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Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick(1928-1982)
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928, but lived most of his life in California. He began reading science fiction when he was 12 and was never able to stop. He briefly attended the University of California, but dropped out before completing any classes. In 1952, he began writing professionally, writing numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Learn more at the Philip K. Dick website.

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VALIS: Reconciling human suffering with divine purpose

VALIS by Philip K Dick

It's often said that "one must suffer for one's art." They must have been referring to Philip K. Dick. He slaved away in relative obscurity and poverty at a typewriter for decades, churning out a prodigious flow of low-paid Ace and Berkeley paperbacks (sometimes fueled by amphetamines), went through five marriages, battled with depression, mental illness and suicide attempts, all culminating in a bizarre religious experience in 1974, and struggled to come to grips with this for the next eight years until his death in 1982 from a stroke at age 54. And yet it wasn’t until VALIS (1981) and the posthumous Radio Free Albemuth (1985) that he addressed these experiences directly in fictional form.

So if you want to get inside the mind of PDK, Radio Free Albemuth ... Read More

The Divine Invasion: A dense gnostic allegory about salvation

The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick

Before his death, Philip K. Dick wrote several books about suffering, redemption, and the divine in the contexts of Christian Gnosticism, Jewish Kabbalism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, anamnesis, and the dualistic nature of the ultimate divine being. After writing two books that explored his personal religious experiences in 1974, Radio Free Albemuth (written in 1976 but not published until 1985) and VALIS (written in 1978 but published in 1981), he wrote The Divine Invasion (written in 1980 but published in 1981), The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (written in 1981 but published in 1982), and an unfinished novel called The Owl in Daylight. Radio Free Albemuth was the fir... Read More

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer: Explores madness, suicide, faith, the occult

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick

Philip K Dick’s Radio Free Albemuth (1985) and VALIS (1981) were strange but moving attempts to make sense of his bizarre religious experiences in 1974 when a hyper-rational alien mind contacted him via a pink laser from space. He then wrote The Divine Invasion (1981) and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982), both loosely connected titles in the VALIS TRILOGY, although the latter was posthumously substituted for the unfinished The Owl in Daylight. Sadly, these were the final novels that PDK wrote before his death in 1982. The Divine Invasion is a complex retelling of the second coming of Christ to an Earth dominated by the fallen angel Bel... Read More

Solar Lottery: PKD’s debut novel

Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick

Although the Philip K. Dick novel Solar Lottery is correctly cited as being the writer's first full-length piece of fiction to see the light of day, it was hardly the first time the budding author saw his name in print. The 26-year-old Dick had already seen some 35 short science fiction stories published between 1952 and 1953, beginning with his first sale, "Beyond Lies the Wub," in the July 1952 issue of Planet Stories; he would see 27 stories go into print in 1953 alone! In addition, Dick, who only turned to science fiction when his several mainstream novels remained unpublished, had no less than four such works languishing in his files at home by 1955, including Gather Yourselves Together (written in 1949) and Voices From the Street (1952), not to mention his fantasy novel A Glass of Darkness (released in 1956 as The Cosmic Puppets).

... Read More

The World Jones Made: Compulsively readable

The World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick

By 1956, the sensation of seeing his name in print was not a new one for author Philip K. Dick. Between 1952 and 1955, he had placed around 75 (!) short stories in the various science fiction magazines and digests of the day, and in 1955 his first novel, Solar Lottery, saw its first publication. That novel appeared in one of those cute little "Ace doubles" (D-103, for all you collectors out there), backed with Leigh Brackett's The Big Jump. The book sold passably well, Dick later wrote; around 150,000 copies' worth. (Today, that 35-cent paperback is likely to fetch 70 times its original price.)

Dick's follow-up novel came the next year, and that novel, The World Jones Made, also initially appeared as an Ace double (D-150), paired with Margaret St. Clair's Agent of the Unknown. Dick's second full-length work finds the future Hugo winner already displ... Read More

The Man Who Japed: PKD shines in his third novel

The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick

Cult sci-fi author Philip K. Dick's third novel, The Man Who Japed, was originally published in one of those cute little "Ace doubles" (D-193, for all you collectors out there), back to back with E.C. Tubb's The Space-Born, in 1956, and with a cover price of a whopping 35 cents. (Ed Emshwiller's cover for The Man Who Japed was his first of many for these beloved double-deckers.) As in Dick's previous novel, The World Jones Made (1955), the story takes place on an Earth following a nuclear Armageddon that has considerably changed mankind's lot. In The Man Who Japed, by the year 2114, around 130 years after the war's end, society is run in accordance with the principles... Read More

Eye in the Sky: Very early PKD

Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

Jack Hamilton has just lost his job as an engineer for a government defense contractor because his wife Marsha is a suspected communist sympathizer. Having nothing better to do for the afternoon, he accompanies Marsha to the viewing of a new linear accelerator. An accident at the accelerator beams the Hamiltons and six other unsuspecting citizens into a parallel universe that at first appears to be their world but soon starts to evince subtle differences that become more and more obvious as time goes on. There is some sort of “corny Arab religion” at work — God is all justice and no mercy so, for example, telling a lie brings down an immediate curse such as a bee sting.

There are miracles here that can be taken advantage of, such as a cigarette machine that Jack, a darn good engineer, manages to rig up to produce unlimited supplies of excellent brandy, but generally this is an uncomfortable w... Read More

Vulcan’s Hammer: Minor Dick, but still very entertaining

Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K. Dick

According to Philip K. Dick authority Lawrence Sutin, in his well-researched biography Divine Invasions, by 1959, although Dick had already had some 85 short stories as well as half a dozen novels published, his interest in creating more sci-fi had reached a low point. The future Hugo winner was at this point hoping to become more of a mainstream author, having by this time already written nine such novels, none of which had been published … yet. Still, with bills to pay, a wife (his third of an eventual five) to support, and his first child on the way, economic necessities did, it seem, perforce drive him back, unenthusiastically, to the sci-fi realm. Two of the results from this period are Read More

Dr. Futurity: An underrated Dick outing

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

As I mentioned in my review of Philip K. Dick’s 1960 novel Vulcan’s Hammer, by 1959, the future Hugo winner was feeling decidedly disenchanted with science fiction in general, despite having had published some 85 short stories and half a dozen novels in that genre. The author, it seems, was still pinning his hopes on becoming a more “respectable,” mainstream writer, and had indeed already completed nine such novels: Return to Lilliput, Pilgrim on the Hill and A Time for George Stavros are considered lost, probably never to see the light of day, whereas Gather Yourselves Together, Voi... Read More

The Man in the High Castle: Axis Powers win WWII, and then things get weird

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

This is a strange and sinister book, even for Philip K. Dick. It’s a carefully-crafted alternate history about a world in which the Axis powers won WWII and now dominate the globe (other notable books in this vein include Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore and Pavane by Keith Roberts), but being PKD that is just the beginning. It prominently features the I Ching (Book of Changes), an ancient Chinese classic that serves as a sort of oracle or fortune telling device for several of the characters. The Pacific States of America are dominated by the Japanese, while the former Unites States of America on the East Coast a... Read More

The Game-Players of Titan: A highly entertaining but bewildering Dickian jaunt

The Game-Players of Titan by Philip K. Dick

After a devastating atomic world war, the humans of Earth have mostly killed each other off. Only about a million remain and most are sterile due to the radiation weapons developed by the Germans and used by the “Red Chinese.” Some humans now have telepathic abilities, too.

The alien Vugs of Titan, taking the opportunity to extend their domains, are now the Earth’s rulers. They seem like benevolent conquerors and overseers. For their amusement, they allow human landowners (“Bindmen”) to play a game called Bluff, which is much like Monopoly where the stakes are real pieces of property on the ruined Earth. The Vugs, who seem (but may not be) intent on not allowing the human race to die out, also use the game to mix up couples, hoping to serendipitously find viable breeding pairs. Any Bindman can play in the district where they own property, using their land and spouse for stakes in the game. Read More

Clans of the Alphane Moon: Yet another feather

Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick

Clans of the Alphane Moon was one of six books that science fiction cult author Philip K. Dick saw published in the years 1964 and 1965. Released in 1964 as a 40-cent Ace paperback (F-309, for all you collectors out there), it was his 14th science fiction novel since 1955. This period in the mid-'60s was a time of near hyperactivity for the author. Under the influence of prescription uppers (like one of Clans of the Alphane Moon 's central characters, Chuck Rittersdorf, who takes extraterrestrial "thalamic stimulants of the hexo-amphetamine class" in order to work two jobs), his output during that time was both prodigious and wildly imaginative. Clans of the Alphane Moon, although it may be accused of being underdeveloped and shows signs of being hastily written, IS nevertheless as fun as can be, and a really wild ride.

In the book, we are introduced to some... Read More

The Penultimate Truth: A fun and mordant vision of the future

The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick's 11th science fictopm novel, The Penultimate Truth, was originally released in 1964 as a Belmont paperback (no. 92-603, for all you collectors out there) with a staggering cover price of... 50 cents. Written during one of Dick's most furiously prolific periods, it was the first of four novels that he saw published that year alone!

One of his more cynical depictions of a duplicitous U.S. government, the story involves yet another one of the author's post-atomic holocaust futures. Here, it is the year 2025, and the bulk of mankind lives underground in protective "cubbies," while a pitched atomic war is fought on the surface by the "leadies" (robots) of the opposing sides. What is actually happening, however (and this is not a spoiler; it is revealed in the novel's opening chapters), is that the war has been over for a full 13 years, and the government in charge — via Agency... Read More

Martian Time-Slip: In the upper echelon of Dick novels

Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick

It’s easy to be skeptical when you crack open a book by Philip K. Dick; his output is hit or miss. The psychotic craziness of Dick’s personal life so often leaked into his writing that on more than one occasion his work features plots and themes derailed by a chaos seemingly external to the text. In the moments Dick was able to focus his drug and paranoia-fueled energies into a synergistic story, the sci-fi world benefited. Martian Time-Slip, just falling shy in quality to The Man in the High Castle or A Scanner Darkly, is one of these occasions.

The setting is Mars thousands of years in the future when the red planet is experiencing its second wave of civilization. The Bleekmen (Dick’s less than subtle name for Africans) are being pushed to the wastelands while those of European descent terraform the planet ... Read More

The Simulacra: Dick keeps his multiple story lines percolating

The Simulacra by Philip K. Dick

Fueled by prescription amphetamines, and in a burst of creative effort rarely seen before or since in the sci-fi field, cult author Philip K. Dick, in the period 1963 - ‘64, wrote no less than six full-length novels. His 13th since 1955, The Simulacra, was originally released as an Ace paperback in 1964 with a cover price of 40 cents. The book, written in Dick's best middle-period style, gives us a pretty whacky look at life in the mid-21st century. Scottish critic David Pringle, in his Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, aptly describes the work as "an overpopulated novel which flies off wildly in too many directions," and indeed, readers may need a flowchart to keep track with this one. According to my careful count, the book features no less than 56 named characters (no... Read More

Dr. Bloodmoney: Or How We Got Along After the Bomb

Dr. Bloodmoney: Or How We Got Along After the Bomb by Philip K. Dick

Based on the overwhelming success of The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick set about writing another alternate history/future. Choosing the Cold War as its crux, he imagined a US wherein the post-WWII threat of nuclear catastrophe manifests itself. Dr. Bloodmoney: Or How We Got Along After the Bomb is the (conveniently sub-titled) result.

With only a few main elements in common with that first big success, most of the characteristics of Dr. Bloodmoney set it apart. The Man in the High Castle was realistic save the alternate history aspect, but Dr. Bloodmoney finds Dick slowly blending in more and more of his typical motifs — precogs, schizophrenia, and telekinesis — and building toward a surreal conclusion. Though falli... Read More

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch: What if god were a lonely drug-pushing alien?

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was the 10th and final PKD book I read last year after 40 years without reading any. I always felt as a teenager that I would get more from his books as an adult, and I think I was right. This one is a real mind-bending experience, deliciously strange and tantalizing with its ideas.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) is one of the earliest PKD novels that deals overtly with drug use, hallucinations, and his thoughts on religion and the divine in our mundane lives. As usual, his near-future world is fairly dystopian, and his characters are everyday people trying to muddle through life. There are no superheroes, and his characters are filled with flaws. PKD was a champion of the downtrodden everyman, which makes sense since he himself was always struggling with poverty, mental i... Read More

The Ganymede Takeover: The oddball of PKD’s sci-fi oeuvre

The Ganymede Takeover by Philip K. Dick

When I read Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's 1946 novella Chessboard Planet some years back, the thought occurred to me that this story is a must-read for all fans of cult author Philip K. Dick. In the story, the United States is in the midst of a decades-long war with the European union and is in big trouble, because scientists working for the enemy have come up with a formula employing "variable constants" that can completely preempt reality. In the story's memorable opening, a doorknob opens a blue eye and watches one of the protagonists, and ultimately, the tale becomes hallucinatory in the extreme, as equations and counterequations for abrogating reality are bounced ba... Read More

Now Wait for Last Year: A virtual compendium of Dick’s pet themes

Now Wait for Last Year by Philip K. Dick

A virtual compendium of many of Philip K. Dick's pet themes, tropes and obsessions, Now Wait for Last Year, the author's 17th published sci-fi novel, originally appeared as a Doubleday hardcover in 1966. (As revealed in Lawrence Sutin's biography on Dick, the novel was actually written as early as 1963 and rewritten two years later.) Phil was on some kind of a roll at this point in his career, having recently come out with the masterpieces The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Dr. Bloodmoney, and Now Wait for Last Year is still another great one for this important writer.

In it, the Earth of the year 2055 is in big trouble, fighting a protracted, losing war with the 6-f... Read More

The Crack in Space: Off the mark by 72 years

The Crack in Space by Philip K. Dick

Although he displayed remarkable prescience in many of his books, cult author Philip K. Dick was a good 72 years off the mark in his 18th sci-fi novel, The Crack in Space. Originally released as a 40-cent Ace paperback in 1966 (F-377, for all you collectors out there), the novel takes place against the backdrop of the 2080 U.S. presidential election, in which a black man, Jim Briskin, of the Republican-Liberal party, is poised to become the country's first black president. (Dick must have liked the name "Jim Briskin"; in his then-unpublished, non-sci-fi, mainstream novel from the mid-'50s, The Broken Bubble, Jim Briskin is the name of a DJ in San Francisco!) Unlike Barack Obama, whose campaigning centered around the issues of war, economic crisis and h... Read More

Counter-Clock World: PKD is in a class of his own

Counter-Clock World by Philip K. Dick

It’s 1998 and time has started running backward. Aging has reversed so that people are gradually getting younger, and dead people are awakening in their graves and begging to be let out. The excavating companies have the rights to sell the people they unbury to the highest bidder. When Sebastian Hermes’s small excavating company realizes that Thomas Peak, a famous religious prophet, is about to come back to life, they know that getting to him first could be a huge boon to their business. The problem is that there are other organizations that prefer for Thomas Peak to stay dead, especially when they realize he may have information about the afterlife.

Philip K. Dick is in a class of his own and it’s hard to compare his novels to anyone’s but his own. Maybe it’s not fair, but there are certain expectations we have for other novelists that don’t apply when we read PKD. Most importantl... Read More

The Zap Gun: Highly readable and a lot of fun

The Zap Gun by Philip K. Dick

Cult author Philip K. Dick's 20th published science fiction novel, The Zap Gun, was first released in book form (Pyramid paperback R-1569, with a cover price of 50 cents) in 1967, after having been serialized in the November 1965 and January 1966 issues of Worlds of Tomorrow magazine under the title "Project Plowshare." Phil's previously published book had been The Unteleported Man, later expanded as the largely incomprehensible Lies, Inc., but The Zap Gun is a completely understandable, reader-friendly novel that, as it turns out, is quite a winning satire on the arms race that was indeed so frightening back then.

In Phil's book, it is the year 2004 (OK, maybe he should have made it 2104!), and the two major world powers have reached a detente of sorts in this game of armament one-upmanship. Rather than actually creating weapons, the two sides (Wes-b... Read More

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Stuart discusses the book and film

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner was arguably the most brilliant, though-provoking, and intelligent SF film ever made, with a uniquely dark vision of a deteriorated future Earth society and a morally ambiguous tale of a bounty hunter Rick Deckard hunting down and ‘retiring’ a series of very intelligent Nexus-6 type replicants (androids) that want very much to live. The movie changed the way moviegoers looked at SF films, and brought great credibility to its director and the genre for a much wider audience, although it was a box-office failure and Philip K Dick never lived to see the completed film. It raised questions of morality and humanity that are basically unanswerable, but presented this vision in a visually stunning, emotionally compelling and visceral story with complex characters and no ea... Read More

Galactic Pot-Healer: Unpredictable and fascinating from beginning to end

Galactic Pot-Healer by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick's 24th published science fiction novel, the whimsically titled Galactic Pot-Healer, first saw the light of day as a Berkley Medallion paperback in June 1969, with a cover price of 60 cents. It both followed up and preceded two of its author's finest and most beloved works, 1968's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and 1969's Ubik, and if not in the same rarefied league as those two, remains a fine yet mystifying addition to the Dickian canon nevertheless.

In Galactic Pot-Healer, in the dystopian Cleveland of 2046, we meet a depressed individual named Joe Fernwright. A ceramics repairman in a world now largely gone plastic, Joe spends his useless days sitting in a cubicle, waiting for work that never comes and playing retranslated word games via computer with "friends" around the globe (a la the Internet games of today!). Joe's lot is... Read More

Ubik: Use only as directed

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Warning: Use only as directed. And with caution.

Written in 1969, Ubik is one of Philip K. Dick’s most popular science fiction novels. It’s set in a future 1992 where some humans have develop psi and anti-psi powers which they are willing to hire out to individuals or companies who want to spy (or block spying) on others. Also in this alternate 1992, if you’ve got the money, you can put your beloved recently-deceased relatives into “coldpac” where they can be stored in half-life and you can visit with them for years after their death.

As Ubik begins, Glen Runciter, the head of one of New York City’s top anti-psi organizations, discovers that all the operatives of the top psi organization (whose telepathic fields they like to keep track of) have disappeared. This means less work for Runciter’s employees ... Read More

A Maze of Death: Intelligent SF thrills

A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick

In Philip K. Dick's 25th science fiction novel, Ubik, a group of a dozen people is trapped in an increasingly bizarre world, in which objects revert to their previous forms, reality itself is suspect, and the 12 bewildered people slowly crumble to dust, murderously done in, Ten Little Indians style, by an unknown assailant. In his next published novel, A Maze of Death, Dick upped the ante a bit. Here, we find a group of 14 people, seemingly marooned on a very strange planet, while a murderous force picks them off one by one, driving them to madness and homicide. But while the two novels have those elements in common, they are otherwise as different as can be, with different themes and tones.  A Maze of Death  has been called one of Dick's "darkest" books, whereas Ubik, despite the outré happenings, maintains a comparatively humorous tone throughout.
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Our Friends from Frolix 8: Furious action, thought-provoking discourse

Our Friends from Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick

Unlike Philip K. Dick's previous two novels, 1969's Ubik and 1970's A Maze of Death, his 27th full-length science fiction book, Our Friends From Frolix 8, was not released in a hardcover first edition. Rather, it first saw the light of day, later in 1970, as a 60-cent Ace paperback (no. 64400, for all you collectors out there). And whereas those two previous novels had showcased the author giving his favorite theme — the chimeralike nature of reality — a pretty thorough workout, Our Friends From Frolix 8 impresses the reader as a more "normal" piece of science fiction... although glints of Dickian strangeness do, of course, crop up.

Of all the Dick novels that I have read, Our Friends From Frolix 8 seems most reminiscent of 1964's The Simulacra. Both books feature the downfall of entrenched, duplicitous governmen... Read More

We Can Build You: Surprisingly sweet, sad, insightful and amusing

We Can Build You by Philip K. Dick

Although Philip K. Dick's 28th science fiction novel, We Can Build You, was first published in book form as a 95-cent DAW paperback in July 1972, it had actually been written a good decade before, and first saw the light of day under the title "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum" in the November 1969 and January 1970 issues of Amazing Stories. As revealed by Dick biographer Lawrence Sutin, the book was in part inspired by the centennial of the Civil War and by a simulation of Abraham Lincoln that Phil had recently seen in Disneyland.

In We Can Build You, we meet a pair of businessmen in Ontario, Oregon — Maury Frauenzimmer and (our narrator) Louis Rosen — who sell pianos and electric organs and who are about to branch out into a new line of endeavor: mechanical "simulacra" (think: robots) of various Civil War figures. When their Lincoln and Edwin M. Stanton creations come to the at... Read More

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said: A fan favorite

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

Despondent over the failure of his fourth marriage and at the same time stimulated to fresh creativity after his first mescaline trip, cult author Philip K. Dick worked on what would be his 29th published science fiction novel, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, from March to August 1970. Ultimately released in 1974, an important year in Phil's life (the year of his legendary "pink light" incident), the book went on to win the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award, was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and has been a fan favorite ever since.

Incorporating many of the themes, tropes and obsessions that would later be subsumed under the adjective "phildickian," Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said introduces the reader to Jason Taverner, a popular singer/TV variety show host in the Los Angeles of 1988. It is a typically dystopian Dick future, in whic... Read More

Deus Irae: A way-out scenario from Dick and Zelazny

Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick

Of the 36 science fiction novels, nine mainstream novels, one children's book and over 120 short stories that cult author Philip K. Dick produced before his premature death at age 53, in 1982, only two creations were done in collaboration with another author. The first was 1966's The Ganymede Takeover, which Dick co-wrote with budding writer Ray Nelson. An alien invasion novel that deals with the snakelike telepathic inhabitants of the Jovian moon as well as the Terran rebels who resist them, the novel was marginally successful and remains one of the oddballs of Dick's oeuvre.

In 1976, following Dick's Campbell Award-winning Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and the release of his mainstream novel Confessions of a Crap Artist, Deus Irae finally saw the light of day. This was a stalled novel of Phil's that had been started a good nine years before and finished ... Read More

A Scanner Darkly: The harsh and trippy 1970s California drug scene

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Whether unjustly or not, no other science fiction author has been as closely linked to the 1960s drug culture — at least in the public eye — as Philip K. Dick … and understandably so. From the San Francisco bar in The World Jones Made (1956) that dispensed pot and heroin, to the Bureau of Psychedelic Research in The Ganymede Takeover (1966); from the amphetamine and LSD use in Ubik (1969) to the afterlife description in A Maze of Death (1970) that Dick mentions was based on one of his own LSD trips; from the time travel narcotic JJ-180 in Now Wait For Last Year (1966) to the drugbars in Our Friends From Frolix-8 (1970); from the C... Read More

Lies, Inc: PKD’s most inaccessible novel?

Lies, Inc by Philip K. Dick

In the early 21st century, Earth has become overcrowded and has begun to look toward space as a potential new home. Only one habitable planet has been found — Whale’s Mouth — and it’s said to be a paradise. Rachmael ben Applebaum’s company has developed a spaceship that will take settlers there, but the trip takes 18 years. Just as business is about to begin, it’s undercut by Trails of Hoffman, Inc., a company who has developed a new teleporting technology that will get settlers to Whale’s Mouth in only 15 minutes. The only catch is that it’s a one-way trip — once you leave, you can’t come back. Ben Applebaum, whose company has been financially devastated by this new technology, discovers that the videos of happy settlers have been faked and thinks there’s something nefarious going on at Whale’s Mouth. After all, Trails of Hoffman is run by Germans, and their eugenic ideas have not been forgott... Read More

Radio Free Albemuth: Divine messages via a pink laser from space

Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K Dick

Radio Free Albemuth was written in 1976 but only published posthumously in 1985. Even for Philip K Dick, this is a bizarre and partly deranged book. It’s a deeply personal autobiographical attempt for him to make sense of a series of bizarre religious experiences he collectively referred to as “2-3-74”. So if you are only a casual fan of PKD’s books or movies, this is probably not for you. However, if you love his novels and know something of his troubled life, it will provide an absolutely fascinating picture of a man struggling to extract meaning from it all, using every resource his powerful, wide-ranging and increasingly unstable mind can muster. It may be a confounding mess for many, but what a gloriously courageous attempt he makes. For me this book and his later complete rewrite VALI... Read More

Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick: A revealing biography of PKD

Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin

Philip K. Dick is certainly one of the most iconic, unusual, and hard-luck SF writers ever to grace the field. His books subvert our everyday reality, question what is human, and explore paranoia and madness, all with a uniquely unadorned and often blackly-humorous style. In classic starving artist fashion, he only gained recognition and cult-status late in life, and much of his fame came after passing away at age 53.

In his prolific career he published 44 novels and 121 short stories, and in 2014-2015 I read 10 of his novels, 7 audiobooks, and 3 short story collections. There’s something so enticing about his paranoid, darkly-comic tales of everyday working-class heroes, troubled psychics, bizarre aliens, sinister organizations, and obscure philosophic... Read More

Minority Report and Other Stories: 4 PKD stories that inspired movies

Minority Report and Other Stories by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick is the classic case of a brilliant but struggling artist who only got full recognition after he passed away. Despite publishing an incredible 44 novels and 121 stories during his lifetime, it was not until the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner was released in 1982 that PKD gained more mainstream attention, and sadly he died before being able to see the final theatrical release.

A number of his short stories were adapted into feature-length films, and this audibook contains “The Minority Report” (1956), which inspired the 2002 Steven Spielberg film Minority Report starring Tom Cruise, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (1966), which was the loose basis for the 1990 Paul Verhoeven film Total Recall and a 2012 reboot starring Colin Farrell, ... Read More

I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick

I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrère

Anyone familiar with the SF novels of Philip K. Dick and the many films inspired by his works knows that he was one strange and visionary guy. Certainly the SF genre is filled with works of bizarre worlds, aliens, characters, and slippery reality. But it’s generally accepted by authors and readers alike that these fictional creations are just that — works of the imagination by writers who are generally considered sane and share the consensus view of reality. In the case of PKD, however, the line between reality and fiction, sanity and madness, redemption and damnation, revelation and delusion is very blurred indeed. In fact, the person most likely to question such distinction... Read More

The Adjustment Bureau: 57 minutes for $11… seriously?

The Adjustment Bureau by Philip K. Dick

Brilliance Audio has recently put Philip K. Dick’s short story The Adjustment Team on audio and they sent me a copy. This is the story that the movie The Adjustment Bureau was based on (and the name of the audiobook is The Adjustment Bureau). The story is 57 minutes of tension and psychological terror as Ed Fletcher gets to work late and accidentally sees The Adjustment Team “adjusting” his office building and its occupants. Now, unadjusted Ed notices all the differences in his environment but his adjusted colleagues think everything is normal. Is Ed crazy?

Phil Gigante does an excellent job reading this story — the drama and terror really comes across well.  I enjoyed “The Adjustment Team,” I’m glad I’ve finally read the story that the popular movie was based on, and I’m particularly happy to be able to listen t... Read More

The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume Two: Adjustment Team (1952-1953)

The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume Two: Adjustment Team (1952-1953) by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick wrote 121 short stories over his career, mostly for science fiction magazines. Subterranean Press has been collecting them in chronological order over several volumes. The first volume, The King of the Elves, contained 22 stories spanning the years 1947-1952. This second volume, Adjustment Team, covers the years 1952-1953 and includes 27 stories with notes that make up approximately 488 pages.

Many of these stories use themes that were common in 1950s SF shorts — space exploration, the cold war, racism, xenophobia, and the fear of atomic war and radiation. Like the stories of Ray Bradbury and other popular writers o... Read More

The Collected Works of Philip K. Dick: 11 Science Fiction Stories

The Collected Works of Philip K. Dick: 11 Science Fiction Stories by Philip K Dick

During his lifetime, Philip K Dick published 44 novels, 121 short stories, and 14 short story collections. If you are interested in getting his short stories, you can find many of his earliest stories available in various combinations on Kindle for $0.99 or $1.99 since they are public domain now. For more dedicated fans, you can get the five-volume series The Collected Short Stories of Philip K Dick, which contains over 100 of his short stories (over 2,000 pages) from throughout his career. But what if you want audio versions?

If you search for his short stories on audio, there’s surprisingly little. Considering how cheap some of the e-book collections are, you’d expect much more, but the best overall deal I could find was the $1.99 Collected Works of Philip K... Read More

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick: 21 stories spanning 3 decades

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick by Philip K. Dick

I’ve been reading a lot of Philip K. Dick the last two years: 10 novels, 7 audiobooks, and now three short story collections. The more I read, the more I’m drawn to his hard-luck life story and strange religious experiences in the 1970s. In particular, his VALIS trilogy was probably the strangest SF exploration of suffering and salvation I’ve ever read. The only books left to read are two biographies and his 944-page Exegesis of personal writings.

I wanted a collection that would capture the whole range of his ideas without spanning multiple volumes and thousands of pages. There are many options, and I settled on Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, 21 stories selected by Read More

Blade Runner 2049: Visually stunning

Blade Runner 2049 directed by Denis Villeneuve

Despite a very few missteps, Blade Runner 2049 is a true visual wonder and a rich, multi-layered narrative that feels languorous and evocative rather than slow, despite its nearly three-hour length.

The story picks up thirty years after the original (we get a bit of textual exposition to fill in the gap at the very start), with Ryan Gosling as K, a replicant serving the LAPD force who, in the opening scene, is charged with bringing in an allegedly dangerous replicant. Though he succeeds (painfully), the job also leads to a revelation that could topple the society, sending K on another seek-and-destroy mission that eventually leads him to Harrison Ford’s Deckard. Aligned against K is a new corporation, headed by Wallace (Jared Leto), a genius who helped feed the world and has been manufacturing more obedient replicants, though not fast enough for demand as humanity pushes out ever farther in... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Thoughts about Blade Runner and similar films

As I mentioned in my review of Blade Runner 2049, I thought the film was engrossing, atmospheric, and evocative, combining a deeply thoughtful and philosophical story with visual flare.

Whether you've had a chance to see it or not, here are some questions I'd like to discuss:

1) What are some other films (or books) that do a good job of questioning and/or blurring the concept of identity between humans and the Artificial Intelligence that we create?

2) Can you think of a film series that should have ended rather than adding one or more sequels? If there were multiple sequels, where should the series have ended and why?

3) What would a Blade Runner prequel look like/involve?

4) Where would a Blade Runner 3 go? (Let's try to avoid spoilers for Blade Runner 2049.)

One random commenter will ch... Read More

SHORTS: Carroll, Dick, Howard, Schanoes, Divya

This week's roundup of free short SFF on the internet contains some great old and new stories.




“The Stolen Church” by Jonathan Carroll (2009, free at Conjunctions, also in The Woman Who Married a Cloud: The Collected Short Stories)

Tina and Stanley, married for five years, are in the lobby of a nondescript apartment building, waiting for an elevator to take them up to visit his parents. The only problem is, Stanley’s parents are dead. Tina can’t understand what Stanley is thinking, whether he’s serious o... Read More

SHORTS: Barthelme, McGuire, Hurley, Wong, Vaughn, Anders, Headley, Shawl, Bolander, Walton, El-Mohtar, Valente, Dick

Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“Report” by Donald Barthelme (1967, originally published in the New Yorker, free at Jessamyn.com (reprinted by permission), also collected in Sixty Stories)
“Our group is against the war. But the war goes on. I was sent to Cleveland to talk to the engineers. The engineers were meeting in Cleveland. I was supposed to persuade them not to do what they were going to do.”
“Report,” by Donald Barthelme, was published in the New Yorker in 1967. Th... Read More

SHORTS: Howard, Wilde, Gaiman, Ellison, Keller, Dick

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

“A Recipe for Magic” by Kat Howard and Fran Wilde (2017, free at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog, free to download for Nook)

“A Recipe for Magic,” co-written by Kat Howard and Fran Wilde, features a curious kind of shop: at the Night and Day Bakery, magic spells are baked directly into pastries and confections, affecting both the baker/spel... Read More

SHORTS: Prasad, Wahls, Pinsker, Dick, Kressel

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Several 2017 Nebula short fiction nominees are reviewed in today's column.

A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2017, free at Clarkesworld, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue). 2017 Nebula award nominee (novelette)

In this near-future SF novelette, 3-D printing has become so advanced that a “bioprinter” can mass-produce copies of food. In any criminal forgery case, the best forgeries are the ones that never get noticed, and Helena Li Yuanhui of Splendid Beef Enterprises, a one-woman business in Nanjing, China, is an expert at it. She keeps her business small and the quality of her gray market meat forger... Read More

Rivals of Weird Tales: Nary a clinker in the bunch!

Rivals of Weird Tales edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz & Martin H. Greenberg

From 1923 – ’54, over the course of 279 issues, the pulp publication known as Weird Tales helped to popularize macabre fantasy and outré horror fiction, ultimately becoming one of the most influential and anthologized magazines of the century, and introducing readers to a “Who’s Who” of American authors. I had previously read and reviewed no fewer than six large collections of tales culled from the pages of “the Unique Magazine,” and had loved them all. But Weird Tales, of course, was far from being the only pulp periodical on the newsstands back when, as amply demonstrated in the appropriately titled, 500-page anthology Rivals of Weird Tales. In this wonderfully entertaining, generous collection, editors Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz and Martin H. Greenberg (who had put... Read More

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology by Gordon Van Gelder (ed.)

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology is an excellent collection of 23 stories picked from the treasure trove of short fiction that's been published in the eponymous magazine over the past 60 years. Editor Gordon Van Gelder — also the editor of the magazine since 1997 — has done an admirable job, picking stories that illustrate the diversity of both the genre and the magazine. As such, this is a great anthology for SF&F fans as well as newcomers looking for a taste.

The line-up of authors in this collection looks like a veritable Who's Who of speculative fiction: Ray Bradbury, Read More

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories edited by John Joseph Adams

Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut The Windup Girl Read More

Science Fiction Super Pack #1: A generally above-average anthology

Science Fiction Super Pack #1 edited by Warren Lapine

Like the companion fantasy volume, Science Fiction Super Pack #1, edited by Warren Lapine, only has one story I didn't think was good, and it's a piece of Lovecraft fanfiction. H.P. Lovecraft's overwrought prose doesn't do much for me even when Lovecraft himself writes it, and much less so when it's attempted by imitators. And Lovecraft's stories at least have something frightening that happens in them; these two stories (in this volume and the other) only have visions of aspects of the Mythos and crazy people ranting, which isn't scary or interesting. Everything else was good, occasionally even amazing.

Again like the fantasy volume, it more or less alternates between recent stories by... Read More

Fantasy Super Pack #1: Something for everyone

Fantastic Stories Presents: Fantasy Super Pack #1 edited by Warren Lapine

Fantasy Super Pack #1 , which is available for 99c in Kindle format, is an enormous collection of 34 stories presumably showcasing the taste of the editor of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, an online magazine. As I'm interested in submitting to the magazine, I picked it up, and thoroughly enjoyed most of the stories, none of which I remembered reading before though I'd heard of several of them.

I like stories that have a narrative arc, that build tension and then resolve it at the end, more than the currently-fashionable type of story that just stops at a thematic moment (or, I often suspect, when the author runs out of ideas). Based on this collection, Lapine also likes the narrative-arc kind of story. Some of the stories had fairly predi... Read More

The Man in the High Castle: A complex dystopian television series

The Man in the High Castle: A complex dystopian television series

Who would have thought that Philip K. Dick’s 1962 Hugo Winner about the Axis powers winning WWII would be brought to film, and not just as a single movie, but as a big-budget multi-season drama series from Amazon and produced by Ridley Scott. Stranger than fiction, as they say.

I always have two questions for film adaptations: 1) How closely does it follow the book; 2) How good is it as a stand-alone work? In this case, it’s almost inevitable that a 10-episode Season 1 is going to stray drastically from a 240-page PKD book. Especially with Season 2 in the works, you can safely assume that there is no resolution at the end of Season 1. So I’ll restrict my review to what’s available.

The Man in the High Castle is a very well-produced, finely-detailed dystopian st... Read More