Saturday, June 24, 2006

Do android heads of Philip K. Dick dream of electric sheep?

I can't say Philip K. Dick was a great writer, exactly. Great ideas, yes. Wild, intriguing, mind-bending concepts, yes. But when you're tossing off stories as fast as you can in order to scrape together a living, it's probably too much to ask for stylish, careful writing, too. That said, I've probably read at least a dozen of his novels, maybe more. (Did I mention the great ideas and wild, intriguing concepts? Sometimes, that's all I need.)

That's not to say he couldn't write a great novel or short story when his heart was really in it. A Scanner Darkly, Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, and a fairly high percentage of his short pieces are truly compelling.

And because his No. 1 topic was the nature of what is really real and what is really not real, I think that if he were alive today, he'd love this news item about his missing (android) head.

My favorite story about PKD, which he recounted in a speech that was later recycled as an introduction to a collection of short stories: During the time Nixon was in office, Dick was eating at a Chinese restaurant in Yorba Linda, Calif., where Nixon grew up. He got a fortune in his cookie that read: "Deeds done in secret will soon come to light." He mailed the fortune to the White House with this note: "I think I got your fortune. Do you have mine?"

He received no response.

(Who knows if it's true or not? It should be.)


Doug Hoffman said...

Great story.

My favorite PKD: the Valis trilogy. I have to admit I've never been able to finish A Scanner Darkly.

Jim Donahue said...

I think A Scanner Darkly might be my favorite novel of his.

unclewilly said...

Favorite quote: "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."