Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Literature: Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)

Date Of Birth: December 16, 1928, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date Of Death: March 2, 1982, Santa Ana, California, USA

He was born prematurely, along with his twin sister Jane, in Chicago on December 16, 1928.
His father was Edgar Dick, his mother Dorothy Kindred - from her maiden name came Dick's middle initial.
Jane died six weeks after her birth, a loss that Phil felt deeply throughout his life. As time went on, Phil came, with whatever justice, to blame his mother for Jane's death. His relationship with both of his parents was decidedly difficult, and made only more so when they divorced when he was five years old.

Sister Jane, his mother, and his father served as models for many of the characters who would populate Dick's fictional universes in the decades to come. In particular, the death of Jane - and Phil's traumatic sense of separation from her, an experience common to many twins who have lost their sibling - contributed to the dualist (twin-poled) dilemmas that dominated his creative work - science fiction (SF)/mainstream, real/fake, human/android.
It was out of these pressing dualities that the two vast questions emerged which Dick often cited as encompassing his writing: What is Real? and What is Human?

Mother Dorothy retained custody over her son, and they eventually settled in Berkeley, where Dick grew up, graduated from high school, and briefly attended the University of California in 1949 before dropping out.

Starting in seventh grade, however, Dick began suffering from bouts of extreme vertigo; the vertigo recurred with special intensity during his brief undergraduate stint. In his late teens, Dick later recalled, he was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia - a label that terrified him. Other psychotherapists and psychiatrists in later years would offer other diagnoses, including the one that Dick was quite sane.

Leaving aside medical terminology, there is no question that Dick felt himself, throughout his life, to suffer from bouts of psychological anguish that he frequently referred to as "nervous breakdowns." His experience of these was transmuted into fictional portraits, most notably of "ex-schizophrenic" Jack Bohlen in Martian Time-Slip (1964).

In a 1968 "Self Portrait" he recalled the moment of discovery of the genre that would ultimately set him free to write of the complex realities of his own personal experience:

"I was twelve [in 1940] when I read my first sf magazine…it was called Stirring Science Stories and ran, I think, four issues….I came across the magazine quite by accident; I was actually looking for Popular Science. I was most amazed. Stories about science? At once I recognized the magic which I had found, in earlier times, in the Oz books - this magic now coupled not with magic wands but with science…In any case my view became magic equals science…and science (of the future) equals magic."

This is not to say that Dick read only SF during his coming of age years. On the contrary, he was an omnivorous and devouring reader, taking in Xenophon's Anabasis, Joyce's Finnegans Wake, the French realists such as Stendhal, Flaubert and Maupassant - all this and much more by his early twenties. Dick gave credit to the American Depression-era writer James T. Farrell, author of Studs Lonigan, for helping Dick see how to construct the SF stories that he sold in such numbers to the SF pulps in the early 1950s.

And even though Dick never lost his yearning to be accepted by the literary mainstream, he always regarded it as a kind of treason to deprecate the SF genre he grew up on and flourished in. As he wrote in 1980, two years before his death:

"I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. Okay, so I should revise my standards; I'm out of step. I should yield to reality. I have never yielded to reality. That's what SF is all about. If you wish to yield to reality, go read Philip Roth; read the New York literary establishment mainstream bestselling writers….This is why I love SF. I love to read it; I love to write it. The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just 'What if' - it's 'My God; what if' - in frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming."

From age fifteen to his early twenties, Dick was employed in two Berkeley shops, University Radio and Art Music, owned by Herb Hollis, a salt-of-the-earth American small businessman who became a kind of father-figure for Dick and served as an inspiration for a number of his later fictional characters, most notably Leo Bulero in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), who, in the memo to his employees that serves as the frontispiece to that novel, gruffly affirms the human spirit:

"I mean, after all; you have to consider we're only made out of dust. That's admittedly not much to go on and we shouldn't forget that. But even considering, I mean it's a sort of bad beginning, we're not doing too bad. So I personally have faith that even in this lousy situation we're faced with we can make it. You get me?"

Three Stigmata, which deals with a terrifying Gnostic-style demiurgic invasion of earth by means of the eerily permeating hallucinogen "Chew-Z," so fascinated Beatle John Lennon that he considered making a film of it.

In the early 1950s, with the helpful mentorship of SF editor and Berkeley resident Anthony Boucher, Dick began to publish stories in the SF pulps of the era at an astonishing rate - seven of his stories appeared in June 1953 alone. He soon gave up his employment in the Hollis shops to pursue the economically insecure career of an SF writer.

In 1954, Dick later recalled with humor, he met one of his SF idols, A. E. Van Vogt, at an SF convention, where Van Vogt proceeded to convince the neophyte writer that there was more money to be made in novels than in stories. Henceforward, Dick's rate of production of SF novels was as remarkable as his story output had been. At his creative peak, he published sixteen SF novels between 1959 and 1964. During this same period, he also wrote mainstream novels that went unpublished, much to his anguish. To this day, it is his SF work for which Dick is best remembered, and justly so.

After a very brief failed first marriage in 1948, remarried four times - to Kleo Apostolides in 1950, to Anne Williams Rubenstein in 1959, to Nancy Hackett in 1966, and to Tessa Busby in 1973. There was one child born in each of the latter three marriages -respectively, his daughters Laura and Isa and son Christopher. During his lifetime, Dick was regarded with respect by SF fans and fellow writers, though his sales never came close to matching those of the most popular SF writers of his era such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

Dick received the Hugo Award in 1963 for The Man in the High Castle, which tells of a post-World War II world in which Japan and Germany are the victors and the continental United States is roughly divided between them. In devising the plot, Dick employed the I Ching on several occasions and also integrated that divinatory text into the narrative itself - marking its debut in American fiction.

In February and March 1974, Dick experienced a series of visions and auditions including an information-rich "pink light" beam that transmitted directly into his consciousness. A year after the events, in March 1975, Dick summarized the 2-3-74 experiences that would pervade his writing for the final eight years of his life:

"I speak of The Restorer of What Was Lost The Mender of What Was Broken."

"March 16, 1974: It appeared - in vivid fire, with shining colors and balanced patterns - and released me from every thrall, inner and outer.

"March 18, 1974: It, from inside me, looked out and saw the world did not compute, that I - and it - had been lied to. It denied the reality, and power, and authenticity of the world, saying, 'This cannot exist; it cannot exist.'

"March 20, 1974: It seized me entirely, lifting me from the limitations of the space-time matrix; it mastered me as, at the same time, I knew that the world around me was cardboard, a fake. Through its power of perception I saw what really existed, and through its power of no-thought decision, I acted to free myself. It took on in battle, as a champion of all human spirits in thrall, every evil, every Iron Imprisoning thing."

There are those who are eager to create a "Saint Phil" who emerged from this experience. In that regard, it is wise to remember that Dick himself always bore in mind what he called the "minimum hypothesis" -that is, the possibility that all that he had undergone was merely self-delusion.

On the other hand, there are those who regard Dick as a charlatan who foisted upon his readers a pseudo-mystical revelation fueled by mental disorder. But surely a charlatan is one who insists on the seriousness and accuracy of his claims. This Dick never did. One has only to go and read VALIS (1981) to find a piercingly knowing humor in Dick's portrayal of himself as Horselover Fat:

"…Fat must have come up with more theories than there are stars in the universe. Every day he developed a new one, more cunning, more exciting and more fucked."

Those who insist on the "truth" or "falsehood" of Dick's experience of 2-3-74 are missing the central point: that those experiences provided him with the means to explore, with integrity, insight, and humility, the difficulties of making sense of any spiritual path in a relentlessly secular and cynical Western culture in which even apparent revelations can be instantly repackaged as popular entertainment.

Dick died on March 2, 1982, the result of a combination of recurrent strokes accompanied by heart failure. In a 1981 entry in his Exegesis (an extensive journal he kept to explore the ramifications of 2-3-74) Dick wrote as focused a self-assessment of his aims and talents as a writer as can be found in any of his journals, letters, essays, and interviews:

"I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel & story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps: they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, &, for them, my corpus is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an integration & presentation, analysis & response & personal history."

One can readily imagine this passage having been written by Franz Kafka in his diary. And it is among the great fictionalizing philosophers of the twentieth century - Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, Rene Daumal, Flann O'Brien - that Dick's place in literary history lies. His uniqueness in this lineage is all the greater for his ability to have created great works in the broadly popular SF form. Dick remains compulsively, convulsingly readable. He is the master of the psychological pratfall, the metaphysical freefall, the political conspiracy within a conspiracy within a conspiracy. He is - as much as any contemporary writer we have - an astute guide to the shifting realities of the twenty-first century.
(Lawrence Sutin)


  • Solar Lottery (1955)
  • The World Jones Made (1956)
  • The Man Who Japed (1956)
  • Eye In The Sky (1957)
  • The Cosmic Puppets (1957)
  • Time Out Of Joint (1959)
  • Dr. Futurity (1960)
  • Vulcan's Hammer (1960)
  • The Man In The High Castle (1962)
  • The Game-Players Of Titan (1963)
  • The Penultimate Truth (1964)
  • Martian Time-Slip (1964)
  • The Simulacra (1964)
  • Clans Of The Alphane Moon (1964)
  • The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch (1965) (eng.) (it.)
  • Dr. Bloodmoney, Or How We Got Along After The Bomb (1965)
  • Now Wait For Last Year (1966)
  • The Crack In Space (1966)
  • The Unteleported Man (1966)
  • The Zap Gun (1967)
  • Counter-Clock World (1967)
  • The Ganymede Takeover (With Ray Nelson) (1967)
  • Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968)
  • Galactic Pot-Healer (1969) (it.) (it.)
  • Ubik (1969) (eng.) (it.)
  • A Maze Of Death (1970)
  • Our Friends From Frolix 8 (1970)
  • We Can Build You (1972)
  • Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1974)
  • Confessions Of A Crap Artist (1975)
  • Deus Irae (With Roger Zelazny) (1976)
  • A Scanner Darkly (1977)
  • VALIS (1981)
  • The Divine Invasion (1981)
  • The Transmigration Of Timothy Archer (1982)
  • The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike (1984)
  • Radio Free Albemuth (1985)
  • Puttering About In A Small Land (1985)
  • In Milton Lumky Territory (1985)
  • Humpty Dumpty In Oakland (1986)
  • Mary And The Giant (1987)
  • The Broken Bubble (1988)
  • Nick And The Glimmung (1988)
  • Gather Yourselves Together (1994)
  • Lies, Inc. (2004)

(Short Stories)

1952 "Beyond Lies The Wub", "The Gun", "The Skull", "The Little Movement"

1953 "The Defenders", "Mr. Spaceship", "Piper In The Woods", "Roog", "The Infinites", "Second Variety", "The World She Wanted", "Colony", "The Cookie Lady", "Impostor", "Martians Come In Clouds" ("The Buggies"), "Paycheck", "The Preserving Machine", "The Cosmic Poachers" ("Burglar"), "Expendable" ("He Who Waits"), "The Indefatigable Frog", "The Commuter", "Out In The Garden", "The Great C", "The King Of The Elves" ("Shadrach Jones And The Elves"), "The Trouble With Bubbles" ("Plaything"), "The Variable Man", "The Impossible Planet" ("Legend"), "Planet For Transients" ("The Itinerants"), "Some Kinds Of Life" ("The Beleagured"), "The Builder", "The Hanging Stranger", "Project: Earth" ("One Who Stole"), "The Eyes Have It", "Tony And The Beetles"

1954 "Prize Ship", ("Globe From Ganymede"), "Beyond The Door", "The Crystal Crypt", "A Present For Pat", "The Short Happy Life Of The Brown Oxford", "The Golden Man" ("The God Who Runs"), "James P. Crow", "Prominent Author", "Small Town", "Survey Team", "Sales Pitch", "Time Pawn" (Expanded As The Novel "Dr, Futurity"), "Breakfast At Twilight", "The Crawlers" ("Foundling Home"), "Of Withered Apples", "Exhibit Piece", "Adjustment Team", "Shell Game", "Meddler", "Souvenir", "A World Of Talent", "The Last Of The Masters" ("Protection Agency"), "Progeny", "Upon The Dull Earth", "The Father-Thing", "Strange Eden" ("Immolation"), "Jon's World" ("Jon"), "The Turning Wheel"

1955 "Foster, You're Dead", "Human Is", "War Veteran", "Captive Market", "Nanny", "The Hood Maker" ("Immunity"), "The Chromium Fence", "Service Call", "A Surface Raid", "The Mold Of Yancy", "Autofac", "Psi-Man Heal My Child! ("Psi-Man" And "Outside Consultant")

1956 "The Minority Report" , "To Serve The Master" ("Be As Gods!"), "Pay For The Printer", "A Glass Of Darkness" (Magazine Version Of "The Cosmic Puppets")

1957 "The Unreconstructed M", "Misadjustment"

1958 "Null-O" ("Looney Lemuel")

1959 "Explorers We", "Recall Mechanism", "Fair Game", "War Game"

1963 "All We Marsmen", "Stand-By" ("Top Stand-By Job"), "What'll We Do With Ragland Park?" ("No Ordinary Guy"), "The Days Of Perky Pat", "If There Were No Benny Cemoli"

1964 "Waterspider", "Novelty Act", "Oh, To Be A Blobel!", "The War With The Fnools", "What The Dead Men Say" ("Man With A Broken Match"), "Orpheus With Clay Feet", "Cantata 140", "A Game Of Unchance", "The Little Black Box", "Precious Artifact", "The Unteleported Man"

1965 "Retreat Syndrome", "Project Plowshare"

1966 "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", "Holy Quarrel", "Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday" 1967 "Return Match", "Faith Of Our Fathers"

1968 "Not By Its Cover", "The Story To End All Stores For Harlan Ellison's Anthology Dangerous Visions"

1969 "The Electric Ant", "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum"

1974 "The Pre-Persons", "A Little Something For Us Tempunauts"

1979 "The Exit Door Leads In"

1980 "Chains Of Air, Web Of Aether" ("The Man Who Knew To Lose") "Rautavaara's Case", "Frozen Journey" ("I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon")

1981 "The Alien Mind"

1984 "Strange Memories Of Death"

1987 "Cadbury, The Beaver Who Lacked", "The Day Mr. Computer Fell Out Of Its Tree", "The Eye Of The Sibyl", "Stability", "A Terran Odyssey"

1988 "Goodbye, Vincent"


1955 "Pessimism In Science Fiction"

1964 "Naziism And The High Castle", "Drugs, Hallucinations, And The Quest For Reality", "Tips For The Beginning Writer"

1965 "Schizophrenia & The Book Of Changes" "Pessimism In Science Fiction"

1966 "Will The Atomic Bomb Ever Be Perfected, And If So, What Becomes Of Robert Heinlein?"

1968 "Anthony Boucher" "Self Portrait"

1969 "That Moon Plaque"

1972 "Notes Made Late At Night By A Weary SF Writer", "The Android And The Human"

1973 "The Nixon Crowd"

1974 "Three Sci-Fi Authors View The Future", "An Open Letter To Joanna Russ", "Who Is An SF Writer?"

1975 "The Evolution Of A Vital Love"

1976 "Memories Found In A Bill From A Small Animal Vet", "The Short Happy Life Of A Science Fiction Writer", "Man, Android And Machine"

1978 "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some Of The Others"

1979 "The Lucky Dog Pet Store", "Scientists Claim: We Are The Center Of The Universe" 1981 "Universe Makers...And Breakers", "Predictions", "The Tagore Letter"

1982 "How To Write Science Fiction"

1985 "How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later", "Warning: We Are Your Police" (Plot Outline)

1987 "Cosmogony And Cosmology"

1988 "PKD's Blade Runner: 1968 Notes On How To Film Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?"

1992 "Joe Protagoras Is Alive And Living On Earth" (Plot Outline), "The Name Of The Game Is Death" (Plot Outline), "The Different Stages Of Love"

  • The Selected Letters Of Philip K. Dick--1974 (Published In 1981)
  • The Selected Letters Of Philip K. Dick--1975-1976 (Published In 1992)
  • The Selected Letters Of Philip K. Dick--1977-1979 (Published In 1992)
  • The Selected Letters Of Philip K. Dick--1972-1973 (Published In 1993)
  • The Selected Letters Of Philip K. Dick--1938-1971 (Published In 1996)
  • The Above And Melting (1966)
  • An Old Snare (1966)
  • Why I Am Hurt (1966)
  • My Life In Stillness: White As Day (1983)
  • On A Cat Which Fell Three Stories And Survived (1987)
  • Hey, Dumb Little Girls (1988)

Films Based On PKD’s Works:
  • Blade Runner (1982, Dir. By Ridley Scott, Based On: “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”)
  • Total Recall (1990, Dir. By Paul Verhoeven, Based On: “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”)
  • Confessions D'un Barjo (French) (1992, Dir. By Jerome Boivin, Based On: “The Confessions Of A Crap-Artist”)
  • Screamers (1995, Dir By Christian Duguay, Based On: "Second Variety")
  • The Gospel According To Philip K. Dick (2000) (DVD) (VHS). Documentary About Philip K. Dick
  • Impostor (2001, Dir By Gary Fleder, Based On: “Impostor”)
  • Minority Report (2002, Dir. By Steven Spielberg, Based On: "The Minority Report")
  • Paycheck (2003, Dir. By Richard Linklater, Based On: "Paycheck")
  • A Scanner Darkly (2006, Based On "A Scanner Darkly")
  • Next (2007, Dir. By Lee Tamahori, Based On "The Golden Man")
Philip Kindred Dick
  • Philip K. Dick - Complete Stories 1 - The Short Happy Life Of The Brown Oxford And Other Stories
  • Philip K. Dick - Complete Stories 4 - The Minority Report And Other Stories
  • Philip K. Dick - Complete Stories 5 - The Eye Of Sibyl And Other Stories
  • Philip K. Dick - The Book Of Philip K. Dick
  • Philip K. Dick - The Shifting Realities Of Philip K. Dick
  • Robert Crumb - The Religious Experience Of Philip K. Dick
(pwd: interzona23)

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