From the Stepfather of BLADE RUNNER: THE SHAPE OF THE FINAL DOG AND OTHER STORIES by Hampton Fancher
For decades, the editors of mainstream magazines would only consider fantasy stories by mainstream fantasists such as Roald Dahl, Charles Beaumont and John Collier. Those guys didn’t write that Buck Rogers stuff, they wrote fantasy as something elevated, a little more than stories of husbands screwing their secretaries and being embarassed by scenes at the country club.
Hampton Fancher has had the kind of life that makes for fat biographies and wild movies. After graduation he went off to Spain to be a flamenco dancer, became an actor, and wrote the script to BLADE RUNNER that got that classic movie into production. Philip K. Dick loathed Fancher’s script, which inspired Dick’s public put-down of Ridley Scott and ALIEN. David Webb Peoples wrote a draft, and Fancher came back and wrote a final polish. He also co-wrote BLADE RUNNER 2049. He doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for his part in BLADE RUNNER’s years-long gestation, or for maintaining the themes and tone between the two films. That happens to screenwriters a lot.
The stories in THE SHAPE OF THE FINAL DOG AND OTHER STORIES are in the mainstream fabulist tradition. There’s a strange situation, quirky characters and an inconclusive ending. Fancher makes these quirky characters both interesting and lifelike. They’re not just odd human-shaped ciphers. That alone makes Fancher’s stories stand out from the field populated by The New Ironists. (Who aren’t so new…)
“The Black Weasel” follows a man from New York back to his broken-down family home, accompanied by a silent, perhaps mentally-handicapped black man he decides to use as a sideshow freak. It doesn’t work out, and the two end up no better off. And then the story ends. What’ll happen next? (A few stories later there’s “The Black Weasel, II,” that’s what.)
“Rat Hall Jack” has an unusual, Lynchian love story between a beautiful model and a guy who lives in a house with a snake he believes has some mythic significance. He pushes the model away, they reunite. And then the story ends.
Fancher’s stories move along, but they terminate as so many meta-fictions end — the don’t climax, they just stop when the weirdness has been sustained long enough that you get the idea. Maybe making a reader wish his tales were fleshed out is the idea, because as unsatisfying as the endings often are, I’ll watch for Fancher’s future stories.