the base-line: imaginary worlds students go to see blade runner 2049

By Adam Cummings

On Tuesday the 5th of October the Literature and Media programmes organised a group free trip to see Blade Runner 2049 as part of the module 2EN440: Imaginary Worlds.  The crowd, as you arrived within the York City Screen cinema, was definitely recognisable. If someone was to say, “Imagine a group of Science Fiction Literature students grouped together, waiting to see perhaps the most anticipated science fiction sequel to be released in thirty years”, I guarantee that you would at least be able to spot some key similarities among these people.

You also might think that I’m about to disparage my fellow classmates and one of the most welcoming communities in all of literature. You’d be wrong.

Among the safe confines of the Science Fiction/ Fantasy genre you’ll find some of the most welcoming, friendly, warm people you’ve ever met. For me, it seems to be a true penguin huddle of the abused. The different, and oftentimes, the bullied. For adults, escapism in literature is discouraged and looked down upon. But where else were we supposed to go?

It’s to the credit of the Science fiction community that there’s an overwhelming sense of belonging, a ridiculous amount of hope that’s begun to seep its way into the writing itself. You can see the change. Those who were present at Kaley’s Words Matter lecture need only look to her illustrious and gargantuan list of authors for inspiration. And it does indeed inspire. The science fiction community, thanks to the internet, is closer than ever, and even more productive. Take the ever growing community of the SCP, a hive mind of terrifying writers who delight in making us shiver late at night. Or the podcast Welcome to Nightvale, which I was introduced to recently as part of the Imaginary Worlds module. It’s unflinching willingness to parody gives every listener something to relate to.

But I digress, because not only were these people huddled together in a nerdy, over coated phalanx, they were all there for a purpose. That purpose was Blade Runner 2049. Masterfully introduced to us by our (probably) equally nerdy parents, Blade Runner is undeniably a seminal moment for science fiction film. A new step, the postmodern, the philosophical, the sweeping landscapes perfectly captured by Vangelis’ masterful command of the synth, the plumes of fire envisaged by geordie boy Ridley Scott. We were here to witness thirty years of building excitement; the possibility of seeing beloved Deckard again was palpable within our battalion. There was also questions among our group- we’d been hurt before. Sequels to beloved films are often famously bad. We enter, gravity bringing seats to us next to our lecturers, these gods of giving, allowing us to witness this monumental moment in science fiction film. In theory, it’s going to be a perfect combination- Villeneuve is directing Ridley’s vision. We all hold our collective breath.

We can identify with Blade Runner 2049’s release, the stress of the sequel, the anxiety of advancement. The panic of progress. Our theme of hope within this semester reflects our collective anticipation for this film, willing it to live up to our collective expectations. Nerds are the androids, the socially awkward next stage of human life.

The credits roll, and we let out a collective exhalation of relief. Tom, next to me, turns, and I turn to him. Neither of us know what to say. I make a bunch of unintelligible noises, run out of the cinema, and immediately call my father.

My opinion of the film is pretty pointless. I’ve thought again and again on how to phrase my opinions in a coherent manner, but every time I attempt I feel I’d be doing the giant a disservice.

Still, days after seeing the film, I’m blown away with what a massive experience the film was. Seeing it with so many of my peers compounded with how excited as I was for the film, I’m somehow lost for words on how to describe the film itself. I spent a significant portion of the film with my mouth open, stunned at the very existence of the independent film with the stratospheric budget. It’s a blockbuster tour de force for the Science Fiction genre. When people look to an example of a perfect sequel, they’ll use Blade Runner 2049 as an example.

What matters is the Baseline, that level of entry that every member of our taskforce of hope has to pass- the marginalized, the disavowed and the endangered. Nerds. An elite group of outcasts from society.

So thank you, Imaginary Worlds. You give hope to all of the disenfranchised youths of the world. You bring us together, albeit on another planet. You’ll introduce (hopefully) many more people to a fantastic group of people, a genre that’s inherently inclusive in its isolation.