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Philip K. Dick

Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928 - March 2, 1982), often known by his initials PKD, was an American science fiction writer who had a profound effect on the genre. He was hailed by and was friends with a number of prominent science fiction authors such as Robert Heinlein, yet he received little recognition from the general public during his lifetime. By the 1990s his works had become some of the most popular of all of science fiction, with Dick gaining both general acclaim and critical acceptance.

Discarding the optimistic and simple worldview of Golden Age science fiction, Dick consistently explored the themes of the nature of reality and humanity in his novels. An influential precursor of the cyberpunk subgenre, Dick brought the anomic world of Southern California to many of his works. He is also one of the first great exponents of the subgenre known as alternate history in his novel The Man in the High Castle. He also produced a tremendous number of short stories and minor works which were published in pulp magazines.

His works are characterized by a constantly eroding sense of reality, with protagonists often discovering that those close to them (or even they themselves) are secretly robots, aliens, supernatural beings, brainwashed spies a la The Manchurian Candidate, hallucinating, or some combination of the above.

Dick experimented with mind-altering drugs, though he often denied that they were any great influence in his work.

In the mid-1970s, he began to experience psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices, visual hallucinations, and an extended experience of dual personality (with dual temporal existence!), as both his "normal" self and Thomas, a member of the persecuted early Christians of the Roman Empire.

His later works, especially the Valis trilogy, were heavily autobiographical. Dick was also a voracious reader of works on religion, philosophy, metaphysics, and Gnosticism, and these ideas found their way into many of his stories. His final novel was The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

Dick's works may be compared with those of William S. Burroughs. (Dick is arguably less obviously twisted and more obviously philosophical.)

Like other more famous science fiction authors, several of Dick's stories have been made into movies. Most of these are only loosely based on Dick's original story, using them as a starting-point for a Hollywood action-adventure story. The most famous, and arguably the best, is Ridley Scott's classic movie Blade Runner.

Fans of Philip K. Dick are sometimes referred to as "Dickheads".

Table of contents


Notable short stories


Movie adaptations of Philip K. Dick's works:

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