The Slightly Alternate History of The Man in the High Castle (1963) by Philip K. Dick

thmnnthhgh1982Throughout all my writing (including TMITHC especially) there is a preoccupation with fakes and the fake: fake worlds, fake humans, fake objects, fake time, etc… Again and again I attempt to formulate critieria for what is fake and what is not fake. (21:22, Part Two, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick)

TMITHC is a fascinating adjunct to all this, i.e., to the Gestalt. Fakes are discussed. Alternate universes exist. Fascism is the topic, and a book is reality, which seems to have some connection with Tears. TMITHC seems to be a subtle, even delicate questioning of, what is real? As if only the 2 books in it, Grasshopper and the I Ching, are really the only actual reality. Strange. (19:35, Part Two, The Exegesis…)

Juliana’s bra size is thirty-eight, signaling the 38th hexagram in the I Ching, ‘opposition is a prerequisite for union.’ The ongoing bra references are a metaphor for our own irreality, an effort to lift-and-separate the converging realities, the borders of which we cannot otherwise perceive.” (Archer Maytree, controversial PKD scholar and author of The Grasshopper Lies: The Philip K. Dick of the I Ching, p. 38)

 

This year’s Exegesis with a side of fiction PKD challenge hosted by BookPunks means that I have officially overdosed on Philip K. Dick and it’s a lot worse than just seeing a pink light while an AI satellite channels God or something into my brain. I’ve temporarily postponed The Three Stigmata of Timothy Archer because I simply could not do with more quasi-religious psychedelics, and moved ahead to his politically-charged alt-history The Man in the High Castle. This was a good decision. Continue reading

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982) by Philip K. Dick

TheTransmigrationofTimothyArcherI’m experiencing a moment of short-term book amnesia as I stare at this post, which, I think, comes from reading too much Philip K. Dick, too quickly, at too cursory a level. Especially considering the few big and noteworthy elements of this book, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer should be more memorable than other PKD novels, especially within the VALIS framework: it’s PKD’s last novel before his death, the “official” third of the VALIS trilogy, and it’s atypical for its first-person, female protagonist. The story is a fictional working of the strange life and unnecessary death of PKD’s friend, the Bishop Jim Pike -again, more real-life nonsense that PKD is trying to make sense of by adding more nonsense. (This all reminded to me thanks to the Wikipedia plot summary). Continue reading

The Divine Invasion (VALIS #2) (1981) by Philip K. Dick

TheDivineInvasionAnd yet–his ultimate move had fallen through because Linda Fox … it had been the wrong time. Her menstrual cycle, he thought. Linda Fox has periods and cramps? he asked himself. I don’t believe it. But I guess it’s true. Could it have been a pretext? No, it was not a pretext. It was real. (201)

Herb Asher experiences cognitive dissonance when faced with the biological reality of his Linda Ronstadt fantasy, while readers face similar uncertainty about the entire text. Which is the real timeline? Who is dead and who is alive? What do these weird names signify? Who knew that eyelashes could emote? Continue reading

VALIS (1981) by Philip K. Dick

VALIS1981Beyond the reality bending, beyond the suburban discontent, beyond the fragile male ego expressed as nonchalant sexism, PKD’s preference for the word “vast” most struck me from the very first novel I read by him, especially by the time Jason tells Alys, “But you’re vast,” (170) in Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. It’s not a word I hear every day, and Dick uses it constantly. 

Here’s the thing, though: Flow My Tears was published in February 1974, written before the 2-3-74 events that triggered the whacked out, mystical wanderings of VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth, and The Exegesis. So, “Vast Alys” existed before VALIS.

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Radio Free Albemuth (1976, pub. 1985) by Philip K. Dick

Radio Free Albemuth

I’m of two minds with Radio Free Albemuth (1976/1985), Dick’s posthumously published novel that precipitated his more famous VALIS trilogy. I pity the Phil (sorry) for the publication of this book, which, in his right mind, he never would have wanted the public to read in this condition. It reads like the shell of a story. He’s not the best writer, but he writes clean prose, and I’ve never seen him reliant on so much bad, awkward, abrupt, and pointless dialogue. It reads like something a CIA shill ghostwrote in order to make PKD look like a joke. (Which is actually something that happens in the book.) Continue reading

Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick

Ubik 1Are you bored with writing yet another Philip K. Dick book review? Do you sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between PKD stories? Do you worry that everything that can possibly be said about PKD has been written already, even by PKD himself? Well fret no more! Perk up your PKD blog posts with a quick game that everybody’ll love! With PKD Bingo, you’ll make your point in the half the time, and without all those extra words. Your readers will say, ‘Christ, I used to think your SF blog was only so-so. But now, wow! With PKD Bingo, I feel like I really know Dick!’ And remember, blackout winners will receive a lifetime supply of empty aerosol cans! Continue reading

Shorts about Shorts! Short Story Collections I read in 2015

Normally, I spend my lunch hours trying to not drip salad dressing on my keyboard, but this year, I promised myself I would interrupt my daily toil to close my office door and read during my lunch hour every day. No email, no clients, no spreadsheets.

(Excuse me while I snicker at my silly January 2015 self.)

That maybe happened like three times. Damn you, capitalist work guilt, which doesn’t even make sense because I am a public servant, but I just can’t close my door to read a book because people might need me. I just can’t.

I’ve gotten a little bit better about taking my lunch hour this fall, which requires physically leaving the premises, but the truth is, I’m just not very good at, nor am I motivated to, read short fiction. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it takes a long time for my wacky attention span to focus on a book. Short fiction doesn’t provide for that kind of luxury, and a lunch hour of ducking the dreaded “what are you reading?” question doesn’t help.

Anyway, I got through a small number of short fiction collections this year. Here they are, in the order in which I read them:

Shorts about Shorts! Continue reading

Back to the Hugos: 1975!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend! But time-travel Hugos are much more fun! So let’s go back to the Hugos: 1975!

The member vote for Best Novel:

TheDispossed(1stEdHardcover)firetime4FlowMyTears1themoteingodseye1InvertedWorld

Le Guin wins, but I can’t believe Inverted World placed last. That’s insanity.

My pretend, retro Hugo ballot:

TheDispossed(1stEdHardcover)InvertedWorldFlowMyTears1firetime4themoteingodseye1

I’m having a hard time deciding between the anarchic experiment The Dispossessed and the mind-bendy Inverted World as a first pick. Both are delicious; I love them so much. Maybe they should tie. In comparison, Flow my Tears and Fire Time are pretty forgettable, with misplaced identity and Middle East allegory being the only things I much remember about them. (And for those who haven’t read either, I’ll let you guess which is which.) And people, I know you LOVE the Moties, but it’s lame and stiff and boring, and I don’t think readers-of-color would appreciate the all-too-familiar social hierarchy of Larry and Jerry’s alien society. That ain’t no racial commentary, it’s just lazy characterization. *aggressively shakes finger at Larry and Jerry*

Not that anyone is keeping score or anything, but there are three well-known conservative authors on this list. (And who knows about Dick. We didn’t study the politics of the fifth dimension in my comparative politics classes, but I’m pretty sure that’s where that dude resides.) However, both books by those conservative authors can easily be classified as “message fiction,” with Fire Time advocating land sharing between hostile groups, and The Mote in God’s Eye addressing unsustainable population growth… with a rather severe Malthusian solution, permeated by an ugly anti-immigrant message. And let’s not talk about the “good girls don’t use birth control” message.

Message fiction: a favorite technique of SF writers from all political persuasions! (Not that anyone is saying otherwise. Because that would be dumb and nonsensical.)

Did you know: Manufactured controversy = Free advertising

See you tomorrow for *shock* and *gasp* a year I just might almost agree with… 1985!

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974) by Philip K. Dick

FlowMyTears1Drugs. Alternate realities. Paranoia.

Drugs.

Stuff I expect from Philip K. Dick, even though I’ve never read his work. Stuff that deterred me from reading Philip K. Dick, because Naked Lunch and Sartre was enough paranoia for me. Stuff that’s old now, moving on, roll my eyes, that’s so old-fashioned.

And yet, the man managed to shock my worn sensibilities in this 1974 tale about the ultimate I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

One thing about Ruth Rae: she was smart enough not to let her skin become too tanned. Nothing aged a woman’s skin faster than tanning, and few women seemed to know it… (96)

“You look every bit as beautiful—“ he began, but she cut him off brusquely.
“I’m old.” She rasped. “I’m thirty-nine” (98)
Continue reading