ComicsVerse caught up with Ronald D. Moore (executive producer ELECTRIC DREAMS), David Kanter (executive producer ELECTRIC DREAMS), and Liam Cunningham (who you may know from GAME OF THRONES) from ELECTRIC DREAMS at NYCC 2017. They talk about Phillip K. Dick, ELECTRIC DREAMS, and where it all started!

Ron: I was first contacted by Isa who I had known previously, just casually, and she called me up one day and said we’re talking about doing an anthology series based on her dad’s short stories, would you be interested? I was like, absolutely, it just sounded like a fun idea, just the one line pitch on it was already intriguing. An anthology, never done that, how cool would that be? Philip K. Dick?

He wrote short stories? What are those? What are those like? It just sort of built on top of it. This was a great idea from the get-go. It took a long time to put all the deals together, to get it up and running, to figure out the style of the show, or if the show had no style, and how we would do it, so it was about five years in the making to get us to this point, but it was a great journey, and I think the show turned out pretty well.

David Kanter: It all started, the origin point for me was I got a call from Michael Dinner, he worked with the Philip K. Dick people, I want to do a show based on one of their short stories. So, Kalen Egan, who works with Isa, and I went over to see Michael, and we started reading short stories and Michael, about a month later, he said, “I have a great idea. I can’t-do any of these as a series, so let’s do an anthology.” And we all looked at each other like, that’s such a great idea, it’ll never happen. Then Sony said you guys should talk to Ron because he knows these people.

Ron: Theoretically.

David Kanter: And five years later, here we are.

Speaker 3: So Liam, can you talk a little bit about your character and your anthology piece?

Liam: I can, but it would be quite [crosstalk 00:01:48] the story is this beautiful relationship between Essie Davis’ character and Brian’s character, I facilitate the drama, my character, so it’s most definitely not about General [crosstalk 00:01:58].

David Kanter: But he kicks ass.

Liam: What’s glorious about it is that the whole idea of the drama aspect of the story I’m in is I think is probably interesting, the fact that Brian’s character, without giving too much away, is not a particularly nice human being, certainly not a loving human being.

Incredibly efficient military man, very successful, and I send him out on an extraordinarily dangerous mission, and when he comes back, we’re under the impression that he’s had cathartic moment, that he’s come close to death and maybe he’s re-evaluated his life and that’s the incredibly clever thing about it, is that this so-called re-evaluation of his life, is it that or is it something else. And therein lies the Philip K. Dick-ness of it, for want of a much better fucking phrase.

ELECTRIC DREAMS

David Kanter: I would sooner say the Dick-ish-ness.

Liam: The Dick-ish-ness. That’s quite [inaudible 00:03:05] There is where the thing we love about Philip K. Dick comes in, this relationship between the two of them. It’s incredibly tiny and mano-a-mano between those two. But at the same time it’s a big philosophy of where is the war going to go if we don’t look at that, so it’s as small or as big as you want to see it.

Speaker 5: Which brings up, what is the appeal of these stories represent overall, what are the power of these Philip K. Dick stories?

Ron: I think what you see that runs throughout his work are the two questions: what does it mean to be human and what is the nature of reality? He plays with those ideas over and over again throughout most of his work. And we play with it too, through all the episodes, from very different angles. But, when you really get down to it that’s what these shows are all kind of exploring thematically, in one way or another. But it’s such broad ideas and broad questions that you can really dig into them in so many different ways until it’s such a variety of stories. It is just really fun.

David Kanter: And from the 50s to the 60s to the 70s, as Philip Dick’s mind went through a lot of changes in terms of his own mental condition, his paranoia, and the depth of his everyday hallucinatory state of being. The stories from the 50s start out as almost satires of pulp fiction written for pulp fiction magazines, almost throwaways with these nifty ideas that are just mind-blowing, and by the time you get towards the end there are extraordinarily tragic reckonings with God and divine figures and the inner weaving of layers of delusion and pain and paranoia.

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And yet there is always this really identifiable character at the core. Who is a person who is you or me, someone just dropped into the world, like just a single human being dealing with forces that are so much more powerful, and so much more evil, and so much more complicated, and so much more capable than either the narrator or the subject of the story. I think that makes them extremely relatable to us. Particularly now when a lot of people feel adrift from the stuff that connects us to the world, and is a little bit loose, and we don’t know where we are.

ComicsVerse (Kay): [inaudible 00:05:45] were you already, for a lack of a better word, were you already familiar with or a fan of those occasions when people were going into electric dreams, or when something where the ideology that he was talking about, like how you were saying, what does it mean to be human and what is reality? Are those the questions that drew you to his work or were you already kind of familiar with Electric Dreams?

Ron: I knew his written work, but sort of because I knew the movies first. “Blade Runner” is one of those seminal pieces that just take so many people like “Ooh, look at this?!” And then you get the book, and you start reading, and you’re like, okay wait a minute, adaptation, oh it’s a whole different thing.

So when I was a kid, I saw “Blade Runner, ” and then I went and got the book and was surprised, but it was still kind of enthralling at the same time, it was such a different story, but I could recognize the story, and then you start reading other things. I wasn’t familiar with the short stories, cause the short stories have a different publishing history, some were in magazines, and some were in collections —

[crosstalk 00:06:49]

— so I had never read those before this, so this was all new material to me.

David Kanter: For me, like a lot of people, I read Philip K. Dick’s complicated novels in high school and college, like “Ubik” and “The Man in the High Castle,” and I stopped reading the genre and then “Blade Runner” came out, right after college for me, and my mind was blown.

I went back to reading the work, and then the movies sorta took it all in a very different direction, particularly the Spielberg stuff, and I lost touch, and then I got to know Isa, and I went back and read Ubik, and that was like oh my, I’m perceiving the literary quality in a much different way from what I remembered it to be. And then, I only knew about the stories as a practical matter, and when we developed what I thought was going to be a series, and I’m starting to read them, and they’re not long, and they’re really addictive.

I probably read, during the development process, close to fifty or sixty of them, and I have another fifty to go. You keep thinking, I know what this is, and then you read this story, and you’re like I didn’t know what this was. So it’s such a privilege to be able to have something to do with putting this work back in front of the audience. There it is, it’s this mother load of brilliant stuff that’s just kind of sitting around.

Liam: I’m bordering undelivered. I’d like to say that I’ve read the book once [inaudible 00:08:32] My introduction was exactly the same as “Blade Runner,” I had my mind absolutely blown by it, just that really weird world. There is an interesting fact about that, did you know a lot of the lighting, remember all that at J.F. Sebastian’s place and all that sort of stuff? The Who were rehearsing their stage show next door, and the producer went in said we need the fucking lights, they didn’t have any money. The Who gave them the loan of their stage lighting.

[crosstalk 00:08:59]

— So that look is a lot to do with The Who.

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You know what, it’s very weird, I’ve gotten a couple of moth-eaten, dog-eared “A Scanner Darkly” and so I read, and I’m terrible, and I’m forgetting about a couple of pages and then having to go off and do something. I’m easily distracted, some people call that “ADHD.”

But I’ve always, even the Game of Thrones I haven’t read the books because the books are the writers Bible’s and my Bible is the script, and I really didn’t want any sort of cross-pollination between the two or come up with any ideas. “Why aren’t you doing this?” That’s not my brief and if it’s not in the script and I have to refer to it, but there’s something wrong with the script as regards to characterization.

So, I very much ran the board with this facilitating about the ideas and the philosophies, the humanity, the dystopian whatever you want to call it. So, just the facts man, that’s what I dealt with on this. I just wanted to be a part of the canvas of telling the story, but I’m definitely delving back into reading these books. I’m ashamed of myself.

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