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[ Philip K. Dick, 1928 - 1982 ]

"Reality is that which when you stop believing in it... doesn't go away."

Philip K. Dick, VALIS

The "Truth" About Philip K. Dick

  • A schizophrenic man named Philip K. Dick turned his hallucinations about the universe into a writing career.

  • A schizophrenic universe turned its hallucinations into a man named Philip K. Dick.

  • A hallucinogen wanted a writing career and turned Philip K. Dick into a universe.

  • A hallucination named Philip K. Dick turned his writing career into the universe.

  • A dick turned its schizophrenic hallucinations into a man named Philip K. Universe.

The truth is none of those things.

The truth is all of those things.

The truth is some of those things.

Biographical Notes For Philip K. Dick

  Philip Kendred Dick and Jane Kendred Dick were born in Chicago on December 16th, 1928. Dick's fraternal twin, Jane, died 41 days later. At age 1 his family moved to Berkeley, California. His parents divorced when Philip was five and his father moved to Reno, Nevada. At age six, 1934 he and his mother moved to Washington, DC. By age 7, he was placed into a "special school", in part because he refused to eat. It was during this time that a psychiatrist diagnosed him as a potential schizophrenic, a diagnosis that would haunt him for the rest of his life. In 1939, he and his mother family moved back to Berkeley. It was here that he first encountered the Oz series of L. Frank Baum, which he cited as highly influential. He briefly attended the University of California at Berkeley, but dropped out before completing any classes. He worked variously as an advertising copywriter, a DJ on a classical music radio station (KSMO, Berkeley), and in a record store.

  He sold his first story at age 22, in 1951. In June of 1953, he had 7 stories being published simultaneously in a variety of science fiction magazines, including Analog, Galaxy and F+SF. His first novel, The Solar Lottery, was published in 1954.

  By 1968, the year that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was published, he had written 28 books. It is said that it was in this period that he began using methamphetamines in order to write enough to support himself and his family. He also began using LSD, which he wrote about, in veiled form in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and wrote about it openly in essays that are reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick. Methamphetamine use would plague Philip K. Dick for the remainder of his life, and probably was a leading factor in his death.

  There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that he did not sleep for a period of three years, and suffered from "cocaine psychosis" on at least one occasion. However, by the end of his life, he had published over 50 novels and short story collections, and was even able to see a rough cut of Blade Runner, the Ridley Scott film based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which was released shortly after his death.

  However, Philip K. Dick's legacy has endured:

VALIS Opera:

  This science fiction opera, composed by Tod Machover in 1987 for the 10th anniversary of the Pompidou Center in Paris, was the first time that Hyperinstruments were used. Based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, the story follows the life of Dick's alter-ego, Horselover Fat, who has a strange VALIS "pink light" experience, which might be a real spiritual revelation, but looks an awful lot like a technological experiment gone awry or maybe even a nervous breakdown. The entire "orchestra" for VALIS was made up of two instruments, hyperkeyboard and hyperpercussion. A CD recording of the work is available. Machover, a professor at the MIT media lab has a segment of the opera, with both video collage and music:

It requires Quicktime, and 56 KbPS or better net connection.

  In 1985, the Mabou Mines Theater performed a stage play based on Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said in Boston and New York.

  Radio Free Albemuth, adapted by Lisa Morton, was produced at Theatre of N.O.T.E. in Los Angeles in 1991.

  A Philip K. Dick Society has existed and flourished for more than 15 years.

The designer Philippe Starck has claimed that Philip K. Dick is an influence on his designs. He has often named pieces of furniture after characters from Philip K. Dick's writings. Below is "Francesca Spanish", a chair designed by Starck, named after a character from the novel Ubik.


'Francesca Spanish', a chair designed by Philippe Starck, named after a character in Philip K. Dick's Ubik

  His novels have been required reading for modern literature courses.

  In 1997, Virgin Interactive Entertainment released a video game for Blade Runner, using the voices of many of the original cast 15 years after the film's theatrical release, a testament to its enduring legacy.

  Philip K. Dick went through a series of unsuccessful marriages throughout his life. All in all, he was married five times and had three children

(2 daughters, 1 son). The influence of these marriages can be seen in a great deal of his writing. In fact, it was under such circumstances, that The Man In the High Castle was written.

  "My marriage of eight years broke up; I moved out into the country, met an artistically inclined woman who had just lost her husband. We met in October [1958] and the next April we had gotten married in Ensenada, Mexico. I had her and three girls to take care of, and for two years I was unable to produce anything except hack work. At last I gave up and went to work for my wife, in her jewelry business. I was miserable.... With Anne I could not fulfill myself because her own creative drive was so strong that she often declared that my creative work "got in her way." Even in the jewelry making I merely polished pieces she designed. My sense of self-worth began to flag, so I hitched myself to the priest of our times, the psychologist-psychiatrist, and asked his advice. "Go home," he said, "and forget the jewelry business... Go home... and simply write a good book, a book you believe in. You can stop fixing breakfast for the kids and assisting you wife in her welding. Write a book." I did so, without preamble; I simply sat down and wrote. And what I wrote was The Man In the High Castle."

(excerpt quoted from The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick [pp. 15-16])

  Those familiar with the plot of The Man In the High Castle will recognize Dick's real life circumstances, i.e., the jewelry making, as inspiration for one of the central themes of the novel. In 1963, Philip K. Dick received the Hugo Award for The Man In the High Castle.

  On March 22, 1974, the day after the vernal equinox, Philip K. Dick had a transcendental mystical experience, which he described as "an invasion of my mind by a transcendentally rational mind." This experience caused Philip K. Dick to begin recording his thoughts and experiences into a journal, which he referred to as the Exegesis. The Exegesis contained a phenomenal amount of Gnostic religious thought and philosophy. The majority of his experiences and philosophies formed during this period can be found in the VALIS trilogy", which includes VALIS, The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. An alternate accounting of the events of Philip K. Dick's VALIS encounter can be found in more accessible form in the novel Radio Free Albemuth, which was discovered among Dick's notes after his death.

  Philip K. Dick was an incredibly imaginative writer, with the ability to twist every day circumstances around to such a degree that even the most mundane of situations could become outrageous and alien. He often felt that it was his role, as an author to write stories that would "wake up" his readers to the ills and perils of society. Nearly every story he ever wrote probed the nature of truth and reality, repeatedly asking "What is actually real?" in one form or another.

  Philip K. Dick died of heart failure following a stroke on March 2nd, 1982 in Santa Ana, California.


(arranged chronologically, according to year of publication)

Collections and Posthumous Releases:

Biographies & Reference

Audio Editions:


  • Blade Runner [1982]

    (novel: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep)

    (Dir. Ridley Scott)

    [ Internet Movie Database Link Cast and Credits info.

  • The Trouble With Dick [1987] (pseudo-biographical story of a science fiction writer named "Dick Kendred". If you have any doubt that the character is intended to be Philip K. Dick, note that the production company's name was " Frolix".)

    [ IMDb Link Cast and Credits info.

  • Total Recall [1990] (Dir. Paul Verhoeven)

    (short story: "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale")

    [ IMDb Link Cast and Credits info.

  • Confessions d'un Barjo (french) [1992] (Dir. Jerome Boivin)

    (novel: The Confessions of a Crap-Artist)

    [ IMDb Link Cast and Credits info.

  • Screamers [1995]

    (short story: "Second Variety") (Dir. Christian Duguay)

    IMDb Link, Cast and Credits info.

  • The Nervous Breakdown of Philip K. Dick [1996] (Dir. Judy Bee) biographical short film

    [ link to 5 minute trailer (requires Real Player)

  • The Truman Show [1998]

    (novel: Time Out of Joint) (Dir. Peter Weir)

    [ IMDb link Cast and Credits info.

      Wait a second, you're saying to yourself... The Truman Show doesn't have Philip K. Dick in the credits... That's right. The novel Time Out of Joint is about a man that has had an entire idyllic town built up around him in order to use his unique ability to predict where an alien attack will strike. He eventually begins to notice some peculiarities in his world, and entire fake reality construct crumbles away, whereas The Truman Show is about a man who has spent his entire life in an idyllic town, which in actuality is a movie set. Though never realizing this, he eventually begins to notice some peculiarities in his world, and eventually his entire fake reality construct crumbles away. Similar? You be the judge, but if I were an heir to the Philip K. Dick estate, I'd have some serious legal action going on about it...

  • A Scanner Darkly [ was listed as 'currently in production', 1998 - but now seems to dropped off the map ] (novel: A Scanner Darkly) (Dir. Emma-Kate Croghan) Since this director has had other projects since 1998, I think its safe to say that this project has been shelved for the mean time...

  • The Gospel According To Philip K. Dick [2000] [DVD] [VHS]: Documentary about Philip K. Dick

  • The Minority Report [2002] (short story: "The Minority Report") directed by Steve Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise. In post-production, with a possible summer 2002 release... [ official site:, trailer requires quicktime...]

  • The King of the Elves [in development] (short story: "The King of the Elves"). Optioned by Disney & Jim Henson Pictures.

Magazine Articles and Interviews:

Tangential Works:

Net Links

  I find myself in the strangely Dickian situation, five years later, of actually disagreeing with several of the points I originally presented in this essay. Perhaps one day I will take the example from A Scanner Darkly, and write a treatise attacking the assertions that I made in the original one.


"PKD Society Newsletter" is no longer publishing, but ask for a catalog. Back issues & other items should still be available. Their new address is: PKDS Box 231155 Encinitas, CA 92023

Paul Williams' website says it is still available from him.

 Author: Patrick Deese

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