How being "Bummed and Ugly" helped Alice Sola Kim find Philip K. Dick

Illustration for article titled How being "Bummed and Ugly" helped Alice Sola Kim find Philip K. Dick

Science fiction writer Alice Sola Kim has a terrific personal essay over in Buzzfeed about how she discovered Philip K. Dick when she was 15. And even though you can be totally well-adjusted and fall in love with Dick's vision, being "bummed and ugly" helped her get into his work.


Honestly, you should just go read the entire essay, which is fantastic and heart-rending. Talking about how insecurity and unhappiness made her connect more deeply to Dick's work when she was a teenager, Kim writes:

When I found Philip K. Dick, he was no big secret. He was in a partial state of rediscovery — there were a bunch of nice paperback reissues from Vintage, plus a five-volume set of collected stories on which I systematically placed holds at the library. Everything — I placed holds on everything. Why'd I get it so bad for Philip K. Dick?

I first loved the twists. The showmanship! The pulpy excitement of it all! The first PKD book I ever read was Eye in the Sky, about eight visitors to a particle accelerator who get trapped in each others' subjective realities. Back then, it was so easy to wow and surprise me, and each time the world as we knew it turned out to be a construct, false, somehow not right — it knocked me over. Imagine PKD typing in a Benzedrine tap dance thinking that this would really get them. Did it ever. If you pet a dog in a PKD novel, get ready for the dog to melt and in the puddle will be a slip of paper that reads "SOFT-DRINK STAND."

Of course, there was more to it. Knowing that reality could be up for grabs, manipulated, and twisted gave me a prickly, shivery joy. But this would be a shallow pleasure without the deep sense of sadness in the best of PKD's work. When the world you knew was ripped away from you, even if in that world you had a shitty job and couldn't get a date, he recognized that you had to mourn. You mourned for the false world that you missed, you mourned that any kind of true, real world was elusive or else completely lost and that nothing would ever be the way it was meant to be, whatever that was.

Check out the whole essay over at Buzzfeed.



That's a lovely story, and it's a great affirmation of the power of good books. I wish I had had something so strong to help me navigate the "bummed and ugly" years, but instead of identifying with something so strongly, I had to buckle down and keep plodding through until I made it out the other side. I bumped around from book to book, but nothing really 'grabbed' me until I reached the point in life where I used good books for entertainment, and not something more profound.

And now I'm stuck in a part of life where, when a book or author really does grab me, when I try to talk about it, most everybody else I run across looks at me quizzically and mutters "never heard of him/her" or "not interested". But at least I have the stories, so that's something!