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UBIK
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Ten minutes later the Curtiss-Wright biplane had been gassed, the prop manually spun, and, with Joe Chip and Jesperson aboard, it began weaving an erratic, sloppy path down the runway, bouncing into the air and then collapsing back again. Joe gritted his teeth and hung on.

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153

42  

Late 1966

May 1969

DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?

NICK AND THE GLIMMUNG

See "What The Dead Men Say

FIRST EDITIONS

HISTORY

    The manuscript for DEATH OF AN ANTI-WATCHER reached the SMLA on Dec 7, 1966. The story under the title UBIK was first published by Doubleday in May 1969. Why it took so long to publish is a mystery.  UBIK builds on PKD’s earlier short-story "What The Dead Men Say" written in 1963.

    The Philip K. Dick papers discovered by Patrick Clark at the Bowling Green State University in Ohio reveal that the novel was in the publication mill at Doubleday by Jan 1968. A letter to PKD from Doubleday found in the BGSU Papers included the cover artwork for UBIK at that time.

    Further correspondence in March from Larry Ashmead at Doubleday informs PKD that UBIK will be a Science Fiction Book Club selection with a $1,000 advance against royalties of 6 cents per copy sold.

    And into May 1968 the letters continued with some questions about the UBIK cover art.

    It would be a year before any more documented comments were made on UBIK. Dick himself in a letter to critic Peter Fitting circa early May 1969 mentions his new novel:

    My most recent novel will be out May 9th, published by Doubleday, called, UBIK. It is a very strange one.

    And after the first edition and the SFBC edition were published the paperback from Dell Books came out in May 1970. On this edition Dick said in an interview that

    ...for Ubik, I got ten thousand dollars for the paperback of which I got five thousand and Doubleday got the other five.

    Many editions followed these first three. A now valuable hardback came from Rapp & Whiting publishers in the UK in June 1970 and another in paperback from Panther in May 1970. Once Mark Hurst had acquired the rights to UBIK in 1976 for Bantam Books their edition followed in Jan 1977. This is the one with the naked woman partially hidden in the spray can of Ubik on the front cover. More editions followed including the first USA hardback of UBIK from The Gregg Press in 1979. Foreign editions, too, are numerous. For collectors the first non-SFBC edition from Doubleday is the prize, followed by the Rapp & Whiting edition from 1970. The Gregg Press edition also is of good value.

    One need not be surprised that Dick saw UBIK as an important work in his oeuvre. In conversation with Apel & Briggs he said, " I have a very strong feeling that UBIK, too, contains some important ideas."

    And in another interview the questioner got onto the subject of his favorite Dick novels:

    (Mike Hodel:) Of all the novels you've written, I guess my own particular favorites are The Man in the High Castle, of course, and Ubik.

    (Dick:) You-bick?

    (Hodel:) You-bick.

    (Dick:) You-bick. The French call it Ooh-bick. Deek's Ooh-bick. It's called Ubick, Mia Signore in Italian. I guess that means Ubick, My Dear Sir or something like that. Well, it does--I looked it up.

    {...}

    You don't just write whatever comes into your head while you're sitting there in front of the typewriter. When I wrote UBIK, I got about twelve pages done and couldn't think of anything else, so l just wrote whatever came into my mind. I wrote it from my unconscious: I let the right hemisphere of my brain do all the thinking, and I was as surprised as anybody as to what came out. In France, of course, it's considered a great novel because it doesn't make any sense; in France, it's a roman de pataphysique. Ever since Alfred Jarry hit town, they've loved stuff that doesn't make any sense. Maybe it does make sense when you translate it into French. Maybe I'm a great writer in France because I've got good translators.

    (Hodel:) You are better known, I think, in France than you are here.

    (Dick:) Germany, France--England, too.

    As to his own foreign relations PKD tells a funny story about the Russians;

    "I got this letter, direct from Moscow," he told us, "signed by some fairly important scientists, who invited me to visit Russia so they could talk to me."

    "What on Earth for?" I asked.

    "Well, it seems they had read UBIK, and had already formulated theories that the afterlife was remarkably close to what I had theorized in that novel," he explained. "They wanted me to come over so they could find out what I knew -- and probably experiment on me to find out how I knew," he chuckled.

    "You didn't go," I stated, prompting.

    "I actually considered going for a while {...}

    And so, instead, one day a few months later, this black limousine, with the shaded glass windows and so on. And three men in trench coats got out and came to the door. I was watching this from the window, and I was thinking, oh shit. They've finally caught up with me. I had, at that time, no idea about who 'They' were; I was just convinced that someone had caught up with me for whatever sins I might have committed. Or they thought I had committed.

    At any rate, it turns out they were from the Russian Embassy. The scientists in Moscow had received my letter, in which I had fabricated some excuse for not visiting, and they had requested that the Embassy send a delegation to interview me in my own home. They were very nice and polite, and once they explained who they were and what they wanted, I let them in and we talked about UBIK for an hour or so. I didn't tell them nothin'. Just played stupid. Then they left, and I've never heard from them since.

    Perhaps Dick was too close to the thoughts of Dr. Kozyrev…:

    Within a system which must generate an enormous amount of veiling, it would be vain-glorious to expostulate on what actuality is, when my premise declares that were we to penetrate to it for any reason this strange veil-like dream would reinstate itself retroactively, in terms of our perceptions and in terms of our memories. The mutual dreaming would resume as before, because, I think, we are like the characters in my novel UBIK; we are in a state of half-life. We are neither dead nor alive, but preserved in cold storage, waiting to be thawed out. Expressed in the perhaps startlingly familiar terms of the procession of the seasons, this is winter of which I speak; it is winter for our race, and it is winter in UBIK for those in half-life. Ice and snow cover them; ice and snow cover our world in layers of accretions, which we call dokos or Maya. What melts away the rind or layer of frozen ice over the world each year is of course the reappearance of the sun. What melts the ice and snow covering the characters in UBIK, and which halts the cooling-off of their lives, the entropy which they feel, is the voice of Mr. Runciter, their former employer, calling to them. The voice of Mr. Runciter is none other than the same voice which each bulb and seed and root in the ground, our ground, in our winter-time, hears. It hears: "Wake up! Sleepers awake!" Now I have told you who Runciter is, and I have told you our condition and what UBIK is really about. What I have said, too, is that time is actually as Dr. Kozyrev in the Soviet Union supposes it to be, and in UBIK time has been nullified and no longer moves forward in the lineal fashion which we experience. As this has happened, due to the deaths of the characters, we the readers and they the personŠ see the world as it is without the veil of Maya, without the obscuring mists of lineal time. It is that very energy, Time, postulated by Dr. Kozyrev as binding together all phenomena and maintaining all life, which by its activity hides the ontological reality beneath its flow.

    The orthogonal time axis may have been represented in my novel UBIK without my understanding what I was depicting; i.e. the form regression of objects along an entirely different line from that out of which they, in lineal time, were built. This reversion is that of the Platonic Ideas or archetypes; a rocket-ship reverts to a Boeing 747, then back to a World War I "Jenny" biplane. While I may indeed have expressed a dramatic view of orthogonal time, it is less certain that this is orthogonal time undergoing an unnatural reversion; i.e. moving backwards. What the characters in UBIK see may be orthogonal time moving along its normal axis; if we ourselves somehow see the universe reversed the "reversions" of form which objects in UBIK undergo may be momentum towards perfection. This would imply that our world as extensive in time (rather than extensive in space) is like an onion, an almost infinite number of successive layers. If lineal time seems to add layers, then perhaps orthogonal time peels these off, exposing layers of progressively greater Being. One is reminded here of Plotinus's view of the universe as consisting of concentric rings of emanation, each one possessing more Being -- or reality -- than the next.

    This fascination with time and UBIK would further occupy Dick’s mind:

    In UBIK the forward moving force of time (or timeforce expressed as an ergic field) has ceased. All changes result from that. Forms regress. The substrate is revealed. Cooling (entropy) is allowed to set in unimpeded. Equilibrium is affected by the vanishing of the forward-moving time force-field. The bare bones, so to speak, of the world, our world, are revealed. We see the Logos addressing the many living entities.. Assisting and advising them. We are now aware of the Atman everywhere. The press of time on everything, having been abolished, reveals many elements underlying our phenomena

    If time stops, this is what takes place, these changes.

    Not frozen-ness but revelation.

    There are still the retrograde forces remaining, at work. And also underlying positive forces other than time. The disappearance of the force-field we call time reveals both good and bad things; which is to say, coaching entities (Runciter who is the Logos), the Atman, Ella; it isn't a static world, but it begins to cool. What is missing is a form of heat; the Aten. The Logos (Runciter) can tell you what to do, but you lack the energy -- heat, force -- to do it. (i.e. time).

    And further:

    In my novel UBIK I present a motion along a retrograde entropic axis, in terms of Platonic forms rather than any decay or reversion we normally conceive. Perhaps the normal forward motion along this axis, away from entropy, accruing rather than divesting, is identical with the axis line that I characterize as lateral, which is to say, in orthogonal rather than linear time. If this is so, the novel UBIK inadvertently contains what could be called a scientific rather than a philosophical idea. But here I am only guessing. Still, the fiction writer may have written more than he consciously knew.

    And finally:

    UBIK was primarily a dream, or series of dreams. In my opinion it contains strong themes of pre-Socratic philosophical views of the world, unfamiliar to me when I wrote it (to name just one, the views of Empedocles)

    But maybe the last word on this should go to George Melrod:

    What may be most ironic about Dick is that, over time, he came to believe in these possibilities as viable models of reality. As he wrote later, "All I know today that I didn't know when I wrote UBIK is that UBIK isn't fiction."

    Several year after first publication of UBIK Dick in 1974 decided to write a screenplay for UBIK. This he did in short order but it was not published until after Dick’s death when Corroboree Press produced a beautiful illustrated edition in 1985. {See UBIK:The Screenplay}

    UBIK, although a progression from "What The Dead Men Say" is completely different in its plot…

    The novel starts with Joe Chip arguing with the door of his apartment. Without the five cents to trigger its mechanism it won’t let him out. But with a promise of later payment Chip emerges only to find himself and his job as telepathic scout in urgent demand. His boss, Glen Runciter, runs a service that supplies a corps of anti-psis to other businesses to counteract the effects of telepaths, precogs and other psis. But the main psi Runciter Associates has been keeping its eye on has disappeared. When the cream of Runciter’s organization is lured to the Moon and there blown up by a homeostatic bomb things get decidedly strange.

    Runciter, now dead, survives on in cold-pac from where he communicates with his family and associates as he organizes the continuing struggle against Stanton Mick and his organization of psis. In this war of psi and anti-psi Joe Chip finds himself in the lead. But when personal messages appear on bathroom walls and Runciter’s head appears on coins Chip gets mightily confused. His situation isn’t helped when his cigarettes go stale and his car devolves back to a Model A Ford. And when he tries to fly to Cheyenne and the plane he is in turns into a Curtiss ‘Jenny’ he knows he’s in trouble.

    Pat Conley, an anti-psi who Joe Chip discovered, works with Joe even though he is not sure of exactly what her talent is. And when he himself starts to devolve on the stairs leading to his hotel room while Pat looks on and laughs he about gives up the struggle. But at the last moment he acquires a spray can of Ubik which halts and reverses the process of decay. And even when his spray can devolves into a tin of quack patent medicine it still works. But his supply is running short and, anyway, what really is this ubiquitous Ubik?

    In the end Joe is startled to see his own face appearing on a coin.

    UBIK is a shimmering story of irreality and definitely one of PKD’s best. It deserves ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘


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


FOREIGN EDITIONS:


NOTES

TDC 108

"I got this letter, direct from Moscow," he told us, "signed by some fairly important scientists, who invited me to visit Russia so they could talk to me."

"What on Earth for?" I asked.

"Well, it seems they had read UBIK, and had already formulated theories that the afterlife was remarkably close to what I had theorized in that novel," he explained. "They wanted me to come over so they could find out what I knew -- and probaby experiment on me to find out how I knew," he chuckled.

"You didn't go," I stated, prompting.

"I actually considered going for a while {...}

And so, instead, one day a few months later, this black limousine, with the shaded glass windows and so on. And three men in trench coats got out and came to the door. I was watching this from the window, and I was thinking, oh shit. They've finally caught up with me. I had, at that time, no idea about who 'They' were; I was just convinced that someone had caught up with me for whatever sins I might have committed. Or they thought I had committed.

At any rate, it turns out they were from the Russian Embassy. The scientists in Moscow had received my letter, in which I had fabricated some excuse for not visiting, and they had requested that the Embassy send a delegation to interview me in my own home. They were very nice and polite, and once they explained who they were and what they wanted, I let them in and we talked about UBIK for an hour or so. I didn't tell them nothin'. Just played stupid. Then they left, and I've never heard from them since.

TSR 216

Within a system which must generate an enormous amount of veiling, it would be vain-glorious to expostulate on what actuality is, when my premise declares that were we to penetrate to it for any reason this strange veil-like dream would reinstate itself retroactively, in terms of our perceptions and in terms of our memories. The mutual dreaming would resume as before, because, I think, we are like the characters in my novel UBIK; we are in a state of half-life. We are neither dead nor alive, but preserved in cold storage, waiting to be thawed out. Expressed in the perhaps startingly familiar terms of the procession of the seasons, this is winter of which I speak; it is winter for our race, and it is winter in UBIK for those in half-life. Ice and snow cover them; ice and snow cover our world in layers of accretions, which we call dokos or Maya. What melts away the rind or layer of frozen ice over the world each year is of course the reappearance of the sun. What melts the ice and snow covering the characters in UBIK, and which halts the cooling-off of their lives, the entropy which they feel, is the voice of Mr. Runciter, their former employer, calling to them. The voice of Mr. Runciter is none other than the same voice which each bulb and seed and root in the ground, our ground, in our winter-time, hears. It hears: "Wake up! Sleepers awake!" Now I have told you who Runciter is, and I have told you our condition and what UBIK is really about. What I have said, too, is that time is actually as Dr. Kozyrev in the Soviet Union supposes it to be, and in UBIK time has been nullified and no longer moves forward in the lineal fashion which we experience. As this has happened, due to the deaths of the characters, we the readers and they the personŠ see the world as it is without the veil of Maya, without the obscuring mists of lineal time. It is that very energy, Time, postulated by Dr. Kozyrev as binding together all phenomena and maintaining all life, which by its activity hides the ontological reality beneath its flow.

The orthogonal time axis may have been represented in my novel UBIK without my understanding what I was depicting; i.e. the form regression of objects along an entirely different line from that out of which they, in lineal time, were built. This reversion is that of the Platonic Ideas or archetypes; a rocket-ship reverts to a Boeing 747, then back to a World War I "Jenny" biplane. While I may indeed have expressed a dramatic view of orthogonal time, it is less certain that this is orthogonal time undergoing an unnatural reversion; i.e. moving backwards. What the characters in UBIK see may be orthogonal time moving along its normal axis; if we ourselves somehow see the universe reversed the the "reversions" of form which objects in UBIK undergo may be momentum towards perfection. This would imply that our world as extensive in time (rather than extensive in space) is like an onion, an almost infinite number of successive layers. If lineal time seems to add layers, then perhaps orthogonal time peels these off, exposing layers of progressively greater Being. One is reminded here of Plotinus's view of the universe as consisting of concentric rings of emanation, each one possessing more Being -- or reality -- than the next.

TSR 224

UBIK was primarily a dream, or series of dreams. In my opinion it contains strong themes of pre-Socratic philosophical views of the world, unfamiliar to me when I wrote it (to name just one, the views of Empedocles)

TSR 243

(PKD:) In my novel UBIK I present a motion along a retrograde entropic axis, in terms of Platonic forms rather than any decay or reversion we normally conceive. Perhaps the normal forward motion along this axis, away from entropy, accruing rather than divesting, is identical with the axis line that I characterize as lateral, which is to say, in orthogonal rather than linear time. If this is so, the novel UBIK inadvertantly contains what could be called a scientific rather than a philosophical idea. But here I am only guessing. Still, the fiction writer may have written more than he consciously knew.

21C #4 1995 p78ff

What may be most ironic about Dick is that, over time, he came to believe in these possibilities as viable models of reality. As he wrote later, "All I know today that I didn't know when I wrote UBIK is that UBIK isn't fiction." {Article by George Melrod}

Mainstream That Through The Ghetto Flows

...for Ubik, I got ten thousand dollars for the paperback of which I got five thousand and Doubleday got the other five.

{...}

(Interviewer:) Of all the novels you've written, I guess my own particular favorites are The Man in the High Castle, of course, and Ubik.

(Dick:) You-bick?

(Interviewer:) You-bick.

(Dick:) You-bick. The French call it Ooh-bick. Deek's Ooh-bick. It's called Ubick, Mia Signore in Italian. I guess that means Ubick, My Dear Sir or something like that. Well, it does--I looked it up.

{...}

You don't just write whatever comes into your head while you're sitting there in front of the typewriter. When I wrote UBIK, I got about twelve pages done and couldn't think of anything else, so l just wrote whatever came into my mind. I wrote it from my unconscious: I let the right hemisphere of my brain do all the thinking, and I was as surprised as anybody as to what came out. In France, of course, it's considered a great novel because it doesn't make any sense; in France, it's a roman de pataphysique. Ever since Alfred Jarry hit town, they've loved stuff that doesn't make any sense. Maybe it does make sense when you translate it into French. Maybe I'm a great writer in France because I've got good translators.

(Interviewer:) You are better known, I think, in France than you are here.

(Dick:) Germany, France--England, too.

{...}

(Interviewer:) You wrote a screenplay of one of your own works, didn't you?

(Dick:) Yeah, I wrote a good screenplay. I wrote a really good one of UBIK. Boy, there's Gresham's law. I don't know how it applies to science fiction writing in general, but it sure applies to screenplays: the bad screenplays force the good ones out. Given a choice, they'll make a movie out of bad screenplay and throw the good screenplay back at the author.

(Interviewer:) If I remember the Rolling Stone piece, that screenplay you did of UBIK is currently bouncing around in Europe, still trying to get financed.

(Dick:) It's still optioned. They're still trying to get financing for it, but it's not the director's fault. Jean-Pierre Gorin spent all the money he had, but he couldn't get the millions of dollars that he thought it would cost. Then he got sick with liver trouble, and he had to give up being a director and go teach down in San Diego. I wrote a really great screenplay, and that's the one thing I am bitter about. If I had written a novel with some of that stuff in it, I wouldn't have had any trouble selling it. But I can't sell that screenplay.

{for continuation see: The Mainstream That Through The Ghetto Flows}

IPOV 63:

In UBIK the forward moving force of time (or timeforce expressed as an ergic field) has ceased. All changes result from that. Forms regress. The substrate is revealed. Cooling (entropy) is allowed to set in unimpeded. Equilibrium is affected by the vanishing of the forward-moving time force-field. The bare bones, so to speak, of the world, our world, are revealed. We see the Logos addressing the many living entities.. Assisting and advising them. We are now aware of the Atman everywhere. The press of time on everything, having been abolished, reveals many elements underlying our pehenomena

If time stops, this is what takes place, these changes.

Not frozen-ness but revelation.

There are still the retrograde forces remaining, at work. And also underlying positive forces other than time. The disappearance of the force-field we call time reveals both good and bad things; which is to say, coaching entities (Runciter who is the Logos), the Atman, Ella; it isn't a static world, but it begins to cool. What is missing is a form of heat; the Aten. The Logos (Runciter) can tell you what to do, but you lack the energy -- heat, force -- to do it. (i.e.time)

See BGSU Papers : Lawrence P. Ashmead > PKD, Jan 17, 1968

See same: Lawrence P. Ashmead > PKD, Mar 10, 1968

See same: Lawrence P. Ashmead > PKD, May 29, 1968

See: SL-38 199. PKD to A. Boucher, undated, circa Christmas 1966. {If the dating of this letter is correct then UBIK must’ve sold to Doubleday shortly after its reception at the SMLA on Dec 7, 1966. I cannot confirm this though -- Lord RC}

See: SL-38 246. PKD>Peter Fitting, before May 1969

See: Hour 25

See: TDC 79, TDC 108

See: TSR 244

See: PKDS-16 5


Collector's Notes

Phildickian: UBIK, Doubleday, hb, SFBC, 1969. VG/VG. $25

Phildickian: UBIK, Bantam, pb, 10402, 1977. VG. $10

Phildickian: UBIK, Panther, pb, 7160, 1978. VG+ $9

Phildickian: UBIK, Dell, pb, 9200, 1970. $10

Phildickian: UBIK, DAW, pb, #546/UE 1859, 1983. VG. $10


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