Can't Get Enough Dick

posted Jun 8, 2012, 3:52 PM by Joshua M. Patton
It seems appropriate that I used a gift-card to the University Bookstore, earned for my participation in a literature conference, to purchase a collected volume of Philip K. Dick stories. The collection contains the inspirations for the movies Total Recall, Paycheck, Minority Report, and the 1995 turd on film Screamers. I've read about a third of the book and it is fantastic.  I am not reading the stories in order, but instead I am selecting them at random, dependent solely on my whims when I sit down to read.  

One story entitled "The Eyes Have It," is a delightful departure from the normally heavy, dire stories that Dick is known to write. In the story, the narrator becomes aware of a conspiracy through reading a poorly-written novel. My intention is not to spoil it, but I will say that using the narrator's logic...evidence is EVERYWHERE.  

Another notable story was entitled "War Veteran," and it is a very interesting scenario Dick crafts here. The titular character is a man out of his time, and those he meets only seek to exploit him. While the science fiction elements of the story serve the ultimate plot, I wonder if the alienation and total lack of concern that the Veteran gets from those he encounters is something Dick did intentionally or if I am just extrapolating something from my own perspectives to fit in the context of this story. 

Dick's writing may not be as disciplined as some other literary sci-fi writers, but it is all STORY. His characters are all flawed and in a big way. Effective science fiction captures the moods and attitudes of the present-day world and incorporates it into a scenario that is alien in time or space. Dick does this almost effortlessly, capturing visions of futures that tell the reader more about the time during which the story was published than any realistic attempt to predict what's to come.