This sample Philip K. Dick Essay is published for informational purposes only. Free essays and research papers, are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality essay at affordable price please use our custom essay writing service.
Philip K. Dick has been hailed as one of the most original and thought-provoking writers of science fiction. Often addressing the delicate balance between illusion and reality, Dick used the standard fare of this genre—robots, space ships, and alternative universes—to explore the complexities of human nature. He published more than thirty novels and one hundred short stories during his lifetime, but only after his death did his fame spread from science-fiction fans to mainstream audiences.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Love for Music
Philip Kindred Dick was born in Chicago in 1928, but he lived most of his life in California in the San Francisco Bay area. A longtime music lover, he worked while still in his teens as an announcer for a classical-music program on station KSMO in 1947; he also operated a record store from 1948 to 1952. He attended the University of California at Berkeley in 1950, but dropped out because the required R.o.T.C. (Reserve officer Training Corps) component of the curriculum conflicted with his antiwar convictions.
Abandoning Short Stories for the Novel
From Dick’s first sale of a story entitled ”Roog” to Anthony Boucher of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1952 and his first published story, ”Beyond Lies the Wub” in Planet Stories (the same year), his publishing career has followed a curious course. Of his some 110 short stories, 28 were published in 1953 and another 28 in 1954, but beginning with the appearance of Solar Lottery in 1955 he turned primarily to the novel.
Literary Output Peaks
Dick’s early works, including Eye in the Sky (1957) and Time Out of Joint (1959), reflect his curiosity about the nature of reality as well as a fear of omnipotent authority and political oligarchies. These subjects are particularly evident in his Hugo Award-winning novel The Man in the High Castle (1962). In this work, Dick envisioned a world in which Germany and Japan have divided the United States between them after winning World War II. Through this scenario Dick examined an America willing to give up its own culture under occupation and whose racial fears and prejudices are compatible with Nazism. Although The Man in the High Castle was published in 1962, his novel-writing peak was perhaps from 1964 to 1969, when sixteen volumes were published.
In Dr. Futurity (1960) a physician named Jim Par sons finds himself in the remote future, among tribesmen who force him to play a role in which he must tamper with destiny. This novel was followed by The Man in the High Castle; The Game-Players of Titan (1963), a further development of game theory and other standard Dick themes; Clans of the Alphane Moon (1964); and The Penultimate Truth (1964). The last, another story of rulers and the ruled, is further evidence of Dick’s concern with fascism and oppression of any kind. In The Penultimate Truth, set in 2025 C.E., most people live in underground factories to construct robots that are being used in World War III.
A Religious Vision
In 1975, Dick won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Flow My Tears, The Police man Said (1970). In this novel, Dick uses the recurring subjects of a stifling bureaucracy and synthetic organisms to explore such philosophical queries as the nature of identity and the definition of morality. Dick is also concerned with the existence of God, a matter that became increasingly important to him. In 1974, Dick claimed to have had a religious vision, and he spent the remainder of his life working on an “exegesis” to come to terms with this revelation. Dick’s preoccupation with theological issues in his later years is apparent in his last novels, VALIS (1981), The Divine Invasion (1981), and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982).
Public Speaking and Other Interests
In his later years, he lectured on college campuses. In early 1975, he was also invited to participate in a series of lectures at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, in a series organized by anthropologist Ted Polhemus. However, Dick was unable to attend because of illness; his contribution, ”Man, Android and Machine,” was printed in Science Fiction at Large (1976).
Evidence of his varied interests was shown by his memberships in organizations ranging from the Animal Protection Institute to the Science Fiction Writers of America, by his authorship of radio scripts for the Mutual Broadcasting System, by his work in antiabortion efforts and drug rehabilitation, and by his discussions about religion with the late Bishop James A. Pike. These interests were in part summarized in 1975 by Dick: ”My major preoccupation is the question, ‘What is reality?’ Many of my stories and novels deal with psychotic states or drug-induced states by which I can present the concept of a multiverse rather than a universe. Music and sociology are themes in my novels, also radical political trends; in particular I’ve written about fascism and my fear of it.”
Fixation on Drug Abuse
Proof of the depth of his concern with drug abuse is his dedication of A Scanner Darkly (1973) to some fifteen ”comrades” who are either deceased or permanently damaged as a result of drug abuse. In A Scanner Darkly, Dick arrives at what one reviewer has called his ”enigmatic best.” A detailed account of a future drug culture, it weaves a plot in which Fred, an undercover narcotics agent, and Robert Arctor, a user, are one and the same more-or-less human being until the irreversible brain damage caused by ”Substance D” leaves only a lesser being called Bruce. The central enigma of the novel is Dick’s insistence that ”There is no moral to this novel,” when the book so obviously attacks the drug culture; and the answer to this enigma sums up much of what Dick’s work has been all about.
On occasion, Dick published stories under the pseudonym Richard Phillips, and in addition to his vast science-fiction canon he wrote a mainstream novel, Confessions of a Crap Artist (1975). Dick died of a massive stroke in 1982.
Film Adaptations Prove Successful
Since his death, at least nine of Dick’s works were adapted for film including the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) as Blade Runner (1982), the short story ”We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) as Total Recall (1990), Minority Report (2002), based on Dick’s story by the same name, and A Scanner Darkly, its name unchanged, premiered in 2006. The films brought Dick’s name to the attention of a much wider audience than his novels had enjoyed during his lifetime. His literary reputation has also risen dramatically in the years since his passing. In 2007 and 2008, nine of his novels were published in two volumes by the Library of America. They were the first science fiction works included in that prestigious series of literary classics.
Works in Literary Context
Dick’s work was influenced by numerous authors, including Gustave Flaubert, Honore de Balzac, Immanuel Kant, Marcel Proust, Carl Jung, Samuel Beckett, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Nathanael West, Jorge Luis Borges, and the satirical science-fiction writer John Sladek. Dick often portrayed bleak futuristic landscapes, oppressive government bureaucracies, and the destructive potential of advanced technology, especially mechanical or electronic simulations of organic life. Two basic narratives recur in his work. One favorite plot device is that of alternative universes or parallel worlds, of which The Man in the High Castle is a prime example.
The other favorite plot device involves what Dick characteristically calls “simulacra,” devices ranging from merely complex mechanical and electronic technology to humanlike androids, and the paradoxes created by their relationships to organic life, especially human beings. Typical examples are The Simulacra (1964), We Can Build You (1972), and the better-known Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968). In The Simulacra, as the title indicates, Dick emphasizes mechanical, electronic, or other simulations of organic life.
As with so many of Dick’s books, Now Wait for Last Year (1966) is an extended meditation on the nature of reality and on the necessary distinctions between the real and the merely simulated. Yet there is always ambivalence embedded within Dick’s treatment of simulacra, as is seen in the sympathetic treatment of the persecuted androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In this novel, nominated for the Nebula Award in 1968, androids originally used in the colony worlds develop increasingly human traits; some escape to Earth and pose as human beings, although they are subject to destruction by bounty hunters. What, the book asks, is the real meaning of humanity?
Dick’s works have been highly praised by such fellow science-fiction writers as Anthony Boucher, Harlan Elli son, Michael Moorcock, and Robert Silverberg. John Brunner, himself a master of parallel universes, has repeatedly called Dick ”the most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world.” According to some scholars his work has influenced novelists such as Jonathan Lethem, Roberto Bolano, and Rodrigo Fresan; philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard, Frederick Jameson, and Slavoj Zizek; and filmmakers such as David Cronenberg, Richard Link-later, and the Wachowski brothers.
Works in Critical Context
For the most part critics have greeted Dick’s work with high regard. Although he is occasionally faulted for an awkward prose style and hackneyed dialogue, he is commended for creating sympathetic protagonists who, while not heroic, attempt to carry on with their lives under difficult circumstances. Dick’s proponents have asserted that his complex narrative structures provide the framework for the equally complex philosophical questions that he asks of his readers. While often impugning the validity of American social and political institutions, Dick expresses confidence in a fundamental human capacity for compassion and tenderness. Follow ing Dick’s death, Norman Spinrad commented that Dick possessed a ”clear and genuine metaphysical insight and loving warmth that made him the great writer that he was.”
High Praise for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Dick received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, a novel of the near future in which popular television talk-show host Jason Taverner wakes up one morning in a world where he is unknown. ”Dick skillfully explores the psychological ramifications of this nightmare,” Gerald Jonas commented in the New York Times Book Review, ”but he is even more interested in the reaction of a ruthlessly efficient and computerized police state to the existence of a man, who, according to the computers, should not exist.” Similar praise came from critic Richard Hammersley of Infinity Plus, ”One of the best of Dick’s plots . . . Dick throws out ideas for the future here, there and everywhere that a lesser writer would hoard for other books. . . . The book remains one of the best novels by someone with a literally amazing imagination, which is rarer in [science fiction] than you might think.”
Dick is generally regarded as one of the finest science fiction writers of his time. Peter Nicholls of the Science Fiction Review considered him ”one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, and one of this century’s most important writers in any field.” Offering more reserved praise, John Clute of the Times Literary Supplement holds that Dick was the ”greatest of science fiction writers—though he’s by no means the best writer of science fiction.” In her evaluation of Dick’s work, Ursula K. Le Guin, writing for the New Republic, stresses that it is easy to misinterpret Dick. A reader ”may put the book down believing that he’s read a clever sci-fi thriller and nothing more,” Le Guin writes. ”The fact that what Dick is entertaining us about is reality and madness, time and death, sin and salvation—this has escaped most readers and critics.”
- Moskowitz, Sam. Seekers of Tomorrow. New York: Ballantine, 1967.
- Taylor, Angus. Philip K. Dick & The Umbrella of Light. Baltimore: T-K Graphics, 1975.
- Warrick, Patricia S. and Martin Harry Greenberg. Robots, Androids, and Mechanical Oddities: The Science
- Fiction of Philip K. Dick. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.
- Aldiss, Brian W. ”Dick’s Maledictory Web: About and Around Martian Time-Slip.” Science-Fiction Studies 2 (March 1975): 42-47.
- Bray, Mary Kay. ”Mandalic Activism: An Approach to Structure, Theme, and Tone in Four Novels by Philip K. Dick.” Extrapolation 21 (Summer 1980): 146-157.
- Green, Terence M. ”Philip K. Dick: A Parallax View.” Science Fiction Review 5 (1976): 12-15.
- Le Guin, Ursula K. ”Science Fiction as Prophesy: Philip K. Dick.” New Republic 175 (October 30, 1976):33-34.
- Lem, Stanislaw. ”Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans.” Science-Fiction Studies 2 (March 1975): 54-67.
- Mullen, R. D. and Darko Suvin, eds. ”The Science Fiction of Philip K. Dick.” Science-Fiction Studies 2 (March 1975): 3-75.
- Suvin, Darko. ”P. K. Dick’s Opus: Artifice as Refuge and World View (Introductory Reflections).” Science-Fiction Studies 2 (March 1975): 8-22.
Free essays are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to order a custom essay, research paper, or term paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price. UniversalEssays is the best choice for those who seek help in essay writing or research paper writing in any field of study.