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THE SIMULACRA
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131

31  

Mar-Aug 1963

Aug 1964

THE GAME-PLAYERS OF TITAN

NOW WAIT FOR LAST YEAR

See: "Novelty Act"

FIRST EDITIONS

1964  THE SIMULACRA ACE 1964   ACE, pb, F-301, 1964, 192pp, $0.40 (Ed Emshwiller)
     
    Eyre Methuen, hb, 37750-4, Jul 1977, 220pp, L2.95 (Chris Moore) {Levack: Bound in black paper boards with silver lettering on the spine. No date on the title page. “First published in Great Britain 1977 by Eyre Methuen Ltd.” On the copyright page. This book is small – about paperback size.}

HISTORY

    Written in the summer of 1963 THE SIMULACRA was originally titled FIRST LADY OF EARTH and is an expansion of the novelette "Novelty Act" which PKD had written in March 1963 and which was published in Fantastic in Feb 1964. The expansion and reworking of "Novelty Act" was finished by 28 Aug 1963 when the longer manuscript dropped in the mail slot at the SMLA. THE SIMULACRA was published by Ace Books as a paperback original in Aug 1964.

    In August and October 1964 Dick had corresponded with Terry Carr, then an editor at Ace Books, on at least three occasions. In these letters he covers the title change and publication of THE SIMULACRA:

    ... However, what is "THE SIMULACRA"? Is that what I called "FIRST LADY OF EARTH"? I mean, have I forgotten an entire novel? Wire instructions. Wire diagrams as to how to reassemble memory of forgotten novel. Or something.

    And:

    I know now that THE SIMULACRA is (one) out and (two) FIRST LADY OF EARTH because my lawyer one night, while drunk, called me from his mistresse's apartment to say, "Yr logich inna buk wunt so shitty damn smart, an no wunner your so fucked up in yr life, cuz ya cant think fuckin straight and wanna meet Jean, here? Here's Jean, baby." Etc.

    And:

    {...} even my wife, whom I hate so, and who I guess hates me or some such fool thing, remarked that in reading THE SIMULACRA she saw, for the first time in my work, what she called "signs of true genius." For her that is a rather strong statement. So I guess I can take pride in my work. {...}

    Philip Dick himself was fond of THE SIMULACRA. In his 1968 survey of his work till then (his ‘Self Portrait’) he selects THE SIMULACRA as the last favorite of his books right after THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH. And in his interview with Apel & Briggs he says:

    ... I like THE SIMULACRA; I think its a very fine book in some ways. It's incredibly complex. There's an incredible number of characters...

    And in another interview when asked what he thought were some of his best novels, PKD selected THE SIMULACRA:

    Well, the novel that I like the most is THE SIMULACRA, because there are more characters in it and it is more of the slice of life thing where you have all kinds of things and it culminates in what I regard as one of the funniest scenes of human disaster that is imaginable.

    We have two characters who are equivalent to used-car salesmen, and their great hope is to perform before the first lady of the White House. When they finally get their chance, their little animal, the Papoola, bites somebody and they're ruined. Their whole career has worked up to this point and this loveable little animal, the Papoola, who does it bite? The first lady?

    (A & F:) I think so, I can't remember.

    (PKD:) It does something dreadful. To me it's a funny matter, because it's a comic tragedy and a tragic comedy. That they have pinned all their hopes on this moment and then this little animal, which normally is completely benign, suddenly takes it into its head to bite the first lady.

    What I like best in my own writing is blending humor and tragedy together, to show that they are inseparable, like yin and yang. They are the two forces of the universe, the dark and the white. At any moment some grand, tragic situation is susceptible to being suddenly comic.

    {…}

    But that's why I like THE SIMULACRA because we have the desperate ambitions of two human beings. This ambition first culminates in a titanically unexpected invitation to the White House and then it's all ruined by this little animal biting the first lady. And the first lady doesn't exist anyway. She's just an actress who is playing the role of the first lady. And so the whole thing is a comedy of tragedy and a tragedy of comedy.

    {…} There is a tremendous opportunity for humour within this context, which all goes back to what started this diatribe, my book THE SIMULACRA. That is why I like it so much, because these men have devoted their entire lives, to aspire, to perform before the first lady. That is the highest joy this society offers. You can go to perform before the first lady. And she's a complete fake, she's an actress, and when they do perform their little animal screws it all up for them. And yet they go on living. And all the other characters go on living too.

    In another interview conducted when PKD went to Metz, France for a science fiction convention in 1977, he commented on his relationship with the French science fiction readers:

    And in a sense, I was learning about the novel not from English prose models but from French prose models. So it makes sense, perhaps, that my writings would be well received in France. A novel of mine, such as THE SIMULACRA, for example, which contains maybe 15 or 16 major characters, is definitely derived from such French writers as Balzac…

    But THE SIMULACRA is not a favorite of everyone; in the fan poll ran by the zine For Dickheads Only one respondent thought:

    The only PKD novel I've found less than fascinating is THE SIMULACRA. Don't ask me why, but it just fails to take off -- everything in it seems cribbed from other PKD novels, there's too much intrigue and not enough plot, there's precious little of PKD's dark humour, and it just gives the impression of being a piece of hack-work.

    The story THE SIMULACRA incorporates almost wholesale Dick’s 1963 novelette "Novelty Act."

    "Novelty Act" becomes a subplot in THE SIMULACRA around which Dick builds a story of political intrigue and technological machinations. The President’s wife, Nicole, still persists eternally but the President himself, Rudy Kalbfleisch, is a simulacrum that is breaking down. Society is divided into those who know the truth about the Government and those who don’t. Add in the character of Richard Kongrosian, an unbalanced and psychic pianist, and the ‘Chuppers’; a small society of Neanderthal-like throwbacks, and its no wonder that the plot is practically indescribable – and why it all falls apart in the end. A nice try from a good idea that was stretched too much. THE SIMULACRA (even though Nicole will kill me) rates


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FOREIGN EDITIONS


NOTES

SL-38 71 87:

Dear (ahem, if I may) Terry,                                                     Aug 13, 1964

{...}

... However, what is "THE SIMULACRA"? Is that what I called "FIRST LADY OF EARTH"? I mean, have I forgotten an entire novel? Wire instructions. Wire diagrams as to how to reassemble memory of forgotten novel. Or something.
   

SL:38 89

[To Terry Carr]

Dear Terry,                                                                     Aug 19, 1964

{...}{...}

    I know now that THE SIMULACRA is (one) out and (two) FIRST LADY OF EARTH because my lawyer one night, while drunk, called me from his mistresse's apartment to say, "Yr logich inna buk wunt so shitty damn smart, an no wunner your so fucked up in yr life, cuz ya cant think fuckin straight and wanna meet Jean, here? Here's Jean, baby." Etc.

{...}

SL:38 115

[To Terry & Carol Carr]

Dear Terry and Carol,                                                         Oct 16, 1964

{...}{...}

{...}And even my wife, whom I hate so, and who I guess hates me or some such fool thing, remarked that in reading THE SIMULACRA she saw, for the first time in my work, what she called "signs of true genius." For her that is a rather strong statement. So I guess I can take pride in my work. {...}

TDC 78

(PKD:) ... I like THE SIMULACRA; I think its a very fine book in some ways. It's incredibly complex. There's an incredible number of characters...

SF EYE #14 Spring 1996 p.39

(A & F:) What do you think is one of your best novels?

(PKD:) Well, the novel that I like the most is THE SIMULACRA, because there are more characters in it and it is more of the slice of life thing where you have all kinds of things and it culminates in what I regard as one of the funniest scenes of human disaster that is imaginable.

We have two characters who are equivalent to used-car salesmen, and their great hope is to perform before the first lady of the White House. When they finally get their chance, their little animal, the Papoola, bites somebody and they're ruined. Their whole career has worked up to this point and this loveable little animal, the Papoola, who does it bite? The first lady?

(A & F:) I think so, I can't remember.

(PKD:) It does something dreadful. To me it's a funny matter, because it's a comic tragedy and a tragic comedy. That they have pinned all their hopes on this moment and then this little animal, which normally is completely benign, suddenly takes it into its head to bite the first lady.

SF EYE #14 Spring, 1996 p43

(PKD:) He goes on trying and this, of course, is what Faulkner said in his marvellous Nobel Prize speech, that Man will not merely endure, he will prevail.

There is a tremendous opportunity for humour within this context, which all goes back to what started this diatribe, my book THE SIMULACRA. That is why I like it so much, because these men have devoted their entire lives, to aspire, to perform before the first lady. That is the highest joy this society offers. You can go to perform before the first lady. And she's a complete fake, she's an actress, and when they do perform their little animal screws it all up for them. And yet they go on living. And all the other characters go on living too. And I think that it's certain Faulkner's man will not merely endure, he will prevail. That in the midst of the rubble, there will still be the sound of a man's voice planning, arguing, and proposing solutions. I think Faulkner caught the essence of what is really great about human beings, and so I don't write about heroes.

{Interview by Uwe Anton and Werner Fuchs, tr. Frank C. Bertrand. 1977 Metz}

DLB-8 138:

In THE SIMULACRA, as the title indicates, Dick gives emphasis to another of his major themes, that of mechanical, electronic, or other simulations of organic life. These simulacra range from insect-sized "commercials," futuristic advertising devices which invade one's privacy, to der Alte, the "consort" of Nicole Thibodeaux, the latter having nominally ruled in the White House for almost a century, apparantly without aging. In addition, there are devices such as "the living protoplasm incorporated into the Ampek Fa2 recording system." This "Ganymedean life form did not experience pain and had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system...." This novel, like SOLAR LOTTERY and THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, concerns a power struggle. Among those caught up in it are the last practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Superb, and a famous psycho-kinetic pianist, Richard Kongrosian. Among other developments, Nicole turns out to be an impostor, an actress (thus one of the simulacra), and National Police Commissioner Pembroke tries to seize power. Nicole escapes, transported by Kongrosian's developing talent to a community of chuppers, a radiation-spawned subrace which is either a genetic reversal or the prospect of a regressive development of the future. The real power seems to be in the hands of cartels such as the Karps; escape from conditions on Earth seem to be possible only in the vehicles available at Looney Luke's "jalopy jungles" for those who can afford such transportation to Mars. In the ostensibly happy ending the story concludes with the army of the United States of Europe and America in temporary power, the plants of the Karps and the pharmaceutical cartel A.G. Chemie blown up, and the National Police overcome. But as so often in Dick, the ending is ambiguous, for the question of who is really in charge remains unanswered as fewer and fewer individuals -- not to mention phenomena -- can be identified as anything other than simulacra. {Patrick G. Hogan}

PKD OTAKU #1, Pub. Patrick Clark, 2001. Gilles Goullet: ‘Le ParaDick’: unreleased interview, Metz 1977

FDO#6, 1996. ‘PKD Horserace’. Peter Fenelon via Paul Rydeen.


Collector's Notes

Phildickian: THE SIMULACRA, Ace, pb, F301, 1964. VG $10

Phildickian: THE SIMULACRA, Ace, pb, 76701, 1976. VG $15

Phildickian: THE SIMULACRA, Magnum, pb, 01970x, 1977. VG+ $75


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