Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
March 28, 2016 5:34 AM - by Philip K. Dick - Subscribe

Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.
posted by hobgadling (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had a bunch of notes typed up from when I read this last week, but I accidentally deleted them. Oops. I had highlighted a lot of lines that seem like cast-offs but tie back into 'what makes a human'?

Well, not being able to refer back to that, I will say that one part that most struck me on this re-read was the trip to the fake police station. I had not remember that at all, and when I asked a friend of mine who also read the book, he also did not remember it. And it's such a great part. In true Dickensian fashion, he has my sense of what's real completely flipped, only to eventually flip it back around but with the caveat that nothing can ever be trusted.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:45 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

This book is such a treasure. I agree, tofu_crouton, that on first read it seems like there are a lot of unrelated digressions and details but ultimately every line in this book is asking either "What makes a thing alive, and who gets to decide what's alive and what isn't?" or a parallel, corollary question about humanity. All the stuff with mood organs and electric pets plays back into those key themes too.

This is actually a practical question these days, it seems - loved reading the coverage of the AlphaGo match where the human commentators kept saying that AlphaGo "played like a human". I don't know much about go and didn't feel qualified to evaluate it, but I'm sure machines will get there with things I know more about before the decade is out.

I haven't reread recently but I'll try to fit it in so I can add more detailed thoughts to this thread. People looking at this thread who haven't read the book before, it's really a pretty quick read; you could probably pick it up and get through it before the discussion goes cold.
posted by town of cats at 9:52 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

The thing that has stuck with me most from this book over the years is the concept of "kipple".

I still use that word all the time to describe clutter. It's also a great exploration of entropy, given that "kipple displaces non-kipple" and that we can fight against it, for a time, but it will inexorably consume everything.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 11:34 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure the first time I read it, I underlined every use of the word 'kipple' because it's so great. Does it appear in other PKD works? It seems like the kind of concept that would reoccur, displacing other words.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:05 PM on March 28, 2016

It's funny that you like the word "kipple" because Tolkien coined the term "mathom" for a very similar concept. Mathoms seem awesomer than kipple - a mathom is more like a souvenir or party favor, something that you keep because it's too cute or fun to toss, and kipple is more like a tax form from six years ago or a key whose lock you don't remember, that you're 99.9% sure you'll never need but keep because you're *afraid* to toss it.

Clearly English needs a more specialized vocabulary for clutter if two of our brightest lights have seen fit to invent words for the category.
posted by town of cats at 12:32 PM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

The fake police station is a favorite of mine, now on the I-have-no-idea-how-many-th reread. Its just such a weird moment in the middle of the highest energy part of the book, its such a PKD thing to add in there.

Also, I feel like there's something similar to kipple in Ubik, but I can't remember, which is why I started this book club in the first place, I haven't read a lot of these books in a long time :)
posted by hobgadling at 4:52 PM on March 28, 2016

Man, I did not like this book at all the first time I read it. I feel like I need to dive back into it again, though. It seems like something I ought to like, and I've had a lot more experience with capital-W Weird Fiction in the years since.

Plus, I think I can do a better job now of letting it be its own thing, rather than comparing it to Blade Runner in my head.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:55 PM on March 28, 2016

I believe the thing in Ubik that hobgadling is remembering is "gubbish".
posted by baf at 8:10 PM on March 28, 2016

"Kipple" is great. I also love Penfield mood 888, the desire to watch TV no matter what's on it.

I had also forgotten about the fake police station. I'd consider that a weak bit, though, just because everyone seems so unconcerned about the discovery that god knows how many androids are walking around in uniform.

One quirky thing I love about PKD is the way his characters are always getting into these abstract negotiations with each other, like they're all just trying to work together to make their way through this baffling situation called life. Deckard demands his neighbor sell him his colt, and they get into an argument about whether refusing to sell it violates the core tenets of Mercerism. Deckard's getting grilled and he suggests the lieutenant and the whole department are androids, and the lieutenant accepts his suggestion and orders tests! Deckard and Resch spend several pages trying to figure out whether the fact that Resch cares for a squirrel proves he's human, etc., etc.
posted by equalpants at 9:58 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Gubbish" is (also) used in "Martian Time Slip" and "kipple" is again used in "A Scanner Darkly" (if memory serves correctly). There are certainly other examples.

I especially liked kipple as a concept in Androids because it could be used as evidence of a human being. Life-like as the androids were, only humans will produce kipple. Same for the Mercerism, which was even attacked by the Androids in their own version of "Wake up, Sheeple!!"
posted by KMB at 4:46 AM on March 29, 2016

My favorite part of this book is the wife, Iran. I love at the beginning when she tells him she's scheduled herself for a twelve-hour self-accusatory depression; it's an interesting and profoundly human reaction to the unnatural situation of being able to regulate your moods. It's totally reasonable to be depressed about that! It means most of your feelings aren't real which is pretty depressing! At least the depression SEEMS like a genuine emotion, even though it's also fake, which is even more depressing.

I also like that he dials in for her the belief that her husband is always right but she changes it as soon as he leaves which means it didn't actually work because otherwise she'd have believed he was right to set it that way. I like her a whole bunch.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:15 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of the most amazing things about this book is that all of the stuff I always found most interesting gets completely wiped out in the movie version and it was still good. Mercerism always fascinated me, everyone sharing a mind at once is a great conceit. Also, the mood controller is a great object to imagine, and to imagine what it would do to society is fascinating, like when Iran decides to be depressed.

On another note, do we want to go through his greatest hits first, or start going chronologically now that we've kicked off?
posted by hobgadling at 8:25 AM on March 30, 2016

« Older Movie: Vanishing Point...   |  House of Cards: Chapter 48... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments