Philip K. Dick and Me

April 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

UnknownA friend asked on Facebook today: I’ve not read much Science Fiction. What is your favorite and why?

I answered:
I’m currently on a Philip K. Dick kick. His stuff is considered classic in the genre, has been made into several films, and he’s got some pretty awesome social commentary and religious themes going on. His characters usually deal with hallucinations, drug use, and some sort of religious/emotional/existential crisis in the midst of futuristic dystopias and post-apocalyptic worlds. I adore him.

That’s the simple answer, I suppose. Unless I were a 19 year old boy and then I’d merely say something about of the blatant drug use references.

I suppose my answer makes me sound like an ignorant and pretentious prick. It’s ok, I’ve come to terms with my lot in life – I sound like a snob, but I will never be brilliant.

I say I’ve come to terms, but that’s a lie…

I find myself having a love affair with Philip K. Dick. He invites me to futures I forgot to think about, makes me feel nostalgic for certain versions of the past. He has forty something novels and I’m only reading my third one… all I want to do is talk religion with the old coot.

Eleanor Roosevelt said something along the lines of great minds talking about ideas, average minds discussing events, and weak minds focusing on people… but I could talk about Philip K. Dick all day. I’d like to think it’s because I like his ideas.

He has me wanting to dive into religious theory, social philosophy, and everything else – all the IDEAS behind it all. I want to read literary criticism on all his work. I suddenly want to get high. With him. I’ve never gotten high or even wanted to in my whole life. Good thing the dude is dead, I might weasel my way into an opportunity to kill my clean record if he weren’t. As it stands, I’m safe.

He’s genre sci fi, but it’s not about the science fiction, I don’t think.

I will never write anything so well.

I have a young friend who likes Dick. For all the drug use, naturally.

“Is that your real answer or your 19-year-old answer?”
“Both,” he responded, “Why am I being interrogated?”

He wasn’t. He was, I suppose. I just really wanted to know if everyone else had the same draw to him in the same way I did. They have to, or else he wouldn’t be reprinted so often. Why aren’t we reading him in school alongside 1984 and Brave New World?

Philip K. Dick is so much more than drug induced rantings, and drug-love. It’s possible he was certifiably insane – I don’t know yet – but clearly that appeals to me. If Hunter S. Thompson and C.S. Lewis had a love-child, it could have been Dick.

I’m not equipped for proper commentary beyond that. My one lament in life is that I see glimpses of great ideas but cannot grasp or define them. I have been surrounded by so many brilliant minds my whole life and have never had one myself.

I watched The Theory of Everything and nearly cried. Selfishly. It was not because of Hawking’s trials, or the good fight his wife put up, or any of that. I found myself scribbling:

So many bright minds – brilliant ones – and mine will never be so bright or brilliant. I can study and train and absorb everything I can get my hands on and I will still hit a wall. A wall of sheer lacking…

Of brightness.

Of brilliance.

Of creativity and understanding.

Of not enough.

I am no Steinbeck. I am no Einstein.

I am no G.K. Chesterton or Ayn Rand. Or Philip K. Dick.

Not even close.

I went to the library and read through Magill’s various commentaries that were available.“Wherever they are set, most of Dick’s novels are grounded in the clutter and trivia, the mundane cares and joys, of everyday life,” the Survey of AUnknownmerican Literature said.

Because I’ve read The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and The Penultimate Truth and am currently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I felt I was equipped enough to at least see what other people have to say about him. I found people saying things I had already discovered, Dick is focused on how empathy is what makes us human, he thinks everyone lies and that we are all a little too gullible, in his life he maintained a “persistent skepticism” with an “equally strong yearning to believe.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

ThePenultimateTruth(1stEd)Critics also say that you can’t get his life’s running theme from just one book. You must read at least ten or fifteen. Clearly, I got that memo from the abyss as well, because the second I’d gotten half way through one I was already on a mission to select more. Not for the science fiction, not for the stories, but for Dick’s truth. “Dick is fascinated by forgeries and coincidences.”

Me too.

I doubt my own identity as well. Both spiritually and here in the world. I have defined myself over and over again so scrupulously that at the end of the day I often wonder if I have lied to myself.

Is this who I am or who I’ve chosen?
Is there a difference between the two?

We are gullible, we are easily deceived.

Yes we are.
As am I.
People have told me over and over again what a contradiction I am. A hopeless romantic wrapped in the armor of a cynical skeptic. I trust too quickly, and dismiss at the drop of a hat.P1030684

My favorite thing about reading Philip K. Dick is how he has laid out all the turmoils of my soul into genre fiction. When I ask others what their favorite part is, it is because I want to know if we have similar turmoils. If it is merely the human condition…? If we are kindred spirits? Or if I am alone.

Ultimately, I always just want to know if I am alone.

I am 31 years old. I should be over this by now.  But those damn empathy boxes really got to me.

For a cool article, go here: http://boppin.com/1995/04/philip-k-dick.html

quote-i-m-a-strange-person-sometimes-i-hardly-know-what-i-m-going-to-do-or-say-next-sometimes-i-seem-a-philip-k-dick-224123

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1 Comment

  1. literatureacity said,

    “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” has always been one of my favorite books! It really made me think about what it means to be human.

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