How Philip K. Dick Can Change Your Life

For the growing number of Dickheads among us, Trevor Smith’s recent article “I Understand Philip K. Dick” was a great reminder of how Dick’s writing contained such valuable human insight that to label it as just “science fiction” really doesn’t do it justice. Inspired by Trevor’s piece and the Terence McKenna essay his essay linked to, I went a mini PKD binge and turned up an interesting article and video at The Verge published during the PKD Festival in San Francisco last October. It’s worth checking out just for Jonathan Lethem’s intro…

There are a lot of ways to characterize a legacy.

You could start with numbers: 44 published novels, at least 121 short stories, and a dozen movie adaptations, most of them major Hollywood affairs — and then the expanding circle of influence that includes 12 Monkeys, eXistenz, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Over $1 billion in film revenue.

Or you could look to awards: three Hugo nominations and one win, a slew of Nebula nominations, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and a British Science Fiction Association Award.

You could try to capture something more nebulous: the way the supposedly real world has begun to feel more and more like a Philip K. Dick novel. Inanimate objects capable of speech and something like thought. Entertainers resurrected as holograms. An android head built in the image of a long-gone author, ready to answer questions in his voice. You might note that, alongside Dickensian and Kafkaesque, we now have an adjective to describe this state of affairs. Phildickian. And the world seems more phildickian every day…

[continues at The Verge]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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18 Comments on "How Philip K. Dick Can Change Your Life"

  1. where is the Wright piece? i cant find it anywhere

  2. InfvoCuernos | Jan 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |

    I wonder how long its going to take science fiction to become a legitimate form of literature? What all these guys are saying is “wow PKD is so much more than what I had come to expect from sci-fi” – well, nerd, maybe you were misinformed about science fiction. Besides Philip K. Dick, I have heard this about Frank Herbert and Robert Heinlein, and what’s more there are numerous great authors that grew up into the footprints of these early literary masters(Greg Bear, John Shirley). Its just hard for people to shake the immature stigma of Sci-fi. I wonder if more people would embrace PKD if they called it “drug culture” lit like they do when Burroughs talks about aliens and weird shit.

    • BrianApocalypse | Jan 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm |

      It’s long been considered as legitimate ‘literature’ to anyone who actually matters 🙂

    • Ted Heistman | Jan 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

      PKD actually, wasn’t even that big a fan of the genre, himself. He tried being a literary author and wasn’t able to get published in that genre until he was dead.

      I read mostly non-fiction and philosophy. PKD is the only Sci FI author I have read much of. I can’t get into most of what i have picked up. I tried to read all the recent Hugo award winners once. I did like some Vernor Vinge. Sampled some Bruce Sterling. I like Kurt Vonnegut.

      I can’t find anything I think compares to PKD. I might try “DUNE” I like Tolkein a lot but that’s fantasy.

      • Ted Heistman | Jan 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm |

        I really do like Moebius, and Carla Speed McNeil, but they are Graphic Novelists. I am even more picky with comic books.

        • InfvoCuernos | Jan 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm |

          You should hunt down some John Shirley, he writes a lot along the PKD lines. There was an anthology of his short stories published a while back with the title “really really really really weird stories”. I think the original intent of sci-fi-to utilize a futuristic or alien environment to examine aspects of our own humanity- gets lost in all the gimmicks and concepts just like hollywood movies. When you talk about graphic novels, I think that Alan Moore is at the top of the writing game for really mature in-depth story lines. I had forgotten that Kurt Vonnegut had achieved escape velocity from being labeled “sci-fi” but his shit is pure science fiction, even if he doesn’t think so. “You can go ahead and call yourself an “escort” if it makes you feel better about that money, honey.”

          • Ted Heistman | Jan 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm |

            Yeah, I think Alan Moore is a good writer. Have you heard of Carla Speed McNeil’s “Finder” series? She is kind of like a cross between Moebius and the Hernandez Bros.

          • InfvoCuernos | Jan 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm |

            I grew up on Moebius and to this day have a fondness for that hyper detailed inkwork-I will check into Carla Speed McNeil.

          • Ted Heistman | Jan 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm |

            She doesn’t draw quite as good, but she is an awesome writer. I mean she draws really well, she just isn’t Moebius.


            I tend to like European Heavy Metal type Comics. But some of its pretty much just porn, basically. But they are really good artists a lot of them like Serpieri. I love Ranxerox too.

        • Trevor Smith | Jan 9, 2013 at 12:23 am |

          Oh man…Dune is a fucking must read! One of the best works of all time in my opinion

      • DrDavidKelly | Jan 9, 2013 at 6:17 am |

        William Gibson isnt bad but yeah … nothing cums close to some Dick. I feel the same way about King Crimson. I hate prog rock but those guys …

        • InfvoCuernos | Jan 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm |

          Absolutely-I love Gibson and King Crimson rocks like no other prog rock.

      • try tom disch, michael moorcok, and john kessel.

  3. This topic has been synchronized to my life lately…. down to me revisiting a line of information from Crowley’s LAM …to Valis ….to Philip K Dick in as many recent days…neat that DisInformation is keeping up with my present synchronicity! It must be in the air…something’s brewin’!

  4. liquidself | Jan 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm |

    A minor point; but I’ve always thought twelve monkeys owed a lot more to La Jette by Chris Marker.

  5. jononehumanbeing | Feb 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm |

    A small group of us have started a Philip K. Dick Reading Club to read all 45 of his novels in 90 weeks. We’re starting with his first novel, Solar Lottery, on Saturday, February 9th.

    If anyone is interested in joining us on this journey into the world of PKD, you can read more about it here:

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