This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
In the comments of my review of The Exegesis, people said they’d like me to tackle the works of Philip K. Dick in general in much the same way as I’ve been working through Moorcock. Whilst my Moorcock series isn’t done yet and isn’t cancelled, at the same time I suspect the rest of it will go at a fairly slow pace because I’ve hit a part of Moorcock’s career where his good stuff is really rich and doesn’t really lend itself to nomming all in one go, whilst his bad stuff is so bad I want to take a long break after each exposure to it.
Obviously the methodology of a survey of Dick’s fiction needs to be different from the one I’ve taken with the Moorcock series. Thankfully, Dick focused almost exclusively on standalone stories and novels, so I don’t need to break things down by series the way I have with Moorcock. On top of that, the five-volume Collected Stories brings together all his short fiction in a neat package, so I can even be reasonably complete there. My plan, then, is to go in chronological order. The specific chronology I’m going to be using is this one, whose compiler seems to have decent arguments for the placement of the various tales. I don’t intend to give each individual short story an individual review, and for the sake of giving the articles a sensible structure I won’t necessarily address the short stories absolutely in the same order as they were written, but in general I will try to address them reasonably close to the point they were composed.
There are a few short stories which didn’t actually make it into the Collected Stories, because they were later expanded into novels. (These are different from those stories where the general premises or ideas behind them were later used in novels, which the compilers of the Collected Stories have retained.) I’ll be placing my review of the novels in question at the point in the chronology where the original short story was written, for several reasons. Firstly, in several cases the expansion of the short story in question often involved Dick simply putting back material which had already been cut in it. For instance, Cantata-140, later expanded to become The Crack In Space, was heavily trimmed down for its original appearance. Secondly, the “expansions” a lot of the time aren’t actually all that expansive; they tended to come out as Ace Doubles, which were a line of two-for-one packages sold by Ace which would couple up two not-quite-full-length novels from SF authors together. Lastly, the expansions (so far as I can tell) don’t really represent radical departures from the original stories so in terms of the development of Dick’s craft and philosophy there isn’t much that’s changed between the earlier publication and the expansion.
Another deviation from the chronology I’m going to do is Deus Irae, which I’m going to lump in with Dick’s novels of 1964, mainly because that’s where almost all the Dick-penned material in it originates: Dick wrote the first half in 1964, got stuck, eventually gave it to Roger Zelazny to continue, Zelazny wrote most of the second half and finally delivered it back to Dick in 1976, who thought “eh, good enough”, tacked on a final chapter which (by my recollection at least) doesn’t add a whole lot of substance and sent it off to his publishers.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Our story starts in 1947, where Dick is a fresh-faced teenager who’s either in the last stages of high school or has just left, and has recently (in a physics exam) made the acquaintance of the benign AI Voice which would be his occasional companion for much of the rest of his life before thoroughly taking control in 2-3-74.
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