Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Psychological Distance

Philip K. Dick said, “My life and creative work are justified and completed by Blade Runner.”

For a writer to say that about a movie of his own book, what a compliment to the movie! I hear he waited a while to even see the movie. He got to the end of his life and was able to look back with a level of pride most don’t get to know. “My life”, “my creative work”, “are justified.” That is quote-worthy and a goal to work toward.

The quote is why I read the book recently and re-watched the movie in the afterglow of the book.

Creatives often suggest that it’s necessary to get physical distance from creative barriers, aka, taking a break, but psychological distance will give creatives an extra spark.

“Participants in one study who were primed to think about the source of a task as distant, solved twice as many insight problems as those primed with proximity to the task (Jia et al., 2009).

◊ For insight: Try imagining your creative task as distant and disconnected from your current location. This should encourage higher level thinking.”

Science fiction writing is an obvious creative genre to apply psychological distance. As a child, there was a creepiness about The Twilight Zone that I only felt again reading C.S. Lewis’s sci-fi trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I felt it again reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968). Dick is noted for enough insight to affect contemporary philosophy, tapping into a spring of creativity that’s hard for most. Imagine writing stories of interplanetary travel before human vision into space was brighter and farther. I would imagine writers of early sci-fi novels seemed to have more psychological distance and therefore more possibilities to imagine, more unknowns that we know now don’t exist. While I’m hoping for water on Mars and the Moon, C.S. Lewis hoped for Martians. What possibilities!

My own storytelling is not what I call science fiction, but I approach every scenario with the feeling that it’s a universe I’m creating where the laws are not the same as the laws of the East Bay in 2010. It’s how I use psychological distance. My stories do not feel like discoveries of literal possibilities in this world. Psychological distance works just as well for other genres.

I only live on the internet intermittently. It’s not my universe, but I pop in from room to room for my blog, research, social networking, and my obsessing just a bit over my virtual persona. And from what I know of old science fiction writing, I see the same possibilities for internet creatives. It is still brand-new - as are the possibilities. So what of construction, education, civil engineering, homemaking?