i was born the same year my favorite science fiction author died. i don’t really think that means anything. other than that i could be a reincarnation of Phillip K Dick. no, i don’t really believe that.
but i do Love him. i came to discover that i probably love his books because a lot of my interests, ideas and views echo his.
i find this most compelling about his novels:
as the science fiction gets wild enough to dash any sense of “this could actually happen at anytime” the characters become more and more real, lovable and complex.
the stories demand something deeply personal from the main players and therefore the reader, nothing so simple or symbolic as the mere slaying of a dragon.
the sense of participating in the human experience is only accentuated by the unlikelihood of the grosser narrative aspects.
Phillip Kindred Dick suffered from mental illness and hallucinations, experimented with drugs, and was married something like 7 times. in almost all the photographs of him that i’ve seen his eyes reflect a certain angst or thirst. he had transcendental experiences, and described himself as a cosmic pantheist (yes!) and fictionalizing philosopher rather than a novelist. he was born prematurely alongside a twin sister who died several weeks later. his own death resulted from a stroke at the age of 53 in 1982.
themes/tropes explored in his work naturally reflect his life and preoccupations: a phantom twin, hallucinations, mental illness, the subconscious, the moral obligations of mankind, theology and metaphysics.
couple those elements with scifi dystopia… yeah: what could be better?
back to a more personal narrative: i’m using my favorite books as a autobiographical tool. one reason i’m doing this is that i’m squeamish over anything autobiographical (including job applications which i plan to avoid here on out). the other reason is that i read this really stupid article (i refuse to link to it.) that can be summed up briefly by my following paraphrase:“you’re all dumb pop-culture automatons, just like me. consequently i can assume that you all lied when the personal book-list fad rolled through your facebook timeline. Your favorite books are actually Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Grey, and [insert NY Best Seller bullshit here] because you’re not capable of being shaped by important works of the written word and only read for mind-numbing enjoyment.”
yes, i take issue with this. how could this person possibly know that Carlos Casteneda changed my life by altering the way i look at road-killed animals? what? it has to do with a crow. i’ll explain that later.
Back to Dick. (lol)
most New England kids are exposed to Dick’s work in middle school: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which gave rise to the movie Blade Runner in the same year of his death/my birth. somehow i missed that book during my childhood. i was a senior in high school when i read Divine Invasion. i felt like i was In that book. the story swept over me in waves. now, i wax autobiographical:
a young kid, i was close enough to norm to escape serious remedial attention. i was a quiet kid, at times very withdrawn. i liked solitude every bit as much as company. i spent as much time as i could alone in nature.
but by the end of high school, i was just borderline freak-out weirdo. i could still be fairly quiet about it, though it showed. i felt really different from everyone except from a handful of friends. and i was; this isn’t a lack of humility or terminal uniqueness. i was asking questions about the nature of reality, theological and metaphysical questions. i was searching deeply for a cohesive sense of meaning. i was doing these things consciously and i knew only a few other kids who would play.
also, my search for meaning did not mix well with adolescent hormonal flux. i found myself having regular nightmares and experiencing frequent acute states (i didn’t know to call them that then). my senses would ignite like a fireworks display. that wasn’t always unpleasant, but could be overwhelming and disorienting. (i think acute states are natural during adolescence, and that they mix strangely with whatever the kid is experiencing during that time. i am describing an experience that is personal and universal.)
i have a natural tendency to escapism and therefore had already become a master at suspension of disbelief. Divine Invasion was one of those books that i willed to life. while i was reading it and the months following, it became my personal Torah – which in fact the book mentions and to which it ascribes a beautiful life and energy.
i had been failing at putting the pieces together. a lot of this was a mix of chance and teenage disillusion. i found my own interpersonal experience mostly isolating. the world seemed fractured, fragmented and i felt that way myself. i encountered Gnosticism and the online parody religion called Discordianism at around the same time. Hand in hand, they validated my fear that reality was chaotic and flawed. i hopped on that train with a ‘hail Eris’, decided that confusion must be the natural state of man and that my only hope was to embrace and enjoy it. not a good place. yes, there were drugs.
Dick’s self-described cosmic pantheism couched in the familiar salve of science fiction offered me an alternative mythos. and it was prettier and much more human(e). i had found a new train. i was off the hook of resigning myself to a world ruled by Loki, Eris, the Demiurge… it sounds so cheesy now, but my fantastical 17 year old mind was just thrashing with this stuff. really, it was self-abuse.
thank you, Divine Universe. you don’t have to invade, just knock at the door anytime you like.