The Third Fictional Coming Of Philip K. Dick

Illustration for article titled The Third Fictional Coming Of Philip K. Dick

He's Hollywood's biggest source of books to adapt. He's revered as a science-fiction visionary. And now it seems like Phliip K. Dick is increasingly popular as a fictional character, starring in his third novel.


The Cardboard Universe: A Guide To The World Of Phoebus K. Dank by Christopher Miller just came out, and it's a thinly veiled biography of Philip K. Dick, timeshifted forwards a few decades. According to the review in the L.A. Times, it's a darkly funny, weird novel, organized in alphabetical order with two dueling fictional authors. One contributor is Dank's biographer, William Boswell, who has a rivalry with the other, Dank's childhood friend and incomprehensible poet, Hirt.

How meta does Cardboard Universe get? Apparently Phoebus K. Dank actually wrote a novel about the fictional science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick. It also plays on Dick's use of "Horselover Fat" as a play on his own name. ("Philip" meaning "horse," "Kindred" meaning "lover" and "Dick" meaning "Fat" in German.") In the novel, Phoebus K. Dank creates endless character names based on his won, including Sol Grateful and Solar Thanx. The descriptions of Dank's novels sound almost too silly to be believable, like The Sadiators (pronounced like "sad,"), in which men battle to make each other so sad they'll commit suicide. Or Double Jeopardy, where a man sues his own conjoined twin for smoking and doing other stuff to endanger his life.

Believe it or not, Cardboard Universe is actually the third novel (that I know of) to feature Philip K. Dick as a main character. The first, 1987's Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas by Michael Bishop, takes place in an alternate reality where the U.S. won the Vietnam war and Nixon is still president. (But there's no sign of Rorschach or the Comedian.) In this alternate world, Dick is only known for his 1950s literary novels (which didn't get published in "our" reality.) His later science fiction books, with titles like They Scan Us Darkly, Don't They?, are banned. Dick dies, but he becomes a "tangible spirit" and haunts a couple, Cal and Lia. The spirit of Dick influences more and more people, until finally a group of seven "metaphysical warriors" goes to confront Nixon on his moonbase hideaway.

And then there's Lint by Steve Aylett, which came out in 2005 and which the L.A. Times' Ed Park calls "charmless" and "sloppy." Here's the novel's description, from Aylett's own site:

Jeff Lint was author of some of the strangest and most inventive satirical SF of the twentieth century. He transcended genre in classics such as Jelly Result and The Stupid Conversation, becoming a cult figure and pariah. Like his contemporary Philip K. Dick, he was blithely ahead of his time.

Aylett follows Lint through his Beat days; his immersion in pulp SF, psychedelia and resentment; his disastrous scripts for Star Trek and Patton; the controversies of The Caterer comic and the scariest kids' cartoon ever aired; and his belated Hollywood success in the 1990s. It was a career haunted by death, including the undetected death of his agent, the suspicious death of his rival Herzog, and the unshakable "Lint is dead" rumors, which persisted even after his death.

It has a blurb by Alan Moore. That's got to count for something, right?



I think the reason for PKD's popularity is that the vast majority of his short stories that he wrote in the 50s,60s and 70s are very good and very timeless.

Also I think because of their length they let screenwriters take a kernal of a great idea and expand on it. A lot of his stories are perfect elevator pitches, meaning they can be described in just a couple of sentences.

I am currently re-reading his shorts and last night I read probably my favorite called "The Hanging Stranger". Normal Joe gets up to go to work and their in the town square, hanging from a lamppost is a body.