The Golden Man

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in If Apr 1954

The DCA is in charge of rounding up and euthanizing all mutants, afraid that if any of them were allowed to thrive they could eventually take over the human race. Most mutants are destroyed when they are young, except for Cris Johnson, who has made it to the age of eighteen before he is caught. Johnson has the ability to see the immediate future before it happens. Beyond that he is not really a human at all, but survives only on instinct like an animal. He uses his other mutant trait, golden skin and hair, to seduce Anita Ferris after he is captured so he can escape. The DCA men realize Cris is the true homo superior, since he is the one they will never be able to kill.

In 2007 “The Golden Man” was adapted as the movie Next starring Nicholas Cage. Instead of hunting mutants, the FBI chases after the human Cris Johnson, who can see two minutes into the future, because they need him to help stop some terrorists from detonating a nuclear bomb that will wipe out Los Angeles. It’s illogical and forgettable. Jessica Biel plays a mystery dream girl and five years later would play another mystery dream girl in the equally bad Total Recall remake.

Cast of characters

  • Cris Johnson – a golden-skinned precog mutant
  • Nat Johnson – Cris Johnson’s father
  • Jean and Dave Johnson – Cris’s sister and brother
  • George Baines – a DCA man hunting Cris Johnson
  • Ed Wisdom – Director of DCA’s North American branch
  • Anita Ferris – George’s fiancée and Director of the Semantics Agency 

The Hanging Stranger

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Science Fiction Adventures Dec 1953

Ed Loyce is the only one who seems to find the dead stranger strung up from a lamp post in Pikeville’s town park out of the ordinary. He reports it to the police who want to take him in for questioning, but he escapes from them and discovers the town of Pikeville has been invaded by insect-like aliens from another dimension who have taken on the appearance of everyone in the town, including his family.

He flees to the neighboring town of Oak Grove and attempts to warn the police commissioner there. But the commissioner explains to Loyce that the stranger was hanged in Pikeville as bait to draw out anyone from the town who wasn’t yet under the control of the aliens. Loyce realizes too late he is fated to become the hanging stranger in the similarly-overrun Oak Grove.

“The Hanging Stranger” was adapted as the more politically-minded and muddled tv episode “Kill All Others” in the first season of Electric Dreams.

Cast of characters

  • Ed Loyce – owner of Loyce TV Sales and Service
  • Don Fergusson – salesman at Loyce TV Sales and Service
  • Jack Potter – works at the shoe shop by the town park
  • Jenkins – a stationary clerk
  • Margaret Henderson – works at the jewelry store by the town park
  • Janet Loyce – Ed’s wife
  • Tommy and Jimmy – Ed’s sons
  • The police commissioner of Oak Grove

Fair Game

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in If Sep 1959

Professor Douglas is alarmed one night to see a giant eye watching him through the window of his house, but it vanishes before his wife notices it. The next day an enormous face appears in the sky, gazing down at him before fading away. The other professors at Bryant College decide these apparitions must be aliens who are after Douglas because he is the best nuclear physicist in the world. Then Douglas is drawn from his house by the illusion of a woman in distress, and he escapes in his car as lightning bolts strike around him. 

When he is eventually captured by the aliens and carried into the sky in a net he resigns himself to the fact that the aliens want him for his knowledge and ability. Instead, just before he is cast into a frying pan, he finds the aliens only want to eat him.

The reversal here is amusing, but nothing about the setup really works.

Cast of characters

  • Anthony Douglas – a nuclear physics professor at Bryant College
  • Laura Douglas – Anthony’s wife
  • Bill Henderson – head of the Biology department at Bryant College
  • Jean Henderson – Bill’s wife
  • Milton Erick – head of the Math department

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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Paycheck and Other Classic Stories is the first of five volumes put out by Citadel Press collectively containing all the short stories Dick wrote, arranged chronologically by when they were originally published. This same collection was previously published under the marquee title The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford. Presumably the publishers chose “Paycheck” as the marquee title when it was reprinted in 2003 to capitalize on the blockbuster movie adaptation starring Ben Affleck that came out that year. Neither “Paycheck” nor “The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford” are the best out of what’s gathered here.

This collection starts with a story he wrote in the late forties, and all the other stories were written before 1955. Dick’s early works are hit or miss with me, although a few stand out: “Beyond Lies the Wub”, “The Defenders” and “Nanny”, his take on creeping post-war consumerism.

Nanny

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Startling Stories 1955

Tom and Mary Fields can’t imagine life without a robot Nanny to help take care of their children. But unbeknownst to them these Nannies are programed to duel to the death with Nannies produced by other manufacturers. When the Fields’ Nanny is destroyed by a neighbor’s Nanny at the park, Tom Fields upgrades to a bigger model. And after that Nanny gets its revenge on their neighbor’s Nanny, their neighbor plans to replace his demolished Nanny with the biggest one ever as the cycle of planned obsolescence continues.

Cast of characters

  • Tom Fields, Mary Fields, Bobby, Jean – a nuclear family who owns a Services Industries, Inc., Nanny