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WE CAN BUILD YOU
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<Oct 1962

Jul 1972

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

MARTIAN TIME-SLIP

See: "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum"

FIRST EDITIONS

1972 DAW, pb, UQ 1014 (#14), Jul 1972, 206pp, $0.95 (Schoenherr)
     
1977 IMAGE537.JPG (3589 bytes) Fontana, pb, 614616-3, May 1977, 208pp, 70p (Peter Tybus)

HISTORY

    The manuscript for WE CAN BUILD YOU, titled THE FIRST IN YOUR FAMILY, reached the SMLA on Oct 4, 1962. It was sent to Putnam’s on the same day but was inexplicably rejected by them, as it would be at Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, Ballantine and Crown Publishers over the next four months. It was finally bought by Ted White at Amazing Stories magazine in 1969 and serialized there in Nov 1969 and Jan 1970 as "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum." In 1972 Don Wollheim of DAW Books acquired the story and published it as WE CAN BUILD YOU in July of that year.

    Again, why did it take so long to find publication? Certainly the novel is inferior to THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE but one might think that Putnam’s would’ve taken a chance even though news of HIGH CASTLE’s success and Hugo Award would not happen until early 1963. Perhaps if the Agency had waited a few months before sending the manuscript out WE CAN BUILD YOU would have sold sooner than 1969, six years later. But… we really do not know why it took so long to publish. Ted White thinks it was because the story didn’t resolve (see below). It’s possible that many of the publishers it was sent to (Putnam’s, Crown and Simon & Schuster, for example) had seen too many of PKD’s mainstream novels and rejected them that they saw this new one as more of the same, not noting the new way Dick was melding his science fiction writing with his mainstream writing.

    Of the novel’s publication history Dick said:

    I wrote that novel before Disney even proposed to build the Lincoln simulacrum. I couldn't sell it for years and years and years and years. I wrote it while I was trying to fuse my mainstream stuff with my science fiction stuff, so its not quite science fiction, in the usual sense of the word. Finally Ted White, who knew of the existence of the manuscript, asked for it so he could publish it in a magazine. Ted added a final chapter to it, because -- as is well known -- writers are incapable of writing their own books. (…) If it wasn't for kindly editors, who are your best friends, who'll help you out by adding another chapter, or removing one here or there, or turning one inside out, or changing all the names, or whatever, you'd never have gotten off the ground. Naturally I was very indebted to Ted White, and I let him know. The way I let him know was that when Wollheim published the book, I told Wollheim to remove the final chapter. So one day I ran into Ted White, and he said, "Do you know what they did to our book?" I says, "I know exactly what they did to 'our book', Ted. They took the 'our' out of 'our book'!"

    I have seen the Lincoln simulacrum down there. I cut out the notice in the newspaper that Disney planned to build the Lincoln simulacrum and pasted it up on the wall of my study. I remember doing that because the novel had already been written. So he built it and I went to Disneyland and looked at the goddam thing...

    To this, Ted White responded in a letter to PKDS:

    I'd been wondering when the Apel/Briggs interview with Phil Dick would crop up in the Newsletter. I was shown a copy of this interview in ms. form in 1979 or 1980 and I was disturbed at the time by the wholly erroneous description of the events surrounding the publication of WE CAN BUILD YOU in Amazing as "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum." I write now in an effort to set the record straight, although my disappointment with Phil has worn off since his death.

    The original title of the novel was THE FIRST IN YOUR FAMILY {…} It was the only first-person-narrated novel, and it had one rather major problem, a problem which had kept it from selling for ten years before I bought it: it had no ending. It didn't resolve.

    {...}

    I'd heard about the novel, as he says, from someone at Scott Meredith -- maybe from when I worked there (1963), or perhaps later, I no longer recall -- and when I became editor of Amazing I asked for it. Scott was glad to send it out; it had been unsold for ten years by then, perhaps the only remaining unsold sf property of Phil's. I read it and realised what the problem was, and I asked Phil about two things: changing the title (to "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum," my choice) and adding an ending.

    Now to put this into context I must point out that I had met Phil in 1964, lived in his house, had him read the I Ching for me (a startling experience, the validity of which I believe to this day), and had been publicly described by Phil as the man who knew his work and understood it best. In 1965 or 1966 he had given me the first fifty pages and the synoptic essay for DEUS IRAE and asked me to finish it for him. In other words, this was a man who professed admiration and respect for me and wanted me to collaborate with him. (As a jape, he gave Penguin a photo of me and it was printed [as a photo of the author] on the back cover of the British THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.)

    So I called Phil up; he had no objection to my proposed title change and he suggested I write the ending to the novel. I counter-suggested that I write a first draft and send it to him for him to rewrite, and he agreed. So I wrote a somewhat off-the-wall final chapter in skeletal form. I expected Phil to either reject it out of hand or rewrite it and flesh it out. He did neither. He returned it to me with three words changed and praised its economy.

    As far as I knew when I ran "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum" it was in a form satisfactory to Phil. Because I considered myself a friend of Phil's, I tried to do more for him. I knew the novel had been rejected by every market that had seen it, and that undoubtedly included Ace (his original publisher), but ten years had passed and now it had an ending, so I gave a copy to Terry Carr, who was then editor of the Ace Specials. He didn't like it, but passed it on to Don Wollheim -- who had rejected the original version -- who also refused it. However, after Don went to DAW he must have had second thoughts, because he bought it for DAW and published it under a third title, WE CAN BUILD YOU --sans my ending.

    When Don Wollheim bought "A. Lincoln, Simulacrum" for publication as WE CAN BUILD YOU in his new DAW Books imprint in 1972, Philip K. Dick had occasion to again comment about one of his editors:

    Oh, I'll tell you another {Wollheim} story. He was late in paying me for WE CAN BUILD YOU. I was really broke; matter of fact, I was starving to death. My wife and I were living in Southern California, sharing one can of Chunky Chicken soup a day; that was all we could afford. So I wrote Wollheim this piteous letter: "Dear Don: I must tell you that I have been forced to give up writing science fiction and am going to work at Disneyland as one of the janitors who sweeps things up. The reason is because you have not sent me the money due me on WE CAN BUILD YOU. And you know what his answer was? "Why don't you come to New York and go on Welfare?" (…) He said that! Talk about your heart of stone! Shit!

    As we’ve seen above while looking at THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, Dick saw the rejection of THE FIRST IN YOUR FAMILY as ruining his hopes for a new kind of science fiction/mainstream style of writing that would be successful for him:

    My vision collapsed. I was crushed. I had made a mis-calculation somewhere, and I didn't know where. The evaluation I had made of myself, of the marketplace, went poof! I reverted to a more primitive concept of my writing. The books that might have followed TIME SLIP {that is, THE FIRST IN YOUR FAMILY} were gone.

    One can only wonder what PKD had in mind concerning his future books. Certainly, the next novel that he wrote after WE CAN BUILD YOU -- MARTIAN TIME-SLIP -- must’ve included some of his intentions.

    Thanks to Patrick Clark digging them out of the magazines and publishing them in PKD OTAKU we have a fine review of WE CAN BUILD YOU by Theodore Sturgeon from the Jan 1973 issue of Galaxy:

    WE CAN BUILD YOU proves for all time that: 1) Philip K. Dick is overwhelmingly competent and capable and might – probably will –produce a major novel and that: 2) this isn’t it. I base the first on his handling of his characters, who are consistently and warmly recognizable even in their stubborn irrationalities, on the boldness and provocation of his themes and his side remarks, on the richness of his auctorial background and the sparkles of laughter finger-flicked all over his work. I base the second on his willingness to pursue some collateral and fascinating line at the expense – and even the abandonment – of his central theme, which was (or so in the book he told me) the manufacture of exact simulacra of any human being and the impact of this development on humanity. The pursuit, in and out of the fringes of insanity, of an obsessive love-affair had me laughing and crying, but Dick and I were both conned, weakwilled as dieter gobbling hot fudge sundaes, into this delight instead of going about our business.

    WE CAN BUILD YOU tells of the machinations of the small firm MASA Associates as they build two simulacra, one of Edwin M. Stanton and one of Abraham Lincoln. Stanton was Lincoln’s Secretary of War. Their scheme is to build a swath of Civil War simulacra so that they can stage a full-scale recreation of the Civil War. This is all sidetracked, though, when magnate Sam Barrows wants the company to make simulacra for use as companions to the colonists on the moon. Emigration isn’t going too good and Barrows figures the simulacra will spur the colonization effort.

    But this is all secondary to the relations between the characters. These are dominated by that of Louis Rosen, a partner in the firm, and Pris Frauenzimmer, a psychotic girl who helped design the simulacra and who has a fixation on Sam Barrows.

    Against all sense and reason, Louis falls in love with Pris and their relationship comes to dominate the novel. Pris is absolutely the worst kind of individual it would be the misfortune for anyone to meet, let alone fall in love with. She’s a schizophrenic who has just been released from a Federal mental health clinic; supposedly cured. She has, basically, no emotional components other than a biting, vicious repartee which she uses to keep people away from her. Louis Rosen falls in love with this thing of a person – the two simulacra have more feelings than her – but he’s just hapless and borderline crazy himself. As one reads the novel, following Louis along as he tries to contact and win Pris’s affections, one hopes that she will turn her favors upon him but… she doesn’t. In the end Louis goes into a fugue state where he imagines that Pris does return his affections. Even when he himself is carted off to the mental clinic he’s unable to snap out of his imagined world. Finally released, Louis prepares to face reality.

    As for rating WE CAN BUILD YOU, I waver between and . Give it, then, .


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FOREIGN EDITIONS:


NOTES

TDC 42

(PKD:) Oh, I'll tell you another {Wollheim} story. He was late in paying me for WE CAN BUILD YOU. I was really broke; matter of fact, I was starving to death. My wife and I were living in Southern California, sharing one can of Chunky Chicken soup a day; that was all we could afford. So I wrote Wollheim this piteous letter: "Dear Don: I must tell you that I have been forced to give up writing science fiction and am going to work at Disneyland as one of the janitors who sweeps things up. The reason is because you have not sent me the money due me on WE CAN BUILD YOU. And you know what his answer was? "Why don't you come to New York and go on Welfare?" (general hilarity) He said that! Talk about your heart of stone! Shit!

TDC 43

(PKD:) I wrote that novel before Disney even proposed to build the Lincoln simulacrum. I couldn't sell it for years and years and years and years. I wrote it while I was trying to fuse my mainstream stuff with my sciene fiction stuff, so its not quite science fiction, in the usual sense of the word. Finally Ted White, who knew of the existence of the manuscript, asked for it so he could publish it in a magazine. Ted added a final chapter to it, because -- as is well known -- writers are incapable of writing their own books. (explosive laughter on our part; Phil deadpans the whole routine with perect sincerity) If it wasn't for kindly editors, who are your best friends, who'll help you out by adding another chapter, or removing one here or there, or turning one inside out, or changing all the names, or whatever, you'd never have gotten off the ground. Naturally I was very indebted to Ted White, and I let him know. The way I let him know was that when Wollheim published the book, I told Wollheim to remove the final chapter. So one day I ran into Ted White, and he said, "Do you know what they did to our book?" I says, "I know exactly what they did to 'our book', Ted. They took the 'our' out of 'our book'!"

I have seen the Lincoln simulacrum down there. I cut out the notice in the newspaper that Disney planned to build the Lincoln simulacrum and pasted it up on the wall of my study. I remember doing that because the novel had already been written. So he built it and I went to Disneyland and looked at the goddam thing...

TSR 211

Within the universe there exist fierce cold things, which I have given the name "machines" to. Their behavior frightens me, especially it imitates human behavior so well that I get the uncomfortable sense that these things are trying to pass themselves off as humans but are not. I call them "androids," which is my own way of using that word. By "android" I do not mean a sincere attempt to create in the laboratory a human being (as we saw in the excellent TV film The Questor Tapes). I mean a thing somehow generated to deceive us in a cruel way, to cause us to think it to be one of ourselves. These creatures are among us, although morphologically they do not differ from us; we must not posit a difference of essence, but a difference of behavior. In my science fiction I write about about them constantly. Sometimes they themselves do not know they are androids. Like Rachel Rosen, they can be pretty but somehow lack something; or, like Pris in WE CAN BUILD YOU, they can be absolutely born of a human womb and even desing androids -- the Abraham Lincoln one in that book -- and themselves be without warmth; they then fall within the clinical entity "schizoid," which means lacking proper feeling. I am sure we mean the same thing here, with the emphasis on the word "thing." A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.

See OAR 181

See PKDS-6 8. Ted White > PKDS, nd {c.1984}

See Galaxy, Jan 1973, pp173-74. PKD OTAKU #8, Jan 2003, p7.


Collector's Notes 

Phildickian: WE CAN BUILD YOU, Severn House, hb, 1988. VF/VF $60

Phildickian: WE CAN BUILD YOU, DAW, pb, 1972. VG $10

Phildickian: WE CAN BUILD YOU, Vintage, tp, 1994. 4th print. NF $10


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