Philip Kindred Dick (b. December 16, 1928 Chicago, Illinois d. March 2, 1982, Santa Ana, California), often known by his initials PKD, was an American science fiction writer and author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner.
In addition to thirty-eight books currently in print, Dick produced a number of short stories and minor works which were published in pulp magazines. At least seven of his stories have been adapted into films. Though hailed during his lifetime by peers such as Stanisław Lem, Robert A. Heinlein and Robert Silverberg, Dick received little general recognition until after his death.
Foreshadowing the cyberpunk sub-genre, Dick brought the anomic world of California to many of his works, drawing upon his own life experiences in novels like A Scanner Darkly. His novels and stories frequently used plot devices such as alternate universes and simulacra, worlds inhabited by common working people, rather than galactic elites. "There are no heroics in Dick's books," Ursula K. LeGuin wrote, "but there are heroes. One is reminded of [Charles] Dickens: what counts is the honesty, constancy, kindness and patience of ordinary people."
His acclaimed novel, The Man in the High Castle, bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction, resulting in a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. Dick chose to write about the people he loved, placing them in fictional worlds where he questioned the reality of ideas and institutions. "In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real," Dick wrote.
Dick's stories often descend into seemingly surreal fantasies, with characters discovering that their everyday world is an illusion, emanating either from external entities or from the vicissitudes of an unreliable narrator. "All of his work starts with the basic assumption that there cannot be one, single, objective reality," Charles Platt writes. "Everything is a matter of perception. The ground is liable to shift under your feet. A protagonist may find himself living out another person's dream, or he may enter a drug-induced state that actually makes better sense than the real world, or he may cross into a different universe completely." These characteristic themes and the atmosphere of paranoia they generate are sometimes described as "Dickian" or "Phildickian."
Dick occasionally wrote using pen names, most notably Richard Philips and Jack Dowland.
He married five times, and had two daughters and a son. All five marriages ended in divorce.
Philip K. Dick died on March 2, 1982, the result of a combination of recurrent strokes accompanied by heart failure.
After his death (he was disconnected from life support on March 2 but his EEG had been isoelectric 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 Dick's date of death. After fifty-three years, that final date was carved in, and Philip K. Dick was buried beside his sister.
The surname Dowland is a reference to the composer John Dowland, who is featured in a number of Dick works. The title Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is a direct reference to Dowland's best-known composition Flow My Teares. Some protagonists in Dick's short-fiction bear the name Dowland.
Dick's short story Orpheus with Clay Feet was one such story published under the pen name Jack Dowland.
In the semi-autobiographical novel Valis, the protagonist is called Horselover Fat. Philip, or Phil-Hippos is Greek for Horselover, Dick is German for Fat.
Films and other adaptations[edit | edit source]
A number of Dick's stories have been made into movies, most of them only loosely based on Dick's original, using them as a starting-point for a Hollywood action-adventure story, introducing violence uncharacteristic of Dick's stories, and replacing the typically nondescript Dick protagonist with an action hero.
The most admired film adaptation is Ridley Scott's classic movie Blade Runner (based on Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Dick was apprehensive about how his story would be adapted for the film; he refused to do a novelization of the film and he was critical of it and its director, Ridley Scott, during its production. When given an opportunity to see some of the special effects sequences of Los Angeles 2019 , Dick was amazed that the environment was "exactly as how I'd imagined it!". Following the screening, Dick and Scott had a frank but cordial discussion of Blade Runner's themes and characters, and although they had differing views, Dick fully backed the film from then on. Dick died from a stroke less than four months before the release of the film.
Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Minority Report rather faithfully translates a number of Dick's themes within an action-adventure framework, though it changes some major plot points. Similarly, Total Recall, based on the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale evokes a feeling similar to that of the original story while streamlining the plot. It includes such Phildickian elements as the confusion of fantasy and reality, the progression towards more fantastic elements through the story, machines talking back to humans, and the protagonist's doubts about his own identity. Impostor, a 2002 movie based on Dick's 1953 story of the same title, utilizes two of Dick's most common themes: mental illness, which diminishes the sufferer's ability to discriminate between reality and hallucination, and a protagonist persecuted by an oppressive government.
John Woo's 2003 film, Paycheck, was a very loose adaptation of Dick's short story of that name, and suffered greatly both at the hands of critics and at the box office.
The 1995 film Screamers was based on a Dick short story Second Variety; however, the location was altered from a war-devastated Earth in the story, to a generic science fiction environment of a distant planet in the film. Second Variety has been cited as a possible influence on the scenes in the machine-dominated future of The Terminator and its sequels.
Dick himself wrote a screenplay for an intended film adaptation of Ubik in 1974, but the film was never made.
Another stage adaptation is the opera VALIS, composed and with libretto by Tod Machover, which premiered at the Pompidou Center in Paris on December 1, 1987, with a French libretto. It was subsequently revised and readapted into English, and was recorded and released on CD (Bridge Records BCD9007) in 1988.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Dick's former wife Tessa was asked in an interview why she thought his original titles have rarely been used in film adaptations (Blade Runner versus Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, etc.). She replied, "Actually, the books rarely carry Phil's original titles, as the editors usually wrote new titles after reading his manuscripts. Phil often commented that he couldn't write good titles. If he could, he would have been an advertising writer instead of a novelist." 
- Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin—perhaps his only peer in terms of academic and literary reputation among late 20th-century science fiction authors—were members of the same high school graduating class (Berkeley (Ca.) High School, 1947), yet did not know one another. Le Guin (then Ursula Kroeber) had been accelerated a grade, while Dick missed much of his senior year with the agoraphobia that would plague him as an adult. Le Guin later became one of Dick's great champions (calling him "our own home-grown Borges") and wrote The Lathe of Heaven as a conscious Dick homage; the two maintained a friendship and correspondence until Dick's death.
Awards[edit | edit source]
- wikipedia:Hugo Awards
- Best Novel
- 1963 - The Man in the High Castle (winner)
- 1975 - Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (nominee)
- Best Novelette
- 1968 - Faith of Our Fathers (nominee)
- Best Novel
- Nebula Awards
- Best Novel
- 1965 - Dr. Bloodmoney (nominee)
- 1965 - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (nominee)
- 1968 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (nominee)
- 1974 - Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (nominee)
- 1982 - The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (nominee)
- Best Novel
- John W. Campbell Memorial Award
- Best Novel
- 1975 - Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (winner)
- Best Novel
Biographies[edit | edit source]
- Carrère, 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
- Rickman, Gregg. (1989). To the High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962. Fragments West.
- Sutin, Lawrence (Official biographer). (1989). Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. Citadel Press; Rep edition. ISBN 0806512288
- Williams, Paul. (1986). Only Apparently Real - The Worlds of Philip K. Dick. Entwhistle Books. ISBN 0934558310
Interviews[edit | edit source]
- 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
- Rickman, Gregg. (1984). Philip K. Dick: In His Own Words. Fragments West.
- Rickman, Gregg. (1985). Philip K. Dick: The Last Testament. Fragments West.
[edit | edit source]
- Wikipedia article on Philip K. Dick
- Official website
- Philip K Dick Biography - PopSubCulture.com - with additional essays and analysis
- Philip K. Dick fans (with many articles & interviews)
- The Philip K. Dick Bookshelf - A complete pictorial bibliography of Philip K Dick with more than 1200 coverscans
- Review of PKD's Selected Stories
- The PKDicktionary, originally authored by Simon Hickinbotham
- VALBS: Vast, Active, Living Bibliographic System: Dick's secondary bibliography online
- 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
- Philip K. Dick Comes to Life in Robotic Form
- The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick by Frank Rose, an article from Wired Magazine 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
- Benjamen Walker talks with authors Jonathan Lethem and Josh Glenn about the Science Fiction genius Philip K Dick in his podcast.
- NNDB entry for Philip K. Dick
- Examination of Gnostic themes in Dick's life
- Various articles on Philip K. Dick's ideas and fiction
- Various Philip K. Dick related links
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