Strange Memories of Death

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Interzone Summer 1984

An unnamed narrator (presumably Dick in this autobiographical story) lives in an apartment building that is being converted into condos. He is the only one who has decided to buy his apartment and stay, and everyone else has moved out except his crazy, antisocial neighbor known as the Lysol Lady. 

The narrator wakes up on the last day the Lysol Lady can legally occupy her unit before getting evicted, spends the day wondering what will happen to her and then finds out the next day from the building’s sales rep that she moved out several weeks ago after the Housing Authority found her a new apartment. 

Cast of characters

  • the unnamed narrator
  • Mrs. Archer aka The Lysol Lady – the narrator’s neighbor
  • Al Newcum – sales rep for South Orange Investments

Chains of Air, Web of Aether

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Stellar #5 1980

On the far-flung planet CY30 II Leo McVane lives alone in a dome monitoring communications equipment where it seems his only job is to rebroadcast transmissions of the pop singer Linda Fox from a satellite. McVane finds out from the food delivery man that Rybus Rommey, a neighbor he doesn’t know very well in another dome, is dying of multiple sclerosis. She refuses to abandon her dome for treatment, and so Rybus and a reluctant McVane form an uneven relationship until eventually Rybus beats her illness. 

Dick reworked “Chains of Air, Web of Aether” into his novel The Divine Invasion.

Cast of characters

  • Leo McVane – operates a communications dome on CY30 II
  • Rybus Rommey – McVane’s neighbor in a nearby dome
  • the food delivery man

The Day Mr. Computer Fell Out Of Its Tree

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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When Joe Contemptible wakes up he finds Mr. Bed has dumped him on the floor, Mr. Closet won’t give him the correct clothes, Mr. Coffeepot serves him a cup of soapy water and Mr. Door won’t let him go anywhere. These problems are going on worldwide as the centralized computer source (aptly named Mr. Computer) has a psychotic episode. 

To solve this global catastrophe Joan Simpson, the head of World Mental Health who has been kept in suspended animation in the center of the Earth for just these scenarios, is brought forth to cure Mr. Computer. She determines Joe, lonely and on the verge of suicide, is the reason for Mr. Computer’s breakdown. The police round up Joe and she agrees to take him with her back down into the center of the Earth, giving them both companionship and setting Mr. Computer back to normal. 

Cast of characters

  • Joe Contemptible
  • Joan Simpson – the head of World Mental Health and the name of Dick’s real-life girlfriend at this time
  • Fred Doubledome – a computer tech?
  • Dr. Pacemaker – brings Joan out of suspended animation

The Eye of the Sibyl

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Philip K. Dick: The Dream Connection March 1987

I don’t know the entire history of the legendary Cumaean Sibyl, but in a scenario related to his VALIS experience Dick imagines the Sibyl as a prophetess who is visited by two aliens from the star Albemuth, and then sees himself as taking up her mantle in the present day.

At the beginning of the story the priest Philos Diktos witnesses the Sibyl talking with two Immortals who predict two thousand years of darkness and ignorance. Jumping forward to 1974 Philip remembers growing up and his desire to be a science fiction author all the while having dreams and visions of ancient Rome. One night when he is an old man he is visited by the two aliens who tell him they now work through mortals to wake people up and bring springtime to the winter world. Back in Rome we find all that was an account of Philos Diktos who had traveled into the future. He documents this in a scroll to his fellow Romans along with the poet Virgil’s declaration that the tyranny in the future will eventually come to an end and springtime will be reborn.

Cast of characters

  • Philos Diktos / Philip Dick – a Roman priest / twentieth-century sci-fi author
  • The Cumaean Sibyl
  • Carol Heims – Philip’s psychologist
  • J’Annis and F’fr’am – the Immortals from Albemuth

The Pre-persons

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct 1974

I’m not sure what kind of marriage problems Dick was going through at this time, but after “Cadbury, the Beaver Who Lacked” we get another cynical story about women. 

In the world of this misguided story children can be ‘aborted’ all the way up until they are twelve (the arbitrary age the state decided a person gains a soul) if their parents don’t want them anymore.

Walter, who just turned twelve, is still scared of the abortion truck that drives around the neighborhood picking up kids even though his mom assures him he no longer has anything to worry about. Another boy gets rounded up by the ‘bort truck, and his father insists to get picked up with him. For some nonsensical reason the state has determined the soul enters the body when a child learns math. The boy’s father claims he doesn’t know anything about math, although he is actually a Stanford graduate and just wants to expose the absurdity of the whole situation. He does manage to get some minor media publicity when the abortion facility lets the man and his son free, and afterwards the men of the story complain about how they feel trapped by the women in their lives. “The Pre-persons” is ridiculous and dumb no matter which side of the pro-choice argument you are on.

Cast of characters

  • Walter Best – a twelve-year-old too old to be ‘aborted’
  • Cynthia and Ian Best – Walter’s parents
  • Oscar Ferris – driver of the abortion truck
  • Earl Fleischhacker – a kid picked up by the ‘bort truck
  • Tim Gantro – gets picked up by Ferris for being a stray
  • Ed Gantro – Tim’s father
  • Sam B. Carpenter – runs the county abortion facility

Cadbury, The Beaver Who Lacked

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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In this odd fable with a confusing message a beaver named Cadbury is nagged by his wife for being an all-around failure and his psychiatrist isn’t much help. One day Cadbury floats a letter downstream seeking companionship (hopefully female). A few days later he receives a letter in return from Carol Stickyfoot and they correspond. He finds out from his psychiatrist that Carol is also a patient but he goes to visit her anyway, and at some point over coffee Carol splits into three women with different hostile personalities who all berate Cadbury until he disappears in a puff of smoke. 

Dick is working through his issues with women here. I’ll just leave it at that.

Cast of characters

  • Cadbury – the titular beaver
  • Hilda – Cadbury’s wife
  • Dr. Drat – Cadbury’s psychiatrist
  • Carol Stickyfoot – Cadbury’s love interest