Dick pic

Philip K. Dick

Life and career details ▽ Life and career details △

Born
Chicago, United States, 1928

Died
Santa Ana, California, United States, 1982

Publications
Novels, stories

Genres
Science fiction, literary

Language of writing
English

Place of writing
United States

On greatest lists ▽ On greatest lists △
Greatest Literature

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Greatest Novels

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1964)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Science Fiction

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1964)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Ubik (1969)

VALIS (1981)

Philip K. Dick

THE AUTHOR | THE WORKS | VIEWS AND QUOTES

On books, writers and writing

1968

I enjoyed writing all of [my books]. But I think that if I could only choose a few, which, for example, might escape World War Three, I would choose, first, Eye in the Sky. Then The Man in the High Castle. Martian Time-Slip (published by Ballantine). Dr. Bloodmoney (a recent Ace novel). Then The Zap Gun and The Penultimate Truth, both of which I wrote at the same time. And finally another Ace book, The Simulacra.

But this list leaves out the most vital of them all: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. I am afraid of that book; it deals with absolute evil, and I wrote it during a great crisis in my religious beliefs. I decided to write a novel dealing with absolute evil as personified in the form of a "human." When the galleys came from Doubleday I couldn't correct them because I could not bear to read the text, and this is still true.

Two other books should perhaps be on this list, both very new Doubleday novels: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and another as yet untitled [Ubik]. Do Androids has sold very well and has been eyed intently by a film company who has in fact purchased an option on it. My wife thinks it's a good book. I like it for one thing: It deals with a society in which animals are adored and rare, and a man who owns a real sheep is Somebody ... and feels for that sheep a vast bond of love and empathy. Willis, my tomcat, strides silently over the pages of that book, being important as he is, with his long golden twitching tail. Make them understand, he says to me, that animals are really that important right now. He says this, and then eats up all the food we had been warming for our baby. Some cats are far too pushy. The next thing he'll want to do is write SF novels. I hope he does. None of them will sell.

"Self Portrait", essay

1974

I started reading SF when I was about twelve and I read all I could, so any author who was writing about that time, I read. But there’s no doubt who got me off originally and that was A.E. van Vogt. There was in van Vogt’s writing a mysterious quality, and this was especially true in The World of Null A. All the parts of that book did not add up; all the ingredients did not make a coherency. Now some people are put off by that. They think that’s sloppy and wrong, but the thing that fascinated me so much was that this resembled reality more than anybody else’s writing inside or outside science fiction....

Tom Disch’s Camp Concentration. When I finished that, I was different, and I think this is what I would define as a mature work: we are made mature by it. I mean, you read [John Steinbeck's] Of Mice and Men, and you are never the same again. Not whether it educates in the sense that it gives you information, not that it is serious in that it is somber; it can be very funny. It’s like what Aristotle said about tragedy purging you. Camp Concentration relieved me of the burden of believing that I had to be smart all the time. All art of this kind is as if the author has given you permission to lay down a burden that you had somehow inherited. I won’t even speak of it any further. Science fiction definitely does that. Can and does.

Interview with Vertex magazine

1977

The bssic premise dominating my stories is that if I ever met an extraterrestrial intelligence (more commonly called a "creature from outer space") I would find I had more to say to it than to my next-door neighbor....

The advantage of the story over the novel is that in the story you catch the protagonist at the climax of his life, but in the novel you've got to follow him from the day he was born to the day he dies (or nearly so). Open any novel at random and usually what is happening is either dull or unimportant. The only way to redeem this is through style. It is not what happened but how it is told. Pretty soon the professional novelist acquires the skill of describing everything with style, and content vanishes. In a story, though, you can't get away with this. Something important has to happen. I think this is why gifted professional fiction writers wind up writing novels. Once their style is perfected, they have it made. Virginia Woolf, for instance, wound up writing about nothing at all.

"Afterthought by the Author", The Best of Philip K. Dick

1980

Several years ago, when I was ill, [Robert A.] Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him—one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don't agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.

Introduction to The Golden Man

THE AUTHOR | THE WORKS | VIEWS AND QUOTES