Philip K. Dick lived most of his life in California. He was born in 1928 in Chicago. In his career PKD wrote 36 novels and five short story collections between 1952 and 1982 when he died in Santa Ana, California.
As evidenced by his work, Dick’s mind was complicated. While his novels and stories often offered visions of the future, many aspects of his life can been throughout his work. A Scanner Darkly was dedicated to many of his friends who died or suffered damage from drug abuse (including himself). The first person narration of Radio Free Albemuth is written from the perspective of a young science fiction writer named Philip who lives in Berkeley. Many insights into Dick’s view of his world are available here. These include his distrust for government and authority, his life as a professional writer and even cosmic visions he is said to have experienced. The novels of the Valis trilogy continue to blur the lines between fiction and Dick’s twisted reality.
Dick’s emotional state went through many changes throughout his life. The death of his twin sister 41 days after their birth is the first of many scars Dick would face. He would be involved in a string of bad marraiges and was addicted to drugs. His level of output was inconsistent and he would experience periods of intense creativity and dark times where he wouldn’t write. Throughout the 1950’s Dick was beginning to make a name for himself in the science fiction world. He was writing stories for science fiction magazines and developing his own unique style that was different than the other sci-fi writers of the time. His first published novel was Solar Lottery in 1954. The political climate of the times and Dick’s own paranoia involving the authority he wrote about created the atmosphere from where many of his stories would emerge.
The 50’s and the early 60’s were very creative periods for Dick. He won the highest award in the science fiction world in 1962 for The Man In The High Castle. The 1970’s produced some of Dick’s best work and he continued to become well known in the science fiction community. Books such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Flow My Tears The Policeman Said were written in this time period (late 60’s, early 70’s). The profound experience Dick refers to as 2-3-74 becomes a turning in his career and emotional stability. This event which is fictionalized in The Valis Trilogy is a series of contacts Dick claims to have had with a force beyond Earth. Called Zebra, at first (then Valis), these contacts would leave Dick speculating until his death in 1982.
Philip K. Dick has been given many labels over the years and as his work has become more known since his death. The genre of science fiction was used as an outlet to break unfamiliar ground. His work is very experimental and questions the basis of our own existence. His own emotional and psychological states play a major role in the tone of his work throughout the years. Noticing the change in Dick’s writing style from the 50’s to the 80’s is a look at the struggles of a creative genius. His attempts to demonstrate the ever-expanding potential of the universe are personal journeys into his own realities.
The twenty first century has seen a surge of interest in Philip K. Dick, whose stories have inspired generations of readers, film lovers and artists of all kinds. His books and stories are in print in dozens of languages and his works are studied in university classrooms. The legacy of Philip K. Dick is stronger than ever, his seemingly prescient views of the future are more real than he could have ever imagined. This web site is a loving tribute to the man and his work from his fans. It may not be the fanciest site on the Internet but we hope the content speaks louder than the form.
In this site you will find info, insights and more about one of the world’s greatest and most fascinating science fiction authors and philosophers. In a Philip K. Dick story you can find many elements of paranoia, psychosis, schizophrenia, hallucination and more. PKD’s stories take the reader on a intense journey through many human emotions.
His prophetic views about the future written in the fifties, sixties and seventies give his novels an air of believability and urgency. PKD at his best places his readers in situations where reality is not clearly defined. He explores the power of the brain and many human concepts of life, death, religion and love in a dark setting that creates a provocative view of the world as we know it. His writing is very much a product of the cultural activity which was occuring during his lifetime and he uses many elements from the world around him. His own personal experiences play a major role in his writing as well.
DIED. Philip K. Dick, 53, prolific, sometimes visionary science-fiction writer, whose multilayered stories probed the discrepancies between illusion and reality; of a stroke; in Santa Ana, Calif. The characters in his 50 novels (Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said) were often ordinary people trapped in extraordinary circumstances whose distorted perceptions prevented them from realizing their own dilemmas. The task of the science-fiction writer, said Dick, “is creating multiverses, rather than a universe.”
Source: Time Magazine: March 15, 1092, p. 92.
Philip K. Dick, 54, award-winning author of 35 science-fiction novels and six short-story collections; of complications following a stroke, in Santa Ana, Calif., March 2. Dick, whose works are distinguished by deftly crafted, believable characters trapped in an uncertain world, won the 1962 Hugo Award – voted on by American scifi fans – for his novel “The Man in the High Castle.”
Source: Newsweek: March 15, 1982, p. 87.
Here are links to various biographies for starters.
The official Philip K. Dick site
Internet Movie Database
Radio Free Albemuth movie site
The Biography Project
For people seeking more in-depth information, I recommend Lawrence Sutin’s “Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick” which is the first PKD biography I read and I believe it’s fairly readily available.