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Great NYTtimes article on Philip K. Dick
May 21, 2012 8:10 AM   Subscribe

The fish pendant, on Philip K. Dick’s account, began to emit a golden ray of light, and Dick suddenly experienced what he called anamnesis: the direct perception by the mind of a metaphysical reality.
posted by xammerboy (109 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
For those who haven't seen it, The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick as drawn by R. Crumb.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 AM on May 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thanks for posting. I can't tell you how many times I've read the VALIS "trilogy" looking for inroads into understanding his experience. Looking forward to reading Exegesis.
posted by hermitosis at 8:18 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not a neurologist, but somehow I don't find it shocking that Dick died of a stroke.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:20 AM on May 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am a giant Philp K. Dick fan. Still, Valis is unreadable. Guy was going through a paranoid episode and just lost it. His slightly-less schizophrenic titles are far better.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:21 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Still, Valis is unreadable.

That's crazy talk. VALIS is a story of hope. A Scanner Darkly is the schizo work that's best left alone.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:22 AM on May 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


VALIS is so readable. And when bookended with "The Divine Invasion" it's downright spooky.
posted by hermitosis at 8:25 AM on May 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


Heh. I consider them both masterpieces.

Though the epilogue to Scanner Darkly is one of the most tragic things I've ever read.
posted by Artw at 8:28 AM on May 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


My mind was a bit blown by the revelations contained within What if Our World is Their Heaven, and humbly submit that many others should read it. Even if one has never been a P.K. Dick fan nor even liked one of the movies based on his work, it's an amazing glimpse into the intense glare of his mind.
posted by batmonkey at 8:29 AM on May 21, 2012


Much of this was covered in a previous post about the Exegesis.
posted by hippybear at 8:32 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. The movies, assists from Scanner Darkly, are almost universally based on earlier short stories and generally miss the point of the source material anyway, so I wouldn't count on getting much from them anyway.
posted by Artw at 8:32 AM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I enjoyed VALIS, but I like trippy stuff.
posted by empath at 8:33 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blade Runner also being an exception, though it gets shorn of the empathy box and the religious bits.
posted by Artw at 8:33 AM on May 21, 2012


I enjoyed this interview on Bookworm with Jonathan Lethem and Steve Erickson talking about The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.
posted by gwint at 8:34 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


This has been a novel about some people who
were punished entirely too much for what they did.

They wanted to have a good time, but they were like
children playing in the street; they could see one
after another of them being killed--run over, maimed,
destroyed--but they continued to play anyhow.
We really all were very happy for a while, sitting
around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing,
but it was for such a terrible brief time, and then
the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could
see it, we could not believe it.
posted by empath at 8:36 AM on May 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


A Scanner Darkly is an unwatchable movie.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:37 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


VALIS is coming -- look busy!
posted by zamboni at 8:40 AM on May 21, 2012


A Scanner Darkly is an unwatchable movie.

INDISPUTABLE FACT!
posted by adamdschneider at 8:42 AM on May 21, 2012


All evidence points to sustained amphetamine use really fucking you up for life.
posted by Artw at 8:42 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]



A Scanner Darkly is an unwatchable movie.


Hmm, well that's one reviewers opinion but I liked it. It was at least more faithful to the book than any of the other PKD based films.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:45 AM on May 21, 2012 [16 favorites]


My faves are We Can Build You and Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. Ubik is the scariest book I have ever, ever read.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 AM on May 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Who knows, though, maybe Dick had a bona fide religious experience. Does it really matter, though?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:47 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokoRyu, are you actively trying to derail the thread with flat dismissals, or do you just need a hug?
posted by hermitosis at 8:49 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, it's all brain chemistry, bona fide or not.
posted by Artw at 8:50 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, can't wait for part 2! I feel like I arrived late to appreciating PKDs works, having gone through all his short stories now. The first full-length book I read recently was The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, which I distinctly remember seeing on the new reads shelf at the library as a five year old. The depths and associations in it really blew me away - I was not expecting it to be a philosophical work. The narrative voice of Angel Archer was very appealing and felt very authentic. The book came at the right time as well for me - the idea that Angel is highly educated, yet someone that "knows but doesn't know" was the mirror I saw myself reflected in.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:52 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. The movies, assists from Scanner Darkly, are almost universally based on earlier short stories and generally miss the point of the source material anyway, so I wouldn't count on getting much from them anyway. Blade Runner also being an exception, though it gets shorn of the empathy box and the religious bits.

an exception? if ever there was a pkd movie that missed the point... I mean, the book is basically about people's obsession with their pets and, more to the point, the killer androids are in the end all basically pathetic, not ubermenschen from mars.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:52 AM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: "Skimming through and across multiple encyclopedia entries, Dick found links and correspondences of ideas everywhere."

Seriously though, if having copies of Britannica and the Encyclopedia of Philosophy was such a trip--imagine if the internet was there for him.
posted by TreeRooster at 8:54 AM on May 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, how I love me the short stories of Phillip K. Dick. "Expendable" is a wonderful piece of writing that I read over and over again just for the enjoyment of it.

I enjoyed "Scanner Darkly" for what it was, but didn't find it to be High Art. :)
posted by DWRoelands at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2012


> A Scanner Darkly is an unwatchable movie.

Nope, it's kind of an interesting adaptation. I couldn't finish the book because it read to me like someone found a diary in a psychiatric ward. The movie tells the story faithfully and, for me at least, the animation/live action creates a buffer between viewer and source material that allows for some distance from the crazy. Because, fuck that book was depressing.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, exception in that it's not some neat but fairly standard SF short story that's had a big chase scene grafted into the middle of it.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2012


(also, I don't know what this nytimes blogger is yammering on about, I think occasionally Dick gets in on a nuanced view of some big issues, which means people will be reading him long after say Franzen is forgotten, but the descent into metaphysics was fairly terrible except for the freakshow aspects... also the misogyny. )

Oh, how I love me the short stories of Phillip K. Dick. "Expendable" is a wonderful piece of writing that I read over and over again just for the enjoyment of it.

the early ones are really good as alternative takes on the golden era of american scifi i.e. asimov. the later ones descend into some ugly paranoia (worse than the books I think which make him sound a bit more self-aware about it than the short stories)
posted by ennui.bz at 8:57 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, if having copies of Britannica and the Encyclopedia of Philosophy was such a trip--imagine if the internet was there for him.

Behold! The face of god!

/links TV Tropes
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Blade Runner also being an exception, though it gets shorn of the empathy box and the religious bits.

My wife, being a bit of an eccentric, believes that the mood organ bit from the beginning of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is one of the high points of Western Literature and refuses to see Blade Runner because it's not in there.

I like what I've read of Phillip K. Dick, but I kind of wish there was a crib sheet so that I could read a story knowing what percentage of the plot was about people secretly being robots. Like like "this story is entirely about secret robots, but is worth reading anyway" versus "this is just another story where he tries to make you guess who is a secret robot and who isn't and it turns out the answer is 'everyone is a secret robot' and you've probably already read an identical story" versus "this story contains literally zero secret robots." It would be helpful.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:00 AM on May 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


Well, exception in that it's not some neat but fairly standard SF short story that's had a big chase scene grafted into the middle of it.

well, the movie is LA noir, with some scifi atmospherics, and a big chase scene grafted onto the end.

i think the movie survives basically on the atmospherics and some good performances. but even the atmospherics are totally not the book. in the book, the earth is an empty dusty place, harsh light, broken toys and no people or animals... not kowloon walled city.

and the story in the book pivots around the fake police department and decker's wife... completely absent from the movie.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:02 AM on May 21, 2012


Yeah, I'd say Blade Runner, while a good movie on its own merits, is one of the worst PKD adaptations in the sense that it only translates a handful of background details while completely skipping over any of the actual ideas and themes in the original story.
posted by signal at 9:03 AM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


My wife, being a bit of an eccentric, believes that the mood organ bit from the beginning of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is one of the high points of Western Literature and refuses to see Blade Runner because it's not in there.


Yes! Finally someone understands me...
posted by ennui.bz at 9:03 AM on May 21, 2012


KokoRyu, are you actively trying to derail the thread with flat dismissals, or do you just need a hug?

Wait, what? Yeah, I think a Scanner Darkly as a movie is unwatchable. It's just my opinion, and I find it weird that PDK fans of all people would take offense at someone stating their own opinion. I enjoyed the book, though.

As for PDK's religious awakening, I'm trying to figure out why my comment would be controversial. Is it because, hermitosis, you firmly believe that PDK had a real religious awakening? Or maybe you think he was mentally ill? Or maybe you're an atheist, so you find the entire concept of religious awakening offensive? Just trying to figure out why my comment was so offensive to you.

It doesn't really matter if Dick was mentally ill or really did experience an awakening, since the work he produced spoke to so many people.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:05 AM on May 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


A Scanner Darkly is an unwatchable movie.

But the audiobook read by Paul Giamatti is incredible. I don't even like PKD that much and this was one of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to.
posted by DU at 9:06 AM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


> . It's just my opinion, and I find it weird that PDK fans of all people would take offense at someone stating their own opinion.

I think it was more that you just issued that without any explanation, and statements as such here really serve much.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:08 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was so angry that I read all the way through the Transmigration of Timothy Archer hoping it would make the preceding 600 pages make sense. A heavy dose of biographer's footnotes would have made it much less frustrating.
posted by ignignokt at 9:08 AM on May 21, 2012


Wait, what makes it unwatchable? Is it the rotoscoping or...?

I don't understand.
posted by sibboleth at 9:09 AM on May 21, 2012


Something about the tone of this article irked me on a low level. I think the quick intro paragraphs with their careless grasps of the facts that did it. I hate when people use the term "argueably" (everything can be argued, so why bother using this modifier). and referring to Dick's career as "brief and meteoric" (he wrote steadily for 30 years, hardly brief). And then there's the common mistake of identifying Dick as a user of LSD. As Dick himself wrote on many occasions, he only took acid once, and really hated it (though it did inspire his short story "Faith of our Fathers").

The NY Times has never been a fan of SF, and this article just came across as pandering to the concept that a great SF writer like Dick must have been crazy or on drugs in order to come up with all those wild ideas. They can't conceive that maybe Dick wrote what he did in spite of (not because of) drugs and mental illness.
posted by Larry Duke at 9:10 AM on May 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hmm, well that's one reviewers opinion but I liked it. It was at least more faithful to the book than any of the other PKD based films.

I also enjoyed it. Also, while I haven't read the source story, the often overlooked movie Imposter seemed pretty Dicktastic to me. Minority Report I will never watch again.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:17 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the article: "Yet few people might consider Dick a thinker."

Who? People who've never even heard of him, I suppose. Anyone who's read, heck, more than a few pages of his work knows he's a thinker.

As for the movie adaptations, much as I want to weigh in, I'm just going to say they're all good in different ways. Arguing about Blade Runner and other Dick adaptations was a hobby of my youth; it's a quagmire that I try to stay out of these days.
posted by jiawen at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed both "A Scanner Darkly" and "VALIS." So the rest of you are wrong. HOWEVER, you'd have been right if you lived in some other universe in which you weren't wrong. So I can totally feel for your frustration. But in this universe, you're still wrong.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


I find it weird that PDK fans of all people would take offense at someone stating their own opinion.

I didn't take offense at all, but I do think that it's lazy commenting, as if the world needs more contentious drive-by opinions delivered as flat statements with no elaboration whatsoever.

I was irritated with "maybe Dick had a bona fide religious experience. Does it really matter, though?" because I interpreted your comment as "Meh, who cares." I'm at least glad that you followed it up with this:

It doesn't really matter if Dick was mentally ill or really did experience an awakening, since the work he produced spoke to so many people.

Now I get it.
posted by hermitosis at 9:19 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember enjoying the film adaptation of Paycheck, but that was on a long haul flight and I'd already seen like 5 other shitty Hollywood movies so my memory is kind of hazy.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:22 AM on May 21, 2012


There's brain chemistry and then there's brain chemistry plus years of amphetamine abuse.

Which isn't to say the Divine Mystery might not choose to reveal Itself through the latter. But even Dick didn't begrudge skepticism on that point.
posted by Trurl at 9:29 AM on May 21, 2012


ignignokt...interesting how your mileage varied. It made sense to me, although I can see how all the working up to kind of a non-ending is a letdown. I didn't realize (being Canadian) that Archer was based on James Pike until I looked up the Wikipedia entry. This added another level of meaning on to the novel, at least for me.
posted by Calzephyr at 9:30 AM on May 21, 2012


I saw a stage version of Ubik by the irrepressible Broom Street Theater back in the 80s. It was quite the experience, as they made a game attempt to cram the entire novel into a rough 2-hour time slot by speaking very quickly. I think, in some sense, I am still watching the play....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not entirely sure what point the author of this article is trying to make. He does an awful lot of hedging (as Larry Duke noted above) about Dick and his mental states.

In the penultimate paragraph we see "Dick was evidently not trained as a philosopher or theologian — although I abhor that verb “trained,” which makes academics sound like domestic pets."

and then

"What Dick lacks in academic and scholarly rigor, he more than makes up for in powers of imagination and rich lateral, cumulative association. If he had known more, it might have led him to produce less interesting chains of ideas."

So the whole thing derails and seems to me like a jab at academic institutions? This takes all the focus off Dick and his writing and sticks it onto the inability of our universities to produce thinkers with "rich lateral, cumulative association." It's like he got to the end and realized, "Oh, shit, I have to put a point in here somewhere..." I don't mind criticism of universities (far from it) but if you're going to write about PKD, please stay focused.

So far as adaption debate goes: I watched A Scanner Darkly and angrily returned it to the library. I read it two years later because it was available and returned it in tears. Very anecdotal, but the two versions had very different effects on me.
posted by Tevin at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2012


Often, I feel bad that PKD never lived to see the internet.

At least, the internet that existed before the Comments section derived 80% of its content.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


SPOILER ALERT The other very weird thing is that in some ways, the worst of the PKD films, Total Recall, has the most Dickian elements to it. The first reality, not real. The constant question--is he just living out the program? The mid-film meeting in the hotel room, where the Sharon Stone character plays into the question of which reality is real. Then the final reveal, the second reality was not real either. Straight out of the Penultimate Truth.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


The movie version of A Scanner Darkly was great, if only because it allowed me to finally get through the damn thing. I must have started the book a dozen times and was never able to get even halfway through before giving up, and I am a huge PKD fan.

I remember reading a biography of him a few years ago (maybe it was this one?) and I was absolutely astonished at the description of his Ritalin abuse -- he would apparently save it up for months and then take it all in one night. As someone who used to take Ritalin for ADD, I cannot even imagine taking that much at once. Even a few days' worth at a time sounds like a horrible idea.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:55 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


SPOILER ALERT The other very weird thing is that in some ways, the worst of the PKD films, Total Recall, has the most Dickian elements to it.

The fuck it is.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


A Scanner Darkly is the schizo work that's best left alone.

A Scanner Darkly is an unwatchable movie.


Why does everyone warn me that it's Opposites Day?

By which I mean why doesn't anyone warn me that it's Opposites Day? Right?

Really, I consider A Scanner Darkly (the novel) one of Dick's best in that the ideas are novel and allowed to reach a natural conclusion without any definite revelation or resolution. I suppose that's actually most of Dick's more well known work, but ASD has an element of deliberate confusion and humanness that I empathize with a lot more than VALIS, which has moments of autobiographical sadness but ends up much more focused on its concepts than anything else.

And the film is pretty much the only faithful (or even good faith) adaptation of a Dick story I know of (there's a Confessions of a Crap Artist film, I think, but having neither seen it nor read the original, Iunno). I think the film, followed by the novel, is the perfect introduction to Dick.
posted by byanyothername at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, seriously, I'm curious. What is it about A Scanner Darkly that makes it difficult for some of you to get through? It's an experimental novel and Dick's quality of writing is pretty inconsistent (to be kind), but there are regular discussions on MetaFilter of much more dense, confusingly (to be kind) written novels, so I'm left wondering. I could understand if this were a William Burroughs thread or something, but if anything I've always thought of Dick as a little too easy to read.
posted by byanyothername at 10:04 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Really, I consider A Scanner Darkly (the novel) one of Dick's best in that the ideas are novel and allowed to reach a natural conclusion without any definite revelation or resolution."

See, this is exactly why the movie left me cold: it seemed entirely manufactured to arrive at a certain place to "say something" at the end. Additionally, it seemed as if the film went out of its way to create a sense of 'isn't this zany' whereas the novel treated the insanity of Bob's life as a thing to be dealt with.

Maybe I should watch the movie again.
posted by Tevin at 10:05 AM on May 21, 2012



well, the movie is LA noir, with some scifi atmospherics, and a big chase scene grafted onto the end.


Bladerunner always struck me as the best William Gibson movie ever made, with the minor problem that Gibson had nothing to do with it. It's one of my favorite movies, but not because of any relationship to PKD. I think it's just because it seamlessly blends my two favorite fiction genres, Hammett and Chandler era detective fiction and science fiction, without shorting either genre in the process.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Burhanistan, thanks for the link to the Dick & Crumb comic! That was amazing.
posted by sneebler at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2012


what about a "Maze of Death" movie
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2012


Re: A Scanner Darkly: YES, it is the rotoscoping. The @#%$ migraine-like rotoscoping. Plus I think they managed to rotoscope the sound, too.

The technique was expressive, yes, but jeeeee-ziz. The whole time I was watching it, I felt like my temples were trying to curl in over my eyeballs. I'd rather see The Dark Backward in full Smell-O-Vision than watch that thing again.

Mr. Palmcorder, on the other hand, thought it was great. I wish I hadn't had such a visceral reaction to the look of it.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:35 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


PKD interviewed by Gary and Nicole Panter for Slash magazine, LA, 1980.

PKD: "The Germs are breaking up, huh? The cat’s laughing at me … But Darby Crash is going to start his own band."

Also note poster: Fat Freddy, feline.
posted by mwhybark at 10:49 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked A Scanner Darkly as a book, but the movie is a little too... squalid? Depressing? Disjointed? Confusing? There's nothing much to latch onto in the movie, since most of the characters (I'm thinking of Robert Downey, for example) mumble incoherently about whatever. I think the film captures what it's like to live in a house with bunch of drug users, but there's little of the self-reflective insights provided by the prose in the book.

I'd much rather see film versions of Palmer Eldritch or Ubik, as PDK must have been channelling life in the 21st Century. Those books are more fascinating and entertaining.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just noticed the other day how much VALIS sounds like "phallus," and I doubt it's an accident.
posted by gentian at 10:53 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think that's fair. The film is more emotionally manipulative (somehow, still leaving out the "junkies rescue a cat" aside and the "Donna vs. Coca Cola" subplot) and designed around a theme that I think is handled with deliberate inconsistency in the book. A lot of the scenes focused on building empathy with drug users and the scenes about the soullessness of capitalism got omitted or streamlined. I still like it, for being The Only PKD Movie.

I think the novel is very squalid, depressing, disjointed and confusing, though; it's pretty much a breakdown story, and the story breaks down as it goes along. I thought the film got that pretty right, but maybe lost a lot of the themes in the process.
posted by byanyothername at 11:05 AM on May 21, 2012


Bladerunner always struck me as the best William Gibson movie ever made

He thought so, too.
posted by empath at 11:07 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: "I am a giant Philp K. Dick fan. Still, Valis is unreadable. Guy was going through a paranoid episode and just lost it. His slightly-less schizophrenic titles are far better."

Funny, because that's my favorite work by him. The others, while I've appreciated them have always felt a bit lacking, to me. And don't even get me started on the Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Blech.
posted by symbioid at 11:17 AM on May 21, 2012


Bulgaroktonos: "I like what I've read of Phillip K. Dick, but I kind of wish there was a crib sheet so that I could read a story knowing what percentage of the plot was about people secretly being robots. Like like "this story is entirely about secret robots, but is worth reading anyway" versus "this is just another story where he tries to make you guess who is a secret robot and who isn't and it turns out the answer is 'everyone is a secret robot' and you've probably already read an identical story" versus "this story contains literally zero secret robots." It would be helpful."

What if some weren't robots but corpses? Does that count?
posted by symbioid at 11:22 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


We Can Build You would make for an amazingly funny animated movie.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2012


You know what? If god did send that pink beam of light to PKD, well then fuck god then, because PKD went from being an brilliant scifi writer to somebody who penned mostly a bunch gibberish.

Well, except for my Harvard Divinity buddy, who loves PKD's post-crazy work and wrote a book about it. Myself, I wish he could have written a few more like Ubik, Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, and the Man in the High Castle.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:36 AM on May 21, 2012


After reading In Persuit of Valis, I was surprised he could write anything.
posted by jade east at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2012


Interesting article, thank you.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2012


> PKD went from being an brilliant scifi writer to somebody who penned mostly a bunch gibberish

Yeah- the satellite's malfunctioning. It's supposed to be sending information to people who can actually use it in ways that are understandable. Ancient aliens misunderestimated the cosmic ray damage.
posted by morganw at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ha ha. People on Metafilter talking about Dick.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:17 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've only read half his novels, and love that so many of you are raving about novels from the other half - so much left to discover!

I'm baffled that so many dislike A Scanner Darkly (the book), though. When I read it in my twenties it immediately became my favourite PKD - such a rich, mind-blowing and often funny tale. I'd better re-read it, as the movie was only a simulacrum of the novel, and I say that as a big Linklater fan. (Yeah, the rotoscoping. Didn't do it for me in Waking Life, either.)
posted by rory at 12:23 PM on May 21, 2012


/Wonders if he should do a story in which the satellite zaps Dick, enabling him to see that The Empire Never Ended and he goes on a They Live style rampage, possibly after carving a Manson style swastika on his forehead.

/would probably be accused of ripping off Grant Morrison.
posted by Artw at 12:30 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I offer this merely to show that as soon as you begin to ask what is ultimately real, you right away begin talk nonsense.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:37 PM on May 21, 2012


I think the film, followed by the novel, is the perfect introduction to Dick.

I think I'd casually read some PKD before stumbling onto the Scanner film and loving it. So I picked up the book at our local used bookstore and the bookseller pointed to the window display full of Tessa Dick's (his last wife's) self-published works. Turns out that Tess and her son were local and I'd seen them around. That lead me down a rabbit hole of reading PKD biographies and short stories and novels. Also, I really loved Total Recall as a kid and have been wanting to rewatch it for ages, but worry that I won't like it as much as an adult.
posted by annathea at 1:40 PM on May 21, 2012


Seriously though, if having copies of Britannica and the Encyclopedia of Philosophy was such a trip--imagine if the internet was there for him.

I always wonder if there is a twenty something out there that could be our new PKD or Darwin but s/he is so over exposed and not near bored enough because s/he is busy updating their fucking facebook status and running a campaign on lol so we are missing out because they have to say what fucking soya sauce was at the restaurant they are eating at is and doing whatever the hell you do in lol...

I think I hate the internet get off my lawn
posted by mrgroweler at 2:14 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


No love for The Man In The High Castle? It seems like it'd fit perfectly with the teaser at the end (He interestingly goes on to add, “The core of my writing is not art but truth").
posted by en forme de poire at 2:14 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


During the Middle Ages, a curious theory arose, which I will now present to you for what it is worth. It is the theory that the Evil One—Satan—is the "Ape of God." That he creates spurious imitations of creation, of God's authentic creation, and then interpolates them for that authentic creation. Does this odd theory help explain my experience? Are we to believe that we are occluded, that we are deceived, that it is not 1978 but A.D. 50... and Satan has spun a counterfeit reality to wither our faith in the return of Christ?


QED
posted by telstar at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I always wonder if there is a twenty something out there that could be our new PKD or Darwin but s/he is so over exposed and not near bored enough because s/he is busy updating their fucking facebook status "

That's what I tell myself to feel better about my inadequacies! Owning up to the reality of my mediocrity is difficult. It's way easier to tell myself I'm brilliant but stifled by all this technology.

Damn this age I live in!
posted by Tevin at 2:26 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am actually quite a fan of Radio Free Albemuth, which is a post-humously published novel that was essentially VALIS-lite, or VALIS 0.3, or the novelisation of the movie described halfway through VALIS. It covers much of the same territory, but is a great deal more accessible (avoiding reprinting vast tracts of the exegesis as it does), and its ending is a little more upbeat.

I just wikipedia'd it, and there's apparently a movie that hasn't been released outside film festivals. Anybody seen it?
posted by Sparx at 2:26 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I look forward to the next two articles in this series...this one doesn't have anything I haven't read about 5 times since the first volume of the edited Exegesis came out. (That sounds like a complaint, but I'm happy to see so many articles about P.K. Dick lately, and a series of articles in the NY Times should do a lot to expand his audience.)

There's still a few major PKD books that I haven't read (Flow My Tears and Timothy Archer, for example), but I liked VALIS so much that I kind of had to stop for a while because it felt like it would all be downhill from there.

The funny thing is, as much as I...uh...love Dick, I don't feel like he's a great *writer* (or at least, his greatness is very inconsistent). But he's immensely *likeable*. Let me just mention a couple of characteristics of PKD's fiction that I think are under-emphasized in the post-Exegesis articles I've read:

-- PKD is very much on the side of the little guy: the loser, slacker, divorced, in debt, drug abuser, downtrodden, used-to-be-working man. I guess because he was to some extent all of those things. I think we all (except for Mitt Romney) have at least a bit of that "little guy" in us, and it's nice to see such a sympathetic portrayal.

-- PKD has a freaking AWESOME sense of humor, although it's not always on display. To give an example in line with the "little guy" theme, the newly-divorced protagonist of Clans of the Alphane Moon has opened the window of his crappy little apartment and is contemplating jumping to his death when he is interrupted by his neighbor, a telepathic Ganymedean slime mold named Lord Running Clam. Okay, there are probably much better examples, but I rest my case.
posted by uosuaq at 2:32 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush could have been characters in a mid-period PDK novel.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:57 PM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Allow me to defend A Scanner Darkly, both book and movie. An absolutely accurate account of the emotional and human cost of addiction. I loved the rotoscoping, too. Has anyone paid attention to the score of that movie? It's terrific. Some of Keanu's best acting (cough), and Downey is brilliant as always.
TOTAL
TOTAL
TOTAL
TOTAL
TOTAL PROVIDENCE
posted by ergomatic at 3:09 PM on May 21, 2012


" An absolutely accurate account of the emotional and human cost of addiction."

Maybe it's just easier for me to digest that account as a novel, rather than a film.
posted by Tevin at 3:14 PM on May 21, 2012


I think that The Truman Show is one of the more authentic - though uncredited - PKD based movies. I just now learned that it has its own syndrome!
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 3:20 PM on May 21, 2012


During a viewing of The Truman Show, I thought, "well, ketamine has hit Hollywood".
posted by telstar at 4:10 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that The Truman Show is one of the more authentic - though uncredited - PKD based movies.

You are not the only person who has thought that.
posted by immlass at 4:14 PM on May 21, 2012


The Truman Show was written by Andrew Niccol, whose films always deal with identity and its various facets both authentic and simulated. So far he's made movies about:

A guy who becomes someone who no longer wants to be himself, to become someone better.

A guy who becomes everything he hates to avoid becoming everything his class/ethnicity would have him be.

A guy who gets stuck in a kind of international bureaucratic void of identity loss and decides to live there, embracing the absence of identity as a valid identity.

An actress who is really only the daydream of her lonely, neurotic manager. No one else knows.

A man living a life prewritten for him, who finds his way out through becoming more involved in his role than his captors anticipate.

...and that thing where people use time as a currency, like, literally.

Niccol is pretty Dickish. Also, Charlie Kaufman.
posted by byanyothername at 4:53 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


SPOILER ALERT The other very weird thing is that in some ways, the worst of the PKD films, Total Recall, has the most Dickian elements to it.

The fuck it is.


OK, which do you disagree with? That its the worst of the PKD films, or that it has the most Dickian elements to it?

Because most of the novels have the same progression. A first reality is shown to be untrue. Then he builds you up the "real reality" behind the fake reality at the beginning. Finally, even that reality is untrue. And I fall for the "real reality" every time. That's what makes him a master. You know what he's going to do going in. Then you forget by the mastery of his stuff. Then he gets you.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:17 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Arnold S. is at once the antithesis of a PDK protagonist, and the ideal PDK character. He's an anti-PDK protag because Arnold himself is a quasi-fascist, muscle-bound thug. At the same time, most of Arnold's movies deal with questions of identity and reality.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:55 PM on May 21, 2012


I would like to request a Community season 4 arc based on a skein by Niccol, please.
posted by mwhybark at 5:57 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read VALIS when I was 11 or so, I think, around the same time I read RAW's Illuminatus stuff.

I think a pretty big part of my distrust of authority, my steely and annoying determination to reject accepted consensus truth and try to figure stuff out for myself, my skepticism about religions, and my inclination, mostly up until I was 30 or so, to experiment with consciousness-altering experiences (not just drugs, but sleeplessness and fasting and meditation and whatever else gave me access to altered states) came from reading those books and others like them that weren't written for 'Young Adults'.

I hope that the among the hordes of kids reading Harry Potter and Twilight and all of that YA stuff these days, some of them graduate to similarly... inspiring fare, just as I graduated from Heinlein's juveniles when I was a preteen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:04 PM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am Alive and You are Dead.
posted by ovvl at 6:10 PM on May 21, 2012


I think a pretty big part of my distrust of authority, my steely and annoying determination to reject accepted consensus truth and try to figure stuff out for myself, my skepticism about religions, and my inclination, mostly up until I was 30 or so, to experiment with consciousness-altering experiences (not just drugs, but sleeplessness and fasting and meditation and whatever else gave me access to altered states) came from reading those books and others like them that weren't written for 'Young Adults'.

Heh, I recall the experience of reading Illuminatus as feeling like my brain was literally melting in my skull. I couldn't keep it up for very long at a sitting. I really empathized with the PKD quote on the cover about Wilson managing to reverse every polarity in him.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:02 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the same time, most of Arnold's movies deal with questions of identity and reality.

Now that is a thesis I'd like to see you defend. A couple, maybe, but most?
posted by Sparx at 7:33 PM on May 21, 2012


Bladerunner ends up on top, of course, you can argue the toss over the ones in the middle, and I'd rank Total Recall pretty highly within them, but worst is probably going to be The Imposter (leaden SyFy style TV movie) or Next (stars Nicholas Cage).

The Adjustment Bureau is probably the worst one if you are the PKD estate.
posted by Artw at 7:42 PM on May 21, 2012


I work with psychotics and manics and schizophrenics every day. Some drug-induced, others from early trauma, and others from less obvious causes. Most of the people who get these religious revelations, or are talking to angels or demons (or satellites/clones/lizard people/other selves, etc) are usually too thought disorganized to describe their experiences lucidly. PKD was spectacularly good at still being able to create a logical and often engrossing narrative encompassing his delusions. And he combined this with some nice plots. It's a rare gift.

not_that_epiphanius: I think that The Truman Show is one of the more authentic - though uncredited - PKD based movies.:

Yes, it's pretty much an update of PKD's Time Out of Joint, even with the road filled with fire during the attempt to break out of the Old Timey Bubble.
posted by meehawl at 9:52 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bladerunner ends up on top, of course, you can argue the toss over the ones in the middle, and I'd rank Total Recall pretty highly within them,

The most paranoia and the end reveal, so PKD. Production values? Shit.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:16 PM on May 21, 2012


Most of the people who get these religious revelations, or are talking to angels or demons (or satellites/clones/lizard people/other selves, etc) are usually too thought disorganized to describe their experiences lucidly. PKD

It seems a little broad to toss religious revelations in with paranoia and hallucinations. Among other things, religious revelations are very definitely not in the DSM-IV.

I would argue that people who have significant spiritual revelations only show up on the radar when they become unable to function because of them. Many others, god help us, just go into politics.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:34 PM on May 21, 2012


So true about Paul Giamatti. Fucking transcendent.
posted by désoeuvrée at 11:39 PM on May 21, 2012


Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Philosopher, Part 2
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:26 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The core of my writing is not art but truth."

this is similar to tolkien and lewis i think (mythopoeia): J.R.R. Tolkien's poem Mythopoeia: "To one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though 'breathed through silver'..."

which were sort of early precursors to model & simulation; tolkien again:
We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a "sub-creator" and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbor, while materialistic "progress" leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.
speaking of the black iron prison! (and dying gods ;) apparently, "Tolkien sought to give the English-speaking peoples a new pre-Christian mythology," which is pretty breathtaking when you think about it -- to upload a new narrative consciousness onto a whole generation/population. i guess you can think of stan lee in a similar vein (or whedon, harmon, rowling, stephenson, simon, etc.) but kinda more interesting to me is imparting a 'database consciousness' on the world, like notch and _why say.

cf. Journalism, Storytelling and the Ethics of Attention: "the caring problem, and the ladder of engagement"
posted by kliuless at 7:57 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


or roddenberry :P "Worden is still at Ames. His impact on cloud computing was accidental. His passion was never for IT, but for the exploration and settlement of space. Still, he recognized how the Internet was transforming the world and scientific research. With cloud computing, scientists can query petabytes of data and come up with answers in minutes, whereas in the past it would have taken days or weeks."

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 8:22 AM on May 22, 2012


also btw here's an internet archive of a nice PKD primer from the now sadly defunct hermenaut; speaking of empathy :P

oh and cathars! (like tesla or irrationality?)
posted by kliuless at 9:42 PM on May 22, 2012


Philip K. Dick, Sci-Fi Philosopher, Part 3
posted by shoesfullofdust at 5:55 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, I recall the experience of reading Illuminatus as feeling like my brain was literally melting in my skull. I couldn't keep it up for very long at a sitting. I really empathized with the PKD quote on the cover about Wilson managing to reverse every polarity in him.

Illuminatus! vs Atlas Shrugged
posted by homunculus at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2012


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