs.

Via The Public Domain Review.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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