Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)

Tuesday March 28th 2006, 10:55 am

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)

It’s also wrong to claim, as so many of his critics have, that Dick was limited by the conventions of science fiction-which are contemptuously dismissed by Dick’s admirer, Polish novelist Stanislaw Lem as a “threadbare lot of telepaths, cosmic wars, parallel worlds, and time travel.” Interested, like Burroughs and Ballard, in exploding taken-for-granted notions-in his case, these include false oppositions like “true/false,” “real/illusion,” and “human/inhuman”-Dick can only have found sf’s avant-garde-like disregard for the realistic, referential constraints of New Yorker-style writing liberating. (He actually embraced the “trash” elements of the genre, insisting to Lem that “one must work with the trash, pit it against itself… If God manifested Himself to us here He would do so in the form of a spraycan advertised on TV.”) Despite his desire for mainstream recognition, Dick felt that sf was the perfect genre for his kind of writing, because its purpose is to “cut the reader loose from the actual world that he inhabits”… and, because sf fans already “have difficulty adjusting to the world,” they aren’t “hamstrung by middle-class prejudices and will listen to genuinely new ideas.”

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