RE: RARA-AVIS: Philip K. Dick's last years

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 20 Feb 2004

Todd wrote:

"Thanks to CRAWDADDY and later ROLLING STONE writer/editor Paul Williams being a serious fan of his work, and getting some PDK coverage (and at least one short story by Dick) into ROLLING STONE, . . ."

Paul Williams also published Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick. The bulk of the book is transcriptions of a series of conversations between Williams and Dick in late 1974. Dick goes into great detail about the two defining moments of that period of his life, the "pink light" and the "break-in," when what Dick believed to be government agents broke into his house and trashed his files. The conversation chapters alternate with chapters in which Williams provides biography and context. For instance, Williams became convinced that Dick broke into his own house in some sort of psychotic break, to provide his extreme paranoia with a concrete basis.

The book also provides a chronology of his life and a bibliogaphy of his novels, in order of composition.

". . . Dick's audience started to widen considerably in the '70s, and, now, of course, he's one of the best-known writers of SF."

The cover story of the December 2003 issue of Wired was, "How Sci-Fi Legend Philip K. Dick Conquered the Movie World (20 Years After His Death)." Won't really tell a Dick fan anything new, but it's an interesting story about how Dick went from relative obscurity to his current place. Perhaps more interesting is Erik Davis's very brief sidebar, "The Metaphysics of Philip K Dick," Dick's "philosophy in capsule form." It features a paragraph each on: False Realities, Human Vs. Machine, Entropy, The Nature of God, and Social Control.

"Dunno if I'd recommend A SCANNER DARKLY or FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMEN SAID (among his later novels) to most on this list or not. What do you say, Bill? THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE and THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, his most famous novels of the '60s, are definitely good starts."

However, if you're interested in the later years under discussion, Valis is the book to read, a largely autobiographic novel about the aftermath of the episode with the "pink light" and trying to figure out where it came from. And the narrator's two friends are based on Dick's friends KW Jeter and Tim Powers.


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