The Questionable Realities of Philip K. Dick

The questionable realities of noted science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick were born out of his search for truth. In 44 novels and at least 121 short stories, he examined the relationship between the real and the fake and between humans and their creations. Nine of his works have been made into films so far.

By the time of his early death, his fame had begun to spread outside his genre. He was gaining acclaim in academic circles and was already enjoyed by mainstream readers. The year before his death, he described what he considered his value as a writer: "I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel- and story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception."

He went on to say that his goal was to describe reality, not to tell a story. "The core of my writing is not art, but truth."


Yet, he tells stories brilliantly. The Man in the High Castle, an alternate history, describes a world in which the Axis nations won World War II. Germany and Japan jointly rule America and fight over the spoils. Within the book, a story-within-the story is "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy," a work of alternate history in which the Axis was defeated. The book questions the nature of history, of loyalty and of identity. It won the Hugo Award for best science fiction of 1963.

A Scanner Darkly is his darkly funny, devastating take on the drug culture. A drug user himself, Dick knew whereof he wrote. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became the film Blade Runner. It questions whether artificial people can be more human than the originals. Ubik and Valis explore still more alternate realities.

Short fiction

Dick began his career writing for magazines like Imagination and Amazing Science Fiction. Though most of those magazines have disappeared, his stories have survived. His "Second Variety" (1953) became the 1995 Canadian film Screamers. "Paycheck," published in 1953, was seen in theaters in 2003. "Adjustment Team" (1954) became The Adjustment Bureau in 2011. "The Minority Report" became the film Minority Report in 2002. His work of 50 years ago is still fresh, futuristic, entertaining and questioning.


Dick never prospered from his writing; his greatest acclaim has come after his death. He dropped out of college to take jobs with little responsibility and to write. Almost all his work was published by genre publishers who did not pay him well. Though married five times, he ended his life alone, dying in 1982 at age 53 after a series of strokes. His work, however, has found a growing audience.

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