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THE ZAP GUN
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"Drugs?"
The KVB man turned his head. Like solemn owls all four men stared at Lars.
"I'm on drugs," Lars explained. "I thought KACH had told you that, God. I take them hourly!"

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Writing Date

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Notes

134

33  

Oct-Dec 1963

Jan 1967

NOW WAIT FOR LAST YEAR

CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON

Serialized as "Project Plowshare" in Worlds of Tomorrow

FIRST EDITIONS

1967 Pyramid, pb, R1569, Jan 1967, 176pp, $0.50 (Gaughan)
     
1975 IMAGE464.JPG (2744 bytes) Panther, pb, 04112-5, Feb 1975, 190pp, 40p (Peter Jones)

HISTORY

    Dick was contacted in October 1963 by his agent concerning a novel assignment from Pyramid Books. This was for a novel to be named THE ZAP GUN. Here’s the letter:

    I'm happy to report that we have a novel assignment for you from Pyramid Books. We had a meeting with Don Benson, the editor over there, and he has an idea for a science fiction novel entitled THE ZAP GUN.

    Of course, you'll recognize the zap gun as the old Buck Rogers standby. Don wants to do a book that would be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but about the serious possibility of a real "blaster". The blaster seems much more a possibility today because of the experiments with the laser beam.
    Don has agreed to contract on the basis of a detailed outline from you and will pay an advance of $1500: $500 on signature of contract, $500 on completion, and $500 on publication.
    I hope this idea interests you, and I'll look forward to an outline from you shortly.

    The idea certainly did interest Dick. $500 right away was good money. So by Dec 5, 1963 the Agency was in proud possession of an outline for THE ZAP GUN. This outline was published in PKDS-16 and consists of nine double-spaced typed pages. And the manuscript for THE ZAP GUN, which, as Paul Williams noted, had nothing to do with the earlier outline, was received by the SMLA on April 15, 1964. The novel was published by Pyramid Books in Jan 1967.

    But before paperback publication the story was sold to Worlds Of Tomorrow and serialized in the Nov 1965 and Jan 1966 issues of that magazine as "Project Plowshare".

    Between the time of the outline for THE ZAP GUN (Dec 1963) and the time the manuscript was finished on Apr 15, 1964 Dick wrote three more short stories and almost certainly wrote his novel CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON the manuscript for which arrived at the SMLA on Jan 16, 1964.

    While PKD was working on THE ZAP GUN, he was also working on THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH. Evidence for stating that PKD wrote these novels simultaneously comes from PKD himself when he said in his 1968 ‘Self Portrait’

    …Then THE ZAP GUN and THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, both of which I wrote at the same time.

    And is supported by Thomas M. Disch in his ‘Afterword’ to the Bluejay edition of THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH (reprinted in the Carroll & Graf editions):

    According to the records of the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, the outline for THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH was received in March 1964, and the completed manuscript in May.

    And as the outline for THE ZAP GUN was written in Nov 1963, sent to the Agency on 5 Dec and the manuscript completed by 15 Apr 1964, then it definitely looks like PKD wrote the two novels at the same time.

    Once THE ZAP GUN was published in Jan 1967 – and presumably Dick had collected the full $1500 due – PKD was disparaging about his novel on a couple of occasions, saying to Sandra Miesel in 1970:

     (I sort of hate GALACTIC POT-HEALER, as well as ZAP GUN plus a few more. Wrrgh.)

    And to interviewers Apel & Briggs in 1977:

    The intent is not sufficient to guarantee a good result. Some of the worst books I've written -- like THE ZAP GUN-- are books I've labored over...

    When Bluejay Books published their edition of THE ZAP GUN in 1985 a new Afterword by Maxim Jakubowski went so far as to quote PKD as saying:

    A lot of them (…) are pot-boilers. Well, they weren’t intentionally, they worked out that way. I always write it as well as I can. But sometimes I just don’t have the sacred fire to enflame my talent into, you know, a level of genius and what I wind up with is some turkey like ZAP GUN… The first half is totally unreadable, I don’t know where or what… I can hardly reconstruct the thinking that underlay the first half of that book. Just totally unintelligible.

    In regard to these negative comments by PKD on his books, Paul Williams notes that readers and future scholars should not pay too much attention to Dick’s evaluations of his own work; in some interviews he is swayed by the seeming attitude of the interviewers and in others he’s just in a strange mood.

    As far as THE ZAP GUN goes though he wrote in his 1968 ‘Self Portrait’ that

    I enjoyed writing all of them. But I think that if I could only choose a few, which, for example, might escape World War Three, I would choose … Then THE ZAP GUN and THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, both of which I wrote at the same time...

    Thus he belays a little bit his other comments.

    On reading THE ZAP GUN one finds it amusing and flashy. Lars Powderdry, Wes-Bloc’s resident weapons designer in the struggle with Peep-East takes drugs to help him in his work which mostly involves turning weapon designs into toys. That is, until the aliens invade and he is forced in concert with his Peep-East counterpart to design actual real weapons. He fails miserably at this but Earth is saved at the last minute by a disheveled side-character who also sells toys.

    I don’t think THE ZAP GUN is that bad, in fact I read it occasionally because it’s so much fun. I’d give it

   See: THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH.


OTHER EDITIONS                             For Cover Pix Click Here aaaPKDickBooks.jpg (3234 bytes)

FOREIGN EDITIONS:


NOTES

 PKDS-1 4:

In 1984 Bluejay has scheduled trade paper editions of THE ZAP GUN.

PKDS-2 10:

Publication dates are needed for THE ZAP GUN (book says Jan 1967 -- if this was written simultaneously with THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, as PKD says, it must have been written at least three years before publication).

PKDS-2 13:

I enjoyed writing all of them... Then THE ZAP GUN and THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, both of which I wrote at the same time... {PKD in Self Portrait, 1968}

PKDS-3 6:

THE ZAP GUN to come from Bluejay in early 1985.

PKDS-6 4:

Bluejay has issued two more PKD titles in their quality paperback reissue series.DR. BLOODMONEY and THE ZAP GUN. THE ZAP GUN includes an Afterword by Maxim Jakubowski, which defies normal marketing wisdom by quoting the author to the effect that this novel "is a turkey... the first half is totally unreadable"... PKD was in a peculiar mood that day that Rickman interviewed him about his earlier books, and readers and future scholars would be well-advised not to pay much attention to his evaluations of his own work.

PKDS-6 12:

The intent is not sufficient to guarantee a good result. Some of the worst books I've written -- like THE ZAP GUN-- are books I've labored over... {PKD to Apel & Briggs, 1977}

PKDS-20 16:

In Japan, THE ZAP GUN was published by Sogensha in July (June?), a few months after NOW WAIT FOR LAST YEAR; translated by Nozomi Ohmori.

PKDS-24 16:

...There's one in my own experience with him. When I interviewed Phil in 1981 I told him THE ZAP GUN seemed like a self-parody to me; when we discussed the book again he brought up the 'self-parody' idea (which he didn't like) and attributed it to a writer he was then irritated at. {Letter to PKDS from G. Rickman}

PKDS-26 11:

THE ZAP GUN is in print from Carroll & Graf. The Bluejay edition has been remaindered.

PKDS-16 1:

THE ZAP GUN. Being an outline written in November 1963 for the purpose of securing an advance from Pyramid Books for an unwritten novel.
[Pt.Reyes Station, California, November 1963: PKD received the following note from his agent, Scott Meredith, dated Oct 31 --

Dear Phil:
    I'm happy to report that we have a novel assignment for you from Pyramid Books. We had a meeting with Don Benson, the editor over there, and he has an idea for a science fiction novel entitled THE ZAP GUN.
    Of course, you'll recognize the zap gun as the old Buck Rogers standby. Don wants to do a book that would be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but about the serious possibility of a real "blaster". The blaster seems much more a possibility today because of the experiments with the laser beam.
    Don has agreed to contract on the basis of a detailed outline from you and will pay an advance of $1500: $500 on signature of contract, $500 on completion, and $500 on publication.
    I hope this idea interests you, and I'll look forward to an outline from you shortly.
    In the meantime, all the best. Scott. {
Scott Meredith to PKD, Oct 31 ? (probably 1963)}

    Records at the SMLA in New York indicate that the outline, published below, was received by the Agency Dec 5, 1963 (one day after the recorded receipt of the ms for NOW WAIT FOR LAST YEAR.
    The manuscript for THE ZAP GUN (which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the plot outline here) was received in New York on April 15, 1964 (Dick had turned in three other novels in the meantime). The novel was finally published by Pyramid Books in 1967; presumably Dick had a long wait for his third $500.
    The ms of the outline consists of nine double-spaced typed pages. Paragraphs, underlining and capitalization below are exactly as in Dick's original typescript)
    {Unfortunately GSM hasn't permission to run the ZAP GUN Outline here. See: PKDSN 16}

See THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH ‘Afterword’ by Thomas M. Disch. Found in the Bluejay and Carroll & Graf editions.

See THE ZAP GUN ‘Afterword’ by Maxim Jakubowski, found in THE ZAP GUN, Carroll & Graf, 1989, p.253. Also in the Bluejay edition.

SL-38 285. {PKD to Sandra Miesel, Sep 8 1970}


Collector's Notes

Ebay Auction: THE ZAP GUN, 1st edition, 1967, Nov 11 2000, 7 bids $11.09

Phildickian: THE ZAP GUN, Pyramid, pb, 1967. VG $10

Phildickian: THE ZAP GUN, Dell, pb, 1978. VG+ $12.50

Phildickian: THE ZAP GUN, Carrol & Graf, pb, 1991 2nd C & G. NF $15

Phildickian: THE ZAP GUN, Gregg Press, hb, 1979. NF $175

Phildickian: THE ZAP GUN, Panther, pb, 1978. VG+ $15


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