Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Writer Is Dead, But His Fiction Is Our Reality

Philip K Dick portrait by GK Bellows

By Darryl Mason

Yesterday, March 2, was the 2yth anniversary of the death of one of America's greatest thinkers, novelist Philip K Dick. PKD basically wrote himself to death, at 54 years old, and he was very aware of what he was doing to himself, in the year before he died. Only a few months before his death, Philip K Dick sat down to watch the opening minutes of the cinematic classic BladeRunner, a movie adapted from one of his best and also strangest novels Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? PKD died knowing his legend was already all but set in stone, and that BladeRunner would most certainly, at the minimum, introduce new generations to his decades of writing, philosophy and wild imagineering.

I don't think Philip K Dick would be surprised (or should that be, is surprised?) to learn that nearing the end of the first decade of the 21st century, he is now one of the most famous, and most intensely argued and discussed writers, in history.

When he was physically alive, Philip K Dick recognised that the world, in particularly America, was becoming more and more like one of his novels everyday. This didn't bring him much pleasure. He rarely wrote about paradise on earth, or utopias.

He often said he wrote his books to stop certain realities becoming real (he believed, for a while, that the reality you experience is a reality of your own, and your loved ones, and your enemies', making), but life delivered up the ultimate of all ironies, which could have only made hm laugh : that what he so often warning-wrote about it, to stop it happening, became reality thanks to the effect (in part) his books and writing and imagination had on a generation of young tech-gurus in California, and England, and Japan. And yet, Philip K Dick gave those who saw both profit and power in using technology as a tool(s) for oppression plenty of inspiration, and help, as well.

Here's some of the things he wrote about as far back as 1955 that have become our reality :
Criminals being tracked by satellites, remote control robot sentries and machine-gunners, synthetic and cloned pets, robot hookers, swipe cards to enter buildings and malls, laptop computers, reality television, personalised advertising, hacker anarchists, mega-global corporations that rule entire continents, instantly globally shared information, android babysitters, a military controlled United States divided into police-state zones (post-Hurricane Katrina, this was New Orleans), whole towns as nostalgia amusement parks, a technology-interconnected global humanity and a president who bankrupted his country and created fictional wars to distract his people from their darkening reality.
Philip K Dick might not have been the first writer to detail a post-apocalyptic nuclear world where robots ruthlessly hunt down human survivors hiding in the ruins, but he was certainly the first to write about killer robots who, in imitation of their human creators, set about building robots to kill other robots.

More on Philip K Dick here

To finish off, here's a fat handful of Philip K Dick Quote(s) Of The Day, from Your New Reality :
"History executes those who will not go where the truth takes them. This is a fact."

"The future is not a place where we go but a construct which we create. The shared world, to me, is the only one worth living in; in fact it is the only one we can live in."

"The universe is an idea in the minds of men."

"....a barrier of of fear and doubt may universally lie between us and what we most want, want and deserve."

"Only when a man chooses to act does he become real…"

"If this is what you get when you win, what the hell do you get when you lose?"

"I promise I won't try to convert you; in any case my religion is not orthodox but really my own; for instance I never go to church, and so to creed Christians I'm a combination of atheist and heretic, if you can imagine that, which I evidently can."

"What amazed me, in my suicide attempt, was the way my body literally fought back."

"Either we're onto something important....or we're just nuts."

"Mental illness is nothing more than an unvoiced NO to experience, to the new, to adventure, to being; it is a calcification, an ossification, an ending of the unrolling spool of inner life."

"Sometimes I try to figure out where I went wrong in my life, and then I wonder if indeed I did go wrong. "

"I know the feeling of being a character in a Phil Dick novel. It happens to me, too."
PKD Quotes source : Philip K Dick Collected Letters, 1977-79

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