Blade Runner (a Movie) (1979) is not a movie. Nor is it a screenplay for a movie, at least in the usual sense. It is a book – a novella, in fact – and one unconnected with the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner, which came three years later. Calling it parenthetically ‘A Movie’ was Burroughs’ attempt to suggest a blending of the literary and cinematic idioms – since the book is presented in a series of short scenes with an emphasis on visual direction and dialogue.
Neither did Burroughs’ book deal with any of the themes of the Ridley Scott film, which is about a bounty hunter who is tasked to ‘retire’ fugitive androids by gunning them down in neon-lit alleyways. Blade Runner (a Movie) in fact took its title and theme from an earlier book, The Bladerunner, by Alan E Nourse. Both books dealt with a crisis in medical care leading to the sale of black-market supplies (such as scalpels, or blades). Nothing about androids. Blade Runner, the film, took its title from the Nourse and Burroughs books, after Scott had bought the rights to the title (for a pittance). Scott then took the project in a completely different direction, basing the film instead on Philip K Dick’s 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?', a story which supplied the plot about the bounty hunter.
The story of Blade Runner, two books and a film, shows the way a title can propagate almost as an independent literary entity.
Bukatman, Scott: Blade Runner (BFI Modern Classics, 1997)