There are surprises, and then there are some surprises that stop you dead in your tracks, and make your hair stand on end. I had one of those a few nights ago, after opening a package from Amazon, of the new edition of the book Future Noir: the Making of Blade Runner, by author Paul M. Sammon.
I’m a very big fan of Blade Runner, have been since I first saw it on its release back in 1982. I saw it in a theatre in Manhattan, on a NYC late spring, early summer night, when it was rainy and a bit foggy. The movie itself, while not well received on its release (mixed reviews, some outright hostile), has since been recognized as a sci-fi masterpiece, and rightly so. The imagery, and dark nature of it has been likened to film noir. Like many of Ridley Scott’s films, it is highly layered visually. It created a dystopian society so intense, and has influenced so many other films that came after it (think The Matrix, The Fifth Element, Ghost In The Shell), and helped to spawn the sub-genre of science fiction known as “cyberpunk.” In short, Blade Runner set the standard for just about anything you see in science fiction today.
Upon first viewing, like many other people I was left shell shocked. What did I just see? I was trying to make sense of it, and then I stepped into the that hot Manhattan night and looked around. NYC at that time was not a fun place. The city was in a financial mess. it was incredibly dirty, run down and outright dangerous. Between the rain, fog, and pollution that hung over Manhattan, the realization hit me that I didn’t just watch a movie about a dystopian society: I was living it in many respects. With the exception of the flying cars (“Spinners,” as they were called), and the humanoid “replicant” robots, the environment was eerily similar.
It would take a couple of more viewings, and even then, not until it was released on video did its themes begin to really click into place for me. The overriding one I always thought was the main question it was asking: What does it mean to be human?
Flash forward about a decade or so. The internet has taken off, the web makes its grand appearance, and the world changes. I got into the home computer game late, but once being thrown into the deep end of the pool, I learned to swim in it pretty quickly. Before MySpace, before Facebook, there was Usenet. It was a subset of the internet, and part of it was dedicated to so-called, “newsgroups,” which were places where people with like minded interests could commiserate, share stories, ideas, even computer files. And yes, there were arguments, insults, and all the same things that you can find today. One group caught my interest almost immediately, “alt.fan.blade-runner.”
It was a very active group, and the conversations ranged from discussing the themes of the movie, to the imagery, to the props involved. How the movie was made, and the task that was undertaken for it was a major discussion point. Also, the one recurring discussion was, “Was Deckard (Harrison Ford’s main character) a replicant or not?” Believe it or not, it’s an argument that continues to this day (The sequel coming out next month is supposed to settle that question..yeah, right!). The group eventually migrated over to Facebook, pretty much intact from its Usenet iteration.
I met many good people from literally all over the world in that group, several of whom I’m still friends with today, though many I’ve never met face-to-face. One of the founders of the group was a gentleman by the name of Lukas Mariman, from Belgium. Sadly, we lost Lukas last year at the all too young age of 43. He died just about two weeks after I came home from the hospital following my liver transplant. His death hit us all like a hammer.
Among the people in the group was/is Paul M. Sammon. Paul is a writer, whose contributions were found in several film magazines, many dedicated to science fiction and film in general. He’s also a script writer, director, and film aficionado. His seminal work however is the book mention at the beginning of this post, Future Noir. It is considered the “bible of Blade Runner,” and is a firsthand account of the making of the movie. Paul was on set throughout the entire film shoot, chronicling the dynamics of what was considered, and this is putting it mildly, a very difficult shoot. It was also the start of an almost four decades long obsession (by Paul’s own admission) with this film.
The first printing of the book was released in 1996, with one update after that, and now, the most recent update which was released last week. Many of us in the group got to know Paul, mostly through group conversations, though some were fortunate enough to meet him face-to-face. I’m hoping to be able to do that some day.
I’ve been a fairly regular contributor to the group, and Paul was very kind and supportive to me during my own battle with illness, and transplant. What I simply didn’t expect was what I read when I opened the new edition Future Noir (FN for short). There towards the beginning of the book in the Acknowledgements section, in addition to the big names associated with the movie (Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, among others), were some of us from the newsgroup. My name was among them.
I couldn’t believe it. In the grand scheme of this big book, it was a small thing, but I have to be honest that I felt a rush of pride. I never in a million years expected that I made any sort of contribution that would have merited even a small mention like this, but there it was. I immediately posted a huge thank you to Paul in the group, as did others whose names were featured in the same section. I also suggested to Paul (privately) if he could send a signed copy of the book to Lukas’ parents, as they are still in great grief over the loss of their son. They have come to realize how much their son had an impact on so many over the world, and Paul agreed with me, and is sending them a special copy of the book.
So yes, I am encouraging others with any interest in the movie, or in filmmaking in general to buy this book. It’s on Amazon, for a very reasonable price.
“Fiery the angels fell. Deep thunder rolled around their shoulders, burning with the fires of Orc….Yes…questions.”