The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick

The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick
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The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick is a collection of PKD’s non-fiction writing edited by Lawrence Sutin and published by Vintage in 1995. It includes some short autobiographical pieces, some notes on SF, introductions he wrote for a few of his books, some material specific to The Man in the High Castle, some plot treatments and television ideas, some longer essays and transcripts of speeches, and some selections from the Exegesis. 

A common theme in the autobiographical writings in part one, outside of his love for writing science fiction, is how little money an SF author makes. The essays in part two deal more specifically with his thoughts on science fiction, and in the introduction to “The Golden Man” we get his infamous account of buying horse meat at the Lucky Dog Pet Store in Berkeley to feed himself and his wife because of how difficult it was to support them with a career in SF. 

Part three includes an essay on Naziism as it relates to The Man in the High Castle and two chapters (where Goring discusses The Grasshopper Lies Heavy with his men and the SS deputy Heydrich interrogates Wegener) from the sequel to that book that he never completed. 

The television proposals are a strange insight. Perhaps desperate for money he tries to break into TV with a plot outline for the 1960s TV series Mission Impossible and a detailed idea for a show about a guardian angel business that operates out of heaven and interacts with people back on Earth. 

For me the essays and speeches in part five are the highlight of the collection. The first few, where he discusses mental illness and man’s relationship to machine, predate the Exegesis. The rest come after his 1974 experience. Other than “The Tagore Letter” and “Cosmogony and Cosmology” (which is a technical and mostly dry update that he sent to his agent, for some reason, about where he was at with his exegetical thinking at the time), the remaining essays from the 1970s were for a broader audience. To me at least they seem more accessible and make a good companion to the Exegesis

The short selections from the Exegesis in part six were not included in the version published in 2011, as far as I can tell, other than “The Ultra Hidden (Cryptic) Doctrine: The Secret Meaning of the Great Systems of Theosophy of the World, Openly Revealed for the First Time” from Folder 82 which I wrote about here.