Philip K. Dick, “Introduction”

As my readers know, this blog is my attempt to read through the American tradition, searching for left-libertarian themes and highlighting my home country’s radical traditions.  People in the U.S. do not need to look far (or even to self-proclaimed anarchists) to find support for radical alternative visions.  My method has been to read systemically through the Library of America, which to date has published around 250 volumes.  Included in this series is three volumes of Philip K. Dick, containing thirteen of his novels.

The LOA boxed set.

The LOA boxed set.

I intend to go a little farther and write one post on each of his novels that I can get a hold of.  I want to focus on the following two questions.  What was Dick’s attitude toward technology, post-scarcity, transhumanism and posthumanism?  In what ways was Dick a libertarian writer?

The cliche about PKD is that he was interested in the nature of humanity and the nature of reality.  I suspect this is too limiting.  He was also profoundly interested in the nature of power and human freedom, so while not bracketing the commonplace PKD questions entirely, I do want to focus on his analysis of power.

I will put in the internal links when I complete the posts.  My plan is to read and comment on the following novels.  This series should take me through April.  Due to the necessity of using my local lending library’s inter-library loan for many of his earlier novels, I will not do these in order.

The Cosmic Puppets (1957)
Solar Lottery (1955)
The World Jones Made (1956)
Eye in the Sky (1957)
Time Out of Joint (1959)
Confessions of a Crap Artist (1959)
Dr. Futurity (1960)
The Man in High Castle (1962)
We Can Build You (1962/1972)
Martian Time-Slip (1964)
Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb (1965)
The Game-Players of Titan (1963)
The Simulacra (1964)
The Crack in Space (1966)
Now Wait for Last Year (1966)
Clans of the Alphane Moon (1964)
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)
The Zap Gun (1967)
The Penultimate Truth (1964)
The Ganymede Takeover (1967)
Counter-Clock World (1967)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Ubik (1969)
A Maze of Death (1970)
Deus Irae (1976)
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974)
A Scanner Darkly (1977)
VALIS (1981)
The Divine Invasion (1981)
Lies, Inc. (1966/1984)

In case you have been living in a cave (Not that I blame any primitivists out there), here is a photo of PKD.

In case you have been living in a cave (Not that I blame any primitivists out there), here is a photo of PKD.

3 responses to “Philip K. Dick, “Introduction”

  1. Pingback: Philip K. Dick, “We Can Build You” (1962): We Are All Mentally Ill | Neither Kings nor Americans

  2. Pingback: One Year Anniversary | Neither Kings nor Americans

  3. It’s difficult to know exactly what he really wanted to write about.He was certainly interested in metaphysics,ontology and psychology,not to just create a surreal and nightmarish playground,but rather so the everyday concerns of politics and sociology within his literary fiction,can be examined and revealed to be something very strange and disturbing.

    Not that he hadn’t dabbled in forbidden fruits outside of the “higher” realm of general literature.From the age of thirteen,he read the “pulp” sf magazines,that left an indelible impression on his imaginative intellect.He even started writing sf stories for his personal pleasure at the same time,that reveals an obvious interest in the then genre.

    Of course this also included writers outside of those who published only in the magazines,such as Olaf Stapleton,whose literary stuff never carried the “stain” of science fiction,and like him rose to the “level” of speculative fiction.There never was a clear indication that he only wanted to be just an author within science fiction confines then.

    This is proven by,but also in sharp contrast to,the failed mainstream career he tried to carve out for himself in the 1950s.It’s perhaps strange though,that the novel he wrote and published during this time,for the sf market,”Time Out of Joint”,was rejected by Ace,who regularly printed books of the genre! Instead,it was published by a “respectable” hardcover publishing house,without the sf label.It apparently combined successfully the concerns of sf and general literature.

    It seems then that this is where he was most comfortable and could have made the most successful and ruminative writing career.Not that the unpublished ones weren’t great books about then Californian life,but were perhaps less creative and revealing of what lay behind the plastic facade of American society.

    There appears no single direction he had in mind for his writing to take then,but perhaps wanted preferred a wide sweep of the literary panorama.Perhaps this is why his “what is reality” and “what is human” themes predominate in his stuff,rather than necessarily being the hard focus of his literary concerns,but instead provide bread to sustain the truth behind his more “earthly” themes.

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