Double Deckard

In one of my writing groups, it’s almost a running joke that I’ve never seen many popular films that the other members have. So when a friend mentioned that she wanted to see Blade Runner 2049, I decided to do it properly.

English: Oscar Pistorius during 2011 World cha...
Oops, wrong blade runner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A week ago on Saturday, I started an intensive weekend of reading the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick. I followed this up with the original Blade Runner on the Sunday night; then on Monday, the three official short films that tie in with the story; and on Tuesday, I finally watched 2049.

Was the preparation worth it? A decisive yes, as I was then familiar with the universe, but the first film is a different beast from its source material.

The novel has elements that are shuffled or omitted in Blade Runner: replicants are called androids, there’s prestige in owning a real animal, and Rick Deckard is married. In fact, the only near-verbatim scene was Rachel’s empathy test. Despite the changes, however, Dick was reportedly satisfied with the end product.

Which brings me to the latest instalment. I like that a similar period of time has elapsed in the fictional universe as in real life, especially as the first film has had time to build up a cult following.

But 2049 also focuses slightly less on action and takes a more philosophical tone, mirroring the book; this is made possible with a running time of more than 2½ hours. I think there’s still a glaring gap for someone to write an adaptation that’s more faithful to the novel.

At the risk of turning into a name dropper, I once had the opportunity to ask Irvine Welsh how he feels about his books being made into films; Trainspotting, The Acid House, et al. He replied that he accepts the differences between the two media and that however the film turns out, “It never hurts book sales.”

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Meet your heroes.

Last week, it was announced that Colin Vearncombe had died after a car accident. He was noted for his hit single Wonderful Life under the stage name Black.

Of all the musicians that died last month, this one had the greatest impact as I’d met him in April last year. He was performing in a pub with Callum Maccoll; no backing band, no gimmicks, just them and their guitars.

The surprise of the evening was when he revealed he’d been asked to write a song for a young solo artist, but her career never took off. Instead, he started performing the song himself at gigs, complete with the chorus hook It would be so cool to be your girl.

He’d also brought along books of his poetry, and I bought one on the night. He seemed a genuinely nice person who was grateful for his fans’ support. Altogether, it was probably the best gig I saw in 2015, and it’s saddening that it’ll never happen again.

It’s well-worn advice never to meet your heroes or you risk being disappointed. I’m telling you the opposite: if you hear a favourite author is coming to town, go and see him or her.

A few years ago, I was privileged to be part of an audience with Iain (M) Banks on two occasions. He was an extrovert who loved taking questions from his fans while ‘threatening’ them that he would keep talking if nobody put up their hand. Regrettably, I couldn’t think of a question to ask him on either occasion, although a friend did.

In fact, go and see any author who’s nearby, whether or not you’re familiar with their work. Without having read their novels, I’ve met Roddy Doyle, Stuart MacBride, Irvine Welsh and most recently Paula Hawkins, plus many more. Out of dozens of writers, I can think of only two authors in whom I was disappointed: one of them simply parroted the contents of his book, while the other showed off with theatrics rather than being herself.

The easiest way to know about upcoming talks and launches is as you might expect: search it online. Or if you’re in or near a major city, there might be a central point of information, such as Literary Dundee where I live.

However you find out, my message is the same. Meet your heroes – while you can.

Author amnesia.

If British Rail posted a blog entry late, they would claim it was on time. I, however, make no such claim, but I have been busy over the last couple of days. I shall attempt to restore my Monday timetable from next week.

On Sunday, I went to see bestselling author Irvine Welsh launching his latest book A Decent Ride. There were two unusual things about this event. The first was the charge for admission since book launches are usually free in the hope you’ll buy a copy, which I did anyway. The second unusual occurrence was that I asked a question.

Hint: I'm the one that's not the bestselling author
Hint: I’m the one that’s not the bestselling author

Welsh was interviewed for 40 minutes, during which time he gave a couple of readings, one dressed as his main character. Then the audience was invited to ask questions, and I asked whether non-Scots readers find his use of slang and dialect a barrier to his work or a way of pulling them into the story. It seems readers struggle a little for the first 20 pages, but slowly learn to adjust.

I don’t what it is that stops me from thinking of a question on the spot. It’s not that I’m embarrassed, but I can’t think of something to quiz them about, and I don’t want to rely on the old classic, Do you write longhand or use a computer?

If I can think of something, I often go away thinking it was perhaps best to keep my mouth shut so I didn’t ask something stupid. That said, I saw Iain Banks live on stage twice and he invited questions from the start of both events. Again, my author amnesia struck. Shortly after the second event, he announced he was dying and cancelled all future engagements so I’ll never have another chance.