tag: Simulated Reality

The Trouble With Bubbles

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First published in If Sep 1953

A global ennui gradually took over the Earth as humans failed to find life on other planets in the solar system. To cope with this everyone retreated into Worldcraft where they could play god and evolve entire civilizations contained in small globes. This culminates in contest parties to judge the most successful world, and at least in the contest party that opens the story, everyone then smashes their worlds in a melee of destruction. 

The Directorate member and intellectual Nathan Hull is appalled by this behavior. He recognizes these Worldcraft bubbles as a substitute for man’s desire to discover new things and be in control, but Worldcraft doesn’t truly satisfy this urge and that energy turns destructive. 

Hull introduces a bill to outlaw Worldcraft on the humanitarian grounds that these are real lives being destroyed, but it is overwhelmingly defeated. Just then Terran Spaceways announces the discovery of a civilization in the Proxima system. This means Worldcraft will now be abandoned as humans can direct their energies outward toward new worlds.

As Hull and his girlfriend leave the Directorate Hall they hear about an enormous earthquake that demolished the newly constructed transportation tube across the Pacific. Only Hull seems to understand the horrible implication that they might be in an artificial bubble world themselves. 

Cast of characters

  • Nathan Hull – member of the Directorate and the Intellectual class
  • Julia Marlow – Hull’s girlfriend
  • Bart Longstreet – works for Terran Spaceways. Member of the Industrial class
  • Lora Becker – wins the Worldcraft contest party
  • Eldon von Stern – Directorate Floor Leader
  • Forrest Packman – inventor of the Worldcraft bubbles

Ubik: The Screenplay

Ubik: The Screenplay
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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

I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Playboy Dec 1980

Victor Kemmings’s cryonic suspension malfunctions while en route to a distant planet. Because only his brain is awake, the ship’s A.I. system decides to create simulated realities in Kemmings’s mind in order to prevent him from becoming a vegetable during the remaining ten years of the trip.

The initial world constructed by the ship takes Kemmings back to when he was married with his first wife Martine, but Kemmings’s mind rejects it. The second world goes farther back in his subconscious to an incident during his childhood when he helped his cat kill a bird. This world, like the others to come, is also rejected because of Kemmings’s deep-seated neurotic anxieties.

The ship decides to simulate a world on the colony planet as if they’ve already arrived. Kemmings’s mind sees through this phony setup too as the scenario plays out again and again. When they finally do arrive in the real world, where the ship has arranged his first wife Martine to greet them, Kemmings still believes he is trapped in the loop of simulated realities.

This story was originally published under the title “Frozen Journey” in Playboy in 1980.

Cast of characters

  • The ship’s A.I.
  • Victor Kemmings – an emigrant on his way to the colony planet LR4-6
  • Martine – Kemmings’s first wife

Faith of Our Fathers

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Dangerous Visions 1967

“Faith of Our Fathers” was written for and first published in Harlan Ellison’s 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions.

The Communist Party (in an alternate-future North America under Communist rule) is hiding the true nature of reality from the population through the use of hallucinogens in the water supply.

Tung Chien sees through this phony world after being slipped an anti-hallucinogenic drug by members of a revolutionary group and proceeds to find out that the Absolute Benefactor is actually a horrible, god-like evil entity.

This one certainly feels like a bad trip. Dick has written enough stories along these lines that it’s remarkable how much he downplayed the significance of LSD as an inspiration in his writing process.

Cast of characters

  • Tung Chien – works for the Postwar Ministry of Cultural Artifacts
  • Darius Pethel – headmaster of a new school of indoctrination. This is also the name of the owner of Pethel Jiffi-scuttler Sales & Service in The Crack in Space
  • Ssu-Ma Tso-pin – Chien’s supervisor
  • Tanya Lee – member of a revolutionary group
  • The Absolute Benefactor – the Communist Party leader

Precious Artifact

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Galaxy Oct 1964

Mars is desperately needed by both Earth and Prox for their overflowing populations, but only Milt Biskle suspects that the Proxmen and not the humans were in fact the victors of the war fought over that planet.

When Milt travels back to Earth after his successful Martian terraforming project he finds his suspicions confirmed. The Proxmen have constructed an elaborate illusion that life on Earth has continued so they can lure the human engineers back to their home planet in order to now terraform it for Prox, since the oceans were vaporized during the war.

Milt eventually resigns himself to this reality and heads back to Mars with a kitten, the titular precious artifact which is itself part of the Prox simulation, something Milt doesn’t recognize.

Cast of characters

  • Milt Biskle – a terraforming engineer on Mars
  • Dr. DeWinter – Milt’s psychiatrist
  • Mary Ableseth – Milt’s tour guide companion back on Earth

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky
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Eye in the Sky is one of Dick’s first novels (published just after Solar Lottery and The World Jones Made) and the first time he took a handful of acquaintances and strangers, threw them into a world that wasn’t real and let them figure it out. He would reuse this setup later in A Maze of Death and in his classic Ubik… and he would continue the idea of ‘what is reality’ in nearly everything he wrote.

A group of sightseers at a particle accelerator falls through a proton beam when a platform collapses. As they imagine they recover they actually wake into a chain of worlds created in the mind of each individual as they regain consciousness one by one.

In the first half of the book they are trapped in the mind of war veteran Arthur Silvester whose world is ruled by an Old Testament-like god, the titular eye in the sky.* After incapacitating Silvester the group progresses through several more worlds until there is a twist around whether or not Hamilton’s wife is a Communist sympathizer, a question the book begins with when Hamilton is fired from his job at a missile research facility over the Red Scare concerns about his wife’s allegiances.

Overall a funny and thought-provoking early work.

*Originally intended to be the Biblical Judeo-Christian God but rewritten by Dick at the publisher’s request as a Muslim god of an obscure Arabic cult so as not to offend any readers of 1950’s America.

Cast of characters

  • Jack Hamilton – employee at the California Maintenance missile research lab
  • Marsha Hamilton – Hamilton’s wife
  • Colonel Edwards – head of California Maintenance
  • Charley McFeyffe – captain of security at California Maintenance
  • Arthur Silvester – a war veteran. Creator of universe 1 overseen by the eye in the sky
  • Bill Laws – the guide at the Bevatron particle accelerator
  • Edith Pritchet – creator of the sexless and inoffensive universe 2
  • David Pritchet – Edith’s son
  • Joan Reiss – creator of the paranoiac universe 3
  • Guy Tillingford – head of the Electronics Development Agency
  • Horace Clamp – a prophet of the Second Bab
  • Silky – a barfly Hamilton first meets in Silvester’s world