Phillip K. Dick

moonmaster

Without him, all of you would be lost souls roamin
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Anyone, who's familiar with him...I need some help.

I've been meaning to get into Dick's work for a while and I have a major research paper to finish by the end of the semester for English. He seems like the perfect subject.

But I need some advice. I'd like to read one of his books, but I can't decide which. Something that isn't too complicated and something that has a fair amount of criticism. The whole crux of the paper is that I have to analyze the author's style and tone while comparing my thoughts to those of various others whose reviews and analysis I find online. Hence, the "research" part.

So can anyone offer two or three suggestions for quality books that should be pretty well written-up online?

Please?
 

Friday

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Anyone, who's familiar with him...I need some help.

I've been meaning to get into Dick's work for a while and I have a major research paper to finish by the end of the semester for English. He seems like the perfect subject.

But I need some advice. I'd like to read one of his books, but I can't decide which. Something that isn't too complicated and something that has a fair amount of criticism. The whole crux of the paper is that I have to analyze the author's style and tone while comparing my thoughts to those of various others whose reviews and analysis I find online. Hence, the "research" part.

So can anyone offer two or three suggestions for quality books that should be pretty well written-up online?

Please?

Well, you could go with the standard "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", the classic examination of the nature of life and thought, and what duplicating it outside of humanity could lead to. It was the inspiration for Blade Runner which the adaptation of could get quite a few papers written on it on its own.

Personally I prefer short fiction so things like "We can remember it for you Wholesale" appeal to me more.

In addition if you want to touch on how contemporary authors have takes his style and adapted to it I recommend "Gun, With Occasional Music" by Jonathan Lethem and "Altered Carbon" by Richard K Morgan.
 

Zombipanda

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We Can Build You is my personal favorite, but I don't imagine there's much criticism for it.

If you're looking for easy and with a lot of criticism, you might want to check out The Man In The High Castle. Out of all his books, it's one of the ones that best skirts his own weird delusions and illnesses, and it basically serves as a cornerstone book in alternative historical books. It's likely going to be one of the easiest of his books to dig into, and will give you a real feel for if you want to sink your teeth into his more schizophrenic stuff.

Edit: OTOH, with the release of the movie, A Scanner Darkly might have a lot of material floating around.
 
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moonmaster

Without him, all of you would be lost souls roamin
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Well, you could go with the standard "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", the classic examination of the nature of life and thought, and what duplicating it outside of humanity could lead to. It was the inspiration for Blade Runner which the adaptation of could get quite a few papers written on it on its own.

Personally I prefer short fiction so things like "We can remember it for you Wholesale" appeal to me more.

In addition if you want to touch on how contemporary authors have takes his style and adapted to it I recommend "Gun, With Occasional Music" by Jonathan Lethem and "Altered Carbon" by Richard K Morgan.
I don't know, I'm interested in VALIS. Plus, it would be pretty easy to get into, considering that I'm working through The Invisibles right now, which is heavily influenced by all of Dick's VALIS-related stuff.
:snickers:
Yeah, not only do I have to write a paper, but I have to do an oral presentation.


An oral presentation.


On Dick.
 

Friday

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I don't know, I'm interested in VALIS. Plus, it would be pretty easy to get into, considering that I'm working through The Invisibles right now, which is heavily influenced by all of Dick's VALIS-related stuff.

Yeah, not only do I have to write a paper, but I have to do an oral presentation.


An oral presentation.


On Dick.

... :twisted:

I can't say I've read VALIS. Lemmie know what you think if you go with it.
 

ourchair

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If Philip Dick actually interests you beyond being a requirement for school, you might want to consider reading I Am Alive and You Are Dead: The Strange Life and Times of Philip K. Dick, which is an entertaining and intriguing look at his life and the personal neuroses and concerns which drove to make his work the way they turned out.

I found it a very nice read in spite of not having read any of his work (being only very familiar with what his work is like through Internet research) at the time I read this book.
 

moonmaster

Without him, all of you would be lost souls roamin
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If Philip Dick actually interests you beyond being a requirement for school, you might want to consider reading I Am Alive and You Are Dead: The Strange Life and Times of Philip K. Dick, which is an entertaining and intriguing look at his life and the personal neuroses and concerns which drove to make his work the way they turned out.

I found it a very nice read in spite of not having read any of his work (being only very familiar with what his work is like through Internet research) at the time I read this book.
I plan to read more by/about him soon, but at the moment I just needed something that I could read in the next few weeks as a suitable subject for the report.

But yeah, his life is ridiculously interesting. I can't wait to see the looks on people's faces when I do my speech about him. I told my teacher about VALIS and the pink laser from space and another kid was standing there and I can only describe his reaction as an expression of "WHA-HUH?!".

I found this awesome bit of info on Dick's Wikipedia entry:

An August 8, 2006 press release announced that actor Paul Giamatti is planning to star as Philip K. Dick in a biopic to be produced by Giamatti's Touchy Feely Films, with the permission of Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, through her Electric Shepherd Productions. Tony Grisoni, who wrote the screenplays for films such as Terry Gilliam's Tideland and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is writing the film's script.

:rockon: :rockon: :rockon:
Hmmm.....
What?

Do you have a problem with Dick?
What's really something to think about is how the hell Ourchair got into a thread like this, with posts like moony's, and still post without a single dirty joke. It's just...eerie.
:lol:
 
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ourchair

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What's really something to think about is how the hell Ourchair got into a thread like this, with posts like moony's, and still post without a single dirty joke. It's just...eerie.
See, I may be the king of filthy humor on this board, but a guy named Dick is working material that's just beneath me. Where's the fun in something that easy?
 

Bass

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I have a friend who's a big Dick fan (snicker).

If you want help, post some questions and I'll ask him for you.

He teaches English, by the way.

But not well.

And he's younger than me.

I feel so old.

;___;
 

moonmaster

Without him, all of you would be lost souls roamin
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The paper is finished! 11 ****ing pages!

Here it is in all it's analytical glory:


VALIS by Philip K. Dick
Moonmaster

Philip K. Dick was a visionary science fiction writer whose startling encounters with forces beyond his ken left him a conflicted soul, at one moment the benefactor of sacred wisdom and divine enlightenment, the next a terrified man filled with self-doubt and wallowing in the depths of his own despair. In his books and in his life he tried desperately to make sense of the most important experience he had ever had, rarely finding answers that would satisfy his need for spiritual comfort. "Philip K. Dick was the last true American visionary." (Ellis, 25) Dick’s brush with the transcendent sent him on a never ending search for the meaning of his own life, a modern-day, spiritual Grail Quest. VALIS was the epitome of this search and the conflict that came of it.

Philip K. Dick's life began quite traumatically in Chicago in the December of 1928, born premature alongside a twin sister named Jane. Jane was to die one month later due to the neglect of her and Philip's parents. The event would come to haunt him and influence the themes of his work for the rest of his life. Dick had a rootless childhood, moving several times before his family settled down in Berkeley, California by the time he was high school-aged. He attempted to attend the University of California, Berkeley but dropped out soon after he began. After selling his first story in 1952, he became determined to turn writing into his career. But alas, writing has never been a lucrative occupation, and Dick’s long state of poverty was well known.

Philip K. Dick’s work was well-received by the science fiction community, winning a Hugo Award in 1963 for The Man in the High Castle. Dick published a constant stream of novels throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, and established his basic style and themes. Dick saw science fiction as a convenient vehicle by which to delve into more complicated and philosophical themes. Androids, alternate universes, and simulated realities became the conventions of his novels, but these were just devices used to examine what Dick found to be truly important and intriguing. As Dick said himself in a speech in 1978, “The two basic topics which fascinate me are ‘What is reality?’ and ‘What constitutes the authentic human being?’ Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?” (Dick, 2) In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Dick used the thoughts and dreams of androids living in a future California to examine the question of humanity. If we can create a being that looks and acts and maybe even thinks and feels like a human being, then what exactly separates that construct of steel and synthetics from us? In other books such as Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Dick ponders the nature of reality and time.

Philip K. Dick wrote most of his books before 1970 while taking amphetamines, and drug use is an underlying theme in much of his work from that time. Due to his cult status, he ended up becoming a part of the ‘60s California counterculture. In 1970, his drug use grew more serious and he quit writing. He also began spending time with a group of teenagers with similar taste in illicit substances. These years were painful, marked by a series of poignant lessons in the dangers of drug use that had been largely ignored during the '60s. This period heavily inspired Dick's novel A Scanner Darkly, and Dick dedicated the book to the friends that he had lost to death and brain damage. The publication of A Scanner Darkly and his award-winning novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said marked his return to sobriety and his return to writing. But following his return to writing, he would have an astonishing experience that would change his life and his work forever.

On February 20 1974, Philip K. Dick was recovering from a painful wisdom tooth extraction at his house in Fullerton, California. When a girl arrived to deliver his pain medication, Dick opened the door and became instantly mesmerized by what hung around her neck: the golden symbol of a fish, a well-known Christian image. He asked her the meaning of the symbol, and she told him that it was worn by early Christians. At that moment, Dick came to the realization that the year was not 1974, it was A.D. 50, and he was not just Philip K. Dick, he was also secret Christian hiding from Roman oppressors named Thomas. At one point, this personality even "took control" of Dick for a year. According to Dick, time "stopped" in A.D. 50 because God left Earth, and that his own visions marked the return of God and the return to true time (an idea he explored very literally in his VALIS sequel, The Divine Invasion.) He came to believe that the Nixon administration had merely been a continuation of the Roman Empire, and Nixon’s downfall was the natural act of divine justice prevailing over evil. As a boy, Dick had had a recurring dream in which he searched endlessly for a science fiction magazine containing a mysterious story called “The Empire Never Ended”. The story was of dire importance, but no matter how much he searched, it was never there. The phrase “The Empire Never Ended” later became a symbol of Dick’s beliefs about the Roman Empire and it became an oft-used phrase in VALIS.

Dick later referred to the time that his experiences first began as “2-3-74”. He had other surreal experiences, speaking in ancient languages that he did not know and having visions of iridescent fire. Once, while listening to the song "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles, he heard an urgent message informing him that his son had an undetected birth defect, a right inguinal hernia that had entered the scrotal sac and would kill him if it went untreated. When Dick rushed his son to the hospital, he was told that his description of the birth defect was spot-on and that if his son had not been operated on, he would've died any day.

Dick later described his revelation as an “invasion of [his] mind by a transcendentally rational mind”. He also equated the experience with being blasted by a pink laser beam of pure information. He theorized that this information came from an ancient satellite beaming revelatory knowledge from an enlightened world millions of light years away. This theory was one of the major inspirations for VALIS. In fact, the term "VALIS" stands for "Vast Active Living Intelligence System", referring to both the possible satellite and Dick's idea of God.

Philip K. Dick held a number of theories regarding his experience, many of which had to do with Gnosticism, which shall be delved into in more detail shortly. Some of Dick’s more personal theories included the concept of “ZEBRA”. ZEBRA was a term given Dick’s concept of God (ZEBRA is a synonym for VALIS) – A being that was omnipresent throughout the Universe but could not be perceived by any human senses. Camouflaged, essentially, like an animal. All of Dick’s ideas, concepts, and rationalizations were collected in a massive, several thousand page journal that he wrote passionately over the course of several years, entitled Exegesis. The book was never published, but it purportedly held what ranged from nonsensical ramblings to incredible, prophetic verses.

Dick came to identify the specific force that inhabited him as being the spirit of Elijah, the prophet. Dick’s job was to spread God’s word and prepare the world for the coming of the new messiah. Dick believed that others had been spoken to like he had and that they had assisted the second coming in their own ways, specifically by unseating Nixon. In 1976, according to Dick, Elijah left him. The event was so traumatic that it caused him to attempt suicide. He miraculously survived and began trying to understand exactly what he had experienced.

VALIS was the first part in a proposed trilogy based on his experiences and a decidedly more postmodern and less science-fiction novel. VALIS presented what was essentially a dramatized version of Dick’s experiences, fully recounted in some parts and expanded dramatically in others. In the book, Dick separates himself into two disparate personalities. One is the rational narrator who takes little direct action for most of the story, Philip K. Dick himself. The other is Horselover Fat (a Greek/German translation of “Philip Dick”), the main character of the story and the personification of Dick’s troubled mind and the sense of awe and overwhelming enlightenment that came with his experiences. Horselover Fat struggles with the same issues that Dick did, his beliefs and his sanity. It is said that he has been split in two because his soul has been wounded. Like the character of Amfortas in the opera Parsifal, he has been wounded by the divine and the only way to heal him is by being touched by that same power. By the end of the book, a cryptic film spurs Fat and his friends to find a girl who appears to be the messiah that the real-life Dick spent his later years looking for. In her presence, he is healed of his wound. VALIS was a massive success, and it was followed by a sequel called The Divine Invasion. The third part of the trilogy was to be titled The Owl in Daylight, but he died before it could be finished. Instead, Dick’s thematically related last novel, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer was put in its place.

VALIS was an integral part of what became Philip K. Dick's greatest obsession: finding the true meaning of what had happened to him. He fell back continually upon a complex, arcane belief system known as Gnosticism. Some, like Dick, believe that Gnosticism is at the heart of the true teachings of Jesus Christ, as well as the teachings of many other spiritual and philosophical icons. In fact, it is thought that Gnosticism represents a kind of secret knowledge that has been passed down for thousands of years.

A brief explanation of Gnosticism for the uninitiated: according to the Gnostics, the Universe as we know it is the construct of a false - or "blind" - God, usually known as the demiurge. The material, four-dimensional nature of the Universe keeps us spiritually and intellectually imprisoned. Because of this, Dick referred to the physical universe as the "Black Iron Prison". The emissaries of the demiurge are known collectively as the Archons, figures who enforce the demiurge's malevolent will. According to Dick, the Archons were present on Earth in the form of men like Nixon and others who are obsessed with the material world. The false nature of the Universe is the reason why it seems to be imperfect. Basically, bad things happen to good people, innocents suffer, etc. because our Universe was created by a flawed deity.

Despite these factors, a true God does exist, but only outside of space and time. The true God is a sort of endless field of divine, eminent information. The ultimate goal of humanity is to ascend from our material boundaries and become assimilated into the information field. However, this eternal place exists outside of time, meaning that we are all once and future Gods. In order to rejoin God, we must remember the information that we had forgotten which is actually what "Gnosticism" means. This information can be represented as "the Word of God", also known as the Logos. Gnostic texts, such as those discovered in Nag Hammadi in 1945 are the Logos. The Logos is conveyed to us by seeds of divine information implanted into our universe in order to rescue us. These seeds take the shape of a single, recurring figure that has been known by many names: Zoroaster, Jesus Christ, Buddha. This is the same person, just present at different points in time. Dick believed that this figure was set to appear again, and was represented as a two-year-old girl in VALIS.

Obviously, this is quite a lot to take in. Dick pondered these things and expanded upon them endlessly throughout his life and there is much more that I could talk about, if I had the space. Dick expressed his beliefs frequently and generally felt that they were authentic. But he also had a strong sense of cynicism and realism. He spent a lot of time questioning himself, as others quite obviously would. Was he insane? He had certainly lived a stressful life and mental illness was a constant theme in his work. He wrote several books featuring schizophrenic characters and even a short story about a planet inhabited by the mentally ill.

Some would also attribute Dick's visions with his over hyped, but still excessive, drug use. In A Scanner Darkly, Dick wrote deeply from personal experience about the depression and desolation one can feel when drugs begin to take over one's life. Dick's drug use made him incredibly paranoid. He was afraid of being around large groups of people, once having a panic attack when he tried to take one of his daughters to Disneyland. When his house was broken into in the '70s, he became convinced that the FBI or the CIA had been responsible and that they were keeping tabs on him and his work. However, he also theorized that he could have broken into his own home in some kind of split personality moment. This event was dramatized in A Scanner Darkly. In A Scanner Darkly's afterward, Dick dedicates the book to the myriad of friends that he lost - either through death or mental illness - because of drugs. “Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is ‘Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying,’ but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory.” (Dick) One must wonder whether or not Philip K. Dick's drug use affected him the way that it affected so many of his friends. It certainly seems likely.

Real or not, Dick’s visions represented something startlingly profound to him. In looking for their meaning, it is obvious that he was also looking for the meaning hidden in his own life.

In VALIS, we get a glimpse at how the state of his life may have played a role in his 2-3-74 experience. VALIS begin with the death of a woman; a friend of Horselover Fat’s named Gloria. Fat attempts to dissuade Gloria from killing herself, but to no avail. He feels a great sense of guilt and depression for what had happened and the book states that this is the beginning of his “nervous breakdown”. Another friend of Fat’s, a caustic but highly religious girl named Sherri, has cancer and is on the verge of dying for most of the book. He tries to help her, to prevent her from dying, but he ultimately fails. Gloria and Sherri represent to Fat what is good in the world, what is worth fighting for. But neither of them is willing to fight for themselves and they die, and it breaks his heart. Like so much of VALIS, this relates back to Gnosticism. In Gnosticism there is a female deity figure named Sophia (consider her to be the female embodiment of God) who is caught by the fear of her own death and ends up giving up on life. As a result, she falls and in doing so she helps to create the material prison. Crucial to Man’s ascension and escape is that Sophia is redeemed by the Logos. Both Sherri and Gloria represent Sophia, a divine force that has fallen from grace and must be redeemed in order to save the world. Dick tries desperately to redeem what he sees as these two forms of Sophia. They are a part of his grand purpose. If they die, he has failed. In trying to resolve their deaths within his own mind, it is possible that he uses Gnosticism as an excuse to make the situation more grand and important. He must save Gloria and Sherri, not for his own reasons, but for the fate of the Universe.

By the end of the novel, Philip K. Dick’s character learns a particular truth: That God is not some far away being living atop a higher plane of reality. God is in Man, and is also in Dick. He comes to the realization that if time is a false construct, then we all live multiple lives at various points in history, like the Zoroaster/Christ/Buddha figure mentioned earlier. With this in mind, Dick must exist in some way in every period of time. Who is it really that spoke to him in 1974? It was himself, ascended into a form that is free of the boundaries of four-dimensional reality, a “supra-temporal” being reaching out to him with its divine presence.

And in essence, this is the great truth that Dick had been seeking. He is told by the messiah child, named Sophia (from what I’ve said earlier, you can understand why) at the end of the book: “What you teach is the word of man. Man is holy, and the true god, the living god, is man himself. You will have no gods but yourselves; the days in which you believed in other gods end now, they end forever.” (Dick, 198) Within VALIS is a fifty-two entry excerpt from Exegesis entitled Tractates: Cryptica Scriptura, which ends with Dick echoing Sophia: “From Ikhnaton this knowledge passed to Moses and from Moses to Elijah, the Immortal Man, who became Christ. But underneath all the names there is only one Immortal Man; and we are that man.” (Dick, 241) Sophia’s words are beautiful, and they give Dick the comfort, security, and purpose in his own beliefs that he so desperately yearned for. That is, until he is told several weeks later that Sophia has died.

Sophia was the ultimate representation of the Gnostic figure, the literal one. But she died just as easily as Gloria and Sherri before her. Why did she not see her death coming? What could she have accomplished if she had survived? And most importantly for Dick, what could he have done to prevent it from happening? As these questions return, the wound that Sophia had healed opens once more, and Dick finds Horselover Fat once again at his side. Another Sophia has died and Fat has returned to take on that familiar sense of desperation and confusion.

So, in the end, Dick is no better of than when he started. Faith and sense are still elusive to him and his mind is still divided. The book ends without resolution or any concrete answers, but there is no other way that it could have ended. The fact of the matter is that Philip K. Dick never found the answers he was searching for. In many ways, I see this as the great tragedy of his life. He died in 1982 after having a stroke, his heart still filled with the inner-turmoil that it had harbored ever since that fateful day eight years earlier. Sure, he came close to the truth on several occasions, but his hopes always ended up dashed and he always ended up just as alone and confused as he'd been before. No matter where he looked, that magazine that he searched for in his dreams could never be found.

"What is reality?" It is the question that Philip K. Dick spent years attempting to answer. This was why he embarked on his search for divine truth. He needed the truth. Without it, he could never be satisfied. But in my opinion, truth - and reality as well - is nearly impossible to define. I feel that "real" and "unreal", "true" and "false", are just words. Reality and truth are merely what you make of them. Philip K. Dick was incapable of accepting this. He wanted the absolute, universal answer. He was looking for something that simply didn't exist. And this nearly destroyed him.

Because he could never find his absolute answer, Philip K. Dick's life came to be defined by conflict and inconclusiveness. There was always an eternal truth to be searched out, a question that was still unanswered. He could never allow himself to be at peace. It is a funny thing that man, who is in fact God according to Gnosticism, could be filled with such indecisiveness. Perhaps Dick never realized the beauty there was in his own search for meaning. “Regardless of what exactly the explanations were, it was this constant search for answers and explanations which was important; more important than getting the explanation right. The journey is the destination.” (Emerson)

After his death, Dick was buried next to his twin sister, returning to her side once more. I can only hope that Philip K. Dick, an incredible writer and a true visionary, found in death the harmony and the truth that he spent his entire life yearning for.

~​

“One day a girl college student in Canada asked me to define reality for her, for a paper she was writing for here philosophy class. She wanted a one-sentence answer. I thought about it and finally said, ‘Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.’” (Dick, 3)
 

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