Saturday, May 28, 2005

Reading Philip K. Dick

I have just finished reading "The Minority Report", a collection of some of the early science-fiction short stories of Philip K. Dick, including the title story that inspired the Spielberg movie of the same name. The stories are a must-read for PKD fans, saturated by the familiar theme of muddled protagonists seeking enlightenment in a dystopian future of weak-kneed individuals distracted by trivial pursuits, all under the watchful eye of Big Brother. For newbies, however, I would recommend starting with one of the more "refined" novels of PKD such as "The Man in the High Castle", "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" or "Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said".

PKD, although relatively obscure in his living days, has gained immensely in stature in recent years as a "fictionalizing philosopher" in the Kafka mould, obsessing over the nature of reality through his SF writings. The story of his life, from his childhood trauma to vertigo to later experiments with drugs and the revelatory experiences that formed the basis of his later works, makes for fascinating reading. Two good starting points for more information about Dick and his work are Richard Corliss's long article in Time magazine and the Philip K. Dick web site.

While there have been many famous film adaptations of PKD's work, from Blade Runner to Total Recall to Minority Report, none of them really captures the spirit of his writing and philosophy. I have very high hopes for the upcoming adaptation of "A Scanner Darkly" to be directed by Richard Linklater. In fact, Linklater's wonderfully strange Waking Life is probably the most faithful representation of PKD's vision on screen, despite the fact that the story is not based on any of PKD's writings! (Although there is an extended segment that references "Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said".)

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