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Our Phildickian World

Sometime during the last decade, the Philip K. Dick cult came out from underground. Those of us who spent the 1980's trying to explain our affection for this pulp writer no one else had heard of, this author of surreal science fictions and bleak realistic novels, have watched both pop culture and the academy discover and embrace his darkly comic work. Rock lyrics allude to his plots. Films—four so far: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Confessions d'un Barjo, and Screamers—are adapted from his stories. Tenured literary scholars investigate his books; in France, they gather at annual conventions. His face graces the cover of the New Republic, and his life and ideas are discussed (ineptly) in the Weekly Standard. His ghost is occasionally sighted, Elvis-style, by credulous fans. His name has become, as one friend puts it, "the ungainliest adjective in the language"—as in, "this Phildickian situation." Anyone who has read Dick will understand the expression.

Most articles about Dick in the popular press quickly launch into a list of essential titles, typically Time Out of joint (1959), Confessions of a Crap Artist (written in 1959, published in 1975), The Man in the High Castle (1962), Martian Time-Slip (1964), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?...

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