“Book that Inspired Blade Runner is the New Pick for One Book, One Chicago,” by S.M. O’Connor

C.P.L. Picks P. K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? For One Book, One Chicago

The Chicago Public Library (C.P.L.) has named Chicago-born science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as the twenty-ninth selection for One Book, One Chicago (O.B.O.C.).  This is the book that inspired Sir Ridley Scott’s classic science fiction/neo-film noir Blade Runner (1982),which recently had a sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017).   Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, and Brian Bannon, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Library, made the announcement on Monday, September 10, 2018.  The C.P.L. stated, “From October 2018 through April 2019, Chicagoans will learn more about science fiction, technology, future societies, artificial intelligence and more as they explore the book and this year’s theme—Imagine the Future.”

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“This year, residents across Chicago will dive into the world of science fiction and consider the role technology and artificial intelligence plays in our future generations,” stated Mayor Emanuel.  “I look forward to joining in as we embark on this shared reading experience together.”

First published in 1968, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? introduces readers to protagonist Rick Deckard – the character played by Harrison Ford in the two Blade Runner films – in the year 1992 – pushed back to 2021 in later editions – as he maneuvers his way through the post-apocalyptic new order of things in the wake of World War Terminus.  To preserve the integrity of the human gene pool after a nuclear war, the U.N. wants humanity to migrate to the stars.  As an incentive to colonize other planets, people receive android servants when they go off-world, androids being robots built to resemble people, such as The Machine Man/False Maria (Brigette Helm) that impersonates the real Maria (Brigette Helm) in Metropolis (1927); The Gunslinger (Yul Brynner) in Westworld (1973) and Futureworld (1976); Ash (Ian Holm) in Alien (1979), Bishop (Lance Henrikson) in Aliens (1986); Data (Brent Spiner) in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994); or David (Haley Joel Osment) and Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001); or the Hosts in the H.B.O. series Westworld.  [By contrast, in Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, the Replicants are synthetic people like the synthetic people in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the people inside the Matrix in The Matrix (1999), and the cyborg version of the Cylons with bodies that combined synthetic and robotic elements in the “reimagined” Battlestar Galactica miniseries (2003), series (2004-2009), and telefilms.]  To own a real animal is a status symbol in a time when most animal species have gone extinct.  Poor people who want pets have to settle for owning animal-shaped robots.  Deckard owns a robot sheep.  He aspires to own a real animal and agrees to a police assignment that will enable him to earn enough money to acquire one: tracking down and destroying a group of six rogue Nexus-6 androids that became violent on Mars and fled to Earth.

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“At CPL, we strive to bring great cultural programming to our patrons and are always excited to do that through the One Book, One Chicago program,” stated Commissioner Bannon.  “We hope that everyone is just as eager to explore such an expansive and interesting them with us.”


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The C.P.L. will join other organizations to offer Chicagoans a variety of events and programs, including walking tours, history programs discussions, and more, to bring people, businesses and civic agencies together to engage with the book and theme.  Free citywide programs will launch early next month.

Other highlights of this year’s One Book, One Chicago program include author talks with notable sci-fi writers; book discussions throughout the city to discuss what the future of technology holds; activities at the C.P.L.’s award-winning Maker Lab, including building futuristic eyewear and out-of-this-world sound frequencies; Learning Circles to learn android programming basics; neighborhood walks with historian and “Urbanologist” (as he describes himself) Max Grinnell, who writes frequently about Chicago and Boston, to talk about planned projects for Chicago;  live performances of The War of the Worlds, the adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells (1866-1946) novel that Orson Welles (1915-1985) wrote and directed for a notorious Halloween radio broadcast in 1938;[1] and learning sessions about how to protect oneself and one’s family with emergency preparedness programs.  For a complete list of programs, and to learn ways to engage with other readers, visit http://www.onebookonechicago.org.

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Also, as part of The Deep: Adler After Dark at the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum on Thursday, October 18, 2018 adult visitors will be able to explore nightmarish visions from classic science fiction novels and nab some giveaways from the C.P.L.’s program One Book, One Chicago, as I wrote about earlier this week.


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One Book, One Chicago is a super-sized version of a neighborhood book-reading club.  One Book, One Chicago is a citywide program that launched in fall of 2001 as an opportunity to engage and enlighten Chicagoans and to foster a sense of community through reading.  In 1998, under the auspices of the Library of Congress, the Seattle Public Library’s Washington Center for the Book initiated the One Book, One Community (O.B.O.C.) project.  The librarian who conceived of the project “If All Seattle Read The Same Book” was Nancy Pearl, Director of the Washington Center for the Book (1993-2004).  She is something of a celebrity and has even inspired a Librarian Action Figure.  In the fall of 2001, Mayor Richard M. Daley (Daley the Younger) started One Book, One Chicago with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Over 6,500 library patrons borrowed copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, including the circulation of 350 foreign-language copies.  The success of this initiative led to the adoption of To Kill a Mockingbird by over fifty One Book, One City programs across the country, and it has remained the most popular book.  By 2007, the Library of Congress listed 404 of these One Book, One City (sometimes called One City, One Book) programs.  The National Endowment for the Arts (N.E.A.) launched a similar program, The Big Read, but it is centrally controlled, whereas each O.B.O.C. committee selects books for its own city.  The N.E.A. and the Institute of Museum and Library Services established The Big Read Program in cooperation with Arts Midwest in reaction to the 2004 N.E.A. report Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.

To celebrate the selection of the tenth book in the One Book, One Chicago program and the fifth anniversary of the program, the Chicago Public Library mounted an exhibition, One Book, many Interpretations, which ran from September 30, 2006 to April 15, 2007.  Nearly fifty bookbinders and artists from around the world contributed to the exhibition.

After more than a decade of celebrating a culture of reading, One Book, One Chicago expanded in 2013.  The C.P.L. and partner organizations now bring communities together by offering a full season of learning and engagement annually, focusing not just on one book but on a central theme integral to the lives of all Chicagoans.  Each year, the C.P.L. offers a diverse series of programs that explore the theme from multiple perspectives, as recounted through personal experience, imagined in literature, presented in politics, or synthesized in music and art.

Founded in 1873, the Chicago Public Library has eighty locations.  It provides free access to knowledge and entertainment via physical and digital collections, exhibits, and programs for adults, teenagers, and children.  The C.P.L. received the Social Innovator Award from Chicago Innovation Awards; won a National Medal for Library Service from the Institute for Museum and Library Services; was named first-ever winner of the National Summer Learning Association’s Founder Award in recognition of its Summer Learning Challenge; and was ranked first in the U.S.A. and third in the world by an international study of major urban libraries conducted by the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf in Germany.  The Chicago Public Library’s Website is http://www.chipublib.org/.  The Twitter handle of the C.P.L. is @chipublib and this is its Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Chicago-Public-Library-35447572453/.

One Book, One Chicago is possible because of funding that comes to the Chicago Public Library through the Chicago Public Library Foundation from The Chicago Community Trust and United Airlines.  Founded in 1986 as a public-private partnership with the City of Chicago (which means the municipal government of Chicago, Chicago as a corporate body politic, rather than the city of Chicago as a place), the Chicago Public Library Foundation is the conduit through which affluent, civic-minded individuals and families, corporations, and foundations provide funding for collections and programs such as Teacher in the Library, CyberNavigators, YOUmedia, and One Book, One Chicago.  Over the past thirty years, the Chicago Public Library Foundation has raised $85,000,000 in support of the Chicago Public Library.  The Website is https://cplfoundation.org./.




[1] The famous writer, director, and stage magician Orson Welles wrote and directed the adaptation of The War of the Worlds for The Mercury Theatre on the Air on the Columbia Broadcasting System (C.B.S.) radio network on October 30, 1938 for Halloween frightened listeners because Welles had shifted the setting from 19th Century England to 20th Century America and in place of a single narrator used the device of having reporters chronicling the alien invasion seemingly in real time (though in actuality the events related in the course of one hour would have taken weeks if not months to play out) with news bulletins interrupting normal programming.  Some of them had tuned in late because they switched to the program after listening to the comedy show The Chase and Sanborn Hour (1929-1948), which featured Edgar Bergan (1903-1978), on N.B.C.’s Red Network.  Most listeners were simply frightened, but some of the people who heard the broadcast panicked.  Large numbers of people called C.B.S. and the police, but mobs of hysterical people did not throng the streets of American cities and towns.  Police departments in New Jersey, where the Martians landed in the radio drama, received a 40% increase in the number of calls during the broadcast than they would normally receive during that time period.  The press exaggerated the extent of the panic.  The Radio Project concluded that of the approximately 6,000,000 listeners, about a quarter believed they were listening to reports of a real invasion, and of those people, most believed the invaders were Germans, not Martians.

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