In This Article Philip K. Dick

  • Introduction
  • Dedicated Studies
  • Textbooks and Histories of Science Fiction
  • Critical Studies of Science Fiction
  • Edited Collections and Special Journal Issues
  • Bibliographies
  • Articles and Books about Film and/or Adaptation
  • Articles on the Short Stories and Mainstream Novels
  • Narratological and Textual Layers
  • Marxist and Other Political Readings
  • Articles and Books on Dick and Philosophy, Continental Theory, and Psychoanalysis
  • Articles on Dick and Baudrillard
  • Articles and Books on Dick and Theology, Religion, and Divinity
  • Alterity, Cross-Cultural, and Postcolonial Readings
  • Articles on Artificial Intelligence and Other Technologies
  • Character Studies and (Post)human Subjects

American Literature Philip K. Dick
by
Francis Gene-Rowe
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0195

Introduction

Philip K. Dick was a central figure of science fiction literature from the 1950s to the 1970s. His novels and short stories were greatly admired by fellow authors such as Brian Aldiss, Ursula Le Guin, and Stanisław Lem, as well as by theorists of postmodernism such as Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, and Slavoj Žižek. Dick was highly prolific, publishing over 120 short stories and authoring forty-four novels over the course of his career. In addition to his science fiction, Dick wrote several mainstream works of fiction, of which only one was published during his lifetime. Dick’s fiction has been widely adapted to cinema, both in and outside of Hollywood. Dick’s characteristic themes include Cold War paranoia, dystopia, artificial intelligence, psychopathology, drugs and the 1960s counterculture, illusion and simulation, empathy, entropy and determinism, spiritual revelation, and religious salvation.

Dedicated Studies

Robinson 1984, Mackey 1988, and Rossi 2011 offer the most comprehensive accounts of Dick’s fiction. Warrick 1987 presents a detailed treatment of Dick’s most prominent novels, and along with Taylor 1975 offers a focused account of Dick’s characteristic themes. Studies of the intersections between Dick’s work and the territory of the postmodern and contemporary can be found in Palmer 2003, Kucukalic 2009, Vest 2009, and Link 2010.

  • Kucukalic, Lejla. Philip K. Dick: Canonical Writer of the Digital Age. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    Offers three characterizations of Dick’s work: as philosophical inquiry, as science fictional extrapolation, and as critique of the contemporary world. Includes detailed readings of Martian Time-Slip, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, A Maze of Death, A Scanner Darkly, and VALIS.

  • Link, Eric Carl. Understanding Philip K. Dick. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    Discusses Dick’s style and themes, as well as intersections between Dick’s work and postmodernism. Features close readings of The Man in the High Castle, Martian Time-Slip, Now Wait for Last Year, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, and VALIS.

  • Mackey, Douglas. Philip K. Dick. Twayne United States Authors Series. Boston: Twayne, 1988.

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    Mackey offers a chronological survey of Dick’s fiction, including the mainstream novels, providing synopses and perceptive commentaries on the texts discussed. The book features an investigation of Dick’s characteristic multiple-points-of-view writing technique.

  • Palmer, Christopher. Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780853236184.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    Characterizes Dick as a writer whose work addresses the condition of the world of postmodernity, while at the same time being committedly humanist. Covers a wide range of Dick’s work, with greatest focus on The Man in the High Castle, Martian Time-Slip, A Scanner Darkly, VALIS, and Dick’s short stories.

  • Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Novels of Philip K. Dick. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984.

    E-mail Citation »

    Offers a comprehensive study of Dick’s novels, starting from the 1950s through to The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Robinson’s reading of Dick is primarily historical and political, and features discussion of different definitions of science fiction. Notable for starting with Dick’s mainstream novels before proceeding to the science fiction texts.

  • Rossi, Umberto. The Twisted Worlds of Philip K. Dick: A Reading of Twenty Ontologically Uncertain Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    Proposes a concept of ontological uncertainty—which can apply to objects, personages, or entire worlds—as characteristic of Dick’s work. Rossi then offers a thorough survey of ontological uncertainty across Dick’s body of work, from The Cosmic Puppets through to The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

  • Taylor, Angus. Philip K. Dick and the Umbrella of Light. Baltimore: T-K Graphics, 1975.

    E-mail Citation »

    Taylor’s monograph is one of the earliest extended studies of Dick’s work and, despite its publication before the end of Dick’s career, remains relevant to this day. Presents a trenchant analysis of psychological and ontology instability in Dick’s 1960s work, and includes discussion of underexplored texts such as Galactic Pot-Healer, The Simulacra, and Our Friends from Frolix 8.

  • Vest, Jason P. The Postmodern Humanism of Philip K. Dick. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    Vest puts forward an argument that Dick’s work explores human consciousness as a form of reaction to foreign aspects of daily life under (post)modernity. Topics include politics, animal studies, alternate worlds, and the spirituality of world making. The book includes a chapter dedicated to Now Wait for Last Year.

  • Warrick, Patricia S. Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.

    E-mail Citation »

    Warrick’s book interweaves biographical context with detailed thematic treatments of eight Dick texts: The Man in the High Castle, Martian Time-Slip, Dr. Bloodmoney, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ubik, A Scanner Darkly, and the VALIS trilogy.

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