Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Philip K. Dick
Philip Kindred Dick (December 16 1928 – March 2 1982), often known by his initials PKD, or by the pen name Richard Phillips, was an American science fiction writer and novelist who changed the genre profoundly. Though hailed during his lifetime by peers such as Stanislaw Lem, Dick received little public recognition until after his death, when several popular film adaptations of his novels introduced him to a larger audience. His work is now some of the most popular in science fiction, and Dick has gained both general acclaim and critical respect.
Discarding the optimistic and simple world-view of Golden Age science fiction, Dick consistently explored the themes of the nature of reality and humanity in his novels, which were populated by common working people, rather than galactic elites. Foreshadowing the cyberpunk sub-genre, Dick brought the anomic world of Northern California to many of his works. His acclaimed novel, The Man in the High Castle (1963, winner of the Hugo Award), is a pioneering work bridging the genres of alternative history and science fiction. He also produced a tremendous number of short stories and minor works which were published in pulp magazines.
His works are characterized by a constantly eroding sense of reality, with protagonists often discovering that those close to them (or even they themselves) are secretly robots, aliens, supernatural beings, brainwashed spies, hallucinations, dead or some combination of the above.
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago, to Dorothy Kindred Dick. His father, Edgar Dick, was a fraud investigator for the United States Department of Agriculture. He had a twin sister, Jane. Both children were born six weeks premature, and Jane died on January 26, 1929. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to California.
Dick's parents divorced when he was young; he grew up with his mother. He was diagnosed with asthma as a child and prescribed methamphetamine, a drug now regarded as a dangerous stimulant which leads to psychotic states indistinguishable from schizophrenia. He went to high school in Berkeley and briefly attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in German. He sold records and was a disc jockey before selling his first story in 1952. He wrote full-time, more or less, from that time forward. He sold his first novel in 1955. The 1950's were a hard-scrabble time for Dick, so much so that, as he once said, "we couldn't even pay the late fees on a library book." He associated with the pre-1960's counterculture of California and was sympathetic to beat poets and the Communist Party. There is some dispute regarding the latter and Dick later admitted to being literally thrown out of at least one of their rallies. In 1963, he won the Hugo Award for The Man in the High Castle. Dick was opposed to the Vietnam War and had a file at the FBI as a result.
Though Dick was hailed as a genius at this time in the SF world, the literary world as a whole was as yet unappreciative, and so he could only publish books at low-paying SF publishers. Consequently, while he would regularly publish novels for the next several years, he continued to struggle financially and psychologically. Even in his later years, continued to have financial troubles. In the introduction to the 1980 short story collection "The Golden Man", Dick writes:
- "Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him--one of the few true gentlemen in the world. I don't agree with any of the ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time, when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlien loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to him in appreciation. Robert Heinlien is a fine looking man, very impressive and military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love."
This excerpt shows not only that Dick was continually having monetary troubles, but also the regard other SF writers had for him. Robert Heinlein was Dick's opposite in almost every way--certainly in politics, lifestyle, and writing style--yet they admired each others work. Dick said of Heinlein in the same introduction, "...I consider Henlein my spiritual father, even though our political ideologies are totally at variance."
Dick and his visions
In his youth, around the age of thirteen, Dick had a recurring dream for a number of weeks. He dreamt that he was in a bookstore, trying to find an issue of Astounding. This issue, when he found it, would contain a story called "The Empire Never Ended", which would reveal to him the secrets of the universe. As the dream repeated, the pile of magazines through which he was searching got smaller and smaller, but he never reached the bottom of it. Eventually, he became anxious that discovering the magazine would drive him mad (like the Lovecraftian Necronomicon, promising insanity to its readers). Shortly thereafter, the dreams stopped. They never returned, but the phrase "The Empire Never Ended" would appear in his later works.
On February 20, 1974 he was recovering from the effects of sodium pentothal administered after the extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth. Answering the door to receive a delivery of additional painkillers, he noticed the woman delivering the package was wearing a pendant with what he called the "vesicle pisces". (He probably was referring to the intersecting arcs of the vesica piscis.) After her departure, Dick began experiencing strange visions. Although this may have initially been attributed to the painkillers, after weeks of these visions, such a rationale becomes less probable. Throughout February and March of 1974 he received a series of visions which he collectively referred to as 2-3-74, shorthand for February/March of 1974. He described his initial visions as laser beams and geometric patterns, and occasionally brief pictures of Jesus and ancient Rome, which he would glimpse periodically. As the pictures increased in length and frequency, Dick claimed that he began to live a double life, one as himself and one as Thomas, a Christian persecuted by Romans in the 1st century C.E. Despite his current and past drug use, Dick accepted these visions as reality, believing that he had been contacted by a god-entity of some kind, which he referred to as Zebra, God, and most often VALIS. VALIS is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System; he used this term as the title of one of his novels, and later theorized that it was a "reality generator", an artificial satellite which used pink laser beams to project holograms on Earth. Dick claimed that VALIS used "disinhibiting stimuli" to prep the subjects for the communication, in his case the vesicle pisces. He wrote about this experience and his beliefs that the Roman empire never ended in detail in his essay, "How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later".
Most observers of this phenomenon would conclude that Dick's visions were a brief psychotic episode, and they might be correct in that assumption. What has allowed the mystery of Dick's experiences to endure are anecdotal reports of several intriguing incidences such as the following:
At one point, during an encounter with the VALIS, Dick learned that his infant son was in danger of perishing from an unnamed malady. Routine checkups on the child had shown no trouble or illness; however, Dick insisted that thorough tests be run to ensure his son's health. The doctor eventually complied, despite the fact that there were no apparent symptoms. During the examination doctors discovered an inguinal hernia, which would have killed the child if an operation was not quickly performed. The child survived thanks to the operation, which Dick accredited to the "intervention" of VALIS.
Another event was an episode of glossolalia. Dick's wife transcribed the sounds she heard him speak, and discovered that he was speaking Koiné Greek, an ancient dialect which he had never studied. As Dick was to later discover, Koiné Greek was originally used to write the New Testament and the Septuagint. However, this was not the first time Dick had experienced glossolalia. A decade earlier, Dick claimed he was able to think, speak, and read fluent Latin under the influence of Sandoz LSD-25.
In his essay, Will the Atomic Bomb Ever be Perfected, And if so, What becomes of Robert Heinlein? Dick mentions that he began seeing pink light during an LSD experience, eight years before he wrote and attributed the so-called pink lasers to VALIS.
Regardless of the apparent evidence that he was somehow experiencing a divine communication, Dick was unable ever to fully rationalize the events. For the rest of his life, he struggled to fully comprehend what was occurring, questioning his own sanity and perception of reality. He excised what thoughts he could into an 8,000 page, million word journal dubbed the Exegesis. He spent sleepless nights furiously writing into this journal, in some instances high on large quantities of amphetamines, which no doubt contributed to its eclectic tone. A recurring theme in the Exegesis is Dick's hypothesis that history had been stopped in the 1st century, and that the "[Roman] Empire never ended." He saw Rome as the pinnacle of materialism, which, after forcing the Gnostics underground 1900 years earlier, had kept the population of the Earth as slaves to worldly possessions. Dick believed that VALIS had contacted him and unnamed others to induce the "impeachment" of Richard M. Nixon, whom Dick believed to be the current Emperor incarnate.
As time went on, he became increasingly paranoid, imagining plots against him perpetrated by the KGB or FBI, who he believed were constantly laying traps for him. At one point he alleged that they had broken into his house and pilfered various documents, though later he stated that he probably committed the burglary himself, and then forgotten he had done so.
His later works, especially the Valis trilogy, were heavily autobiographical, many with 2-3-74 references or influences. Dick was also a voracious reader of works on religion, philosophy, metaphysics, and Gnosticism, and these ideas found their way into many of his stories. The final novel to be published during his life was The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, though many more were published posthumously, most notably Lies, Inc. Dick's works may be compared with those of William S. Burroughs, though Dick is arguably less scathing and more philosophical.
Marriages and children
Dick married five times, and had two daughters and a son. The first four ended in divorce; the last in his death.
- May 1948 , to Jeanette Marlin (lasted six months)
- June 1950 , to Kleo Apostolides (divorced 1958)
- 1958, to Anne Williams Rubinstein (children: Laura Archer, born February 26, 1960) (divorced 1964)
- 1966 or 1967 (sources conflict), to Nancy Hackett (children: Isolde, usually called "Isa") (divorced 1970)
- April 18, 1973, to Tessa Busby (children: Christopher)
Philip K. Dick died of a stroke in 1982 without having learned what had caused his strange visions. It has been theorized that Dick suffered from epileptic discharges in his temporal lobe. This can cause subtle, non-disabling seizures which can cause feelings ranging from a general disorientation to visions often construed by the victim as "psychic" experiences or epiphanies. This particular region of the brain allows for differentiation of reality and fantasy and is very sensitive to epileptic discharges. The symptoms which go along with these discharges read like a summary of the last decade of Dick's life. Part and parcel to these kind of seizures is a behavioral phenomenon called "hypergraphia", where the subject begins obsessively documenting their experiences, usually in journal form.
After his death (he was disconnected from life support on March 2, but his EEG had been flat for five days prior to that), his father Edgar brought his son's body to Fort Morgan, Colorado. When his twin Jane had died, a tombstone had been carved with both of their names on it, and an empty space for Philip's date of death. After fifty-three years, that final date was carved in, and Philip K. Dick was buried beside his sister.
Dick's influence on others
Like other more famous science fiction authors, several of Dick's stories have been made into movies. Most of these are only loosely based on Dick's original story, using them as a starting-point for a Hollywood action-adventure story. While the most admired is Ridley Scott's classic movie Blade Runner, the action film Total Recall faithfully translates a number of Dick themes, as does Steven Spielberg's well-cast adaptation of Minority Report. All, however, introduce uncharacteristic violence and replace the typically nondescript Dick protagonist with an action hero.
John Woo's 2003 film, Paycheck, was a very loose adaptation of Dick's short story, and suffered greatly, both at the hands of critics and at the box office, possibly due to the film's weak script and miscasting of Ben Affleck in the role of Michael Jennings.
The film Screamers was based on a Dick short story The Second Variety ; however, the location was altered from a war-devastated Earth in the story to a generic sci-fi environment of a distant planet in the film.
It has also been noted, though the connection (if any) is unknown, that the subjective reality created by the cryonic Life Extension system in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky and its Spanish original, Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) strongly resembles that of 'half-life' in Ubik.
Philip K. Dick is often cited as a major influence on the Cyberpunk movement led by William Gibson, but as his work, including titles as diverse as the inventive Eye in the Sky and Martian Time Slip, the moving Galactic Pot-Healer, the complex and yet delicate The Man in the High Castle and the chilling yet deeply moving A Scanner Darkly, shows, there was much more to his genius than just influence.
K. W. Jeter's Doctor Adder series has a radio disk jockey who is obviously Dick. Orval Wintermute , translator of the Nag Hammadi Codices and major figure in Dick's VALIS mythos lends his name to an artificial intelligence in William Gibson's Neuromancer. Dick's influence is particularly evident in Jonathan Lethem's novels, such as Gun, With Occasional Music (1994), Amnesia Moon (1995), Girl in Landscape (1998). Hints at Dick's VALIS can also be found in Lethem's last novel, The Fortress of Solitude (2003).
One influence which may be considered unusually distant from science fiction within "culture space" is the composition by Tod Machover , and performance, of an opera VALIS.
- An extensive bibliography with coverscans of the different editions of each of his books can be found here
The short stories of Philip K. Dick have recently been republished in five omnibus volumes, as follows:
- The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford and Other Stories, ISBN 0806511532
- We Can Remember It for You Wholesale and Other Stories, ISBN 0806512091
- Second Variety and Other Stories, ISBN 0806512261
- The Minority Report and Other Stories, ISBN 0806512768
- The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Stories, ISBN 0806513284
- The Builder
- The Commuter
- The Cookie Lady
- The Cosmic Poachers
- The Defenders
- The Eyes Have It
- The Great C
- The Hanging Stranger
- The Impossible Planet
- The Indefatigable Frog
- The Infinities
- The King of the Elves
- Martians Come in Clouds
- Mr. Spaceship
- Out in the Garden
- Piper in the Woods
- Planet for Transients
- The Preserving Machine
- Project: Earth
- Second Variety
- Some Kinds of Life
- The Trouble with Bubbles
- The World She Wanted
- A World of Talent
- The Last of the Master
- Adjustment Team
- Beyond the Door
- Breakfast at Twilight
- The Crawlers
- The Crystal Crypt
- The Exhibit Piece
- The Father-thing
- The Golden Man
- James P. Crow
- Jon's World
- The Little Black Box
- Of Withered Apples
- A Present for Pat
- Prize Ship
- Prominent Author
- Sales Pitch
- Shell Game
- The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford
- Small Town
- Strange Eden
- Survey Team
- Time Pawn
- Tony and the Beetles
- The Turning Wheel
- Upon the Dull Earth
- Captive Market
- The Chromium Fence
- Foster, You're Dead! In German:[]
- The Hood Maker
- Human Is
- The Mold of Yancy
- Psi-man Heal My Child!
- Service Call
- A Surface Raid
- Vulcan's Hammer
- War Veteran
- The Unreconstructed M
- Explorers We
- Fair Game
- Recall Mechanism
- War Game
- All We Marsmen
- The Days of Perky Pat
- If There Were No Benny Cemoli
- What'll We Do With Ragland Park?
- Cantata 140
- A Game of Unchance
- Novelty Act
- Oh, to be a Blobel!
- Orpheus with Clay Feet
- Precious Artifact
- The Unteleported Man
- The War with the Fnools
- What the Dead Men Say
- Project Plowshare
- Retreat Syndrome
- Not By Its Cover
- The Story To End All Stories
- A. Lincoln, Simulacrum
- The Electric Ant
- Cadbury, the Beaver Who Lacked
- The Different Stages of Love
- The Pre-persons
- A Little Something For Us Tempunauts
- The Exit Door Leads In
- I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon
- Rautavaara's Case
- Chains of Air, Web of Aethyr
- The Alien Mind
- Strange Memories Of Death
- The Day Mr. Computer Fell Out of Its Tree
- The Eye of The Sibyl
- Fawn, Look Back
- Goodbye, Vincent
- The Name of the Game is Death
Most of Dick's novels are very accessible and make quick reading; a few, however, most notably his final VALIS trilogy (VALIS, The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer), were inspired by his VALIS experience and involve religious material some readers find dense and inscrutable.
Some good choices for a reader new to Dick are The Man in the High Castle, which takes place in an alternate America ruled by the victorious Axis powers, and which features an early exploration by Dick into the questions of false worlds he would later ask in VALIS; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the inspiration for the film Blade Runner, which deals with Dick's themes about replicas of real things; another excellent depiction of a man discovering his world to be fake is Time out of Joint (in many ways very similar to the movie The Truman Show); Now Wait for Last Year, a somewhat traditional sci-fi novel involving time travel, Dick's theme of reality-altering drugs, more questions of replicas, and a fine example of Dick's recurring dark-haired female character; and Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb , which features northern California culture in the early 60's and questions of politics and society.
For the more patient reader, Dick's masterpiece VALIS is a unique piece of literature. It started out as a traditional sci-fi novel (early draft work can be seen in the collection ), turned into a missive as Dick attempted to demonstrate the truth of his paranoia, and ended up including a moving admission of insanity layered on top of the book.
Novels by year
- Solar Lottery
- The World Jones Made
- The Man Who Japed
- Eye in the Sky
- The Cosmic Puppets
- Time out of Joint
- Dr. Futurity
- Vulcan's Hammer
- The Man in the High Castle
- The Game-Players of Titan (ISBN 0679740651)
- Martian Time-Slip
- The Simulacra
- Lies, Inc
- Clans of the Alphane Moon
- The Penultimate Truth
- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
- Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb
- The Crack in Space
- Now Wait for Last Year
- The Unteleported Man
- Counter-Clock World
- The Zap Gun
- The Ganymede Takeover with Ray Nelson
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Galactic Pot-Healer
- A Maze of Death
- Our Friends from Frolix 8
- We Can Build You
- Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
- Confessions of a Crap Artist
- Deus Irae with Roger Zelazny
- A Scanner Darkly
- The Divine Invasion
- The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
- The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike
- Radio Free Albemuth
- Puttering About in a Small Land
- In Milton Lumky Territory
- Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
- Mary and the Giant
- The Broken Bubble
- Nick and the Glimmung (for children)
- Gather Yourselves Together
Film adaptations of Philip K. Dick's works
- Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) is based on his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990) is based on his short stories We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
- Confessions d'un Barjo (Jérôme Boivin , 1992) is based on his novel Confessions Of A Crap Artist .
- Screamers (Christian Duguay , 1995) is based on his short story Second Variety.
- Impostor (Gary Fleder , 2000) is based on the short story of the same name. A 1960s TV series was also based on the story.
- Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002) is based on the short story of the same name.
- Paycheck (John Woo, 2003) is based on the short story of the same name.
- A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2005) is based on the novel of the same name.
- Dick's personal essay Strange Memories of Death was adapted into a short film of the same name by Yates House Studios, but the film has yet to be distributed.
- Hugo Awards
- Nebula Awards
- John W. Campbell Memorial Award
- Carrere, Emmanuel. Bent, Timothy. (translator) (2005). I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick. Picador. ISBN 0312424515
- Dick, Ann R. (Former Wife). (1995). Search for Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982: A Memoir and Biography of the Science Fiction Writer. Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0773491376
- Mason, Daryl. (2006). The Biography of Philip K. Dick. Gollancz. ISBN 0575072806
- Sutin, Lawrence (Official biographer). (1991). Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. Citadel Press; Rep edition. ISBN 0806512288
- Apel, D. Scott. (1999). Philip K. Dick : The Dream Connection. The Impermanent Press. ISBN 1886404038
- Lee, Gwen (ed). What If Our World Is Their Heaven? The Final Conversations Of Philip K. Dick. Overlook Press. ISBN 1585673781
- List of science fiction authors
- List of science fiction novels
- List of science fiction short stories
- List of science fiction television
- Official website
- Philp K. Dick fans (with many of articles & interviews)
- A complete pictorial bibliography of Philip K Dick with more than 1200 coverscans
- Open Directory entry for Philip K. Dick
- Robert Crumb comic strip about Philip K. Dick's theophany
- A fan's website with an extensive bibliography and many photos
- The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick by Frank Rose, an article from Wired about movies based on the Dick's novels
- How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later (Essay by PKD on his "discovery" that we are living in the Roman Empire)
- A Very PhilDickian Existence
- The Secret Gray-Robed Christians
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details