Philip K. Dick: Canonical Writer of the Digital Age

Philip K. Dick: Canonical Writer of the Digital Age

Philip K. Dick: Canonical Writer of the Digital Age

Philip K. Dick: Canonical Writer of the Digital Age

Synopsis

Kucukalic looks beyond the received criticism and stereotypes attached to Philip K. Dick and his work and shows, using a wealth of primary documents including previously unpublished letters and interviews, that Philip K. Dick is a serious and relevant philosophical and cultural thinker whose writing offer us important insights into contemporary digital culture. Evaluating five novels that span Dick's career--from Martian Time Slip (1964) to Valis (1981)--Kucukalic explores the the intersections of identity, narrative, and technology in order to ask two central, but uncharted "Dickian" questions: What is reality? and What is human?

Excerpt

This book joins the attempts of scholars and writers to illuminate Philip K. Dick’s writing in the place of hasty, perhaps less informed analyses of the author and his work. Many commentators have found it necessary to label Dick, often unfavorably and more often uselessly. The unqualified portrayals of the writer that have appeared in recent years occur particularly in the mainstream journalism and magazines. David Gill’s essay, commenting on Dick’s recent revival, reviews a “string of articles that announced Dick’s arrival as a literary Golden Boy [only to] rehash the same accusations he endured from critics for most of his life” (1); there, the interested reader can find further references to this type of journalism. I discuss some portrayals of the author and the major events in Dick’s life in Chapter Two, “Biography of a Writer.”

The bias against science fiction and its writers, and Philip K. Dick in particular, reflects the need to continue changing the public and academic perceptions about the science fiction genre, as its position in the literary canon has been contested since the mid-twentieth century (before that, science fiction was clearly placed in the pulp fiction category). In popular culture, science fiction has been obfuscated by the misconceptions about its scope and failed to gain recognition for its serious literary and intellectual significance. Instead, literary science fiction became overwhelmed by the misrepresentations in television, film, and through social activities that stem mostly from fantasy, not science fiction. While the scope of this book does not allow for a detailed discussion of science fiction in general, Chapter One, “Philip K. Dick, Canonical Writer of the Digital Age,” discusses Dick’s ambivalent relationship to the genre, evident both in his contributions of original ideas and plots and the authorial freedom he gained from writing science fiction. Suffice it to say that commentaries of science fiction writers on the possible scientific, social, and cultural developments—their reflection on both the present and the future of advanced technological society—have never been more relevant than today, when fiction and reality, thanks to the scientific developments and emergence of digital industries, increasingly overlap with one another.

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