I’ve read a lot of science fiction and like any reader, I have a lot of strong opinions on what’s good. Lists on the internet continue to rile me up; particularly, lists that exclude Philip K. Dick from ‘must-read’ or ‘most influential’ Science Fiction. Any list of the best Science Fiction authors without PKD is like a list of the best beverages without coffee. There are two examples of such lists here, and here.
I’m curious why Philip K. Dick doesn’t get the consistent love other Sci-fi greats receive. Even with two popular contemporary TV shows based on his writing, it seems many people don’t know about PKD or what an enormous impact he had on the science fiction genre.
PKD published forty-four novels. Sure, not all of them are classics, but many of them are. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became Blade Runner. The Man in the High Castle was adapted for Amazon TV. A Scanner Darkly is like a Sci-fi variant of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and was adapted into an excellent movie starring Keanu Reeves.
Philip K. Dick’s writing is distinct from the rest of early twentieth century Science Fiction. Lots of Science Fiction in his lifetime basically followed the adventures and exploits of space cowboys. Laser pistols, spaceship battles, and lunar colonies. PKD novels include many of these things, but they aren’t an emphasis. The emphasis in most of PKD’s work lands on issues of identity.
PKD asks us to ponder humanity’s role in a world of advanced technology, pushing us to examine how we form our identities. While many writers were telling romantic stories in space, PKD told sociological human stories in the context of the future. He tackled existential issues of time, personality, mental illness, and perspective.
That’s not to say his books were literary arcana. No, in fact, he was regarded as a pulp writer for most of his life. His library of classics only started to draw attention after his death.
PKD is easily my favourite Science Fiction author and his stories continue to impress me. Here’s a few to get you started:
Maze of Death
The Third Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
Now Wait For Last Year
I wanted to give some love to one of my favourite writers with today’s post.
Here’s a funny little theory I have for why Philip K. Dick doesn’t get the love he deserves from the Science Fiction community. It’s mostly a joke. Many authors are referenced by their last name. You’re not reading Stephen, you’re reading King. You’re not reading Earnest, you’re reading Hemingway. You’re not reading William, you’re reading Faulkner. I think no one wanted to admit they were reading Dick.