The Mold of Yancy

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First published in If Aug 1955

Terra can’t understand how the society on Callisto has managed to maintain a totalitarian political structure without resorting to political prisons, terrorism or extermination camps. It’s almost like the citizens are willfully going along with whatever the government wants even though they are free to believe and act however they choose. 

Terra sends Peter Taverner undercover to the moon to investigate. He comes across the curious broadcasts of John Yancy, whose homespun advice and folksy wisdom have been very persuasive in creating a docile population. Yancy though isn’t real. He’s just a simulacrum created by some state-controlled advertisers called Yance-men. With the help of a Yance-man named Sipling who realizes how dangerous this level of control is, Taverner finds out the goal is to convince the Callistotes that most war is bad but some wars (like one with Ganymede for instance the government is prepping for) are just wars. 

Knowing this Terra takes over the Yance-men, and led by Sipling they begin to subvert the Yancy broadcasts to promote independent thought. 

Yancy reminded me of Reagan when I read it, but Dick said the model for Yancy was (obviously) Eisenhower. A version of Yancy and the Yance-men show up in Dick’s later novel The Penultimate Truth.

Cast of characters

  • Leon Sipling – the Yance-man who leads a revolt
  • John Edward Yancy – a neighborly simulacrum priming the residents of Callisto for a ‘just’ war
  • Babson – head Yance-man
  • Peter Taverner – sent to Calisto to understand how that moon’s totalitarian government operates
  • Eckmund, Dorser – fellow undercover cops sent to Callisto
  • Kellman – the police director on Terra

Service Call

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First published in Science Fiction Stories July 1955

A repairman shows up at David Courtland’s apartment late one night to service his swibble. Courtland has no idea what a swibble is and sends the man away only to find out from a paper left behind that the man is from nine years in the future. He gathers a group of his coworkers to await the repairman’s return hoping to learn as much as possible about this futuristic swibble presumably so his business can attempt to build one. 

When the repairman returns Courtland leads him on and they eventually find out the swibble is some kind of quasi-organic, telepathic device that forces conformity on the society of the future, although it’s not clear who is really in control, the swibbles or the humans. When the repairman learns that Courtland doesn’t actually own a swibble and that he was sent back to the wrong time he disappears and almost immediately a swibble installation crew from the future knocks on Courtland’s door with a swibble for his apartment.

Cast of characters

  • David Courtland
  • Fay Courtland – Courtland’s wife
  • The unnamed swibble repairman
  • Pesbroke – Courtland’s boss
  • Jack Hurley, Parkinson, Anderson, MacDowell – the crew Courtland assembles to interrogate the repairman

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Other Classic Stories

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We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Other Classic Stories is the second collection of Philip K. Dick’s stories put out by Citadel Press.

The marquee story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” was adapted as Total Recall in 1990 (which was remade in 2012 for some boring reason) , “Imposter” was adapted as a forgettable movie in 2002, and “Adjustment Team” was adapted as the underrated The Adjustment Bureau in 2011.

“The Commuter”, “The Hood Maker”, “Human Is”, and “The Impossible Planet” were all part of season one of Electric Dreams.

A lot of the stories in this collection (which can lean toward preachy) deal with Dick’s atomic age paranoia that humans will destroy the Earth and make things super inconvenient for those left behind. He has only barely started to dig deep into his more unique ideas of what it means to be human, but “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, “Some Kinds of Life”, “The Trouble with Bubbles”, “Imposter”, “Planet for Transients” and “Survey Team” are all worth a read.

Survey Team

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First published in Fantastic Universe May 1954

After nuking Earth’s surface an entire generation of humans grow up living in underground bunkers to hide from the radiation. A small crew of explorers is sent to Mars with the hope the neighboring planet can sustain human life, since their subsurface existence is slowly driving everyone mad.

On Mars this survey team finds abandoned cities and resources that have been mined and completely depleted. They uncover reports though that the Martians discovered a lush, green planet to escape to just like the humans hope to do. The team wants to follow them there, confident they can overtake anyone if necessary, until they realize this new verdant planet is the one they came from and already destroyed.

Cast of characters

  • Halloway, Young, Van Ecker, Carmichael, Doctor Judde, Captain Mason – the survey team exploring Mars

Souvenir

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First published in Fantastic Universe Oct 1954

Frank Williamson was the first human from Earth to create a space-drive capable of leaving the solar system. It was always assumed he found another Earth-like planet to colonize, but it took the Galactic System three hundred years to eventually find it. 

In the years since Williamson left Earth the galaxy has organized itself according to the Relay coordinates where all information is uniformly transmitted to every planet in order to form a rational galactic society free of any sort of class warfare. 

Williamson’s World, on the other hand, is made up of scattered villages and clan conflicts. When the inhabitants of Williamson’s World are given the Articles of Incorporation to sign in order to join the rest of the galaxy under Relay control they refuse, preferring their own way of life. They know this will mean their planet will be destroyed, but the galaxy can’t risk their individualistic ideas from spreading. 

In a ham-fisted, tacked-on ending, after the planet has been obliterated one of the soldiers who had been on the surface returns to his family and gives his son the titular souvenir, a hand-made wooden cup that he smuggled away from Williamson’s World. His son’s eyes light up as we see the first seeds of independent thought have been planted. 

Cast of characters

  • Edward Rogers – sent from the Galactic Relay Center to explore Williamson’s World
  • Gene Williamson – an offspring of Frank Williamson living on Williamson’s World
  • Commander Ferris – in charge of the battleship attacking Williamson’s World
  • Corporal Pete Matson – a soldier sent to destroy Williamson’s World

Small Town

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First published in Amazing May 1954

Starting when he was a child Verne Haskel has been creating a perfect miniature replica of Woodland, where he has lived his whole life, for his model train set. By the time he is in his forties he has built the entire town down to the last detail. 

After another miserable day at Larson’s Pump and Valve Works where he has worked for twenty years he returns home, heads straight to his model world in the basement and destroys the Pump and Valve Works building. The next day he quits his job and comes home to find his wife Madge cheating on him with Paul Tyler. Instead of dealing with that he spends the rest of the day remodeling his tiny version of Woodland, vindictively replacing everything to match the world he wants.

Somehow Paul Tyler suspects what will happen next. When Haskel declares he is finished with his grand project Madge and Tyler find that he and the train set have disappeared, and when they drive to the police station to report him missing they see the town now mirrors Haskel’s fantasy world. As Haskel has made himself mayor in this new Woodland things aren’t going to end well for Madge and Tyler.

Cast of characters

  • Verne Haskel 
  • Madge Haskel – Verne’s wife
  • Paul Tyler – having an affair with Madge