The ideas delineated in this book grew out of insights gained
from the course “Cyborgs and Synthetic Humans” taught
by Scott Bukatman in the fall of 1999 at Stanford Univer-
sity.1 In the course of my duties as a teaching assistant, I
came to realize that many science fiction texts are thinly
veiled allegories that meditate on racial difference and iden-
tity. Human characters are surrogates for whites: they and
the fictional societies in which they are embedded are de-
picted as normative and sought after. By contrast, non-
human characters are substitutes for blacks: they are por-
trayed as possessing key differences, such as superhuman
strength or subhuman intelligence, which normalize their
powerless and debased position in the fictional social peck-
ing order. These narratives typically take one of two courses:
they advocate for integration and tolerance by encourag-
ing viewers (who are always presumed to be white) to see
the “humanity” in nonhuman characters, or they promote
the maintenance of strict boundaries between humans and
nonhumans in order to preserve the established hierarchy.
I was eager to apply that framework to Ridley Scott’s Blade
Runner (1982 and 1991)—the ever-popular film based on
Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
(1968) and to which considerable critical energy has been
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