Philip K Dick 20th Century Visionary, Mystic, Prophet
by Jim Flynn on Jun 19, 2015
“Oh my God, what if …?
Philip K Dick, the inspiration behind the film Blade Runner, wanted to arouse that emotion in his readers. That is why readers liked his science fiction writing. That is why he liked writing science fiction. Born in 1928 Chicago, he spent most of his life in California. His he began his writing career while working at a bookstore on the hill in Berkeley where he registered to attend the University of California but never attended classes after the first year.
He started writing science fiction short stories for a Sci-Fii magazines. He felt disappointment knowing that once published his stories and ideas would disappear, just vanish, never to be heard from again. He often took characters and scenes from his previously published stories and used them in new publications. His growing cult followers found his stories entertaining, exciting and fun. His Science Fiction fan base grew.
His agent advised the financially struggling Dick about the profitability of novel writing. He took his friends advice and started writing novels completing forty-four novels before his untimely death.
His readers found entertainment in the ideas that were considered far-fetched at best. His writings were popular in the Bay Area.
- He was the first to popularize the word android with his Sci-Fi bestseller “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.
- He introduced the concept of Global Positioning Systems, Microchips, Magnetic Resonance Imaging among others.
- He coined the word Homepage in one of his works, Ubik, describing a personalized newspaper tailored to the readers interest, similar to what Yahoo or Bing provides for their readers. Dick’s book Ubik was chosen by Time Magazine in 2005 and one of the best 100 novels of the 20th Century.
His stories were made interesting by the themes he presented whether philosophical, cultural, societal, or scientific. Unfamiliar readers may recognize films based on his stories. Eleven so far and there is a growing list of Animations, Graphic Novels and similar publications connected to Dick.
- What does it mean to be human (Electric Sheep-Blade Runner – John Deckard(Harrison Ford), Screamers "Second Variety", Impostor)?
- What impact does seeing or predicting the future have (Minority Report, Paycheck, Next)?
- Who are you if your memory has been wiped Total Recall (We Can Remember It for You Wholesale), Paycheck(Ben Aflick)?
- What influence do drugs have on identity (A Scanner Darkly, rotoscoping)
A few films, like Imposter, with Madelilne Stowe and Gary Sinise aren’t listed. I didn’t read that book. The film sucked. I mean sucked. Yikes! Of course, all the films are based loosely on Dick’s works and none of them meet the intellectually entertaining, interesting and funny level of Phillip K Dick. Funny isn’t the exact word I wanted to use but it is better than, “It’s a trip man.”
His stories were fun because of the literary device he used of forming a dichotomy of opposing forces related to the themes.
- Paycheck - Appreciation & Recognition vs High Pay
- Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report – Free Will Vs Predestination
A sub plot not included in Blade Runner, but found in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, may have been tongue in cheek commentary from Dick. He was married five times with three children by three wives.
In the novel, the setting was Northern California, years after a nuclear conflagration. Oregon was a radioactive wasteland. People cherished life, biological life with living beings. The protagonist, John Deckard, a Blade Runner, owned living sheep before the devastation. He often thought and dreamed about them. During the age they were living in, any real biological animal was cherished. His wife, who also cherished biological life, had programmed depression. Having a real-live domesticated animal was a status symbol. Her husband, Deckard, the Blade Runner, felt bad because all he owned was a malfunctioning Black Faced android ewe. He received a bonus for retiring four Androids. He used the money to purchase a live goat. A female Android, who had a sexual encounter with Deckard and other Blade Runners killed the goat, in a fit of rage, by pushing it off the roof. The Blade Runner was overwhelmed. Later, while visiting the radioactive devastation of Oregon to spend time meditating, he found a live toad. He proudly bought it home. His wife discovered that the toad was synthetic. Like Job on the dung heap, John Deckhard shrugs, glad to know the truth. This was not a main plot of the story. When people discuss the book, they often do not remember that part of the story. Thinking about the sub plot may help readers understand the complex thought process of Phillip K Dick and why people have learned to like his work so much.
Alternate realities, paranoia, unmanageable stress of all kinds of “Oh my God, what if…?” can be found in Dick’s work.
An event happened on February 3, 1974. Some say it was late life onset schizophrenia; PKD and others believe it was a spiritual awakening. From that point on, PKD’s Sci-Fi was put aside and his writing took a more spiritual and philosophical direction.
Amazon Studio’s The Man in The High Castle, based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, has recently been picked up for a full season on BBC. Some filming is being done in Vancouver, BC; Seattle, Monroe and Roslyn, Washington.
However, director Michel Gondry after working on a different Phillip K Dick project for over two years announced last May that he dropped the planned adaptation of the author's acclaimed 1969 novel Ubik, saying, “It doesn't have the dramatic structure that would make it a good film.”
Like many other artists, PKD lived in poverty for most of his life. He was recognized only by a small following. Most of his readers found out about Dick long after his death. He died a few days after the film Blade Runner was released. Since then there has been a dramatic growth in his popularity. Even though he never graduated UC, he is regarded as an intellectual giant and prophet of the modern age.
“Oh my God, what if …? Philip K Dick, the inspiration behind the film Blade Runner, wanted to arouse that emotion in his readers. That is why readers liked his science fiction writing. That is why he liked writing science fiction. He was the first to popularize the word android with his Sci-Fi bestseller “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” from which Blade Runner was developed.