Back in 2015, Popular Mechanics asked prominent sci-fi authors to envision the plot of a new Blade Runner movie. Their answers form a kind of alternate history—the sequels that could have been.
I'd love to see posthumanism explored in some depth in a sequel. Both Philip K. Dick's original vision in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Scott's Blade Runner were thematically concerned with the obligations (if any) of the creator (us) toward the created (the replicants).
Will our creations replace us wholesale?
This is, of course, an old theme in sci-fi, running in a line of descent from Paradise Lost to Frankenstein to works of the present day. But now—as we live on the cusp of the Singularity, when artificial intelligence is poised to overtake us and outstrip our understanding, as robots stand ready to replace us not only in manual labor but also in office jobs, the service industry, and even creative endeavours—the cultural anxieties are shifting toward what will happen to us in what is possibly the human race's dotage. Will our creations replace us wholesale? Or will they carry on our legacy of humanism in mechanised shells? These questions seem ripe for examination in a new Blade Runner.
Of course, I also wouldn't mind seeing an updated version of the Voight-Kampff test. Given the viciousness of anonymous Internet comments, I sometimes wonder if any of us would pass it! Maybe we're all replicants already.
Ken Liu is the author of The Grace of Kings, to be published on Saga Press on April 7, 2015
I fear that any Blade Runner sequel is going to be fixated on the super-heroic feats of the replicants. After all, these genetically engineered Aryans can dip their hands in liquid nitrogen and boiling water, punch through walls, and take multiple bullets to the chest. Yet, the only way to detect them is through a Q&A test! (Evidently, this is a future full of genetic engineering, but no genetic testing.)
But while some bio-enhanced combat will definitely be on the menu, the only way forward for the sequel is to go for full-bore PhilDickian paranoia. Dick's primary obsession was fakeness and authenticity: fake humans, fake memories, fake realities, even fake gods. He wrote an entire novel about people who didn't know they were dead. Any character in a Dick story trying to tell the difference between the real and the artificial is playing a mug's game.
I want to see an aging Deckard hiding out in a replicant community, hunted by blade runners
The controversy over whether Deckard is a replicant has fueled a thousand internet forums, and the smart sequel should do nothing to relieve the ambiguity. I want to see an aging Deckard hiding out in a replicant community, hunted by blade runners who don't know what he is. A human pretending to be a replicant? A replicant pretending to be human pretending to be a replicant? Deckard won't be sure, either, and afterward we'll all fight about it on the internet.
Daryl Gregory's first novel, the award-winning Pandemonium, featured Philip K. Dick as a character. His latest books are the Valis-inspired sci-fi novel Afterparty and the fantasy Harrison Squared.
The movie's called The Register. It's set in a vast urban sprawl, as was the first movie. It's a few years after the events of Blade Runner, and major events have shaken the artificial life cartels. Most importantly, the central register that records who is a replicant and who isn't was destroyed in a terrorist attack. After the attack, the blade runners tried to round up the known replicants. But this just panicked the rest who did their best to disappear into the chaos of the streets.
Now, several years later, arbitrary arrests are common, and people turn in their neighbours on suspicion of being replicants. Anyone who acts even slightly nonconformist is suspected, and the fear of secret replicants presents a great opportunity for those who want to purge their communities of undesirables, or just get rid of someone they don't like. In this environment of paranoia and disappearances, a ruthless politician arises who promises to set the city's house in order. He's a thug and murderer with ties to organised crime, but his rise to power is swift and apparently unstoppable.
The register that records who's a replicant and who isn't was destroyed in a terrorist attack
The story concerns a replicant woman who is hiding in plain sight in the heart of the blade runner's administrative offices. She discovers that the politician is himself a replicant, but then has to face a dilemma: expose him and risk exposing herself, or try to find another way to bring him down. The movie explores the delicate dance she does along the edge of disclosure as she tries to set him up—well aware that if that fails, she may have to sacrifice her own freedom to bring him down. Along the way the story questions, again, what it means to be a person and how social pressures and fear can make even the best people betray their own.
Karl Schroeder is the author of many science fiction books including Lockstep on Tor Books from 2014.
In my mind, Blade Runner is a self-contained story that (once "The Final Cut" was released) hasn't exactly been begging for a sequel, prequel, or a reboot. But it is also a movie that teases us with brief glimpses down so many dim and intriguing passages that further illuminating a few of them could easily be the work of at least one new movie.
Blade Runner's world-building is so rich that it poses far more questions than it ever manages to answer. What is life like on these off-world colonies? Where are they? In orbit? On the moon? On Mars? Presumably synthetic animals arose in response to widespread extinction, but how did that technology come to be used on humans, and why didn't we just build far less troublesome, titanium-boned and silicone-skinned robots? And I assume the best blade runners burn themselves out because they unconsciously can't shake the feeling that they're killing fellow human beings, but such a moral dilemma—retiring synthetics that, in some ways, seem more human in their vulnerability than real humans—feels like very fertile territory to me.
Rather than just continuing a story, sequels might choose to explore the same universe but from a different perspective. We've seen how replicants try to blend in with humans in our world, so it might be interesting to see what happens when a team of investigators ends up on an off-world colony where synthetics have taken over, and must therefore pass themselves off as replicants. What can humans learn about themselves when their lives depend on embracing—and even becoming—the very things they fear and hate most?
In terms of cinematography and tone, a new Blade Runner has to show a great deal of deference to its predecessor. I love how the Voight-Kampff test is administered by a big, clunky machine which, inexplicably, contains bellows rising and falling in the foreground. And I love the prolific use of cathode-ray and vacuum-tube displays which, at the time, must have seemed pretty fancy, but help to preserve a wonderful, retro-futuristic, cyber-noir backdrop that I hope isn't entirely abandoned in favour of multi-touch sheets of glass and holograms.
What is life like on these off-world colonies? Where are they? In orbit? On the moon? On Mars?
In other words, as a huge fan of Blade Runner, and most of Ridley Scott's work, I'm hoping for more Alien and less Prometheus.
Christian Cantrell is the author of numerous science fiction books.
I was a sucker for Blade Runner from the start. As both a film noir and science fiction fan, the movie was a beautiful, elegiac mash-up of two genres known for ambiguity and dark social commentary. It's about my town, Los Angeles, and our deepest fears and desires sold back to us in the neon nightmare of ubiquitous marketing, with some sexy anti-heroes thrown in. And Harrison Ford? As someone who believes all the eligible men of the world are either "Luke Skywalkers" or "Han Solos," I married my own Harrison Ford.
Hell yeah. It seemed Ridley Scott made Blade Runner just for me. I just wish L.A. got that much precipitation. Even if it was acid rain...
So what do I want out of Blade Runner 2? I want more of the same. Because it's important. As artificial intelligence develops and the cyborgization of humanity continues, Blade Runner addresses the fundamental question of our century: What does it mean to be human? Are there definitive, biological qualities that make one person human, but another cross the line into android or AI? Or is it simply enough to behave like and consider yourself human, no matter how much of a machine you are?
'Blade Runner' addresses the fundamental question of our century: What does it mean to be human?
Even though the ending of Blade Runner left ambiguous whether Deckard was replicant or man, I had always hoped he was a replicant. Because replicants Deckard and Rachel in love, on the lam and flying off into the unknowable sunset, gave birth to the possible. Unfortunately, if a 72-year-old Harrison Ford is coming back, Deckard is probably and most disappointingly human. Unless Tyrell really did know how to give them a longer lifespan and was lying to everyone.
In Hollywood-sequel-land, any story is possible to make a buck. So I want more replicants and conflict over personhood, rights and liberty. What might a society look like that valued both the biologically and industrially-born? And what does all that tech look like in the off-world societies we heard about in the original movie? With Mars One, household robots and nanotechnology in the works. We're building those possibilities already.
So what will L.A. be like in 35 years with old Deckard still kickin' it? With seawalls against the rising oceans, green spaces for the oxygen, and cheap desalination so SoCal won't die of thirst, it's a high-tech Chinatown: a sun-drenched neo-noir filled with robot caregivers nursing the geriatric 150 year-olds in an endless urbanburb of bio-rejuvenation and virtual- reality-contact-lens media saturation. And sex robots.
There will be a lot of Pris Stratton/Basic Pleasure Models in the future. But they won't be relegated to off- world mining colonies or hiding out as strippers in ghetto clubs. They'll be in Beverly Hills. (They're already in Beverly Hills!) Yeah, there better be edgy, retro laser weapons, flying troop transporters, molecular nanofabrication and some bitchin' punk body modification, but it could easily become a palm tree dystopia with a retirement vibe.
My biggest fear? We'll get Blade Runner 2: Electric Boogaloo (look it up, kids).
PJ Manney is the author of the upcoming book (R)evolution, out this summer.
As a science fiction writer, I'm gripped by a sense of foreboding regarding the upcoming sequel. Will the new movie embody the many fine qualities of the original or will it fall flat under the weight of expectations?
Philip K. Dick's fiction has a strong undercurrent of surrealism, which might justify a bizarre turn of events in the sequel. However, I feel that the key scenes must appear plausible or the audience, so invested in the original movie, is likely to feel cheated.
Before getting into the specifics of the plot, my main concern is that the action scenes do not dominate in the sequel since, in Blade Runner, it is the intensity of the relationships played out on the screen that wins over the audience. I'm referring to the heart-breaking scenes between Rachel and Deckard. (Will I ever forget Rachel playing the piano in Deckard's apartment?) Equally, I'm referring to the intense camaraderie, and love, shared by the replicants. Our empathy for these bioengineered characters allows the movie to tap into our subconscious and uncanny anxieties about the nature of being human. This should remain central in the sequel.
So, I'd like to suggest—in case the script writers are still struggling—the following premise for Blade Runner 2. The sequel is set on Earth. It transpires that Rachel is one of seven experimental replicants who were never destined for the off-world colonies. They don't have the physical prowess of Roy and his fellow renegades, but they're smart, maybe too smart, and have a longer lifespan than four years.
With the exception of Rachel who was retained as a showpiece by Dr. Eldon Tyrell, these replicants were embedded within the corporate sector as a trial project aimed at increasing the profits of mega-corporations. Following the murder of Dr. Eldon Tyrell, his corporate underlings attempt to reel in this secret program but the corporate replicants have already escaped. They establish contact with Deckard and Rachel and they set out to form their own community, off-grid, off-the-radar. I feel an open ending is inevitable as the replicants remain unsure of their lifespan.
Anne Charnock's debut novel A Calculated Life came out on September 2014 on 47North
One of the most striking things science fiction writers would like to see is the return of that rich scenery—the way the set produced technology from our past, our present, to the future. One of the mistakes many movies make is to show all the shiny cars, when in fact we own objects from decades and centuries past in our daily life. Blade Runner seemed so lived-in it made us buy into the story in a deep way, and that's one of the more amazing features of good cinema.
But once you step back from being sucked in, the question suddenly becomes, why the urgency? If a shortened life span is the tool that was used to prevent replicants from becoming a problem, why are there people tasked with hunting them down with such speed? What is that Deckard is really being used for? As a science fiction writer I begin to wonder: isn't it expensive to constantly retrain all these replicants? They seem to be used for heavy labor, sex, and military uses. And that makes me wonder what the off-world colonies are really like.
I'd love to see Deckard going out to the Outer Colonies, leaving Earth, and finding it's even worse
Given how scared the authorities on Earth are of them, how much trouble they've put into killing them, I'm wondering if we ever got the whole story. A great story would be a glimpse into the fact that the outer colonies are in the middle of a war. Replicant uprising, and the civilians back home on a decaying Earth are being told everything is great. I'd love to see Deckard going out to the Outer Colonies, leaving Earth, and finding it's even worse out there.
Tobias Buckell is the best-selling author of numerous sci-fi books.