Novelty Act

Buy it on Amazon
First published in Fantastic Feb 1964

With just some minor changes, “Novelty Act” was threaded into Dick’s novel The Simulacra as one of that book’s many subplots. 

In this matriarchal United States the First Lady holds more sway over the citizens than the President. Ian Duncan, an aimless member of the Abraham Lincoln apartments, longs only to perform for the First Lady Nicole Thibodeaux in a talent show. 

He and his brother Al used to play classical music in a two-man jug band, but Al currently works in one of Loony Luke’s Jalopy Jungles selling spacecraft to people who want to emigrate to Mars. Ian eventually convinces Al to try for the talent show, and with the help of Al’s artificial papoola (a telepathic Mars alien) they get their audience with the First Lady. Nicole finds them absurd, and the papoola, controlled at that time by Loony Luke, bites her. Suspecting the whole farce as an attempt on her life she first wants them arrested but then decides to just have their memories wiped. 

Ian, who no longer remembers he even had a brother, is then rescued shortly after from his apartment by Loony Luke in one of his jalopies to be reunited with Al. 

I still think the idea of a classical jug band is hilarious. “Novelty Act” is good, but since it’s nearly identical to what’s in The Simulacra maybe just read that instead.

Cast of characters

  • Ian Duncan – aimless member of the Abraham Lincoln apartment building
  • Al Duncan – Ian’s brother and jug band partner. Works for Loony Luke’s jalopy business
  • Patrick Doyle – skypilot for the Abraham Lincoln apartments
  • Edgar Stone – scheming member of the Abraham Lincoln apartments
  • Donald Klugman – current chairman of the Abraham Lincoln apartments 
  • Bruce Corley, Joe Purd, Mrs. Wells – members of the Abraham Lincoln apartments 
  • Nicole Thibodeaux– the First Lady
  • Taufic Negal – the President
  • Harold Slezak – White House A & R secretary
  • Loony Luke – owner of the jalopy jungles