Credits    Navigation      www.philipkdickfans.com     Novels    Short Stories     References

VALIS
aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes) aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes) aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes) aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes) aaPinkBeam.GIF (249 bytes)
"The Empire never ended." Until now; until August 1974 when the Empire suffered a crippling, perhaps terminal, blow, at the hands -- so to speak -- of the immortal plasmate, now restored to active form and using humans as its physical agents.
    Horselover Fat was one of those agents. He was, so to speak, the hands of the plasmate, reaching out to injure the Empire.

Num

N S

Writing Date

Pub. Date

Previous

Next

Notes

173

55  

Oct-Nov 1978

Feb 1981

THE BEST OF PHILIP K. DICK (Col.)

THE DIVINE INVASION

 

FIRST EDITIONS

HISTORY

    The EXEGESIS aside, Dick in September 1978 was still not able to get a grip on how to write his Bantam novel. This is where a new agent at the SMLA, Russ Galen, stepped in to get the novel going. As a fan of Dick’s work Galen had asked that he be assigned to Dick’s account at the Agency. This was done and Galen effected the republication of several of Dick’s dormant novels and, most importantly, fired Dick up enough for him to begin writing VALIS. The novel was dedicated to Galen on its publication in 1981.

    In October 1978 then PKD began writing VALIS, interrupting a long session of EXEGESIS speculation to abruptly start the novel. On Nov 29th he sent the manuscript off to Galen at the Agency.

    As Lawrence Sutin observes, Dick had just written two informal pieces, his Introduction to THE GOLDEN MAN collection and a brief piece on his story "Roog." This easy style of writing enabled PKD to find a mode suitable to the writing of VALIS. Instead of heavy-handed and obscure theorizing as found in his EXEGESIS Dick would write VALIS with a much lighter tone of informality and humour.

    In an interview with John Boonstra published in Twilight Zone magazine in June 1982, PKD covers how he decided to write VALIS:

    I jettisoned the first version of VALIS, which was a very conventional book. That version appears in the finished book as the movie. I cast around for a model that would bring something new into science fiction, and it occurred to me to go all the way back to the picaresque novel and have my characters be picaroons -- rogues -- and write it in the first person vernacular, using a rather loose plot. I feel there's tremendous relevance in the picaresque novel at this time. Donleavy's The Ginger Man is one; so is The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. I see this as a protest form of the novel, a repudiation of the more structured bourgeois novel that has been so popular.

    As to the meaning of VALIS and, perhaps, to address some of his contemporaries who feared Dick had gone insane, PKD in 1980 wrote:

    Here is the puzzle of VALIS. In VALIS I say, I know a madman who imagines that he saw Christ; and I am that madman. But if I know that I am a madman I know that in fact I did not see Christ. Therefore I assert nothing about Christ. Or do I? Who can solve this puzzle? I say in fact only that I am mad. But if I say only that, then I have made no mad claim; I do not, then, say that I saw Christ. Therefore I am not mad. And the regress begins again, and continues forever. The reader must know on his own what has really been said, what has actually been asserted, but what is it? Does it have to do with Christ or only with myself? This paradox was known in antiquity; the pre-Socratics propounded it...

    The reception of VALIS at Bantam publishers was a bewildered and uncertain one, Mark Hurst who had arranged the original contract had left and Bantam waited until the very end of the contract time before publishing the novel in Feb 1981. No doubt it took some effort from Russ Galen to prod the Bantam management.

    The first edition paperback from Bantam in 1981 is easily attainable for the PKD collector. In near-fine condition one can be found for about $25 on the internet. In used bookstores it is uncommon but goes for $5 to $8 in variable shape. The Kerosina editions that we’ve already mentioned above in connection with PKD’s essay "Cosmogony and Cosmology" would be the most valuable to collectors. In searching the internet in 1997 one might have found Bookseller Ken Lopez’ online catalog. We’ve already seen some of the PKD materials he had for sale and now this is his VALIS offering:

    VALIS. (Published by Bantam, 1981). The original manuscript of a book that is widely considered to be one of his two greatest works the other being THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH. 311 pages of ribbon-copy typescript, inscribed by the author on the top page "with love" to Tim Powers, and additionally inscribed to "the best friend I ever had" on the verso of a proof of the novel's paperback cover. With a letter from the publisher laid in returning this to Dick for his files, and a photocopy of a letter from Dick to the publisher requesting that the book's dedication be changed [it was].

    {…} The manuscripts from the first two-thirds of Dick's career have been institutionalized; other writings by Dick in manuscript form have shown up on the market only very occasionally, a recent catalogue by a leading science fiction specialist dealer had a four-page short story typescript (with a letter of transmittal and tear-sheet of the story) for $2200, or roughly $500 per page of Dick manuscript. This manuscript 311 pages of his most important novel, warmly inscribed (twice) to a close friend represents the pinnacle of Dick's achievement, and the best possible association. A unique item that is a landmark in the career of one of science fiction's greatest authors ever. Top sheet a bit wrinkled, otherwise fine in a literary agency box. $22,000.

    Another internet dealer, Lame Duck Books, offered the following package in 2000:

    Two Typed Letters, Signed accompanied by Galley Proofs of Dick's Novel VALIS and of the Anthology Perpetual Light, Edited by Alan Ryan, 1980-1982. Two excellent typed letters, signed, addressed from Dick to fellow science fiction writer and editor Alan Ryan, both dates 13 March 1980. The letters concern Ryan's projected anthology on the subject of Science Fiction and Religion to which he has asked that Dick contribute. Naturally, Dick is quite warm to the idea, as most of his later work treats of exactly that subject in some fashion. The letters possess superb content and enthusiastically support the project. The second letter is primarily a thank-you to Ryan for his intelligent review of Dick's THE GOLDEN MAN. Included is a proof copy of THE GOLDEN MAN; rare long galleys of the Bantam first edition of VALIS and a bound proof of Perpetual Light, to which, however, Dick did not end up contributing, apparently due to a financial maneuver by his agent, who required that whatever work might be contributed would have to be accepted sight-unseen -- a condition he realized could not be accepted by a conscientious editor, and which permitted him to sell the promised story to Playboy instead. Further description of the letters will be provided to interested parties. $6500.

    This story that was sold to Playboy was "Frozen Journey" also titled "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon."

    With VALIS essentially finished at the end of 1978. Philip K. Dick once more took up his EXEGESIS writing, continuing into 1979.

    The novel VALIS itself, given its soul-searching start in PKD’s pink-beam experiences and his efforts to understand them as scribbled in his EXEGESIS, is a wonderfully entertaining story that leads the reader into a world of madness and then out again into the light of a newly-defined reality. Here’s what a contemporary reviewer had to say:

    And speaking of superstitions and theology, there’s Philip K. Dick’s new novel, VALIS. Now if there’s one thing I dislike more than people telling me their dreams, it’s people telling me their drug experiences, particularly the religious ones. I disliked VALIS a whole lot.

    It’s written in the first person by a narrator who editorializes a great deal and tells us a lot more than we (or at least I) want to know about a character named Horselover Fat. Early on, we are informed that the narrator and Horselover Fat are one and the same, and it is being written in this way to give "much needed objectivity." Later the narrator refers to several of his (the narrator’s) books, such as THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE and A SCANNER DARKLY. Make of this what you will.

    Horselover Fat has an encounter with God a la St. Paul about which he is writing an endless exegesis, of which we are told all too much. God may, in fact, be an alien or may be Horselover Fat from the far future (as opposed to the near past; Horselover comes across as one of those embarrassing hippies left over from two decades ago). Her (they?) encounter a child, daughter of a jet-set rock singer, who may be a computer terminal, or God, or the Wisdom of the World, or … There are lots of quotes from Schopenhauer, Xenophanes, Wordsworth, et al., not to mention an eight-page appendix of yet more quotes. Need I go on?

    This all may be one big boring joke or it may be meant seriously; it doesn’t matter much. VALIS is embarrassingly, datedly hip, cute, and infinitely tedious, so far as I’m concerned. A major danger to science fiction these days is in its becoming the new mysticism, what with flying saucers, god’s chariots, Bermuda Triangle and all. Writers such as Mr. Dick are not helping matters.

    At the time of its publication VALIS must have been disturbing indeed to Dick’s fellow writers and fans of his science fiction. As in RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH, there is a character named Philip K. Dick. He has an alter ego named Horselover Fat (Philip Dick ontonomologically in Greek and German) who has a series of mystical experiences – PKD’s own pink-beam visions – with which he involves his friends in a search for the Saviour. They see a film called VALIS and seek out its authors, finding a little girl who appears to be the Saviour but then she is accidentally killed. In the end Fat roams the Earth still looking for his Saviour and sending cryptic messages back to his friends.

    The novel is accompanied by an appendix The Tractates Cryptica Scriptura which succinctly if not cryptically sets forth the essence of the messages Horselover Fat received from Valis. These Tractates have been the cause for much speculation among readers of this quantum leap of a novel.

    VALIS is worth


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

FOREIGN EDITIONS:


NOTES  

PKDS-3 13:

The EXEGESIS represents the single largest body of unpublished PKD writing. Because of its direct relation to VALIS and The Tractates Cryptica Scriptura, it exerts a fascination for Dick fans, who are curious about how much of VALIS was "true" and whether their favorite author flipped out or had a genuine mystical experience. It is fitting, perhaps, that one can come away from day-long sessions with the EXEGESIS and be no wiser on either count.

Based on reading a few hundred pages of the journals covering a variety of years from 1974 to 1982, I do have the following tentative observations:

1). The experiences of 2-3/74 lend themselves to interpretation as either psychotic episodes or mystical interludes, depending upon your point of view. A convincing case can be made for either interpretation.

2). What the EXEGESIS makes clear is that whatever the case may be, the experiences obsessed Phil for the remainder of his life. His journal-writing was an ongoing attempt to forge a rational explanation for events which fell outside the boundaries of rationality. It appears that at the end of eight years' effort he was no nearer a satisfying answer than when he began. That he was able to wrest a novel of the calibre of VALIS out of the convoluted labyrinth of the EXEGESIS seems a blessing and a miracle.

3). For PKD fans to come to terms with the EXEGESIS will mean they'll have to directly confront his neo-Gnostic Christianity which bubbled beneath the surface of his work from the early 60s on but comes to the fore in his journal writings. While Phil entertained at times many far-retched explanations for the "pink beam" experiences, he consistently returned to Christian theology and Greek philosophy for his most serious interpretations.

4). A major portion of the EXEGESIS is taken up by Phil's reinterpretation on his earlier novels (esp. TEARS and UBIK) in terms of the VALIS universe. To dive into the EXEGESIS is to risk having your favorite novels discussed to death by their own author before your very eyes.

5). The recurring theme of Dick's work -- that of a false world overlaying the 'real' one -- can be both a metaphysical proposition and a paranoid fear. The ambiguity of 2-3/74 is that the VALIS events are a dramatic fulfillment of both. In exploring this fact, the EXEGESIS is equal parts mystical theology and paranoid ravings. It contains profound discussions of the Indian philosopher Sankara, Plato and Meister Eckhart, side-by-side with long-winded (and rather crazed) attempts to derive cosmic generalities from dream fragments, hypnogogic phrases, and coincidental occurances.

6). The "Tractates" appended to VALIS are not, as far as I can tell, verbatim passages dictated by VALIS (or St. Sophia or whoever) but mostly distillations of the more verbose and circular musings in the EXEGESIS. Sentences like "The Empire never ended," or "The Buddha is in the park," did originate as cryptic phrases uttered by the AI voice while in a near dream state, but the EXEGESIS (and Tractate) represent Dick's own theorizing on such phrases as well as on readings from The Encyclopedia Brittanica, the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Bible, his own novels, etc.

7). Finally, like any daily writing covering eight years, the EXEGESIS is not of consistent interest throughout. Some lengthy passages resonate with the thrill of discovery and with glimpses of vast truths. Other long stretches are boring and even painful excersises, akin to watching a good friend repeatedly bang his head against the wall.
The Philip K. Dick I discovered reminds me of two other unique visionaries: Antonin Artaud and Emanuel Swedenborg. All three delved into alternate realities with unique results. But Artaud was ultimately deemed mad, institutionalised and subjected to massive shock-therapy. Swedenborg dies peacefully, respected (and feared) for his elaborate visions of heaven and hell; and after his death his followers founded a new church centered around his revelations.
Luckily, Phil didn't have to suffer Artaud's fate, but it remains to be seen whether the EXEGESIS lends itself to the creation of a new Dickian religion. The possibility is a little grotesque, but stranger things have happened -- many of them in PKD's own writings -- Jay Kinney

PKDS-4 5:

... As most PKD enthusiasts know, and any reader of VALIS can guess, Phil really did have a series of intense mystical experiences in tht month (March 74), followed by similar encounters that continued to occur, though less frequently, until his death eight years later (because Phil didn't choose to regard this as shamefull and therefore to conceal it, several critics have jumped to the easy -- and superficially colorful -- conclusion that he had lost touch with reality, was living in a fantasy world... had, in short, gone crazy; but people who knew him don't agree, and I can't see how anyone could read VALIS, with all of its humour, rational doubt, self-mockery and sheer objectivity, and conclude that Phil was crazy).

"I thought you favored the alternate universe theory," I said, surprised. "That was fifteen minutes ago," Phil said. "You know how I am with theories. Theories are like planes at L.A. International: a new one along every minute..." -- From VALISYSTEM A, a discarded first version of VALIS.

TDC 99

(PKD:) I really have no theory which will wrap this up. The book I'm working on for bantam, VALIS, is really an account of this, fictionalized. I assign the experiences to a nonexistent friend of mine, whom I call "Nicholas Brady". And in the book, I'm a character under my own name. And I know Nicholas Brady, and he's having all these weird experiences, and I keep ripping them off to put 'em in a novel. I'm completely cold-blooded about it, and I'm deceiving Nicholas Brady by using the experiences in my novel, and I'm deceiving my publisher, who wants a fictional work.

{For continuation see: TDC 108}

SF EYE #14, Spring 1996, p.38

(PKD:) ...I'm just becoming aware of myself, that my writing is progressively assuming more and more metaphysical implications. I got up in the middle of the night and reread it, {Dr.BLOODMONEY} I found it so interesting, because the book that I'm working on now, my Bantam novel in progress, is extraordinarily metaphysical.

(A & F:) Have you a title yet?

(PKD:) Well, they stuck a title on. There's an entity called VALIS, vast active living intelligence system. The initials would be V-A-L-I-S, so it will be called VALIS, and so that's the working title and that is probably the title that they will use when the book is actually published. {Anton & Fuchs, Metz 1977. Tr. F.C.Bertrand}

IPOV 103:

Here is the puzzle oF VALIS. In VALIS I say, I know a madman who imagines that he saw Christ; and I am that madman. But if I know that I am a madman I know that in fact I did not see Christ. Therefore I assert nothing about Christ. Or do I? Who can solve this puzzle? I say in fact only that I am mad. But if I say only that, then I have made no mad claim; I do not, then, say that I saw Christ. Therefore I am not mad. And the regress begins again, and continues forever. The reader must know on his own what has really been said, what has actually been asserted, but what is it? Does it have to do with Christ or only with myself? This paradox was known in antiquity; the pre-Socratics propounded it... {PKD 1980}

See: DI 255ff

See: Twilight Zone Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 3, June 1982, p5ff1: John Boonstra, interviewer.

Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, March 1981, p16. Found in PKD OTAKU #6, Sep 2002, p11


Collector's Notes

{The following is taken from Ken Lopez, Bookseller online catalog, May 1997. As far as I know this package is still for sale in 2003}:

4. Valis. (Published by Bantam, 1981). The original manuscript of a book that is widely considered to be one of his two greatest works the other being The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. 311 pages of ribbon-copy typescript, inscribed by the author on the top page "with love" to Tim Powers, and additionally inscribed to "the best friend I ever had" on the verso of a proof of the novel's paperback cover. With a letter from the publisher laid in returning this to Dick for his files, and a photocopy of a letter from Dick to the publisher requesting that the book's dedication be changed [it was]. "VALIS" stands for "Vast Active Living Intelligence System" and is an acronym for the pervasive unseen force that Dick saw as animating the universe; his entire body of work, and even his entire life, can be seen as an effort to penetrate and understand this force, and Valis stands as the most complete expression of that understanding outside of the unpublished diary and journals which he titled Exegesis.

Dick's writings influenced an entire generation of science fiction authors and helped move science fiction out of the realm of "little green men" once and for all, firmly establishing it as a genre for addressing serious philosophical and metaphysical questions. Dick was immersed in the drug use of the Sixties counterculture and his metaphysical explorations most often were conducted on his own psyche; he put himself at risk in the service of a spiritual and literary quest and he paid the price: by continually projecting himself into uncharted psychological territory, Dick made himself exceptionally vulnerable; he suffered ill health, devastating psychosomatic effects leading to a suicide attempt in 1976 and finally died of a series of strokes and heart failure at the relatively young age of 53.

The manuscripts from the first two-thirds of Dick's career have been institutionalized; other writings by Dick in manuscript form have shown up on the market only very occasionally a recent catalogue by a leading science fiction specialist dealer had a four-page short story typescript (with a letter of transmittal and tear-sheet of the story) for $2200, or roughly $500 per page of Dick manuscript. This manuscript 311 pages of his most important novel, warmly inscribed (twice) to a close friend represents the pinnacle of Dick's achievement, and the best possible association. A unique item that is a landmark in the career of one of science fiction's greatest authors ever. Top sheet a bit wrinkled, otherwise fine in a literary agency box. $22,000.

Phildickian: VALIS, Bantam, pb, 20594. 1981. 1st print. NF $30

Phildickian: VALIS, Bantam, pb, 20594, 1981. 1st print. VG- $10

Phildickian: VALIS, Bantam, pb, 20594, 1981. 3rd print. VG $8

Phildickian: VALIS, Bantam, pb, 20594, 1981. 4th print. VG+ $15

Phildickian: VALIS, Bantam, pb, 20594, 1981. 4th print. VG $8

Phildickian: VALIS, Kerosina, hb, 1987. VF/VF $50

Phildickian: VALIS, Vintage, tp, 1991. 7th print. $10

Rudy's Books: VALIS, Kerosina Books, 1987, 1st hardcover trade edition limited to 1500 copies. Fine in Fine dustjacket. $100

Lame Duck Books, online catalog 2000. As part of its PKD offerings, lame Duck also has the following: THE 3 STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, Gregg Press, 1979. FINE. Inscribed by Dick to fellow sci-fi author and editor Alan Ryan, one of the most intelligent and literate of the fraternity, 'To Alan -- a good friend.' $950.


Credits    Navigation      www.philipkdickfans.com     Novels    Short Stories     References