The Bladerunner

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The Bladerunner
First edition
AuthorAlan E. Nourse
Cover artistJoel Schick
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherDavid McKay Publications
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)

The novel The Bladerunner (also published as The Blade Runner) is a 1974 science fiction novel by Alan E. Nourse, about underground medical services and smuggling. It was the source for the name, but no major plot elements, of the 1982 film Blade Runner, adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick,[1] though elements of the Nourse novel recur in a pair of 2002 films also largely adapted from Dick's work, Impostor and Minority Report.


The novel's protagonist is Billy Gimp, a man with a club foot who runs "blades" for Doc (Doctor John Long) as part of an illegal black market for medical services. The setting is a society where free, comprehensive medical treatment is available for anyone so long as they qualify for treatment under the Eugenics Laws. Preconditions for medical care include sterilization, and no legitimate medical care is available for anyone who does not qualify or does not wish to undergo the sterilization procedure (including children over the age of five). These conditions have created illegal medical services in which bladerunners supply black market medical supplies for underground practitioners, who generally go out at night to see patients and perform surgery. As an epidemic breaks out among the underclass, Billy must save his city from the plague.[2]

Connection to the film Blade Runner[edit]

In 1979 William S. Burroughs was commissioned to write a treatment for a possible film adaptation. This was published as Blade Runner (a movie). Burroughs acknowledged the Nourse novel as a source, and prominently set a mutated virus and right-wing politics in the year 1999.

No film was produced from the Burroughs treatment, but Hampton Fancher, a screenwriter for a film based on Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), had a copy. He suggested "Blade Runner", as preferable to the earlier working titles "Android" and "Dangerous Days", for the Dick adaptation.[3] In the film, released as Blade Runner in 1982, the term is never explained, and the plot has no connection to the Nourse and Burroughs stories, though in both the Dick short story and the film, most healthy people have left for off-world colonies, resulting in a medical underclass remaining on earth. Ridley Scott bought any rights to the title Blade Runner that might have arisen from either the Nourse novel or the Burroughs treatment.[citation needed]

Two more of Dick's short stories, "Impostor" and "The Minority Report", were adapted into 2002 films, Impostor and Minority Report, respectively; both films heavily feature underground medical smuggling and procedures among an underclass, as in Nourse's novel, and these elements are not present in either of the Dick short stories.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Bladerunner by Alan E. Nourse", Kirkus Review, October 1, 1974. Accessed October 10, 2017.
  3. ^ Abraham Riesman (4 October 2017). "Digging Into the Odd History of Blade Runner’s Title". Vulture. Accessed 10 October 2017.

External links[edit]