Favourite Dick Novel, Drugs, In Perspective + Poll

Which is your favourite Dick novel?

  • Clans of the Alphane Moon

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • The Crack in Space

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Eye in the Sky

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • The Ganymede Takeover (with Ray Nelson)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Now Wait For Last Year

    Votes: 2 8.3%
  • Counter-Clock World

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • The Penultimate Truth

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    Votes: 6 25.0%
  • Solar Lottery

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Dr. Futurity

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • We Can Build You

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • The Game Players of Titan

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

    Votes: 5 20.8%
  • Ubik

    Votes: 8 33.3%
  • The Zap Gun

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Martian Time-Slip

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • Vulcan's Hammer

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Time Out of Joint

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Our Friends from Frolix 8

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • The World Jones Made

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • The Man in the High Castle

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • The Simulacra

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Dr. Bloodmoney

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • A Maze of Death

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Galactic Pot Healer

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Deus Irae (with Roger Zelazny)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • A Scanner Darkly

    Votes: 5 20.8%
  • The Man Who Japed

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Confessions of a Crap Artist

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • Valis

    Votes: 1 4.2%
  • The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • The Cosmic Puppets

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Lies, Inc

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Radio Free Albemuth

    Votes: 2 8.3%

  • Total voters
    24

Terence Park

TP Archie in other places
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Best Philip K Dick Novel
The Guardian ran an article on Dick’s Best Novels chosen by Nicola Barker, Michael Moorcock, and Adam Roberts on 27th August 2017 at Philip K Dick Best Novels. There's all the normal stuff you'd expect to see - Adam Roberts sensibly chose Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? You find out Moorcock's take on Dick –as editor of New Worlds, Moorcock sought out voices to flesh out his vision of Science Fiction, indeed Moorcock was one of the high prophets of New Wave SF. Nicola Barker's take set my brain into gear.

Dick: “the core of my writing is not art, but truth”, and – still more perplexingly: “I am a fictionalising philosopher, not a novelist."

Nicola Barker: deny it as he might, he is a novelist

This misses the point; Dick didn't fit into the traditional author-publisher mould. Even now, a publisher would be itching to hack through his work.

In 1960 Dick was willing to take twenty to thirty years to succeed as a literary writer. His overtures into mainstream were declined - rightly so; his unique talent would have been destroyed by the editing process and, on a more selfish note, he'd have been lost to SF.

His work survives because he found a way through - first via the Science Fiction magazines and then Ace Books. Remember the Ace smaller format? they used to drive me mad while trying to force my makeshift library into some form of neatness. Back in 50s and 60s Ace was one of the big two US SF paperback publishers (the other being Ballantine). Ace books woes in the mid-1960s - they could no longer pay authors reliably - would have affected him (Ace were boycotted over a Lord of the Rings copyright infringement - they settled but their business was damaged). It's round about that time that Dick's output declined - I've always wondered if this resolved in some way to the question: how can you write with no pay? Upfront royalties were significant in the Ace business model. Bringing me to my favourite Dick novel.

Galactic Pot-Healer
I fed my early Science Fiction addiction via Burnley Library and, when I could afford it, used paperbacks from the second hand book stalls on Burnley Market. This gave me cross section of beat up (but treasured) US SF editions which is how I discovered Dick. Most of my 40+ collection of Dick's books are pre-1980. I read all Dick’s SF novels and most of his short stories.


Philip K Dick: Solar Lottery
Arrow Books edition 1972


Now Wait for Last Year
Macfadden Books 1968 edition



Eye in the Sky
Ace Books H39, 1967 edition


Clans of the Alphane Moon
Ace Books 1964 edition, F309


The Unteleported Man
Ace Books double (with Dr. Futurity) 1972 edition


We Can Build You
DAW Books #14 1972 edition

A favourite of mine is Galactic Pot Healer which came out in 1969. I had the 1976 Pan edition (sadly lost in a recent house move).

Joe Fernwright, the protagonist, lives in a future Earth with intriguing yet disturbing resonances to the here and now. He repairs art on a commission basis but has virtually no work (gig! gig! gig!. He is hired by a powerful being - Glimmung - for a one-off bit of art restoration. The restoration project involves beings from different planets and as it progresses, Joe strikes up a romantic relationship. In the background, Glimmung is in a struggle with the Kalends, which manifest through a book that foretells the future. This struggle is desire vs the inevitable but which is fake, Glimmung's words or the Book of the Kalends? I can so easily imagine the kind of Earth Dick describes (in my head we're almost there). The work transmogrifies via the gestalt... but Joe Fernwright chooses to go back to normality.

Telling the difference between the fake and the real is more than keeping up appearances, it's about preserving normality, without which people (beings) don't function. Galactic Pot Healer is a transitional work, yesteryear's mutants, ESP, precogs etc are well on their way to VALIS. It contains many of the darkly funny moments I like about Dick's work. He is an acquired taste but once you slip through the doorway, he writes an engaging tale. Dick's work evolves into his exegesis. He also did drugs. Are the two connected?

Dick and Drugs
Drug damage? Certainly - Dick acknowledged this. Did drugs invalidate his message? I'd say both yes and no and then as a rider, would add that this is up to the reader to decide. Importantly he put stuff in the public domain that stretched the genre. SF / Fantasy normally struggles when depicting metaphysical matters - with Dick it just works. It took me a long time to realise he was well read (I was a product of lower class inverse snobbery and despised arts, philosophy etc - it took some autodidact to catch up on where he was at). Most of his work is good - the early SF novels are the least 'Dick-like' but these are a must for those who want the journey.

The overall impact of drugs? I just accepted them as part of him as opposed to a separate influence. On the doing of drugs, I've seen it do damage to those around me - I see it as not too dissimilar to the continuous intake of media input of only one kind - it distorts your perceptions and leaves permanent marks that aren't too easy to shuck off. I get it that just as speed, or whatever, helps keep going on the job, it can help churn out wordage. Do drugs open the doors of creativity or just passive consumption? Of course a writer can interpret (words are his work) but all that's actually happening is for a few brief hours, the filters of everyday existence are slackened off. In my case (as a writer) I rarely write under the influence of alcohol - or even too much coffee.

Dick died as Blade Runner came to completion. Since then more of his works have leaked into the media and his reputation has grown. imho he died too soon.

Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams airs on Channel from 4, 17th September 2017.

In Perspective
I well remember Michael Bishop’s Philip K Dick is Dead, Alas. Dickanian? Yes. Ultimately I read little beyond chapter 1. Then wasn’t the time to write about Dick in a Dickanian style. It wasn't the right postscript to Dick. A good postscript would be someone to carry forward the baton Dick let drop. You watch and you wait. He, or she, must be out there, somewhere; meanwhile we look back to the Master. Ever decreasing circles.



Philip K Dick is Dead, Alas - Michael Bishop
Grafton edition 1988

I’ve read a lot of Golden Age SF plus a fair sampling of authors up to the 80s: Aldiss, Anderson, Asimov, Ballard, Bradbury, Clarke, Farmer, Herbert... to name a few (there's 1,500 genre paperbacks in my library) eventually you get to a point where formulaic fiction begins to irritate you. I got my intellectual kicks from Idries Shah's works on Sufism. His Darkest England delves entertainingly into the character and mores of the English. Caravan of Dreams is a more general work on Eastern thought. For an eclectic takes on space fiction, Doris Lessing, who moved in the same social circles as Idries Shah, produced a 5 volume work: Canopus in Argos. I'm easily led astray by the history of other civilisations. At present that revolves around Central Asia, nomadic eruptions and the Khwarezmian Shahdom. I pretend to myself it's research for a Fantasy project but the reality is how can you write about the rise and fall of galaxy, or even star spanning civilisations if you haven’t grasped the emergence and subsequent collapse of our own great civilisations?

* * * the above is from my WordPress blog * * *

The Poll...
excludes posthumous publication of Dick's non-SF novels.
The titles are ordered according to the published date of the editions in my possession.
It's okay to have more than one favourite, honest.
 

Terence Park

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Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

Like them both. Ubik has similarities with Galactic Pot-Healer but in some senses, is further along the path Dick was travelling. Interestingly, in Three Stigmata, Emily, the first wife of precog, Barney Mayerson, is a ceramic pot artist; the main character in Galactic Pot-Healer, Joe Fernwright is a ceramic pot healer. We see connections wherever we want.
I like PK Dick for the way he deals with the human condition and his dark humour. If he's to your taste there's a lot to go at.
 

J-Sun

Joined
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Messages
5,318
There are a fair number I have not read, so my choice may not be too meaningful.

Anyway, the two that knocked me out were Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

Those are two of my four favorites as well. I also voted for Martian Time-Slip and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. He's got others that range from good to bad, but those stand out above the rest for me.
 

J Riff

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I forgot all about Galactic Pothead, but recall from 20 yrs. back that Ubik was very good. )
 

Bick

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I voted Martian Time-Slip. But I could easily have picked Do Androids Dream... or Flow My Tears, or Ubik, or High Castle come to that - though its quite different. I liked Time Out of Joint too. Truth is, I've enjoyed everything I've read by him and they all had merit. I don't remember Three Stigmata well, though I did read it about 38 years ago. Lots of drug taking on the Moon, or some such, in that story I vaguely recall?
 

Terence Park

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In answering my own question, I look at my own reading habits. Self-observation. Now there’s a thing, considering where Dick’s work was heading. Most of my SF purchases were made a long time back (25 years plus). Over time I've built up an idea of novels that are exemplars in their respective areas, and which particular novels I go back to: Herbert’s Dune, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Norton’s Year of the Unicorn… When I come to Philip K Dick I've come to realise that over the years, I was more and more, sipping from Galactic Pot-Healer. It’s not the perfect novel (if there is such a thing) –it’s less plausible than say Man in the High Castle –and here I divert into a side topic for discussion: when I read (and reread) Man in the High Castle, I was struck by the thought that it wasn’t finished; a lot more could and should have been said. At the same time, I recognise that a book can be art –sculpting a world or universe, bringing the author’s vision to life. I assume Dick said as much as he planned on saying, yet for me it’s incomplete. Other works that could have featured as a favourite: The Zap Gun, Ubik, A Maze of Death, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

So back to Pot-Healer. What’s in it that’s so appealing? A book starts life as a good cover and, with a bit of luck, an entertaining read. You go back and reread because in my day, the supply of SF was fairly limited. Then you get it –Dick didn't do Space Opera (still something I like to dwell on) –and the reason for rereading that is the difference between a fine wine and cheap, fizzy pop. So what did I find appealing?
  1. Dick’s bleak humour. Irony and wit are appreciated where I come from (the North of England). Glimmung’s messages to Joe Fernwright are genius. A tick in the box.
  2. The future Earth he crafted. Not apparent back when I bought my copy (1976) but becoming more and more realised, Joe Fernwright’s precarious source of income: fixing objet’s d’art is authentic.
    1. Sub-point: Aristotle (long before the emergence of long form narrative fiction, made two observations on the creative arts that still hold true: make it plausible, make it authentic. Pot-Healer does well on these.
  3. The profound and the mundane. Dick’s mix of these is a joy. Immensely powerful beings wrestle: it’s a dust up between desire and fate. Zelazny did mortals promoted to Gods, notably in Lord of Light; Dick’s alien deities are Godlike; he lets us see their motivation but never makes them human; they remain alien.
In a stroke of irony, I’d taken to carrying my copy of Galactic Pot-Healer about in my work bag, as well as to writing groups. When we moved (September 2016) I decided that for the purposes of safekeeping, I ought to box it up with other books (Anne McCaffrey Brian Jacques and others). That box was lost. I can get another Galactic Pot-Healer but not another 1976 Pan edition.
 

johnnyjet

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Dick is my all-time favorite author. I've read a lot of his novels and short stories, but there's still a lot I haven't gotten to yet. So for now anyway, I picked the following favorites: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Martian Time-Slip, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and The Man in the High Castle. I hope you don't mind I picked four, but I couldn't decide on just one or two. There were several close seconds as well.
 

Terence Park

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I hope you don't mind I picked four, but I couldn't decide on just one or two.

No problem with that. I picked just the (Galactic Pot-Healer) but there were several others bubbling away as close 2nds. The poll is for fun but I hope others see it as a prompt to discuss the relative merits of their (and other) selections. Dick ranks well in my favourite author list.
 

Connavar

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I voted Martian Time-Slip. But I could easily have picked Do Androids Dream... or Flow My Tears, or Ubik, or High Castle come to that - though its quite different. I liked Time Out of Joint too. Truth is, I've enjoyed everything I've read by him and they al had merit. I don't remember Three Stigmata well, though I did read it about 38 years ago. Lots of drug taking on the Moon, or some such, in that story I vaguely recall?

I didnt Martian Time Slip was that highly rated among PKD because i have it unread at home but it doesnt sound like his better ones, i rarely hear any PKD fan mention it as a favorite so i was looking to read Ubik, Galactice Pot-Healer, Time Out of Join etc

I think Do Androids Dream....is overrated because of the neat android,whats human idea but its a good first book. When you read great books like Now Wait for Last Year,The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,The Man in the High Castle, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said etc then its too simple, mid level PKD work.
 

Connavar

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Great thread PKD is one of my alltime fav authors, one of the reasons i take quality SF stories very serious as a field of literature.

I have read most of his short stories even if i prefer his novels. For me most of the ones i have read in the list could be my fav except A Maze of Death whose the only PKD i have read which i thought was like 2/5 stars weak. Dr Simulacra i cant remember even.

I voted for The Man in The High Castle because technically writing,prose wise its PKD at his best and also very ambitious,bold novel. I voted also for Now Wait for Last Year because its my fav, not the best i have read like High Castle, its the best combo of engaging characters, strong human study story you expect of PKD.
 

Andy Mender

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...which suggests a poll for least favourite Dick novel. Any takers? :whistle:
Would this allow inclusion of novels one *doesn't* like also? :p I think some of the stories were quite crude in terms of writing style (Second Variety and We Can Remember It for You Wholesale), but I personally enjoyed all of PKD's books I read. Ubik (read several times) and Dr Futurity perhaps the most :).
 

Guillermo Stitch

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So difficult with PKD. I usually fall back on Ubik so I voted for that here. But depending on what mood I'm in it could be his pulpy stuff that appeals to me most or the likes of the Valis trilogy, for its lucidity and depth.

If lucidity is the right word with PKD. I think it is, at times.
 

Robert Zwilling

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I voted for 8. I've read around 15 of them so far. I like all of what I have read. I like to think he was one of the first writers to realistically understand how technology would affect the average man in a future quite different from what the present looks like. Fortunately my grammar sucks which makes it hard for me to know when I am looking at hard to follow grammar, ideas, or whatever else slows people up, which means the self editor that stops the flow, fixes the mistakes, then starts the flow again is never running. For me, his stories are like looking at a painting. Whenever I find a PKD book at a cheap price I get it. So far the only one that irked me a little was Eye In The Sky. That was because instead of the usual what could happen next type plot, each character's imagined world scenes seemed to me to be using a very similar formula. I also don't mind 57 characters vying for my attention even though I might not know which ones are important to follow as the story progresses.
 

picklematrix

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I went for ubik, thought if i want to delve into paranoia and reality questioning then its almost a coin toss between that, androids, and a scanner darkly.
I hope ubik is next to get the film treatment. Hollywood will get around to all of them eventually!
 

Vince W

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It's taken me a long time to reply to this thread since I didn't want to check them all off. I went with Do Androids..., Ubik, and Flow My Tears... I should have added Deus Irae, because, you know, Roger Zelazny, but I wanted to keep it to three.
 

Extollager

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In answering my own question, I look at my own reading habits. Self-observation. Now there’s a thing, considering where Dick’s work was heading. Most of my SF purchases were made a long time back (25 years plus). Over time I've built up an idea of novels that are exemplars in their respective areas, and which particular novels I go back to: Herbert’s Dune, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Norton’s Year of the Unicorn… When I come to Philip K Dick I've come to realise that over the years, I was more and more, sipping from Galactic Pot-Healer. It’s not the perfect novel (if there is such a thing) –it’s less plausible than say Man in the High Castle –and here I divert into a side topic for discussion: when I read (and reread) Man in the High Castle, I was struck by the thought that it wasn’t finished; a lot more could and should have been said. At the same time, I recognise that a book can be art –sculpting a world or universe, bringing the author’s vision to life. I assume Dick said as much as he planned on saying, yet for me it’s incomplete. Other works that could have featured as a favourite: The Zap Gun, Ubik, A Maze of Death, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

So back to Pot-Healer. What’s in it that’s so appealing? A book starts life as a good cover and, with a bit of luck, an entertaining read. You go back and reread because in my day, the supply of SF was fairly limited. Then you get it –Dick didn't do Space Opera (still something I like to dwell on) –and the reason for rereading that is the difference between a fine wine and cheap, fizzy pop. So what did I find appealing?
  1. Dick’s bleak humour. Irony and wit are appreciated where I come from (the North of England). Glimmung’s messages to Joe Fernwright are genius. A tick in the box.
  2. The future Earth he crafted. Not apparent back when I bought my copy (1976) but becoming more and more realised, Joe Fernwright’s precarious source of income: fixing objet’s d’art is authentic.
    1. Sub-point: Aristotle (long before the emergence of long form narrative fiction, made two observations on the creative arts that still hold true: make it plausible, make it authentic. Pot-Healer does well on these.
  3. The profound and the mundane. Dick’s mix of these is a joy. Immensely powerful beings wrestle: it’s a dust up between desire and fate. Zelazny did mortals promoted to Gods, notably in Lord of Light; Dick’s alien deities are Godlike; he lets us see their motivation but never makes them human; they remain alien.
In a stroke of irony, I’d taken to carrying my copy of Galactic Pot-Healer about in my work bag, as well as to writing groups. When we moved (September 2016) I decided that for the purposes of safekeeping, I ought to box it up with other books (Anne McCaffrey Brian Jacques and others). That box was lost. I can get another Galactic Pot-Healer but not another 1976 Pan edition.

For me he is an uneven author. I couldn't finish Galactic Pot-Healer (not the only one like that), while I found A Scanner Darkly one of the most funny and moving novels I have read.
 

Robert Zwilling

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I went through quite a few of his stories before I found ones that weren't 100 percent enjoyable. I found Galactic Pot Healer funny but was not that interested in A Scanner Darkly, We Can Get It For You Wholesale, and Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. They had their moments, but not enough.
 

picklematrix

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Ubik is one of my favourite books of all time. His work has been a tad hit and miss for me, but his best works are masterpieces.
 

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