by Grace Crawford
All Blade Runner images courtesy of The Ladd Company and Warner Bros.
In my second year of university, I took a short fiction class. My teacher was an incredible woman who got passionate about our readings, which came from a little paperback called Darwin’s Bastards that for some reason I was embarrassed to read on the bus. This lady was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and she taught me one important thing that I’ve carried with me into everything I write: the idea of aboutness.
After our first reading, she sat down on her desk and asked us, “What was this story’s aboutness?” Someone began by recapping the plot, but she said, “No, I didn’t ask what the story was about. I want to know what its aboutness was.” Of course none of us had any idea what she meant, so she went on to explain.
When you look at a story, you can look at the plot, think literally, and say, “This story was about a police officer chasing robots.” You can also look at theme, which is a general idea that encompasses the work, whether that’s something like justice or the responsibility of a creator or the meaning of emotions. But if you want to know the aboutness of a story, you have to look deeper. You have to analyze the characters and what makes them tick, and you have to look at the world and why it is the way it is, and you have to pick and poke and delve deep until you find the heart of the story and understand what it’s truly about.
Blade Runner is a story that makes you think about aboutness, and there’s a very good reason for that: it’s impossible to follow the plot, so you have to wax philosophical if you want to stay awake. Keep reading and hear me out.