The Defenders published 1953

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It’s been eight years since a nuclear war between Russia and the United States has left the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. All humans live and work below ground, sending weapons up to the leadies, robots designed to withstand the deadly radiation who continue to fight the war by proxy.

When the head of Internal Security for the Americans notices a visiting leady is non-radioactive for some reason he organizes a party to the surface to investigate. Once there they find there is no nuclear fallout and in fact no ongoing war. The leadies have been faking the entire thing, creating miniature destroyed cities and sending down ersatz war footage as life above ground (minus humans) is thriving.

The leadies decided if they kept a fake war going long enough the human’s hatred would burn itself out and then all of mankind could be united… or something like that. Their scheme seems kind of dubious to be honest but also kind of cute. The leadies trap these Americans, who now know the grand plan, on the surface, since it’s not quite time to expose the fake war to everyone. They are introduced to a small group of Russians who also ventured above ground at some point and also found out the truth, and together the two factions must learn how to get along.

Dick would reuse and expand this idea in his later novel The Penultimate Truth, although the circumstances of the phony war in that one are much more complicated.

Cast of characters

  • Taylor – planner for the U.S. war program
  • Mary – Taylor’s wife
  • Moss – Taylor’s supervisor
  • Commander Franks – officer of Internal Security

The Skull published 1952

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A man named Conger is sent two hundred years back in time to the 1960s to find and kill the mysterious Founder of the First Church, a subversive anti-science movement that preaches non-violence at odds with the present era’s ruling class that trusts a society governed by rationalism and the occasional war to clear out humankind’s weaker elements.

In order to identify the Founder and kill him before he is able to deliver the sermon that will lead to this new movement Conger is given the skull of the Founder which they obtain after raiding the First Church’s holy relics.

Once back in 1960’s Midwest America, it is fairly obvious that Conger himself is this Founder he is searching for. Because he arrives too late and is spotted by some townsfolk before traveling farther back in time to when the Founder is killed he gives the appearance of a resurrection which leads to the belief in the Founder’s divinity. Eventually, right before he is killed by a mob from the town that doesn’t trust outsiders, Conger realizes ‘wait a minute the teeth in this skull I’ve been carrying around are a dead ringer for my own.’

I get what Dick was going for here, although the 1960s setting makes it hard to believe Conger’s trite aphorism, spoken to the townspeople right before they take him down, would be enough to spark a global and long-lasting movement.

Cast of characters

  • Conger – sent back in time to find the Founder of the First Church
  • The Speaker – the council member who sends Conger back in time in search of the Founder
  • Mrs. Appleton – rents Conger a room in Cooper Creek
  • Ed Davies – store owner in Cooper Creek
  • Bill Willet, Lora Hunt – teenagers in Cooper Creek
  • Sheriff Duff – the sheriff of Cooper Creek

The Gun published 1952

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The crew of a space craft examines what they think is a barren planet before an unmanned anti-aircraft gun shoots down their ship revealing the planet had in fact been populated some time in the past. This gun, it turns out, guards a vault of film, records, and books documenting the culture of the planet (possibly Earth in the far future after nuclear war?). The crew dismantles the gun in order to safely leave the planet’s surface, but soon after they are gone the gun begins a process of automatically repairing itself.

Cast of characters

  • The Captain
  • Tance – the ship’s archeologist
  • Dorle – chief navigator
  • Fomar – the ship’s biologist
  • Nasha – the vice-captain

Related:

The Little Movement published 1952

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By infiltrating the homes of children a group of sentient toys plots to take over the world (or something along those lines) until a second group of toys manages to stop them. This one is as absurd as it sounds.

Cast of characters

  • My Lord – a sentient toy soldier. Part of a larger group of toys with plans of world domination
  • Bobby – the boy who ends up in possession of My Lord
  • Bonzo, Fred, Teddo – the other sentient toys who thwart My Lord and his evil machinations

Related:

Stability published 1987

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“Stability” is one of Dick’s oldest stories dating back to the late 1940s when he was still in high school, but it wasn’t published until it was included in a short story collection in 1987.

At some point in the future world leaders decide that mankind has reached the peak of its civilization, and so in order to prevent sliding backwards they enact a program of ‘stability’ where new inventions are prohibited. The resulting story based on this unrealistic premise is clunky, although I don’t expect too much out of these really early works.

An evil city trapped in a globe summons Robert Benton back in time through the use of some sort of time travel device (that the Council Members aren’t too happy about) in order for Benton to bring the globed city forward to present day where it hopes to be freed so it can take over the world.

Cast of characters

  • Robert Benton – our protagonist and only named character
  • the Controller and Council Members – in charge of controlling inventions and enforcing ‘stability’

Ubik: The Screenplay published 1985

Ubik: The Screenplay
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Dick wrote his sole screenplay after being approached in 1974 by a French film producer about an adaptation of his 1969 novel Ubik. The producer paid Dick for the completed work, but financing for the movie fell through and it was never made.

This published version is too novelistic, at least by modern screenplay standards, but if it wasn’t there wouldn’t be much of a draw in reading a screenplay for an unproduced movie. It seems to exist only for the curiosity seekers and completists among us, since the story and characters are nearly the same as in the book, except for some additional scenes at the end where Ella Runciter is reborn.

Ubik does appear destined though to make it to the screen in some way or another. The producer of the film adaptation of A Scanner Darkly had optioned Ubik in the early 2000s, Michel Gondry was in the beginning stages of developing a movie in 2011, and in 2018 yet another screenplay was being developed with a new writer and producers.

Cast of characters

  • Glen Runciter – owner of Runciter Associates, an anti-psi prudence organization
  • Ella Runciter – Glen’s dead wife in half-life
  • Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang – owner of Beloved Brethren Moratorium.
  • Jory Miller – a dead fifteen-year-old boy in half-life cold-pac storage
  • Raymond Hollis – employs telepaths. Runciter’s opposition
  • G. G. Ashwood – one of Runciter’s telepaths
  • Joe Chip – Runciter’s electrical tester
  • Pat Conley– an anti-precog
  • Stanton Mick – reclusive speculator and financier
  • Zoe Wirt – Stanton Mick’s assistant
  • Tippy Jackson, Edie Dorn, Al Hammond, John Ild, Francesca Spanish, Tito Apostos, Don Denny, Sammy Mundo, Wendy Wright, Fred Zafsky – Runciter’s inertials