tag: Mental Illness

The Day Mr. Computer Fell Out Of Its Tree

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon

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


Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon
First published in Science Fiction Quarterly Feb 1957

John Eggerton is a titan of industry. He also happens to be targeted as a possible parakineticist by the Agency which identifies latent P-Ks before they can roam unchecked and destroy society. 

Doris Sorrel tries to serve Eggerton his notice to submit to the Agency, but he escapes with a bounty on his head. Eggerton thinks the industrial bloc leaders are undermined by the Agency, even though the other id bloc leaders remind him some kind of check needs to exist against the P-K mutants. 

Eggerton agrees to give himself over to the mercy of the Agency before a showdown with a P-K who was unaware of his own abilities gives Eggerton the idea that everyone can monitor for P-Ks on their own without the need of the Agency. The only thing left is to get the id bloc leaders to agree with this plan. 

The last we see of Eggerton he is flapping his arms and flying through the sky, a mutant P-K after all who has yet to recognize it. 

Cast of characters

  • John Eggerton – an industrial bloc leader who is identified by the Agency as a P-K
  • Doris Sorrel – an Immune who works for the Agency
  • Harvey Sorrel – Doris’s husband
  • Townsand – an id bloc leader
  • Laura Townsand – Townsand’s wife
  • Jay Richards – doesn’t realize he is a P-K. Grows a plant that sprouts a transport vehicle

Shell Game

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon
First published in Galaxy Science Fiction Sep 1954

The leaders of a settlement on Betelgeuse II believe they are a superior mutant race who crashed on that planet during a war with Terra which is now repeatedly trying to sabotage their camp. 

When they finally raise their damaged spacecraft they learn the truth that they were actually paranoid mental patients on a ship en route to a mental hospital. Or at least it seems that way. Several of the leaders question whether the attacks by Terra are truly collective hallucinations. They devise a way to test their sanity which exposes four of them as Terran spies. The rest, now convinced they aren’t crazy, commit to defeating Terra. 

“Shell Game” is a prototype of sorts for Dick’s later novel The Clans of the Alphane Moon which takes this idea of a group of isolated mental patients in a different direction. 

Cast of characters

  • O’Keefe, Fisher, Portbane, Horstokowski, Daniels, Silberman, Lanoir, Tate, Domgraf-Schwach – the nine leaders of the camp on Betelgeuse II

What the Dead Men Say

Buy it on Amazon
First published in Worlds Of Tomorrow Jun 1964

Johnny Barefoot has arranged for mogul Louis Sarapis to enter half-life (a kind of suspended animation in a mortuary) just after his funeral, but problems hooking him up to half-life correspond to Sarapis’s voice being picked up on broadcasts from the edge of the solar system as well as the arrival on Earth of his granddaughter and heir, a former drug addict who may have ulterior motives in helping Alfonse Gam get elected as the next president.

At over fifty pages, “What the Dead Men Say” felt way too long for a mostly uninteresting story. Dick would use the idea of people stuck in half-life much more successfully later in his classic novel Ubik.

Cast of characters

  • Louis Sarapis – a ‘dead’ former mogul and commercial shipping tycoon
  • Johnny Barefoot – Sarapis’s public relations manager when Sarapis was alive
  • Sarah Belle – Johnny’s wife
  • Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang – owner of Beloved Brethren Mortuary where Sarapis is supposed to enter half-life. Also the owner of Beloved Brethren Moratorium in Ubik
  • Claude St. Cyr – Sarapis’s former lawyer
  • Phil Harvey – St. Cyr’s current employer
  • Gertrude Harvey – Phil’s wife
  • Elektra Harvey – Phil’s ex-wife and St. Cyr’s mistress
  • Alfonse Gam – presidential candidate backed by Sarapis
  • Kathy Egmont/Sharp – Sarapis’s granddaughter

Retreat Syndrome

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon
First published in Worlds Of Tomorrow Jan 1965

John Cupertino gets stuck in a psychotic loop (with a great deal of hostility directed at his wife) as a way of coping with the fact he inadvertently thwarted Ganymede’s attempt to revolt against Terran colonization by informing his wife of the plans.

Cast of characters

  • Caleb Myers – officer who first pulls over the speeding Cupertino
  • John Cupertino – our psychotic protagonist
  • Carol Cupertino – John Cupertino’s wife
  • Dr. Gottlieb Hagopian – Cupertino’s psychiatrist
  • Dr. Edgar Green – Six-planet Educational Enterprise’s psychologist

Dr. Bloodmoney

Dr. Bloodmoney
Buy it on Amazon

Dr. Bloodmoney is Dick’s most unique collection of memorable characters in one story. I liked it even more reading it a second time.

After a few chapters set in Berkeley, California on the last day of modern civilization in 1981 we jump ahead seven years to a world trying to rebuild itself after a nuclear disaster. The mentally unhinged (and telekinetic somehow) Bluthgeld is the man responsible for raining down the nuclear bombs, and he hides out as Mr. Tree in a West Marin commune where the rest of the story takes place. The armless and legless (and also telekinetic) Hoppy Harrington, who had been held down most of his life, is able to become BMOC of this West Marin community until a showdown with seven-year-old Edie (and Bill) Keller that caught me off guard.*

On top of all this there is a man stuck in orbit, since a rocket to Mars had been launched moments before the disaster. He serves as a DJ to the inhabitants of Earth as he passes over each day. Even Stuart McConchie in this one manages to rise above the standard bland everyman in many PKD books. The whole thing comes together as one of Dick’s most accessible novels, and I would highly recommend it.

*Yes, I read this before, but my memory can charitably be described as not good.

Cast of characters

  • Stuart McConchie – salesman at Modern TV Sales & Service before the disaster
  • Jim Fergesson – owner of Modern TV Sales & Service. Modern TV Sales and Service is also the name of the store owned by Roger Lindahl in Puttering About in a Small Land. Jim Fergesson shares his name with the owner of Modern TV Sales and Service in Voices from the Street and the mechanic in Humpty Dumpty in Oakland.
  • Bruno Bluthgeld aka Jack Tree– the titular Dr. Bloodmoney. Responsible for a nuclear fallout disaster in 1972 and responsible for the nuclear attack in 1981
  • Doctor Stockstill – Bluthgeld’s psychoanalyst before the attack
  • Bonny Keller – member of the West Marin community who had referred Bluthgeld to Stockstill
  • George Keller – Bonny’s husband
  • Edie Keller – the Keller’s young daughter although she was fathered by Andrew Gill
  • Bill Keller – Edie’s unborn twin who lives and communicates inside of her
  • Hoppy Harrington – a phocomelus with telekinetic powers
  • Walt and Lydia Dangerfield – supposed to be the first couple to emigrate to Mars. Instead Walt ends up in orbit around Earth after the nuclear attack
  • Mr. Austurias – member of the West Marin commune who was killed for attempting to track down Bluthgeld
  • June Raub – on the West Marin planning committee
  • Andrew Gill – a cigarette entrepreneur after the attack
  • Eldon Blaine – a glasses salesman from Bolinas
  • Orion Stroud – chairman of the West Marin school board
  • Hal Barnes – a new school teacher in West Marin
  • Dean Hardy – Stuart’s business partner in a homeostatic vermin trap business
  • Paul Dietz – West Marin’s newspaper man