Philip K Dick was one of the most successful science fiction writers of the 20th Century with many of his novels having been turned into block buster films including the seminal Blade Runner (based on the novel do androids dream of electric sheep), Total Recall, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly.
In total he wrote 44 novels and 121 short stories, most of these explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes with many stories set in altered realities and dystopian futures featuring authoritarian governments and monopolistic corporations.
In 1974, while receiving a delivery of pain medication for recently removed wisdom teeth, Philip K Dick experienced a vision, that he believed was religious in nature and thought to be triggered by the delivery person?s necklace (an early christian symbol). Since that time Philip received a number of visions and until his death in 1982 he spent an enourmous amount of time and effort trying to understand just what he saw that day. He wrote endlessly and could sometimes be known to complete as much as 150 pages in one sitting about his experiences. In total over 8000 pages of notes were completed.
These visions also influenced his later novels including VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System, named from one of his visions), Radio Free Albemuth, The Divine Invasion, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and even a short passage in ?A Scanner Darkly?.
There have been enticing excerts released previously in the novel ?In pursuit of Valis? which deals primarily with Philip K Dicks visions, his beliefs and struggles to understand what he saw, along with a variety of mental and emotional challenges (many believe he was schizophrenic). In his later life he suffered much mental turmoil but as an exceptionally gifted and intelligent author, he documented much of his feelings and state of mind. Philip K Dick's widow is allowing the complete works of his notes to be published in two volumes in 2011 and 2012.
Philip K Dick has won many awards for his novels including 1 Hugo award (and 2 nominations) for "The man in the high castle", 5 Nebula Award nominations, a John W Campbell award for "Flow my tears, the policeman said" along with the BSFA award and the Graouilly d'Or for "A Scanner Darkly".
Since 1983 Philip K Dick's memory has been honoured by an award in his own name, given annually to the best original paperback published each year in the USA. The award is presented at Norwescon, one of the largest scifi and fantasy conventions in America.
Philip K. Dick is one of the few science fiction writers who eschews traditional aspects of writing (such as character development or a coherent plot) to grasp at much larger, esoteric themes. That he accomplishes this so well with only rough strokes attests to his ability as a visionary more than a writer. Every single one of his short stories and novels explores a philosophical / metaphyscial theme that employs the sci-fi landscape more as a setting than a means within itself.
For instance, his protagonists are never inconquerable heroes or even anti-heroes. Most often they are completely ordinary people (well, as ordinary as one can be in a science fiction world) thrust into mind-boggling situations. And I do mean mind-boggling. In fact, Philip K. Dick has gained much post-humous attention not so much for specific works as he has been cited as one of the first "post-modern" authors. This characterization of his work is due to his underlying and persistent emphasis on how a person's reality is revealed to be a mutable construct. He accomplishes this by using such situations as a schizophrenic child on Mars, the drug Substance D or a pink laser from a satellite as catalysts that force the protagonist to reckon with his new-found knowledge that his world, his reality, is entirely unlike that which he has come to believe.
The movie "Total Recall," based upon a short story called "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale," explores this by showing how Douglas Quaid, an ordinary man, has several layers of reality based upon mental tinkering. His primary reality as a construction worker is stripped away to reveal a "truer" reality in which he used to be a secret agent. But these two truths are never fully seperated and both Quaid and the audience are left with much ambiguity about Quaid's "true" identity. It is this philosophical sophistication that has led him to be cited as one of the great-grandfathers of postmodernism though if he were alive he would surely baulk at the term.
A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
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