Thursday, September 11, 2008

Horselover Fats

Philip K. Dick is another of my favorite authors. I sometimes refer to him as "the other master." But man, the dude had problems. A brief article written by his fourth fifth wife (yikes!) Tessa gives a glimpse:
Hints of these philosophical ideas can be found throughout Phil's writing, even in works from before he experienced the visions. He always suspected that we have made some kind of Faustian pact, that we agreed to live, suffer and die in this illusory world. Thus, when a character tries to purchase a cola from a vending machine, he might find himself in an empty room holding a piece of paper on which the words “vending machine” are printed. The visitors who came to Phil showed him alternate histories stacked like dominoes above our time line, in what he called "orthogonal time"—a time and space perpendicular to our own, where we cannot perceive them any more than the point in Flatland can see the sphere who comes to visit him. He sees only the circle that appears in his flat world when the sphere passes through.

Those visitors seemed to be moving chunks of alternate history and dropping them into our time line, trying to achieve a result that would satisfy their goals. They sometimes leave behind artifacts, which might explain why many ancient societies which we have labeled "primitive" left evidence of advanced technology, including electric light bulbs and flying machines. It would also explain records of ancient nuclear war, such as we find in the Vedas.

The time travelers, or time meddlers, sometimes enter our reality to observe us, and they appeared quite shocked whenever they realized that Phil could see them. They did occasionally communicate with him. They claimed to come from a time that is neither the past nor the future, but outside of our time. Phil most often thought that they were humans, not aliens, but genetically altered in some way. He felt that they wanted to help us avoid some global disaster that happened in the 1970s and which negatively affected their world.
Much of the stuff Dick wrote about were explorations of his theories or beliefs or hunches, call them what you will. Was he a genius or insane, or both? Or is there any difference? Or does it even matter?

The Flatland metaphor is also suitable for describing how limited and stilted a view Hollywood has of his works through the movies that have been made: a flat and featureless viewpoint that misses all the depth and nuance that makes his stories so gripping and sometimes downright disturbing.


  1. I think Philip K. Dick was both insane and genius. I love his stories, but I always feel a little disturbed or unsettled after reading them.

    And the movie Blade Runner -- though very, very loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- has to be the best attempt at an adaptation of one of Dick's works.

  2. He also used to experiment with LSD.
    Back in the sixties this was not uncommon though...

  3. actually, Phil used LSD exactly two times, and both times his friend & fellow author Ray Nelson gave it to him
    if he was insane, it was only because this world is insane -- just read any newspaper, and you'll agree
    ~~ Tessa Dick

  4. Tessa: I won't disagree with you there. Thank you for commenting.