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Selected Literary And Philosophical Writings

Philip K. Dick authored more than fifty volumes of novels and short stories. When he was not writing stories and living in near-poverty, he wrote essays on the very same things his books set out to question: What is reality? What is it to be human? What is science fiction? The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, published in 1995 and edited by Lawrence Sutin reveals the premature and revolutionary ideas Dick held behind the novels.

Beginning with an introduction by the editor that goes somewhat into Dick's personal life (Sutin also wrote a definitive biography on Dick), this volume spans from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. Many of Dick's ideas were ahead of their time, so to speak. In the autobiographical writings, Dick paints a portrait of what it is like to be a published novelist, many times over, yet still living below the poverty line.

The philosophical writings are perhaps the most engaging of their kind. Dick delineates the various multiple reality theories of his time, describing how he finds himself believing that every novel he writes is just a twisted version of a memory from another plane. Echoes of the Man in the High Castle in reverb.

The proposed chapters for a sequel to the Man in the High Castle clarify the ending of the original novel, which is both good and bad. There is probably a reason he never finished this book, but as a historical artifact it is extremly interesting.

The collection ends with excerpts from the Exegesis, also known as the 2-3-74 experience--never before in print. These are literally journal entries exploring the pivotal moment in Dick's life where something extraordinary entered his head. As the introduction says: "Was "2-3-74" a case of genuine mystical experiences, or a contact with "higher" (or simply "other") forms of intelligence, or a conscious manipulation of his mind by unknown persons, or a purely private outbreak of psychotic symptoms? Dick considered each of thes epossibilities, as well as others too numerous to summarize here, in his eight-thousand-page Exegesis (subtitled by Dick Apologia pro Mea Vita, to emphasize its central importance." (xix)

I personally found the essays "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others," and "How To Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" particularly engaging. His approach is endearing and with humor.

I would recommend this volume to anyone interested in knowing more about Dick.

Part One: Autobiographical Writings
  1. Two Fragments from the Mainstream Novel Gather Yourselves Together (1949)
  2. "Introducing the Author" (1953)
  3. "Biographical Material on Philip K. Dick" (1968)
  4. "Self Portrait" (1968)
  5. "Notes Made Late at Night by a Weary SF Writer" (1968,1972)
  6. "Biographical Material on Philip K. Dick" (1972)
  7. "Biographical Material on Philip K. Dick" (1973)
  8. "Memories Found in a Bill from a Small Animal Vet" (1976)
  9. "The Short, Happy Life of a Science Fiction Writer" (1976)
  10. "Strange Memories of Death" (1979, 1984)
  11. "Philip K. Dick on Philosophy: A Brief Interview," Conducted by Frank C. Bertrand (1980, 1988)
Part Two: Writings on Science Fiction and Related Ideas
  1. "Pessimism in Science Fiction" (1955)
  2. "Will the Atomic Bomb Ever Be Perfected, and If So, What Becomes of Robert Heinlein?" (1966)
  3. "The Double: Bill Symposium": Replies to "A Questionnaire for Professional SF Writers and Editors" (1969)
  4. "That Moon Plaque" (1969)
  5. "Who Is an SF Writer?" (1974)
  6. "Michelson-Morley Experiment Reappraised" (1979)
  7. "Introduction" to Dr. Bloodmoney (1979, 1985)
  8. "Introduction" to The Golden Man (1980)
  9. "Book Review" of The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction (1980)
  10. "My Definition of Science Fiction" (1981)
  11. "Prediction" by Philip K. Dick Included in The Book of Predictions (1981)
  12. "Universe Makers... and Breakers" (1981)
  13. "Headnote" for "Beyond Lies the Wub" (1981)
Part Three: Works Related to The Man in the High Castle and its Proposed Sequel
  1. "Naziism and The High Castle" (1964)
  2. "Biographical Material on Hawthorne Abendsen" (1974)
  3. The Two Completed Chapters of a Proposed Sequel to The Man in the High Castle (1964)
Part Four: Plot Proposals and Outlines
  1. "Joe Protagoras Is Alive and Living on Earth" (1967)
  2. "Plot Idea for Mission: Impossible" (1967)
  3. "TV Series Idea" (1967)
  4. "Notes on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (1968)
Part Five: Essays and Speeches
  1. "Drugs, Hallucination, and the Quest for Reality" (1964)
  2. "Schizophrenia & The Book of Changes" (1965)
  3. "The Android and the Human" (1972)
  4. "Man, Android, and Machine" (1976)
  5. "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others" (1977)
  6. "How To Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (1978, 1985)
  7. "Cosmogony and Cosmology" (1978)
  8. "The Tagore Letter" (1981)
Part Six: Selections from the Exegesis
  1. From the Exegesis (c. 1975-90)

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