Friday, September 19, 2014

Philip K. Dick

Philip Kindred Dick (16th December 1928 – 2nd March 1982) was an American science-fiction writer, and a literary precursor of the cyberpunk style. During his three-decade career he wrote more than fifty novels and short stories. 

The effects of his writings can be experienced in the film culture, as well. It is enough to think about films like the Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and the A Scanner Darkly.

"For everyone lost in the endlessly multiplication realities of the modern world,
remember: Philip K. Dick got there first" 
                                                                                                           Terry Gilliam
Science-fiction was considered a worthless genre and did not acquire important publicity in his life. As a consequence, he encountered financial problems, however, today as a clairvoyant philosopher of the American literature. 

Philip Dick was deviant among the science-fiction writers too, since he did not build his writings on scientific facts, but metaphysical alternatives. He asks the question masterly „What would have happened if…?” and consistently gives the answers to the readers.

Philip K. Dick with his cat in the 60s.

Recurring motifs are common in his art, such as dissection of reality, doubt about a higher entity’s (God) purpose, philosophic guessing of the sense of being and soft uncertainty which is continuously growing till the end of the plot…when in the most unexpected moment – for which not even the experienced PKD fans are prepared – he pushes it from back and finishes it masterly. 

Dick conveys but does not explain explicitly, there are no exact answers, –especially in writing – everybody has to find the answers for themselves.

Dick’s novels and short stories have a special grace. In his books characters of the cosmic fights are ordinary people (antiquarians, marketing managers), who are fallible, and whose flaws and fears are similar to others’ in the streets. It is likely that the main character’s personal life had already been put off before the complications, his marriage is in ruins and he will have to fight for his own identity, which will have effects on others’ fate. The Woman – die ewige Weiblichkeit – who had made him emotionally dependent knows this fact exactly.

Dick makes the social background more colourful with drugs, dolls, androids, gods and his bitter humour.


Philip K. Dick in the 70s. 
The novel in his hands is Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. 

But his real topic is the depth of the human heart, the problems of relationships between men and women, and how a person fits into the all-embracing eternity which we are parts of due to a higher entity’s will.

The Man in the High Castle, 1962
The favourite of Rarely Seen History
The cover of the first publication
Covers of later publications

This is an alternative historical novel, which is about what would have happened if the Axis powers had won the Second World War and the United States has been. Japan would have has got the Western part and Germany the Eastern part.

In 1963 this novel won the Hugo Award, which is the largest award in the world of Science-Fiction.

Eye in the Sky, 1957

The cover of the first publication

Covers of later publications

“The proton beam deflector of the Belmont Bevatron betrayed its inventors at four o’clock in the afternoon of October 2, 1959.”

Jack Hamilton, his wife and six other people have survived an explosion in the proton ray deflector. After regaining consciousness, it seems that everything is OK. It seems that way. But where is this everything? 

In 1955 he wrote With opened mind in two weeks and he published it under the title of Eye in the sky in 1957. This was his first widely accepted novel that got good critiques. He regarded it as a breakthrough because he found his style in science-fiction, the topic of reality and illusion, and he started to think in terms of longer novels. 

It is the precursor of Time Out Of Joint, Maze of Death, Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

UBIK, 1969

The cover of the first publication
Covers of later publications


This novel is one of Philip K. Dick’s most widespread cultic science-fiction novels. 

This novel is characterized by dynamic ideas, characters typical of Dick (Joe Chip, Glen Ruciter) and the combination of topics that the writer is interested in. It can be regarded as one of the most mature novels of his.

The title is an abbreviation from the latin word “ubiquintos” which means: existing everywhere.

Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, 1964
The cover of the first publication

Covers of later publications

It is a novel which is difficult to interpret and - to me – one of the most impulsive science-fiction writings.

„…it has born from strong, atavistic fears from my childhood… The lone has created the novel, and the desire has created the story…so the dread and fear in the novel are not made for entertaining the reader; they stem from me…We can say that I would like Perky Pat (the Woman) to visit me, at the same time I would be afraid if I opened the door and Palmer Eldritch (the Absolute Evil) stood there.” 

Philip K. Dick: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

This novel was described as blasphemy by several critics.

Anyway, those who have already read this novel will never forget it.

In 1967, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Edritch won the British Science Fiction Award.

Palmer Eldritch arrived 50 years ago

Our old acquintances, Leo Blero and Barney Mayerson fight again (or carry on fighting) to stop the returning Traveller.

The novel has been published in a new form by the Avage Publshing House.

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, 1974

The Cover of the first publication
Covers of later publications

Philip K. Dick won the John W. Campbell Award for this science-fiction novel.

The title alludes to a piece of art by musician John Dowland: Flow My Tears. Dick liked music, his enjoyment of classical music was usually reflected, and his interest in pottery appeared in his novels also.

In the story of Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, the character’s psychological problems and human emotions play a crucial roles, - we would feel the same in these situations – when the surrounding material world obscures the importance of real values.

The story is divided into four parts by one of Dick’s poems. 

A Scanner Darkly, 1977


The cover of the first publication

Covers of later publications

In 1979, Dick won the British Science-Fiction Award again, this time because of A Scanner Darkly.

In the United States society is influenced by a strong additive drug, which is extracted from a little blue flower (Substance H). The most important purpose of the police is to find the source of the drug and the person who distributes it. The novel tells the chaotic story of an undercover agent, Fred and Bob Actor who is observed by him.

Dick (he tried drugs himself) created a lot of characters based on the stories of his unlucky friends, making a very credible picture about psychical and psychological changes caused by drug use.

Richard Linklater shot a movie based on this novel in 2006, and after being shot, the film was modified by a special animation technique, and for this reason the distinctive atmosphere of the novel can be experienced more vividly.

It is told to be the most realistic film adaptation that has ever been made from a novel of Dick’s. (The screenplay is practically the novel, but two characters were integrated because of the lack of time.)

Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr. are
on the cover of A Scanner Darkly

Keanu Reeves in a scene of the movie

Covers of other novels’ first publications
The Cosmic Puppets


Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?


A Maze of Death

Readers of Dick’s stories appreciate and like his books very much.

Thank you for your work, Philip wherever you are now!


Written by D. David
Translated by I. Vigh

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