tag: Precognition

Waterspider

Buy it on Amazon
First published in If Jan 1964

The Emigration Bureau has run into a small problem in their attempt to send humans to other solar systems. When traveling at nearly the speed of light the humans lose mass and shrink to only one inch tall. So far only convicts have ‘volunteered’ for these secret experimental trips in exchange for their freedom, even though the puzzle of how to restore mass to them once they arrive at their destination hasn’t yet been solved. 

Edwin Fermeti and Aaron Tozzo who work at the Emigration Bureau have an unorthodox idea. They will go back in time and find out from one of the famous twentieth century pre-cogs how to deal with their re-entry problem. 

These ‘pre-cogs’ turn out to be science fiction authors of the 1950s. Tozzo and coworker Craig Gilly travel back to 1954, kidnap author Poul Anderson from a San Francisco science fiction convention and bring him to the future hoping he can use his precog abilities to tell them how they can restore mass to the humans in space travel. Anderson initially escapes from them but gets recaptured and writes them a story which does include the formula they need. They can’t send him back to his time with knowledge of the future so first they wipe his memory. 

They realize their error as soon as Anderson is gone. Because his memory was wiped he couldn’t write the story the future was based on, and the ripple effects from this change create an alternate reality where Tozzo, Gilly, Fermeti and the Emigration Bureau itself is transformed into something from a different story.

When Anderson returns to 1954 the only clue he has to his adventure is a piece of paper with notes scribbled on it which he doesn’t remember writing and which he hands over to be auctioned off at the end of the convention. 

The inclusion of a boatload of Dick’s sci-fi contemporaries and the fish-out-of-water scenarios are both great. This is a very meta story. I’m only a wannabe scholar of mid-century sci-fi (I had to look up half the authors he mentioned), so I have a feeling a lot of it went over my head.

Cast of characters

  • Aaron Tozzo, Craig Gilly – work for the Emigration Bureau
  • Edwin Fermeti – Tozzo and Gilly’s superior
  • Donald Nils, Pete Bailey – prisoners on a trip to the Proxima system
  • Poul Anderson – Hugo and Nebula award-winning author who Tozzo and Gilly kidnap in 1954
  • A.E. van Vogt, Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury, Jack Williamson, Evelyn Page, Margaret St. Clair, Robert Bloch, Tony Boucher, Howard Browne – science fiction authors who have cameos at the convention

Recall Mechanism

Buy it on Amazon
First published in If July 1959

Ever since he was a child Paul Sharp has suffered from a fear of falling. As an adult he seeks treatment from a psychoanalyst for this worsening problem. His analyst Humphreys uncovers repressed memories and figures out Sharp is a latent precog due to the radiation from the nuclear bombs that detonated in Northern California when he was young. Unaware of his abilities, Sharp’s fear comes from a vision of his own death at the hands of a man named Giller (also from Northern Cali) who wants Sharp, through his job at the Division of War Destruction Salvage, to rebuild Petaluma-Sonoma which was destroyed during the war. 

Although he doesn’t tell Sharp this, Humphreys decides there is nothing he can do for him. The story ends with Giller meeting with his own psychoanalyst and complaining about the compulsion he’s always had for great heights and the irresistible urge to push people. 

Cast of characters

  • Paul Sharp – suffers from a fear of heights and falling
  • Humphreys – Sharp’s psychoanalyst
  • Giller – wants Sharp to rebuild the Petaluma-Sonoma area in Northern California

A World of Talent

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

After years as second-class citizens the Centaurian colonies have decided to secede from Terra. The colonists have the advantage of Psi-class individuals who don’t exist on Earth, and the separatist movement is kept alive with the help of two precogs and the parakinetic talents of an overweight idiot savant Psi who keeps them safe.

Somehow the precog Curt locates the first known Anti-Psi Pat on the underdeveloped Proxima VI and with the help of the parakinetic Big Noodle brings her to Proxima III. The head of the telepathic corps sees a threat from an Anti-Psi who could block their abilities, and he has Pat killed just as he had done with the Anti-Psis he had found out about in the past.

Curt has Big Noodle send him to Prox VI where he hopes to find a Psi who can reanimate Pat. There he runs into an old man who he encountered several times earlier and discovers it is his son Tim. They believed Tim didn’t have Psi powers, except it turns out the offspring of the two precogs is a new class of Psi who has the ability to travel in time. Tim, to wrap this up, somehow manipulates the timeline and brings Pat back to life.

Dick would reuse some of these ideas along with the Anti-Psi character Pat Connley/Conley in Ubik

Cast of characters

  • Tim Purcell – an eight-year-old child of two precogs
  • Julie Purcell – Tim’s mother and a precog 
  • Curt Purcell– Tim’s father and a precog
  • Fairchild – a Norm-class bureaucrat
  • Reynolds – chief of the telepathic Corps
  • Sally – a thirteen-year-old girl and advanced Psi
  • Big Noodle – a parakinetic Psi with the mind of a three-year-old. Big Noodle is also the name of Earth’s vast artificial intelligence in The Divine Invasion
  • Pat Connley – an Anti-Psi with a counter talent against the telepaths. Pat Conley is also the name of the Anti-Precog in Ubik

The Golden Man

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon
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 

Ubik: The Screenplay

Ubik: The Screenplay
Buy it on Amazon

Dick wrote his sole screenplay after being approached in 1974 by a French film producer about an adaptation of his 1969 novel Ubik. The producer paid Dick for the completed work, but financing for the movie fell through and it was never made.

This published version is too novelistic, at least by modern screenplay standards, but if it wasn’t there wouldn’t be much of a draw in reading a screenplay for an unproduced movie. It seems to exist only for the curiosity seekers and completists among us, since the story and characters are nearly the same as in the book, except for some additional scenes at the end where Ella Runciter is reborn.

Ubik does appear destined though to make it to the screen in some way or another. The producer of the film adaptation of A Scanner Darkly had optioned Ubik in the early 2000s, Michel Gondry was in the beginning stages of developing a movie in 2011, and in 2018 yet another screenplay was being developed with a new writer and producers.

Cast of characters

  • Glen Runciter – owner of Runciter Associates, an anti-psi prudence organization
  • Ella Runciter – Glen’s dead wife in half-life
  • Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang – owner of Beloved Brethren Moratorium.
  • Jory Miller – a dead fifteen-year-old boy in half-life cold-pac storage
  • Raymond Hollis – employs telepaths. Runciter’s opposition
  • G. G. Ashwood – one of Runciter’s telepaths
  • Joe Chip – Runciter’s electrical tester
  • Pat Conley– an anti-precog
  • Stanton Mick – reclusive speculator and financier
  • Zoe Wirt – Stanton Mick’s assistant
  • Tippy Jackson, Edie Dorn, Al Hammond, John Ild, Francesca Spanish, Tito Apostos, Don Denny, Sammy Mundo, Wendy Wright, Fred Zafsky – Runciter’s inertials

The Minority Report

Buy it on Amazon
First published in Fantastic Universe Jan 1956

With the help of three precog mutants, a precrime police agency eliminates major crimes in society by arresting people before they actually break any laws.

When precrime commissioner John Anderton is tagged by the precogs for killing a man he doesn’t know, he assumes he is being framed by the newcomer Ed Witwer who wants his job. What he doesn’t know is that the Army, rendered toothless by the precrime division, wants to return to power.

The precogs saw a future where Anderton kills the Army General Kaplan after their power grab. We find out that the precrime system relies on a majority report from two precogs who agree on an outcome in the future, which means the remaining precog generates a minority report where no crime is committed. When Anderton doesn’t kill Kaplan, Kaplan uses this to try to shut precrime down under the assumption that Anderton was about to be arrested based on a minority report that won’t come true. Anderton then chooses to kill Kaplan after all to renew public trust in precrime by proving that it does work after all.

It’s a great twisting story, and Spielberg’s 2002 movie is probably Dick’s most well-known adaptation. It alters the plot somewhat with a result that is a bit too convoluted and contrived, although it is second only to Blade Runner in its groundbreaking vision of a future based on Dick’s work.

A sequel to the movie aired as a TV adaptation on Fox for one season in 2015. I can’t say much about it other than it had poor reviews and I barely even remembered it existed.

Cast of characters

  • John Anderton – precrime commissioner
  • Ed Witwer – Anderton’s new associate
  • Lisa Anderton – Andertons wife and an official executive of precrime
  • Leopold Kaplan – an Army general and the man Anderton is supposed to kill
  • Fleming – an Army major working for Kaplan
  • Jerry, Donna, Mike – the three precogs
  • Wally Page – Anderton’s assistant