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.

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    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.

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

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    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.

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  • 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.

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

    DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780853236184.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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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Textbooks and Histories of Science Fiction

The historical and cultural contexts of Dick’s work are explored in Luckhurst 2005, Bould and Vint 2011, and Butler 2012. Aldiss and Wingrove 1986 details the literary context of Dick’s work, and also discusses textual themes. Other thematic accounts can be found in Woodman 1979, Palmer 2005, and Easterbrook 2009. Butler 2003 and Palmer 2005 focus on the relationship between Dick’s ideas and postmodernism.

  • Aldiss, Brian W., with David Wingrove. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. London: Victor Gollancz, 1986.

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    The latter half of the chapter on visionary science fiction (pp. 308–337) discusses Dick’s work. Themes of illusion and mental illness are highlighted, and particular attention is paid to The Man in the High Castle, Martian Time-Slip, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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  • Bould, Mark, and Sherryl Vint. The Routledge Concise History of Science Fiction. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203830161Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Bould and Vint’s history discusses Dick’s work in the historical context of the decades he was writing in, particularly the 1950s and 1960s. The chapter on the 1950s raises links to Cold War paranoia and cybernetics, while the chapter on the 1960s discusses ontological uncertainties, drug culture, and nature and alterity. On Dick, pp. 82–145.

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  • Butler, Andrew M. “Postmodernism and Science Fiction.” In The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, 137–148. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521816262.010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Butler’s chapter sketches out various intersections between postmodern thinkers and theory and Dick’s work. Topics and theorists discussed include Jean-François Lyotard’s postmodern condition, metafiction and autobiography, Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard, and Brian McHale.

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  • Butler, Andrew M. Solar Flares: Science Fiction in the 1970s. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2012.

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    Features discussion of Dick’s 1970s novels in relation to their contemporary social, cultural, and political contexts, most notably the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon, and counterculture. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said receives the most attention of Dick’s novels from the period.

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  • Easterbrook, Neil. “Ethics and Alterity.” In The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. Edited by Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint, 382–392. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2009.

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    Easterbrook’s chapter on ethics and alterity in science fiction includes discussions of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Man in the High Castle, and Dick’s short stories.

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  • Luckhurst, Roger. Science Fiction. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2005.

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    Pessimism and paranoia in Dick’s work are discussed in the chapter on American science fiction from 1939 to 1959 (pp. 92–119), while the chapter on 1960s science fiction (pp. 141–166) references Dick in connection to the shift in that decade from traditional science fiction to the New Wave.

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  • Palmer, Christopher. “Philip K. Dick.” In A Companion to Science Fiction. Edited by David Seed, 389–397. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

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    Palmer’s chapter refers to humor and horror as key Phildickian effects and also offers an overview of Dick’s primary themes and their connection to postmodernism. Dick’s 1960s texts receive the most attention.

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  • Woodman, Tom. “Science Fiction, Religion and Transcendence.” In Science Fiction: A Critical Guide. Edited by Patrick Parrinder, 110–130. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 1979.

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    Dick texts, predominantly from the 1960s, arise throughout Woodman’s chapter. Themes and motifs discussed include savior figures, the alien and Other, scientism as religion, divinity, and life after death.

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Critical Studies of Science Fiction

The Man in the High Castle is probably Dick’s most written-about novel, and is the focus Dick text in Rose 1981, Freedman 2000, and Philmus 2005. Disch 1998 and Simkins 2016 discuss Dick’s work in the context of Cold War America, while Clareson 1990 offers an account of Dick’s themes and literary context. Lem 1984 and Jameson 2007 present theoretically complex responses by Dick contemporaries, while Klapscik 2012 offers a more contemporary theoretical treatment of Dick’s work.

  • Clareson, Thomas D. Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction: The Formative Period (1926–1970). Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

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    The main discussion of Dick’s work in Clareson’s book arises in the chapter on the early 1960s (pp. 129–199). Dick’s work is characterized as visionary and entropic, with The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and The Man in the High Castle receiving the most attention. Time Out of Joint and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are discussed more briefly elsewhere in the book.

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  • Disch, Thomas M. The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World. New York: Free Press, 1998.

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    Fellow science fiction author and Dick contemporary Thomas M. Disch’s book includes discussions of Dick’s work in chapters on Cold War atomic fears (pp. 78–96) and science fiction as religion (pp. 137–162). The former examines the influence of the atom bomb upon Dick’s work and focuses on The Man in the High Castle and The Penultimate Truth in particular, while the latter includes an overview of Dick’s 1974 religious experience and the later novels.

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  • Freedman, Carl. Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2000.

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    Freedman’s book includes a chapter dedicated to The Man in the High Castle (pp. 164–180). In addition, there is some discussion of Dick’s style in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ubik, and A Scanner Darkly earlier in the book. Freedman reads The Man in the High Castle as metageneric, proposing an affinity between it and György Lukács’ conception of the historical novel.

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  • Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London: Verso, 2007.

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    The second part of Jameson’s book features two essays on Dick’s work: “After Armageddon: Character Systems in Dr Bloodmoney” (pp. 349–362) and “History and Salvation in Philip K. Dick” (pp. 363–383). Both present formally complex readings of Dick’s fiction, with empathy and nostalgia for the present prominent themes.

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  • Klapscik, Sandor. Liminality in Fantastic Fiction: A Poststructuralist Approach. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.

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    Klapscik’s book includes a chapter on Dick’s work (pp. 121–162), in which Klapscik explores urban liminality and virtual spaces. The chapter contains discussions of Ubik, Time Out of Joint, Martian Time-Slip, A Maze of Death, and Dick’s short stories.

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  • Lem, Stanisław. Microworlds: Writings on Science Fiction and Fantasy. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1984.

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    This collection features the notable contributions to Dick scholarship “Science Fiction: A Hopeless Case—With Exceptions” (pp. 45–105) and “Philip K. Dick: A Visionary among the Charlatans” (pp. 106–135). Both essays propose similar arguments, contrasting the philosophical and ideological complexity of Dick’s work with scathing critiques of 1960s and 1970s American science fiction. Solar Lottery, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Ubik in particular receive the most attention.

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  • Philmus, Robert. Visions and Revisions: (Re)constructing Science Fiction. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2005.

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    Philmus’ book includes a chapter on The Man in the High Castle (pp. 250–283), which scrutinizes the novel’s generic construction. Particular emphasis is placed on narrative, character-related absurdism, and alternate history.

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  • Rose, Mark. Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674423145Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rose’s chapter on time (pp. 96–138) includes a considered discussion of The Man in the High Castle and its depiction of different forms of historical consciousness.

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  • Seed, David. American Science Fiction and the Cold War: Literature and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.

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    The chapter on conspiracy narratives (pp. 132–143) features an exploration of Dick’s work from the 1950s novels and short stories through to the later texts. The themes of paranoia and state agencies as complicit in supposedly independent conspiracies are particularly prominent.

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  • Simkins, Jennifer. The Science Fiction Mythmakers: Religion, Science and Philosophy in Wells, Clarke, Dick and Herbert. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016.

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    The chapter on Dick’s work (pp. 86–120) outlines Dick’s creation of a new mythic system. Simkins’ reading draws connections between the sociology of 1950s–1970s America—and the counterculture in particular—and the territory of philosophy and theology.

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Edited Collections and Special Journal Issues

Suvin 1975 includes many seminal pieces of Dick scholarship. Greenberg and Olander 1983 features work by Dick contemporaries and fellow science fiction writers. Freedman 1988 and Umland 1995 include responses from a subsequent generation of science fiction scholars. Suvin 1975 and Freedman 1988 are collected in Csicsery-Ronay, et al. 1992. Dunst and Schlensag 2015 presents a more contemporary sample of Dick scholarship.

  • Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan, Jr., Arthur B. Evans, Veronica Hollinger, and R. D. Mullen, eds. On Philip K. Dick: 40 Articles from Science Fiction Studies. Greencastle, IN: S F - T H, 1992.

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    Includes every article about or related to Dick from the inception of Science Fiction Studies up to 1992, including both special issues (Freedman 1988 and Suvin 1975).

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  • Dunst, Alexander, and Stefan Schlensag, eds. The World According to Philip K. Dick. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

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    The twelve essays in this collection are divided into sections on history, theology, adaptation, and exegesis. Topics include psychopathology, drugs, biopolitics, and adaptation studies. The collection is notable for the number of essays that address adaptations of Dick’s work and the Exegesis.

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  • Freedman, Carl, ed. Special Issue: Philip K. Dick. Science Fiction Studies 15.2 (1988).

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    This issue has a more biographical focus than Suvin 1975, and features several pieces on Dick’s reception in France. Highlights include Scott Durham’s essay fusing political and metaphysical angles of inquiry, “P.K. Dick: From the Death of the Subject to a Theology of Late Capitalism” (pp. 173–186), and George Slusser’s extended discussion of historicity in Dick’s work, “History, Historicity, Story” (pp. 187–213).

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  • Greenberg, Martin Harry, and Joseph D. Olander, eds. Philip K. Dick. Writers of the 21st Century Series. New York: Taplinger, 1983.

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    This collection includes essays by Dick contemporaries and fellow science fiction writers, with chapters on Solar Lottery, The Man in the High Castle, Martian Time-Slip, and Ubik, among others.

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  • Suvin, Darko, ed. Special Issue: The Science Fiction of Philip K. Dick. Science Fiction Studies 2.1 (1975).

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    This issue of Science Fiction Studies features multiple seminal works of Dick scholarship, including “After Armageddon: Character Systems in Dr. Bloodmoney” (pp. 31–42), Brian W. Aldiss’ “Dick’s Maledictory Web: About and around Martian Time-Slip” (pp. 42–47), and Stanisław Lem’s “Philip K. Dick: A Visionary among the Charlatans” (pp. 54–67).

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  • Umland, Samuel J., ed. Philip K. Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

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    Topics covered in this collection of eleven essays include paranoia, the nuclear family, psychopathology, and love. A wide range of Dick science fiction is covered, from 1950s texts through to The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Several essays focus on We Can Build You.

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Bibliographies

Aside from Wintz and Hyde 2012 and Wintz and Hyde 2014, there has been a relative dearth of Dick bibliographies since the 1990s. Stephens 1992 and Stephensen-Payne and Benson 1995 are both detailed and rigorous offerings, while Levack 1988 is a well-regarded classic. Sutin 2006, while technically a biography, includes a helpful bibliography section, and has been an important resource for many Dick scholars.

  • Levack, Daniel J. H. PKD: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988.

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    A thorough and robust bibliography, featuring book cover images and annotations. Some texts listed as unpublished have since seen print.

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  • Stephens, Christopher P. A Checklist of Philip K. Dick. Hastings-on-Hudson, NY: Ultramarine, 1992.

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    This bibliography includes an index and chronological list of Dick’s stories. There are no annotations.

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  • Stephensen-Payne, Phil, and Gordon Benson Jr. Philip Kindred Dick, Metaphysical Conjurer: A Working Bibliography. Albuquerque, NM: Galactic Central, 1995.

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    The first volume of this bibliography covers primary material, the second, secondary. As a bibliography it is detailed and well researched, including pseudonyms, poems, songs, plays, and television and film scripts.

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  • Sutin, Lawrence. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. London: Gollancz, 2006.

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    Immediately following the twelfth chapter of Sutin’s excellent biography is a chronological survey and guide to Dick’s fiction. The section contains fifty-nine entries ordered by year of writing, from the lost early novel Return to Lilliput to Dick’s incomplete final novel, The Owl in Daylight. The majority of entries are accompanied by a synopsis and brief but helpful critical assessment. Posthumous short story collections are not included, but mainstream novels unpublished during Dick’s lifetime are.

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  • Wintz, Henri, and David Hyde. Precious Artifacts: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography, United States of America and United Kingdom Editions, 1955–2012. United States of America: Wide Books, 2012.

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    An illustrated bibliography of Dick’s novels, major story collections, and nonfiction.

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  • Wintz, Henri and David Hyde. Precious Artifacts 2: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography—The Short Stories: United States of America, United Kingdom and Oceania 1952–2014. United States of America: Wide Books, 2014.

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    As with Volume 1, this bibliography is illustrated. In addition to American and British editions, Wintz and Hyde’s bibliography covers rare editions from Australia and New Zealand.

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Articles and Books about Film and/or Adaptation

Studies of Blade Runner that explore the film’s relationship with its source material in detail are comparatively uncommon. Kerman 1997 and Brooker 2005 stand as honorable exceptions to this trend, while Vest 2007 presents a well-contextualized and wide-ranging account of Dick adaptations and their source material. Fortin 2011 presents a study of Dick and Dick adaptations’ intersections with architectural studies.

  • Brooker, Will, ed. The Blade Runner Experience: The Legacy of a Science Fiction Classic. New York: Wallflower Press, 2005.

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    Chapters by Aaron Barlow (pp. 43–58) and Dominic Alessio (pp. 59–78) cover Dick’s fiction and its relationship with Blade Runner in detail.

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  • Fortin, David T. Architecture and Science-Fiction Film: Philip K. Dick and the Spectacle of Home. Ashgate Studies in Architecture Series. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    Fortin develops a theory of relation between science fiction and architecture, before discussing the relevance of Dick as writer and Dick’s work to this thesis in the fourth chapter (pp. 59–82). The latter part of the book explores film adaptations of Dick’s work.

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  • Kerman, Judith B., ed. Retrofitting Bladerunner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.

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    The social implications section (pp. 4–39) and Aaron Barlow’s chapter on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (pp. 78–89) are particularly focused on the relationship between Blade Runner and Dick’s writing.

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  • Vest, Jason P. Future Imperfect: Philip K. Dick at the Movies. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

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    Vest’s book includes detailed discussion of film adaptations of Dick’s work—including the French adaptation of Confessions of a Crap Artist, Confessions d’un Barjo—considering the adaptations’ relationships with source material and the wider cultural and historical contexts of both film adaptations and the source Dick texts.

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Articles on the Short Stories and Mainstream Novels

Dedicated scholarship on Dick’s short stories and, in particular, the mainstream novels is relatively scarce. Thorpe 2011 presents an extensive account of Dick’s mainstream novels. Attebery 1998 and Maxwell 2009 offer treatments of Dick’s “The Golden Man.” Gillis 1998 investigates “Beyond Lies the Wub” alongside two of Dick’s novels, while Malmgren 2002 explores “We Can Remember it for you Wholesale” in conjunction with texts by other science fiction authors. For more on Dick’s mainstream novels, see Robinson 1984 and Mackey 1988 under Dedicated Studies and Rickels 2010 under Articles and Books on Dick and Philosophy, Continental Theory, and Psychoanalysis. For more on Dick’s short stories, see Warrick 1979 under Articles on Artificial Intelligence and Other Technologies, Seed 1999 under Critical Studies of Science Fiction, and Palmer 2003 under Dedicated Studies.

Narratological and Textual Layers

Rossi 2002, Rossi 2004, and Butler 2005 explore some of Dick’s lesser-known novels. Potin 1998, Rossi 2012, and Viskovic 2013 offer in-depth studies of individual Dick novels. Rossi 2012 and Viskovic 2013 go on to offer conclusions about Dick’s wider corpus of texts. Walters 1997 discusses Dick’s final trilogy. Rossi 2011 presents a detailed investigation of The Divine Invasion before extending the thesis to earlier Dick novels.

  • Butler, Andrew M. “LSD, Lying Ink, and Lies, Inc.” Science Fiction Studies 32.2 (2005): 265–280.

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    Butler offers a thorough account of the novel’s complex extratextual history, before proceeding to propose this history as offering up insight into the text’s intratextual themes.

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  • Potin, Yves. “Four Levels of Reality in Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint.” Translated by Heather MacLean. Extrapolation 39.2 (1998): 148–165.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1998.39.2.148Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Potin divides Time Out of Joint into four distinct reality layers, with the book’s protagonist, Ragle Gumm, the centerpoint of each. The article explores how Gumm intersects with each of these layers via his relationship with his own childhood. The article includes some discussion of Dick’s other novels from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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  • Rossi, Umberto. “Fourfold Symmetry: The Interplay of Fictional Levels in Five More or Less Prestigious Novels by Philip K. Dick.” Extrapolation 43.4 (2002): 398–419.

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    Rossi’s article focuses on Time Out of Joint, The Cosmic Puppets, The Penultimate Truth, The Simulacra, and The Man in the High Castle. Rossi draws upon Paul Ricoeur’s writing on narrative to explore the relationship between character and event in each novel, and offers comparisons between the fictional and historical “levels” present in each text.

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  • Rossi, Umberto. “The Game of the Rat: A.E. Van Vogt’s 800-Word Rule and P.K. Dick’s The Game-Players of Titan.” Science Fiction Studies 31.2 (2004): 207–226.

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    By way of a close examination of The Game-Players of Titan, Rossi proposes a characterization of Dick’s technique of rapidly shifting between different subgenres and realities.

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  • Rossi, Umberto. “The Holy Family from Outer Space: Reconsidering Philip K. Dick’s The Divine Invasion.” Extrapolation 52.2 (2011): 153–173.

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    The majority of Rossi’s article consists of a detailed investigation of family and child relations in The Divine Invasion alongside a reading of the different levels of world and reality in the text. Rossi suggests that Dick’s work features a motif of “The Holy Family” that can be found in earlier works such as The World Jones Made and Time Out of Joint. For more on families in Dick, see Rossi 1996 under Articles and Books on Dick and Theology, Religion, and Divinity.

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  • Rossi, Umberto. “The Shunts in the Tale: The Narrative Architecture of Philip K. Dick’s VALIS.” Science Fiction Studies 39.2 (2012): 243–261.

    DOI: 10.5621/sciefictstud.39.2.0243Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents a detailed reading of how plot operates in VALIS, with particular focus given to the hybrid nature—part autobiography, part religious tract—of the novel.

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  • Viskovic, Richard. “The Rise and Fall of Wilbur Mercer.” Extrapolation 54.2 (2013): 163–182.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2013.10Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Viskovic’s article examines the various accounts of Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as a story-within-the-story. Viskovic then suggests that the rest of the novel contains echoes of the thematics surrounding the figure of Mercer, and that these can also be traced in other Dick novels, most notably Martian Time-Slip.

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  • Walters, F. Scott. “The Final Trilogy of Philip K. Dick.” Extrapolation 38.3 (1997): 222–235.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1997.38.3.222Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Walters’ article discusses each novel in the VALIS trilogy in turn, examining each text’s primary characteristics and evaluating how the three novels can be read as a trilogy, despite disunities of character and setting.

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Marxist and Other Political Readings

Fitting 1975, Fitting 1983, and Freedman 1984 presented nuanced accounts of ideological aspects of Dick’s better-known novels. Suvin 2002 offers a political treatment of Dick’s late work, which is more commonly read within a theological or philosophical framework. Hayles 1997 draws upon cybernetics to present an anti-capitalist reading of Dickian subjects. Vint 2007 offers a Marxism- and animal studies–inflected account of Dick’s androids. More contemporary responses can be found in Shahani 2012 and Opitz 2015, which respectively present queer studies– and ecocriticism-inflected treatments of Dick’s work.

  • Fitting, Peter. “Ubik: The Deconstruction of Bourgeois SF.” Science Fiction Studies 2.1 (1975): 47–54.

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    Fitting proposes a reading of Ubik as a text that is subversive of the traditional concept of representation, whereby the novel exists as a vehicle of bourgeois subjectivity, mystifying any critical understanding of capitalism.

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  • Fitting, Peter. “Reality as Ideological Construct: A Reading of Five Novels by Philip K. Dick.” Science Fiction Studies 10.2 (1983): 219–236.

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    Fitting’s article explores the operation of ideology in Dick’s work by way of detailed readings of five novels: Eye in the Sky, Time Out of Joint, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, A Scanner Darkly, and VALIS.

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  • Freedman, Carl. “Towards a Theory of Paranoia: The Science Fiction of Philip K. Dick.” Science Fiction Studies 11.1 (1984): 15–24.

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    The first part of Freedman’s article proposes a theorization of paranoia’s relevance in science fiction with reference to the thinking of Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Jacques Lacan. The second part of the article presents a nuanced and trenchant reading of paranoia across Dick’s oeuvre.

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  • Hayles, N. Katherine. “Schizoid Android: Cybernetics and the Mid-Sixties Novels of Philip K. Dick.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 8.4 (1997): 419–442.

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    Hayles’s article offers a cybernetics-inflected account of subjectivity in We Can Build You, The Simulacra, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and “The Evolution of a Vital Love” (in The Dark-Haired Girl). By means of second wave cybernetics concepts, Hayles argues that schizoid subjectivity constitutes a meeting place of psychology and anti-capitalism in Dick’s work.

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  • Opitz, Andrew. “The Interplanetary Logic of Late Capitalism: Global Warming, Forced Migration, and Cyborg Futures in Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.” In Alien Imaginations: Science Fiction and Tales of Transnationalism. Edited by Ulrike Küchler, Silja Maehl, and Graeme Stout, 113–128. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

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    Opitz’s chapter reads Dick’s novel as a piece of cultural criticism of late capitalism. Themes discussed include drug culture, corporate malpractice, and global warming.

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  • Shahani, Nishant. “‘If not this, what?’ Time out of Joint and the Politics of Queer Utopia.” Extrapolation 53.1 (2012): 83–108.

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    Shahani argues that Time Out of Joint is a text that queers time, and extracts from it a queer politics of time. Shahani proposes “retrospective futurity” as a term for this politics of queer utopia.

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  • Suvin, Darko. “Goodbye and Hello: Differentiating within the Later P. K. Dick.” Extrapolation 43.4 (2002): 368–397.

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    Suvin investigates Dick’s novels from A Scanner Darkly onward—Radio Free Albemuth and the VALIS trilogy in particular—in order to evaluate to what extent a leftist political reading can be extracted from their theological and metaphysical thematics.

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  • Vint, Sherryl. “Speciesism and Species Being in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 40.1 (2007): 111–126.

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    Vint’s article places anti-capitalism and animality in tandem. Vint evaluates Dick’s androids in terms of Cartesian selfhood, and, by way of Karl Marx’s writing on commodity alienation and its relationship with human alienation from nature, argues that Mercerism constitutes a new logic of self that is post-Cartesian and post-speciesist. For more on Dick and animal studies, see Heise 2003 under Character Studies and (Post)human Subjects and Vest 2009 under Dedicated Studies.

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Articles and Books on Dick and Philosophy, Continental Theory, and Psychoanalysis

Philosophical and Continental theory–inflected readings of Dick’s work are a burgeoning aspect of the wider field of Dick studies. Enns 2006, Rickels 2010, Lison 2014, and Burton 2017 are examples of varying degrees of recentness. Eizykman 1983 and Burton 2017 relate Dick’s work to the thinking of Henri Bergson, while Golumbia 1996 is a relatively early instance of a philosophically informed treatment of Dick’s writing.

  • Burton, James. The Philosophy of Science Fiction: Henri Bergson and the Fabulations of Philip K. Dick. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

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    Burton presents a thorough reading of points of intersection between the thinking of Dick and Henri Bergson, proposing a shared search for salvation under the conditions of industrial modernity and writing at the edge of knowledge as two key points of confluence. The book covers a range of Dick’s novels from the 1950s to the 1970s, as well as parts of the Exegesis.

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  • Eizykman, Boris. “Chance and Science Fiction: SF as Stochastic Fiction.” Translated by Will Straw. Science Fiction Studies 10.1 (1983): 24–34.

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    This article investigates chance and determinism in science fiction, drawing in part upon the thinking of Henri Bergson. Dick’s novels, specifically Solar Lottery, Ubik, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, feature prominently in the discussion.

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  • Enns, Anthony. “Media, Drugs, and Schizophrenia in the Works of Philip K. Dick.” Science Fiction Studies 33.1 (2006): 68–88.

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    Enns makes use of German media theory to propose a new understanding of the role of media technologies in Dick’s work, while also analyzing the influence of existential psychotherapy on Dick’s work.

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  • Golumbia, David. “Resisting ‘The World’: Philip K. Dick, Cultural Studies, and Metaphysical Realism.” Science Fiction Studies 23.1 (1996): 83–102.

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    Golumbia’s article applies concepts from analytic philosophy and metaphysical realism to Dick’s Exegesis and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

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  • Lison, Andrew. “‘The Very Idea of Place’: Form, Contingency, and Adornian Volition in The Man in the High Castle.” Science Fiction Studies 41.1 (2014): 45–68.

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    Lison offers up The Man in the High Castle as an aleatory text which fulfills and modifies Theodor Adorno’s notion of “autonomous” art by opening up new forms of perception and thought.

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  • Rickels, Laurence A. I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

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    Richels’ book covers novels from across Dick’s career, including some of the mainstream novels. Topics include Germanicity in Dick’s work, psychoanalysis, existential psychotherapy, and death and mourning as conceptualized by Walter Benjamin and Daniel Paul Schreber.

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Articles on Dick and Baudrillard

Dick’s reception into non-genre canonicity has been fastest in France and in the broad field of postmodern discourse. Jean Baudrillard’s referencing of Dick’s work is part-cause, part-symptom of this tendency. Baudrillard 1991 presents a succinct account of Baudrillard’s thinking about Dick and science fiction, while Rosa 2008 and Doise 2012 offer responses to and revaluations of the Dick-Baudrillard connection.

  • Baudrillard, Jean. “Simulacra and Science Fiction.” Translated by Arthur B. Evans. Science Fiction Studies 18.3 (1991): 309–313.

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    This short piece discusses science fiction’s relationship, and lack thereof, with postmodern hyperreality. Dick’s work is held up as an example par excellence of writing that, in contrast to traditional science fiction, successfully captures the hyperreal.

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  • Doise, Eric. “Are They Real and Really Different from Us? Testimony and Simulation in Radio Free Albemuth.” Extrapolation 53.2 (2012): 183–204.

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    Doise’s essay investigates the connection between Radio Free Albemuth and Jean Baudrillard’s thinking about simulation, as well as considering the novel’s status as testimonial fiction.

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  • Rosa, Jorge Martins. “A Misreading Gone Too Far? Baudrillard Meets Philip K. Dick.” Science Fiction Studies 35.1 (2008): 60–71.

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    This essay explores points of confluence and contrast between Dick’s fiction writing and nonfiction lectures on the one hand and Jean Baudrillard’s concepts and theories on the other.

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Articles and Books on Dick and Theology, Religion, and Divinity

In the 1970s and to a lesser extent the 1980s, academic Dick scholarship was predominantly secular in focus, with relatively little attention given over to the 1970s novels. Since the 1990s in particular, treatments of religious and theological aspects of Dick’s work have gained much traction. Galbreath 1983 and Palmer 1991 are comparatively early instances of scholarship exploring Dick’s later works and themes of divinity and belief in Dick’s writing. DiTommaso 1999, DiTommaso 2001, and Douglas 2018 offer accounts of intersections between Dick’s thinking and work and Gnosticism. Rossi 1996 bridges theology and philosophy with a study of families in Dick’s work. McKee 2003 is notable as a book-length study of religious influences present in Dick’s work. Jackson and Lethem 2011 includes primary material of huge significance to these topic areas in tandem with insightful annotations by a range of scholarly contributors.

  • DiTommaso, Lorenzo. “Redemption in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.” Science Fiction Studies 26.1 (1999): 91–119.

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    DiTommaso’s article presents an in-depth reading of Christian theology and concepts of redemption in The Man in the High Castle, including Dick’s conflation of Pauline and Gnostic thinking.

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  • DiTommaso, Lorenzo. “Gnosticism and Dualism in the Early Fiction of Philip K. Dick.” Science Fiction Studies 28.1 (2001): 49–65.

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    This article offers an investigation of Gnostic Christian and other dualistic philosophies in Dick’s pre–Time Out of Joint fiction.

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  • Douglas, Stuart. The Apocalypse of the Reluctant Gnostics: Carl G. Jung and Philip K. Dick. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780429452888Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Douglas’ book offers a detailed comparison of the worldviews of Carl G. Jung and Dick, characterizing them as modern-day Gnostics. The book focuses on The Divine Invasion, the Exegesis, and Dick’s nonfiction lectures.

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  • Galbreath, Robert. “Redemption and Doubt in Philip K. Dick’s Valis Trilogy.” Extrapolation 24.2 (1983): 105–115.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1983.24.2.105Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Galbreath’s article explores belief and encounters with the divine in Dick’s last three novels, with particular attention given to The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

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  • Jackson, Pamela, and Jonathan Lethem, eds. The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

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    By far the most complete selection of Dick’s exegetical letters, notes, and essays to have seen publication, this volume is notable for the monumental editorial achievement it represents, as well as for erudite interpretative annotations by Simon Critchley, Steve Erickson, David Gill, N. Katherine Hayles, Jeffrey J. Kripal, Gabriel Mckee, Richard Doyle, and its editors.

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  • McKee, Gabriel. Pink Beams of Light from the God in the Gutter: The Science Fictional Religion of Philip K. Dick. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2003.

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    This monograph offers a detailed exploration of different religious influences and reinterpretations in Dick’s work, from earlier career texts such as The Man in the High Castle through to later works such as VALIS and the Exegesis. Both Judeo-Greek and Eastern religions receive attention across the book’s three sections.

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  • Palmer, Christopher. “Postmodernism and the Birth of the Author in Philip K. Dick’s Valis.” Science Fiction Studies 18.3 (1991): 330–342.

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    This article draws out affinities between Dick’s earlier and later novels via a discussion of depictions of deity and divinity.

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  • Rossi, Umberto. “Just a Bunch of Words: The Image of the Secluded Family and the Problem of λ0γ0ς, in P. K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint.” Extrapolation 37.3 (1996): 195–211.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1996.37.3.195Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rossi’s article uses depictions of the family group in Time Out of Joint to establish a characterization of families in later Dick novels, most notably The Divine Invasion. Rossi subsequently delves into theology and religious philosophy to analyze the representation of reality via words and Logos in Time Out of Joint.

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Alterity, Cross-Cultural, and Postcolonial Readings

The majority of cross-cultural and postcolonial readings of Dick’s work focus on The Man in the High Castle. Campbell 1992 and Mountfort 2016 deal with ideas of time and history present in the novel. Warrick 1980 presents a reading of Taoist influences in The Man in the High Castle. Bray 1980 includes themes of social activism and covers a wider range of novels. Carter 1995 and Kerslake 2007 offer postcolonial theory–informed readings of Dick’s work.

  • Bray, Mary Kay. “Mandalic Activism: An Approach to Structure, Theme, and Tone in Four Novels by Philip K. Dick.” Extrapolation 21.2 (1980): 146–157.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1980.21.2.146Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Bray argues that Dick’s work blends social activism with non-occidental metaphysical concerns, developing a concept of “mandalic awareness” to encapsulate the latter. The article focuses on Now Wait for Last Year, Ubik, A Maze of Death, and Flow my Tears, The Policeman Said.

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  • Campbell, Laura E. “Dickian Time in The Man in the High Castle.” Extrapolation 33.3 (1992): 190–201.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1992.33.3.190Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Campbell’s article analyzes the combination of linearity and synchronicity in the narrative temporality of The Man in the High Castle. Campbell argues that Dick’s novel puts forward an alternative view of time by combining Western and Eastern conceptions of temporality.

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  • Carter, Cassie. “The Metacolonization of Dick’s The Man in the High Castle: Mimicry, Parasitism, and Americanism in the PSA.” Science Fiction Studies 22.3 (1995): 333–342.

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    Carter’s article constitutes an early instance of a postcolonial reading of Dick’s work, and presents a reading of The Man in the High Castle as a work which depicts the United States as a colonized territory.

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  • Kerslake, Patricia. Science Fiction and Empire. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2007.

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    The chapter on silencing and cultural appropriation (pp. 25–42) includes an investigation of Dick’s depiction of the Other in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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  • Mountfort, Paul. “The I Ching and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.” Science Fiction Studies 43.2 (2016): 287–309.

    DOI: 10.5621/sciefictstud.43.2.0287Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By means of a close reading of the twelve I Ching readings present in Dick’s novel, Mountfort argues for the centrality of the I Ching to the novel’s treatment of time and historicity.

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  • Warrick, Patricia. “The Encounter of Taoism and Fascism in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.” Science Fiction Studies 7.2 (1980): 174–190.

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    Warrick’s article presents an in-depth reading of The Man in the High Castle, assessing the influence upon it of Eastern philosophy and Taoism in particular. One of Warrick’s points of focus is Dick’s contrasting depictions of the Germanic and Japanese cultures in the novel.

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Articles on Artificial Intelligence and Other Technologies

Warrick 1979 presents a detailed account of artificial intelligences in Dick. Sims 2009 and Sims 2013 offer Heideggerian readings of individuality in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, while Magome 2004 explores human-machine hybridity across several novels. Rosa 2013 investigates the theme of space exploration in Dick’s work.

  • Magome, Kiyoko. “The Player Piano and Musico-Cybernetic Science Fiction between the 1950s and the 1980s: Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick.” Extrapolation 45.4 (2004): 370–387.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2004.45.4.5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Magome discusses the player piano in Dick’s and Kurt Vonnegut’s work as a symbol of human-machine hybridity within a wider post-cybernetics context. Dick texts explored include We Can Build You, The Simulacra, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and VALIS.

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  • Rosa, Jorge Martins. “Stars in My Pocket: SF, Philip K. Dick, and the Space Age.” Extrapolation 54.1 (2013): 47–72.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2013.4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rosa’s article explores Dick’s views of space exploration and contextualizes them within a wider framework of attitudes—within the science fiction field of the time as well as in wider culture—toward the Space Race. Solar Lottery and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch receive the greatest amount of attention.

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  • Sims, Christopher A. “The Dangers of Individualism and the Human Relationship to Technology in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Science Fiction Studies 36.1 (2009): 67–86.

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    By means of Martin Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology,” Sims argues that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? protests against individualism, rather than technology.

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  • Sims, Christopher A. Tech Anxiety: Artificial Intelligence and Ontological Awakening in Four Science Fiction Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013.

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    Sims’ book offers an interrogative reading of Heideggerian technology anxiety as reversal of the master-slave relationship. His argument includes a discussion of these themes in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? On Dick, pp. 110–138.

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  • Warrick, Patricia S. “The Labyrinthian Process of the Artificial: Dick’s Androids and Mechanical Constructs.” Extrapolation 20.2 (1979): 133–153.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1979.20.2.133Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Warrick’s article surveys instances and depictions of artificial constructs and intelligences across Dick’s work, from 1950s short stories through to We Can Build You and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Warrick shows how the concern of what is authentically human intersects with Dick’s other themes.

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Character Studies and (Post)human Subjects

Heise 2003 is an important entry in the mainstreaming of Dick’s work in posthumanism and ecology. Abrash 1986 and Galvan 1997 present ethics-focused readings of Dick’s writing, the latter by way of posthuman theory. Calvin 2007 investigates the similarities between Dick’s and other authors’ explorations of the human. Rossi 2014 offers a character-focused treatment of dystopia in Dick. Holliday 2006 features a gender studies approach to Dick’s work. Vinci 2014 introduces the topic of trauma to a posthuman reading of Dick’s androids.

  • Abrash, Merritt. “Sparring with the Universe: Heroism and Futility in Philip K. Dick’s Protagonists.” Extrapolation 27.2 (1986): 116–122.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.1986.27.2.116Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Abrash proposes a model of ethical goodness in Dick protagonists based on reading across the science fiction novels from Solar Lottery to The Divine Invasion.

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  • Calvin, Ritch. “The French Dick: Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Philip K. Dick, and the Android.” Extrapolation 48.2 (2007): 340–363.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2007.48.2.9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Calvin’s article explores the notion of the human presented in We Can Build You, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Blade Runner, while also offering thoughtful comparisons with Villiers de l’Isle’s L’Ève future and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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  • Galvan, Jill. “Entering the Posthuman Collective in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Science Fiction Studies 24.3 (1997): 413–429.

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    By way of posthuman theory, Galvan offers a reading of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as a text that establishes a posthuman ethics of empathy.

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  • Heise, Ursula K. “From Extinction to Electronics: Dead Frogs, Live Dinosaurs, and Electric Sheep.” In Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal. Edited by Cary Wolfe, 59–82. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

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    Heise’s chapter explores the complexities of human-animal relations and speciesism in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as well as texts from other media. Heise examines how Dick’s novel critiques the social and cultural forces behind species extinction, while also offering technology as a partial replacement for irrecuperable natural loss. For more on Dick and animal studies, see Vint 2007 under Marxist and Other Political Readings and Vest 2009 under Dedicated Studies.

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  • Holliday, Valerie. “Masculinity in the Novels of Philip K. Dick.” Extrapolation 47.2 (2006): 280–295.

    DOI: 10.3828/extr.2006.47.2.8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Holliday investigates Dick’s depiction of masculine subjects in crisis in Martian Time-Slip and Dr. Bloodmoney. The article also traces connections between its proposed gender critique and a wider ideological criticism of capitalism. For more on gender in Dick, see Attebery 1998 and Maxwell 2009 under Articles on the Short Stories and Mainstream Novels.

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  • Rossi, Umberto. “Philip K. Dick’s Unconventional Dystopias: From Radio Free Albemuth to A Scanner Darkly.” Extrapolation 55.2 (2014): 153–172.

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    By way of a close reading of Radio Free Albemuth and A Scanner Darkly, Rossi proposes a Phildickian (re)interpretation of the dystopian tradition centered upon the figure of the informant, whereby the oppressed subject also oppresses others.

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  • Vinci, Tony M. “Posthuman Wounds: Trauma, Non-anthropocentric Vulnerability, and the Human/Android/Animal Dynamic in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 47.2 (2014): 91–112.

    DOI: 10.1353/mml.2014.0004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Vinci draws upon trauma studies and posthuman studies to present a reading of Dick’s androids as figures which defer experience of trauma and, in so doing, mediate between trauma and humanness. Vinci argues that Dick’s novel opens a posthuman space containing the possibility of an ethics of radical openness and vulnerability.

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