‘Sales Pitch’ is a short story by Philip K Dick which can be found in Gollallacz’s The Father-Thing: Volume Three of the Collected Short Stories along with the likes of ‘Exhibit Piece’ and ‘The Father-Thing’. The story, which runs to just around eleven pages, is quite a straightforward tale of how a man is driven to desperation by advertising, sales and technology which has reached a point where it can replace humans for most tasks.
Ed Morris flies his commute ship home from Ganymede, where he works for Terra Metals Development Company, bombarded along the way by adverts and hounded to his door by sales robots. He wants to get away from it all to Proxima Centauri, but his wife Sally thinks it’s too backwards.
A fully automated self-regulating android (fasrad) comes to their door of their Chicago house and once inside proceeds with a violent sales pitch which sees various things inside their home destroyed and then skilfully rebuilt. It thens sits waiting to be bought. The android to my mind was more like Metal Mickey than the replicants of Blade Runner.
When Ed tells the fasrad to get out it performs various cleaning tasks and upgrades to the house. Ed can’t stand it and decides to fly back to work. The fasrad catches up with him at a refuelling point Mars and starts tinkering with the ship. Ed decides to fly to the Centaurus star system and still the thing won’t leave off the sales pitch. In frustration Ed puts his foot down and speeds the craft onward, going faster and faster, exceeding the operational design limits and eventually causing the engine to explode.
As Ed lies trapped and dying within the wreckage of his ruined ship the damaged fasrad starts up its sales pitch once more.
‘Crazy Diamond’ was presented as episode four of the television anthology series Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams shown yesterday in the UK on Channel 4. ‘Sales Pitch’ is noted in the credits as the inspiration for the show and it’s obvious once you’ve watched it why the title was changed as it bears very little resemblance to the supposed source text.
A fasrad salesman is mentioned in the TV show, Ed does want to leave his home and the married couple are childless, but apart from that and the character names nothing else is the same as the short story.
Ed (Steve Buscemi) works in a lab that grows quantum consciousnesses – ‘souls’ if you like – to bring life to very human looking androids – Jacks and Jills. There are also some pig-human hybrids knocking about and a lot of porcine transplants being used – something PKD refers to in other tales. Ed lives with Sally (Julia Davis) in a futuristic house on a crumbling coastline and drives a solar-powered VW Beetle.
A worn out and dying, but still very fetching, Jill (Sidse Babett Knudsen) convinces Ed to help steal a bunch of QCs from the lab and sell them to some rogues who live out in the woods. With the money Ed will be able to fulfil his dreams and Jill will be able to fix herself. The leader of the rogues is played by Michael Socha who was great in Channel 4’s The Aliens.
Ed wants very much to sail away in his boat, not least because he keeps getting moaned at by the garbage collection man who finds out that they have tried to illegally grow their own vegetables – thwarted by steel plates in the ground around their house. Really, don’t ask! And why they don’t just move away from the crumbling coastline before their home inevitably falls into the sea is beyond me – although it’s an obvious metaphor for the state of Ed’s home life.
The only sales pitch in the television show is Jill convincing Ed and Sally to sign up for double indemnity life insurance. Predictably the show ends with one of the couple trying to off the other – but it is Sally who sails away with Jill.
There are some references to other PKD works along the way. One of the security features of the lab involves Ed or Jill singing a song which starts ‘Flow my tears…’ – a reference to PKD’s novel Flow my Tears the Policeman Said. Ed studies one of the embryonic QC’s in the lab and asks ‘do you dream?’ It’s turning into somewhat of a cliche these days I feel.
Compared to the blockbuster Bladerunner 2049, this episode, supposedly from the same mind that inspired the original Bladerunner film, looks pitiful in comparison like a weedy bit of cress under the shadow of a giant oak tree. However, it would perhaps be fairer to compare it to other episodes within the series and so I will leave any judgements until it has run its course. Suffice to say it was disappointing compared to last week’s episode.
Image: Artem Verbo (Unsplash)