Credits    Navigation      philipdick.com     Novels    Short Stories     References

Blobel1.gif (6623 bytes)
aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes) aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes) aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes)

Number

Writing Date

Pub. Date

Previous

Next

Notes

97

<May 6, 1963

Feb 1964

What’ll We Do With Ragland Park?

The Little Black Box

MS title: "Well, See, There Were These Blobels!"
6,000 wds

FIRST PUBLICATION

HISTORY:

   The manuscript for what would become "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" reached the SMLA on May 6, 1963. It was published in Galaxy in Feb 1964. Philip K. Dick didn’t like the new title, preferring his own: "Well, See, There Were These Blobels."

    The story was first anthologized in 1965 in Ace Books’ WORLD’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION: 1965. This was a sale that PKD needed at the time as he was again financially strapped, writing to Scott Meredith at the Agency in 1965:

    "Thank you very much for your letter notifying me of the anthology sale of OH TO BE A BLOBEL to Ace. Yes, things are rather rough here financially. I wasn't able to pay my rent last time; {...}"

    Unfortunately for Phil’s pocket; at least as far as sales of this story were concerned, "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" didn’t reappear until his THE PRESERVING MACHINE collection in 1969. But, overall, though "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" has been successful. It was collected again in THE BEST OF PHILIP K. DICK in 1977 and the 1980 Playboy Press retrospective: GALAXY: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction. Altogether this story has had nine printings including THE COLLECTED STORIES in 1987.

    Of the story PKD had quite a bit to say:

    Here I nailed down the ultimate meaningless irony of war; the human turns into a Blobel, and the Blobel, his enemy, turns into a human, and there it all is, the futility, the black humour, the stupidity. And in the story they all wind up happy.

    This short story also enables us to see some of the problems Dick had to handle facing different magazine editors:

    At the beginning of my writing career in the early Fifties, Galaxy was my economic mainstay. Horace Gold at Galaxy liked my writing whereas John W. Campbell, Jr. at Astounding considered my writing not only worthless but as he put it, "Nuts." By and large I liked reading Galaxy because it had the broadest range of ideas, venturing into the soft sciences such as sociology and psychology, at a time when Campbell (as he once wrote me!) considered psionics a necessary premise for science fiction. Also, Campbell said, the psionic character in the story had to be in charge of what was going on. So Galaxy provided a latitude which Astounding did not. However, I was to get into an awful quarrel with Horace Gold; he had the habit of changing your stories without telling you: adding scenes, adding characters, removing downbeat endings in favor of upbeat endings. Many writers resented this. I did more than resent this; despite the fact that Galaxy was my main source of income I told Gold that I would not sell to him unless he stopped altering my stories -- after which he bought nothing from me at all.

    It was not, then, until Fred Pohl became editor of Galaxy that I began to appear there again. "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" is a story which Fred Pohl bought. In this story my enormous anti-war bias is evident, a bias which had, ironically, pleased Gold. I wasn't thinking of the Vietnam War but war in general; in particular, how a war forces you to become like your enemy. Hitler had once said that the true victory of the Nazis would be to force its enemies, the United States in particular, to become like the Third Reich -- i.e. a totalitarian society -- in order to win. Hitler, then, expected to win even in losing. As I watched the American military-industrial complex grow after World War Two I kept remembering Hitler's analysis, and I kept thinking how right the son of a bitch was. We had beaten Germany, but both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R were getting more and more like the Nazis with their huge police systems every day. Well, it seemed to me there was a little wry humour in this (but not much). Maybe I could write about it without getting too deep into polemics. But the issue presented in this story is real. Look what we had to become in Viet Nam just to lose, let alone to win; can you imagine what we'd have had to become to win? Hitler would have gotten a lot of laughs out of it, and the laughs would have been on us... and to a very great extent in fact were. And they were hollow and grim laughs, without humour of any kind."

    "Oh, To Be A Blobel" is indeed a grim comment on the aftermath of war. PKD makes literal Hitler’s comment that to win a war one must become like one’s enemy. George Munster, a Terran spy on Titan in the Earth-Blobel war, was transformed into a amoebic blob to infiltrate the Blobel society. But after the war his government informed him that they could not completely turn him back into human form; half of the time he would revert to his Blobel shape. Naturally this causes him psychological problems and he visits a homeostatic psychiatrist who is actually of some help, fixing George up with a Blobel spy who is, part of the time, stuck in human form. It helps that this human form is that of a beautiful young woman. Eventually the two get married and have children. But this causes further problems as two of the children are hybrid Terran-Blobels while one is a full-blooded Terran and the other a perfect Blobel. Marital problems ensue and in an ironic ending George, now a successful businessman, moves to Io and becomes fixed in Blobel form while his wife, Vivian, remains on Earth now fixed into human form.

    A sardonic anti-war story, "Oh, To Be A Blobel" rates

    After completing "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" in early May 1963, Dick learned of the acceptance of MARTIAN TIME-SLIP from Ballantine in June. In August the serialization of "All We Marsmen" began in Worlds Of Tomorrow. The biggest news of the year, though, came in September when the science fiction fans awarded Dick the Hugo for the best science fiction novel of 1962: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.


 Other Magazine and Anthology appearances.    Click here for Cover Pix: aaaPKDickBooks.jpg (3234 bytes)

1965 Blobel65.jpg (6128 bytes) WORLD'S BEST SF: 1965, Ace, pb, G-551, ?, $0.50 (?) {Ed. Wollheim, Carr}        
1969 tpm3a.jpg (4125 bytes) THE PRESERVING MACHINE And Other Stories, Ace, pb, 67800, ?,? (?)  
1974   INFINITE JESTS, Chilton, hb, ?, Apr 1974, ?,  $5.95 (?) {Ed. Silverberg} 0-801-95931-4  
1977 THE BEST OF PHILIP K. DICK, Ballantine, pb, 25359, 1977, ?,?(?)  
1980   ALIENS! Pocket Books, pb, 83155, Apr 1980, 305pp, $2.25 (?) {Ed. Dozois, Dann} 0-671-83155-0  
1980   GALAXY: 30 Years Of Innovative SF, Playboy, hb, ? $10.95 (?) {Ed. Pohl, Olander, Greenberg}  
1981   GALAXY Vol.2, Playboy Paperbacks, pb, ?, 1981, ?, ? (?) {Ed. Pohl, Olander, Greenberg}  
1982   YESTERDAY'S TOMORROWS, Berkley, tp, ?, Oct 1982, ?, ? (?) {Ed. Pohl} 0-425-05648-1  
1987   THE COLLECTED STORIES OF PKD  
       

NOTES:

 Levack 113

    Here I nailed down the ultimate meaningless irony of war; the human turns into a Blobel, and the Blobel, his enemy, turns into a human, and there it all is, the futility, the black humour, the stupidity. And in the story they all wind up happy. (PKD 1976)

CSVol4    379

    At the beginning of my writing career in the early Fifties, Galaxy was my economic mainstay. Horace Gold at Galaxy liked my writing whereas John W. Campbell, Jr. at Astounding considered my writing not only worthless but as he put it, "Nuts." By and large I liked reading Galaxy because it had the broadest range of ideas, venturing into the soft sciences such as sociology and psychology, at a time when Campbell (as he once wrote me!) considered psionics a necessary premise for science fiction. Also, Campbell said, the psionic character in the story had to be in charge of what was going on. So Galaxy provided a latitude which Astounding did not. However, I was to get into an awful quarrel with Horace Gold; he had the habit of changing your stories without telling you: adding scenes, adding characters, removing downbeat endings in favor of upbeat endings. Many writers resented this. I did more than resent this; despite the fact that Galaxy was my main source of income I told Gold that I would not sell to him unless he stopped altering my stories -- after which he bought nothing from me at all.

    It was not, then, until Fred Pohl became editor of Galaxy that I began to appear there again. "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" is a story which Fred Pohl bought. In this story my enormous anti-war bias is evident, a bias which had, ironically, pleased Gold. I wasn't thinking of the Vietnam War but war in general; in particular, how a war forces you to become like your enemy. Hitler had once said that the true victory of the Nazis would be to force its enemies, the United States in particular, to become like the Third Reich -- i.e. a totalitarian society -- in order to win. Hitler, then, expected to win even in losing. As I watched the American military-industrial complex grow after World War Two I kept remembering Hitler's analysis, and I kept thinking how right the son of a bitch was. We had beaten Germany, but both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R were getting more and more like the Nazis with their huge police systems every day. Well, it seemed to me there was a little wry humour in this (but not much). Maybe I could write about it without getting too deep into polemics. But the issue presented in this story is real. Look what we had to become in Viet Nam just to lose, let alone to win; can you imagine what we'd have had to become to win? Hitler would have gotten a lot of laughs out of it, and the laughs would have been on us... and to a very great extent in fact were. And they were hollow and grim laughs, without humour of any kind. (1979)

SL-38 88

    {...} OH, TO BE A BLOBEL was originally called WELL, SEE THERE WERE THESE BLOBELS ... I like my title better. I hate these title changers. {...} {PKD>Terry Carr, Aug 13, 1964}

SL-38 186

Dear Scott,

    Thank you very much for your letter notifying me of the anthology sale of OH TO BE A BLOBEL to Ace. Yes, things are rather rough here financially. I wasn't able to pay my rent last time; {...}
    {PKD>Scott Meredith, undated 1965}{note: From reading it this letter was probably written after March 25, 1965 and before April 6, 1965 -- Lord RC}
    {See: THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH for more from this letter}


Collector’s Notes

Ken Lopez: "Oh, To Be a Blobel!" in Galaxy, Feb 1964 (1st). VG. Signed by the author and also by Jack Vance. Owner name front cover.

Rudy’s Books: "Oh, To Be a Blobel" in Galaxy, Feb 1964 (1st). G-VG. $5

Phildickian: "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" in Galaxy: Thirty Years Of Innovative Science Fiction", Playboy Press, hb, 1980 VG/VG. . The book is clean and tight with only light shelfwear, and moderate bumping (no fraying) at the spine ends. The dust jacket is rubbed with light chipping at the spine ends, and minor soiling to the rear panel. The dj is covered with a brodart. $20

Phildickian: "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" in Galaxy: Thirty Years Of Innovative Science Fiction", Playboy Press, hb, BCE/BOMC, 1980. VG+/VG+. Clean tight copy with light wear. $20

Phildickian: "Oh, To Be A Blobel!" in Galaxy: Thirty Years Of Innovative Science Fiction", Playboy Press, hb, BCE/BOMC, 1980. VG+. The book is tight with moderate edgewear and bumping at the spine ends. The dust jacket while complete, is heavily creased around the spine ends and corners with moderate edgewear. The dj is covered in a brodart. $15


Credits    Navigation      philipdick.com     Novels    Short Stories     References