Category: Short Stories

A Game of Unchance19641964
A Little Something for Us Tempunauts19741973
A Present for Pat19541953
A Surface Raid19551952
A Terran Odyssey19871964
A World of Talent19541954
Adjustment Team19541953
Beyond Lies the Wub19521951
Beyond the Door19541952
Breakfast at Twilight19541953
Captive Market19551954
Exhibit Piece19541953
Explorers We19591958
Fair Game19591953
Faith of Our Fathers19671966
Foster, You’re Dead19551953
Human Is19551953
I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon19801980
If There Were No Benny Cemoli19631963
James P. Crow19541953
Jon’s World19541952
Martians Come in Clouds19531952
Mr. Spaceship19531952
Novelty Act19641963
Of Withered Apples19541953
Oh, To Be a Blobel!19641963
Orpheus with Clay Feet19641963
Out in the Garden19531952
Pay for the Printer19561954
Piper in the Woods19531953
Planet for Transients19531953
Precious Artifact19641964
Prize Ship19541952
Project: Earth19531952
Prominent Author19541953
Psi-man, Heal My Child!19551954
Rautavaara’s Case19801980
Recall Mechanism19591958
Retreat Syndrome19651964
Sales Pitch19541953
Second Variety19531952
Service Call19551954
Shell Game19541953
Small Town19541953
Some Kinds of Life19531952
Strange Eden19541953
Survey Team19541953
The Builder19531952
The Chromium Fence19551954
The Commuter19531952
The Cookie Lady19531952
The Cosmic Poachers19531952
The Crawlers19541953
The Crystal Crypt19541952
The Days of Perky Pat19631963
The Defenders19531952
The Electric Ant19691969
The Exit Door Leads In19791979
The Eyes Have It19531953
The Father-Thing19541953
The Golden Man19541953
The Great C19531952
The Gun19521952
The Hanging Stranger19531953
The Hood Maker19551953
The Impossible Planet19531953
The Indefatigable Frog19531952
The Infinites19531952
The King of the Elves19531952
The Last of the Masters19541953
The Little Black Box19641963
The Little Movement19521952
The Minority Report19561954
The Mold of Yancy19551954
The Preserving Machine19531952
The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford19541952
The Skull19521952
The Trouble With Bubbles19531953
The Turning Wheel19541953
The Unreconstructed M19571955
The Variable Man19531952
The War with the Fnools19641964
The World She Wanted19531952
To Serve the Master19561953
Tony and the Beetles19531953
Upon the Dull Earth19541953
War Game19591958
War Veteran19551954
We Can Remember It for You Wholesale19661966
What the Dead Men Say19641963
What’ll We Do with Ragland Park19631963
Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday19661965

Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Amazing Aug 1966

This is either Dick’s stupidest premise or his most brilliant. It’s hard to tell sometimes with him, but I’m going with the former. I’ll do my best to summarize.

A man named Ludwig Eng invented something called a swabble. It’s not clear what the swabble actually does but it introduces into the world something called the Hobart Phase which causes time to flow backwards in a strange way where people eat and smoke in reverse and get younger instead of aging. 

In this backwards world librarians destroy books instead of preserving them. One book coming up for eradication is Eng’s book HOW I MADE MY OWN SWABBLE OUT OF CONVENTIONAL HOUSEHOLD OBJECTS IN MY BASEMENT DURING MY SPARE TIME. Only a few people seem to realize if Eng’s book is eradicated then the swabble won’t be invented and the Hobart Phase won’t be created causing time to move forward once again. But then Eng will just write his book and the process will be repeated trapping everyone in a time loop. 

After dealing with another party who wants the Hobart Phase to continue for their own obscure reasons the librarian Niehls Lehrer meets with Lance Arbuthnot who wrote a book he hopes to get eradicated that will somehow counteract Eng’s book. The effects of the Hobart Phase are weakening though so they better move fast.

Dick expanded “Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday” a few years later into one of my least favorite novels Counter-Clock World.

Cast of characters

  • Niehls Lehrer – a librarian
  • Ludwig Eng – wrote the book that created the Hobart Phase
  • Carl Gantrix – attorney for Bard Chai
  • Carl Junior – Gantrix’s robot
  • Bard Chai – head of the Clearness Council
  • Anarch Peak – leader of the Free Negro Municipality 

A Terran Odyssey

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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“A Terran Odyssey” is a curiosity since it’s just an abridged version of Dick’s novel Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb. I don’t believe it was published anywhere until it was included in a short story collection in 1987, and it’s not clear to me if he assembled this story after Dr. Bloodmoney or if he wrote it before. Either way it appears to be identical to what’s in the novel except Bruno Bluthgeld is nowhere to be found (although they do mention Jack Tree at the beginning), and some subplots like the one involving Walter Dangerfield have been expanded in the book. Dr. Bloodmoney is a favorite of mine so I would suggest just reading that instead.

Cast of characters

See notes on Dr. Bloodmoney

The War with the Fnools

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Galactic Outpost Spring 1964

Once again the Fnools have invaded Earth intent on dominating the Solar System even though the humans defeated them before. This time, in the U.S., the Fnools are masquerading as real estate salesman in Utah. In Berlin they are appearing as VW inspectors, and in Poland they are disguised as chess players. Luckily they are only two feet tall and so they are easily spotted. 

CIA Captain Edgar Lightfoot travels to Provo to capture some Fnools and bring them back to Major Hauk. Since they are small they are easily apprehended, but while transporting two of them back in his ‘copter he lets them smoke a cigarette. Suddenly both Fnools are now four feet tall. Back at CIA headquarters Major Hauk is in despair over a possible Fnool victory. He drinks from a bottle of scotch and hides in a bunker with his secretary. 

When Lightfoot and the Fnools arrive the Fnools overtake Lightfoot while he is preoccupied with Hauk’s scotch. The Fnools then drink the scotch and instantly become six feet tall. Both Hauk and Lightfoot realize it is hopeless, since the aliens are indistinguishable from humans at that size. That is until the Fnools encounter Miss Smith in the bunker. After this third vice, a woman, the Fnools become eight feet tall. Confident no one will mistake them for humans now Hauk is assured the Fnools will be defeated.

Cast of characters

  • Edgar Lightfoot – Captain of the CIA
  • Julius Hauk – CIA Major
  • Miss Smith – Hauk’s secretary
  • Hochflieger – a General in the West German Security Service
  • Serge Nicov – local chief in Poland’s People’s Protective Agency for Preserving the Democratic Process
  • The Fnools

The Little Black Box

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Worlds of Tomorrow Aug 1964

Both the U.S. and Communist governments are threatened by the rise of Mercerism, a proto-religion formed around a man of unknown origin named Wilbur Mercer. Followers of Mercer watch him on a television screen and by grasping the handles on a black empathy box are able to feel the suffering Mercer feels as he walks through a desert on the way to his death. 

Everything else about Mercer is a mystery, but the State Department suspects he is an extraterrestrial connected somehow to jazz harpist Ray Meritan. In cahoots with the Chinese Communists they send Meritan’s mistress Joan Hiashi to Cuba under a ruse hoping she will connect Meritan to Mercer. 

While performing on a live TV broadcast Meritan exposes himself as a follower of Mercer, Joan is arrested in Cuba as a political agitator and all empathy boxes are rounded up and destroyed. Meritan avoids getting captured and finds one last remaining empathy box. When he grabs the handles he is connected telepathically to Bogart Crofts of the State Department who had been holding onto the empathy box at the same time. The state department knows then that Meritan is not Mercer but intend to arrest him anyway. Mercerism is illegal and with all the empathy boxes destroyed they are confident the religion will be eradicated. 

The state department releases Joan as bait to find out where Meritan is. When Meritan meets up with Joan they expect a hard time staying one step in front of the government, but help comes from a strange peddler who surreptitiously passes them instructions on how to assemble an empathy box out of ordinary household objects. 

The Mercerism religion makes an appearance later in Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Cast of characters

  • Bogart Crofts – works for the State Department
  • Joan Hiashi – Asian scholar in Zen Buddhism. Joan Hiashi is also in The Ganymede Takeover
  • Ray Meritan – a telepath and jazz harpist suspected by the State Department to be Wilbur Mercer
  • Douglas Herrick – Secretary of State
  • Mr. Lee – a Chinese telepath

What’ll We Do with Ragland Park

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First published in Amazing Nov 1963

“What’ll We Do with Ragland Park” is a sequel to “Stand-by” and takes place shortly after the events of that story. 

Max Fischer has somehow figured out a way to once again disable the supercomputer Unicephalon 40-D, regain the Presidency and imprison the news clown Jim Briskin. Media mogul Sebastian Hada wants Briskin to prop up the failing CULTURE programming on his network which is of course difficult with Briskin in jail. 

While plotting how to get Briskin out and airing nonstop editorials on his network about how Briskin must be released Hada pursues a folksinger named Ragland Park for CULTURE. Hada soon realizes that Rags has a latent ability to seemingly predict (or create) the future through his ballads and with the help of his psychoanalyst gets Rags to write a ballad where Fischer frees Briskin. 

Fischer does release Briskin from prison, and after Rags performs his ballad on CULTURE everyone, including Fischer, seems to have a grasp on what Ragland Park can do. Everyone that is except Rags himself who remains clueless of his abilities. He writes a ballad about the FBI killing him and then that’s what happens, although Fischer thinks it’s his own psionic talents that affected the outcome.

Cast of characters

  • Jim Briskin – a news clown imprisoned by the FBI after what happened in “Stand-by.” Briskin shows up later in Dick’s novel The Crack in Space
  • Sebastian Hada – a media mogul 
  • Dr. Yasumi – Hada’s psychoanalyst
  • Nat Kaminsky – Hada’s production chief
  • Maximilian Fischer – the President of the United States
  • Leon Lait – Fischer’s cousin and Attorney General

Orpheus with Clay Feet

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First published in Escapade 1964

“Orpheus with Clay Feet” is another meta time travel story along the lines of “Waterspider” which Dick wrote just before this one. 

Jesse Slade has an unfulfilling job helping people legally dodge the draft for the war in Proxima, so for some excitement he decides to take a vacation at Muse Enterprises. Through them he can be sent back in time to inspire a famous historical artist to create their seminal work. Slade’s first choice, to inspire Beethoven, has of course already been done, so he settles on a visit to the 1950s science fiction author Jack Dowland in order to inspire him to write his masterwork “The Father on the Wall.” 

Slade travels back to 1956 but has such a disastrous meeting with Dowland that when Slade returns to his own time he finds that not only did Dowland not end up writing “The Father on the Wall” but Slade actually turned Dowland off from writing much science fiction at all. 

In a metafictional twist the only story Dowland did write was a barely-read story called “Orpheus with Clay Feet” published under the pseudonym Philip K. Dick which is in effect the story we are reading. Based on Slade’s unprecedentedly bad performance the owner of Muse Enterprises has the idea to send him back in time to meet Hitler so Slade can uninspire him to not write Mein Kampf.

Cast of characters

  • Jesse Slade – travels back in time to ‘inspire’ Jack Dowland
  • Mr. Manville – owner of Muse Enterprises
  • Jack Dowland – fictional 1950s science fiction author and also the pseudonym this story was first published under IRL