Philip K. Dick

Dick (Wikipedia) treated science fiction as a game of epistemological peek-a-boo, the way the genre looked in prototype when Poe wrote “Von Kempelen and His Discovery” (1849).

Like no other writer, Dick formulated his own thoughts on truth, authenticity, sanity and their opposites, in the form of broken narratives: Narratives that appear on their surface to be spectactular science fiction with the postmodern character fragmentation of “Monkey on His Back” (1960), but are undermined by Dick’s prodding at the nature of reality. He was genuinely curious, smart, and wrong. The results are sometimes smooth and exciting, sometimes surreal and vertiginous, usually with a tragic note like Poe.

Dick took drugs and turned to gnostic Christianity: Two routes to nowhere. Late in life, he turned up the temperature, fusing his wit, his paranoia, his narcissism and his faith. The result was bizarrely readable, a testament to the man’s profound skill. He died, just four months before the release of Blade Runner (1982), as the respected science-fiction writer equivalent of a mad street preacher. The only one of his kind.

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