Short Stories

What the Dead Men Say published 1964

The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories
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Johnny Barefoot has arranged for mogul Louis Sarapis to enter half-life (a kind of suspended animation in a mortuary) just after his funeral, but problems hooking him up to half-life correspond to Sarapis’s voice being picked up on broadcasts from the edge of the solar system as well as the arrival on Earth of his granddaughter and heir, a former drug addict who may have ulterior motives in helping Alfonse Gam get elected as the next president.

At over fifty pages, “What the Dead Men Say” felt way too long for a mostly uninteresting story. Dick would use the idea of people stuck in half-life much more successfully later in his classic novel Ubik.

Cast of characters

  • Louis Sarapis – a ‘dead’ former mogul and commercial shipping tycoon
  • Johnny Barefoot – Sarapis’s public relations manager when Sarapis was alive
  • Sarah Belle – Johnny’s wife
  • Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang – owner of Beloved Brethren Mortuary where Sarapis is supposed to enter half-life. Also the owner of Beloved Brethren Moratorium in Ubik
  • Claude St. Cyr – Sarapis’s former lawyer
  • Phil Harvey – St. Cyr’s current employer
  • Gertrude Harvey – Phil’s wife
  • Elektra Harvey – Phil’s ex-wife and St. Cyr’s mistress
  • Alfonse Gam – presidential candidate backed by Sarapis
  • Kathy Egmont/Sharp – Sarapis’s granddaughter

Related:

Pay for the Printer published 1956

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories
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In this thinly veiled dig at 1950’s consumer capitalism, extraterrestrials called the Biltong settle on Earth after Earth’s nuclear war destroys much of civilization. These Biltong have the ability to create replicas of Earth items, and the human survivors use the aliens to rebuild their cities based around these ersatz goods. Soon the Biltongs begin to die from overwork. Anything they’ve copied starts to disintegrate, and so humans will have to relearn the lost art of building things with their own hands.

Cast of characters

  • Allen Fergusson – member of the Pittsburgh settlement
  • Charlotte, Ben Untermeyer – members of a settlement outside Pittsburgh
  • John Dawes – a survivor who has learned to craft a wooden cup

Oh, To Be a Blobel! published 1964

George Munster fought for Earth during its war with the amoeba-like Blobels from Proxima. As a Blobel spy he assumed the form of the Blobels, and after the war’s end he still reverts to Blobel form half of every day making dating and socializing almost impossible.

The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories
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His psychoanalyst connects him with Vivian Arrasmith, a female Blobel and former Terran spy who reverts to human form six hours of every day. They marry, but years later when they have difficulty in their relationship Vivian stabilizes as a human full time in order to save her marriage not knowing that Munster has stabilized full time as a Blobel in order to operate a business on Titan.

Cast of characters

  • George Munster – a human who turns into a Blobel
  • Dr. Jones – Munster’s robot psychoanalyst
  • Vivian Arrasmith – Munster’s wife. A Blobel who turns into a human
  • Pete Ruggles, Sherman Downs, Reinholt Glaubman – Munster’s fellow vets
  • Nina Glaubman – Munster’s mistress
  • Henry Ramarau – Munster’s attorney

The Crawlers published 1954

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories
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A radiation lab in a small Tennessee town causes humans to give birth to mutant slug-like creatures. Investigator Ernest Gretry wants to transport all these so-called crawlers to an island unoccupied because of an H-bomb test, but the crawlers have different plans as they have already started reproducing and building intricate tunnels underground. The crawlers were creepy and gross. I’m glad this wasn’t a long story.

Cast of characters

  • Ernest Gretry – investigating the crawlers
  • Mrs. Higgins – lives in a farmhouse near the radiation lab

Retreat Syndrome published 1965

Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories
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John Cupertino gets stuck in a psychotic loop (with a great deal of hostility directed at his wife) as a way of coping with the fact he inadvertently thwarted Ganymede’s attempt to revolt against Terran colonization by informing his wife of the plans.

Cast of characters

  • Caleb Myers – officer who first pulls over the speeding Cupertino
  • John Cupertino – our psychotic protagonist
  • Carol Cupertino – John Cupertino’s wife
  • Dr. Gottlieb Hagopian – Cupertino’s psychiatrist
  • Dr. Edgar Green – Six-planet Educational Enterprise’s psychologist

If There Were No Benny Cemoli published 1963

The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories
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“If There Were No Benny Cemoli” is a twisting story about the legend and myth of revolutionaries. Using fake news reports from the past about an agitator named Benny Cemoli, those on Earth who orchestrated a disastrous nuclear war keep a newly arrived intergalactic reconstruction crew (the Centaurus Urban Renewal Bureau aka CURB) occupied chasing this phantom and off their trail.

Cast of characters

  • John LeConte – a ‘politico’ on Earth
  • Mr. Fall – LeConte’s secretary
  • Peter Hood – CURBman from Centaurus
  • Joan Hood – Peter Hood’s wife
  • Rudolph Fletcher – Hood’s assistant
  • Otto Dietrich – the supreme police investigator from Centaurus who vows to make an example of the war criminals responsible for Earth’s nuclear war
  • Benny Cemoli – a supposed revolutionary who seized power of North America in a coup
  • Stavros – a Greek grocery store owner and supposed follower of Benny Cemoli
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