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Philip K. Dick

1928 - 1982

American writer

Philip K. Dick is considered to be one of the most important figures in 20th-century American science fiction. He was brilliantly inventive, gaining access to imaginative realms which no other writer of science fiction had reached.

Martian Time-Slip

Dick's paranoia about godlike manipulations of consensual reality marks a theme he would obsessively repeat, just as the confusion of humans and mechanical simulacra might be considered one particular variant of the major theme that runs right through his work: the juxtaposition of two "levels of reality"â€"one "objectively" determined, the other a world of appearances imposed upon characters.

In the Hugo award-winning The Man in the High Castle (1962), Dick's best-known single book, the characters live in an alternate world in which the Allies lost WW II. After this came three further books which together constitute his finest achievement: Martian Time-Slip (1964), Dr Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb (1965), and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965).

In his next major novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), filmed in 1982 as Blade Runner, android animals are marketed to help expiate the guilt people experience because real ones have been virtually exterminated; simultaneously the protagonist must hunt down android humans illegally imported from Mars.

As the 1970s began, theology gradually segued in Dick's own life into episodes of paranoia and epiphany, climaxing in a religious experience in March 1974 that he spent much of the rest of his life analyzing in the form of an "Exegesis." The finest book of his last years, VALIS (1981), is a fragile but deeply valiant self-analysis, conducted within the framework of a longing search for the structure of meaning, the Vast Active Living Intelligence System.

Perhaps surprisingly, Dick's work has impacted the film industry more strongly than that of any other science fiction author. Although Blade Runner was initially a critical and financial failure, it grew into a cult favorite and is now considered one of the finest sf films. Since then adaptations of Dick's novels and stories have attracted top acting and directing talent. Other films based on his work include Total Recall (1992), Screamers (1995), Impostor (2001), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), and A Scanner Darkly (2006), with more on the way.

Selected Bibliography:
The World Jones Made (1956)
Time Out of Joint (1959)
The Man in the High Castle (1962)
Martian Time-Slip (1964)
Dr Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb (1965)
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974)
A Scanner Darkly (1977)
VALIS (1981)
Radio Free Albemuth (1985)
The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick (1987)

Film/TV Adaptations:
Blade Runner (1982)
Total Recall (1992)
Screamers (1995)
Impostor (2001)
Minority Report (2002)
Paycheck (2003)
Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Copyright © John Clute and Peter Nicholls 1993, 1999, published by Orbit, an imprint of the Time Warner Book Group UK.