Friday, January 27, 2012

Do unpublished SF writers dream of Philip K. Dick?

Dreamed I interviewed Philip K. Dick last night. Not the late, great SF writer: the audio-animatronic robot created to simulate that writer. (This simulacrum really existed, though it was only PKD's head, which has since gone missing. In my dream, the robot PKD was life-sized and complete.) The PKD robot was aware that he/it was a robot, and fully aware of the irony. The interview, to say the least, was Philip K Dick-ian.

His head was wreathed in cigarette smoke. He was smoking too much. I have no idea if Philip K. Dick actually smoked. But his robot simulation did. His ex--wife (or some woman who was close to him) was there. She talked about how the smoking simulation was bad at first -- and how hard the techs had to work to get it right.

Me: Good afternoon, Mr. Dick.

PKD Robot: (scoffs) I'm not Philip K. Dick. I'm a robot. An "electric ant." You know that. And I'm fully aware of the irony. How "Philip K. Dickian" this whole situation is. You can put that in your lead.

Me: Are you self-aware?

PKD Robot: I think so. From my perspective, I have a consciousness of memory and phenomenological reality. Obviously, that's just the tape. But it seems real to me.

Me: You --

PKD Robot: I could be lying. Or a very clever simulation. Yeah, that's the flaw of the Turing test.

Me: That's why you came up with the empathy test. In --

PKD Robot: Is it? Well, yes, of course it is. I did. Or Phil did. A robot that projects its consciousness into the subjectivity of "another" and feels the pain or pleasure--the entire experience of that being--isn't a robot qua robot. Humanity is not a question of circuitry. It's a question of vicarious identification.

Me: Like Christ.

PKD Robot: You're in prison. You wrote that in your diary a long time ago.

Me: The Black Iron Prison?

PKD Robot: He was out of his mind. Phil, you know. Paranoid.

Me: "Paranoia." That's the literal definition of --

PKD Robot: Hollywood made a lot of money out of his -- you want to make a lot of money?

Me: No. (pause) Well, yeah. Of course I do.

PKD Robot: "Philip K. Dick died for your sins." You wrote that.

Me: I was joking. Sort of.

PKD Robot: Well, it's very funny. Sort of. Harlan Ellison was a prick, you know. I picked him up like a rag doll, once.

Me: You?

PKD Robot: You know what I mean. You tried to adapt my stuff, once. Phil's stuff. Adapt it as a screenplay, like every other carbon-based life-form. "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch." You wanted to make a lot of money?

Me: You -- goddamnit, you know I did.

Woman: (OS) We can stop this if it's disturbing you.

PKD Robot: It's OK.

Woman: (OS) You don't have to do this. If you're uncomfortable.

PKD Robot: It's OK, OK? (to me) What were you saying?

Me: Uh, something about financial motives.

PKD Robot: The almighty dollar. The carrot on the stick.

Me: Yeah. In terms of why I was writing that screenplay ...

PKD Robot: You were doing it for the money. You don't deny it.

Me: No. In the back of my mind ...

PKD Robot: Sure.

Me: But that's not the only --

PKD Robot: Reason?

Me: No.

PKD Robot: No. Of course not. When you were writing that thing, you didn't feel like ...

Me: No.

PKD Robot: "No," what?

Me: Phil was looking over my shoulder. Sorta telling me what to write ... Like it was his next draft, and he was going to get it right this time. Like he was taking over. I never felt that.

PKD Robot: No. Of course not.

Me: That's superstitious horseshit.

PKD Robot: Sure. And there was no particular reason you'd adapt this screenplay?

Me: Of course not.

PKD Robot: You didn't feel, on many separate occasions that -- how'd they put it? "This world has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth?"

Me: Like "The Matrix"...?

PKD Robot: The Matrix? (snorts) God, what a ripoff. I thought of it first. Or Phil did. Or the plasmate ...

I snicker.

PKD Robot: Living information? Self-conscious information? You think that's funny?

Me: No.

PKD Robot: No, of course not. You've experienced it. Displacement activity is the source of your involuntary laughter.

Me: You say so.

PKD Robot: 1974 was a very good year.

Me: Stop selling me, OK? I'm not buying. I'm not a gnostic, goddamnit.

PKD Robot: Not yet.

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