Imposter published 1953

During a war with Alpha Centauri on Earth Spencer Olham is captured by the government under suspicion of being an alien masquerading as a human. He escapes and attempts to prove his innocence, but it turns out he was this alien imposter all along and didn’t know it.

Dick had written nearly fifty short stories at this point as he really starts to dig into ‘what is human?’ a question he would spend a lot of time with in his later books and stories.

Gary Sinise stars in a 2002 movie, but there’s not much to recommend about such a dull adaptation… at least they kept the ending.

Cast of characters

  • Spencer Olham – part of a team developing a weapon to use against the alien invaders
  • Mary – Spencer’s wife
  • Nelson – works with Olham
  • Major Peters – member of government security 

Second Variety published 1953

A war between Russia and the U.S. left the world’s cities destroyed. The American government fled to a secret base on the moon, while behind on Earth a skeleton crew of soldiers fights what remains of the Soviet Army. The Americans have the vicious robotic claws on their side until the claws learn to evolve. Deep in underground factories the claws begin to build machines, indistinguishable from humans, that kill without loyalty to Russia or the Americans.

While traveling to meet with the Russians, the American Major Hendricks finds this out when he encounters the young child David, the third variety of these robot simulacra. The Russians tell him about the first robot variety, but then the question becomes which one of them is the second variety pretending to be human.

This is Dick starting to get at the question ‘what is human?’ early on in his career.

The 1995 movie Screamers based on “Second Variety” starring Peter “RoboCop” Weller sticks close to the short story and managed to entertain me in spite of some 90s-era special effects.

Cast of characters

  • Major Hendricks – our protagonist
  • David – the third robot variety
  • Klaus Epstein – a Russian soldier
  • Rudi Maxer – a corporal in the Soviet army
  • Tasso – a young girl embedded with the Russians

Paycheck published 1953

Jennings works a two year job at Rethrick construction and agrees to have his memory wiped when the gig is up. He’s able to figure out that Rethrick construction built an illegal time scoop when he receives some odds and ends from the future he had sent himself in the past, and eventually he attempts to blackmail Earl Rethrick into accepting him as a partner in the company.

Not a particularly great story. The 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck is so bad it might actually be good.

Cast of characters

  • Jennings – our protagonist
  • Earl Rethrick – founder of Rethrick construction
  • Kelly McVane – Rethrick construction employee

Roog published 1953

“Roog” was Dick’s first short story sale published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1953.

Boris the dog tries in vain to alert his owners to the threat of the roogs, which after a bit of misdirection turn out to be garbage men.

Cast of characters

  • Boris the dog
  • Alf Cardossi – Boris’s owner
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