The Turning Wheel

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Science Fiction Stories #2 1954

Bard Sung-wu, a member of the highest class of holy men studying the teachings of Elron Hu*, is sent to Detroit to investigate the Tinkerists, a Caucasian cult from the lowest Techno class. Before leaving, Sung-wu once again previews his death eight months in the future after which he knows he will be reincarnated as a lowly fly. Eventually Sung-wu ends up at the house of Ben Tinker who is trying to reintroduce reason to the world and push back against the absurd beliefs of the upper classes. Tinker gives Sung-wu antibiotics to use in eight months after he finds out how Sung-wu will die, and Sung-wu in turn hands in a report to his superior that the Tinkerists pose no threat or any need of further investigation.

*Dick of course knew L. Ron Hubbard as a failed science fiction author, and this whole thing is a jab at Hubbard’s Dianetics which had been around for a few years at this point.

Cast of characters

  • Bard Sung-wu – sent to Detroit to investigate the Tinkerists
  • Bard Chai – Sung-wu’s superior
  • Bard Fei-p’ang – operates the mother-scanner where Sung-wu sees his future
  • Ben Tinker – founder of the Tinkerists
  • Frija Tinker – Ben’s daughter