VALIS: Wikis


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Cover of first edition (paperback)
Author Philip K. Dick
Country United States
Language English
Series VALIS trilogy
Genre(s) Science fiction
Publisher Bantam Books
Publication date 1981
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 227
ISBN 0-553-14156-2
OCLC Number 7066446
LC Classification CPB Box no. 2502 vol. 18
Followed by The Divine Invasion

VALIS is a 1981 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, Dick's gnostic vision of one aspect of God.

VALIS is the first book in the VALIS Trilogy of novels including The Divine Invasion (1981), and the unfinished The Owl in Daylight. Together with Dick's last book, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982) (thematically related to the unfinished trilogy and included in several omnibus editions of the trilogy as a stand-in for the unwritten final volume), VALIS represents Dick's last major work before he died. Radio Free Albemuth, a posthumously published earlier version of VALIS, is not included as a component of the VALIS trilogy.



The main character in VALIS is Horselover Fat, an author surrogate. "Horselover" echoes the Greek etymology of the name Philip, while in German, Dick's surname means "fat".

Dick, as narrator, states early in the book that the creation of the character "Horselover Fat" is to allow him some "much needed objectivity." In this particular work the narrator is also a fictional character provided as a cool, pragmatic counter-point to Horselover's slow disintegration.

Even though the book is written in the first-person-autobiographical, for most of the book Dick treats himself and Fat as two separate characters; he describes conversations and arguments with Fat, and harshly if sympathetically criticizes his opinions and writings. The major subject of these dialogues is spirituality, as Dick/Fat is/are ostensibly obsessed with several religions and philosophies, including Christianity, Taoism, Gnosticism and even Jungian psychoanalysis, in the search for a cure for what he believes is simultaneously a personal and a cosmic wound. Near the end of the book the messianic figure, incarnated by the child Sophia (a name associated with Wisdom in many Gnostic texts, literally meaning "wisdom" in Greek [ Σοφία]), temporarily cures him, and the narrator describes his surprise that Horselover Fat has suddenly disappeared from his side.


Horselover Fat believes his visions expose hidden facts about the reality of life on Earth, and a group of others joins him in researching these matters. One of their theories is that there is some kind of intelligent machine in orbit around the planet, and that it is aiding them in their quest. They eventually go to an estate owned by a popular musician. They decide the goal that they have been led toward is Sophia, who is two years old and the Messiah anticipated by well-know religious teachings. She tells them that their conclusions are correct.[1]

Dick's book Exegesis

VALIS has been described as one node of an artificial satellite network originating from the star Sirius in the Canis Major constellation. According to Dick, the Earth satellite used "pink laser beams" to transfer information and project holograms on Earth and to facilitate communication between an extraterrestrial species and humanity. Dick claimed that VALIS used "disinhibiting stimuli" to communicate, using symbols to trigger recollection of intrinsic knowledge through the loss of amnesia, achieving gnosis. Drawing directly from Platonism and Gnosticism, Dick wrote in his Exegesis: "We appear to be memory coils (DNA carriers capable of experience) in a computer-like thinking system which, although we have correctly recorded and stored thousands of years of experiential information, and each of us possesses somewhat different deposits from all the other life forms, there is a malfunction - a failure - of memory retrieval."

At one point, Dick claimed to be in a state of enthousiasmos with VALIS, where he was informed his infant son was in danger of perishing from an unnamed malady. Routine checkups on the child had shown no trouble or illness; however, Dick insisted that thorough tests be run to ensure his son's health. The doctor eventually complied, despite the fact that there were no apparent symptoms. During the examination doctors discovered an inguinal hernia, which would have killed the child if an operation was not quickly performed. His son survived thanks to the operation, which Dick attributed to the "intervention" of VALIS.

Another event was an episode of supposed xenoglossia. Supposedly, Dick's wife transcribed the sounds she heard him speak, and discovered that he was speaking Koine Greek-the common Greek dialect during the Hellenistic years (3rd century BC-4th century AD) and direct "father" of today's modern Greek language- which he had never studied. As Dick was to later discover, Koine Greek was originally used to write the New Testament and the Septuagint. However, this was not the first time Dick had claimed xenoglossia: A decade earlier, Dick insisted he was able to think, speak, and read fluent Latin under the influence of Sandoz LSD-25.

The UK edition of VALIS also included Cosmology and Cosmogony, a chapbook containing selections from Dick's Exegesis.

Main characters

  • Phil: narrator, science fiction writer
  • Horselover Fat: narrator
  • Gloria Knudson: suicidal friend of Fat's
  • Kevin: friend of Fat's, skeptic
  • Sherri Solvig: Fat's friend, dying from lymphatic cancer
  • David: Catholic friend of Fat's
  • Zebra: pure energy, discorporate, the Logos, living information, the "plasmate", "God"; communicates with Fat
  • VALIS: title of an American science fiction film, appears as a satellite, controls reality, synonymous with Zebra.
  • Eric Lampton: rock star, screenwriter, actor, aka "Mother Goose",
  • Linda Lampton: actress
  • Sophia: the child-messiah, incarnation of VALIS
  • Brent Mini: electronic composer

Philosophical and cultural references

Theology and philosophy, especially metaphysical philosophy, play an important role in VALIS, presenting not just Dick's (and/or Horselover Fat's) own views on these subjects but also his interpretation of numerous religions and philosophies of the past. The most prominent religious references are to Valentinian Gnosticism, the Rose Cross Brotherhood, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism, as well as Biblical writings including the Book of Daniel and the New Testament epistles. Many ancient Greek philosophers are discussed, including several Pre-Socratics (Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Empedocles and Parmenides) as well as Plato and Aristotle. More recent thinkers that are mentioned include the philosophers Pascal and Schopenhauer, the Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, the alchemist Paracelsus, the psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and the author and psychologist Robert Anton Wilson. In Wilson's autobiographical Cosmic Trigger (released shortly before Dick commenced work on VALIS), Wilson describes similar musings concerning the 'Sirius Connection', contemplating the idea that alien entities are sending out waves of information that we can tune in on.

The action of VALIS is set firmly in the American popular culture of its time, with references to the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa and Linda Ronstadt as well as the fictional rock musicians Eric Lampton and Brent Mini. However, the novel also contains a number of high culture references such as the poets Vaughan, Wordsworth and Goethe, and the classical composers Handel and Wagner. In particular, the novel contains several extended discussions about Wagner's metaphysical opera Parsifal.

Black Iron Prison

The Black Iron Prison is a concept of an all-pervasive system of social control postulated in the Tractates Cryptica Scriptura, a summary of an unpublished Gnostic exegesis included in VALIS.

Once, in a cheap science fiction novel, Fat had come across a perfect description of the Black Iron Prison, but set in the far future. So if you superimposed the past (ancient Rome) over the present (California in the twentieth century) and superimposed the far future world of The Android Cried Me a River over that, you got the Empire, as the supra- or trans-temporal constant. Everyone who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it.

In popular culture

VALIS was adapted in 1987 as an electronic opera by composer Tod Machover, and performed at Centre Georges Pompidou, with live singers and video installations created by artist Catherine Ikam. It is currently programed as the main work to be performed at the Grimeborn festival in August 2009.

In 2004, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Philip K. Dick's alleged epiphany, an art exhibition was organized in Vienna by multimedia artist's group XDV, which had several interactive artworks inspired by the descriptions of his experiences.

On February 1, 2004, Variety announced that Utopia Pictures & Television had acquired the rights to three of Philip K. Dick's works: Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said; VALIS; and Radio Free Albemuth.[2]

John Alan Simon, director of the film adaptation of Dick's Radio Free Albemuth, remarked that VALIS will form the basis of a sequel to the Radio Free Albemuth film if it is successful: "Since [Radio Free Albemuth] is essentially the first draft of VALIS, we ended up with rights to both from the estate of [Philip K. Dick]. If [Radio Free Albemuth] is successful, VALIS the book would form the basis for the sequel to VALIS the movie. In other words, the story of VALIS would form the basis for VALIS 2."[3]

In the TV series Lost, the beginning scene in the season 4 episode entitled "Eggtown" depicts John Locke delivering this book to Benjamin Linus while he is being held prisoner by the survivors in the barracks. Benjamin tells Locke that he has already read the book, to which Locke replies, "... read it again, you might catch something you missed the first time around." Two episodes later the prisoner is seen reading the book and there is a brief close-up where the cover of the book fills the screen.


  • Galbreath, Robert, (1982). "Salvation-Knowledge: Ironic Gnosticism in VALIS and The Flight to Lucifer", Science-Fiction Dialogues, Ed. Gary K. Wolfe, Chicago: Academy Chicago, pp. 115-32.
  • _______________ (1983). "Redemption and doubt in Philip K. Dick's VALIS Trilogy", Extrapolation 24:2, pp. 105-15.
  • Palmer, Christopher, (1991). "Postmodernism and the Birth of the Author in Philip K. Dick's VALIS", Science-Fiction Studies # 55, 18:3, pp. 330-42.
  • Stilling, Roger J., (1991). "Mystical Healing: Reading Philip K. Dick's VALIS and The Divine Invasion as Metapsychoanalytic Novels", South Atlantic Review 56: 2, pp. 91-106

See also


  1. ^ "VALIS Plot Summary", Philip K. Dick Trust
  2. ^ " - Utopia picks Dick works". 2004-02-01. Retrieved 2006-08-14.  

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Philip K. Dick article)

From Wikiquote

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

Philip Kindred Dick (16 December 19282 March 1982) was an American science fiction writer.



A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.
  • Can any of us fix anything? No. None of us can do that. We're specialized. Each one of us has his own line, his own work. I understand my work, you understand yours. The tendency in evolution is toward greater and greater specialization. Man's society is an ecology that forces adaptation to it. Continued complexity makes it impossible for us to know anything outside our own personal field - I can't follow the work of the man sitting at the next desk over from me. Too much knowledge has piled up in each field. And there are too many fields.
    • "The Variable Man" (short story, 1952)
    • from The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, v.1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford (1987)
  • Doctor Labyrinth, like most people who read a great deal and who have too much time on their hands, had become convinced that our civilization was going the way of Rome. He saw, I think , the same cracks forming that had sundered the ancient world, the world of Greece and Rome; and it was his conviction that presently our world, our society, would pass away as theirs did, and a period of darkness would follow.
    • "The Preserving Machine" (short story, 1953)
    • from The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, v.1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford (1987)
  • One long-past innocent day, in my prefolly youth, I came upon a statement in an undistinguished textbook on psychiatry that, as when Kant read Hume, woke me forever from my garden-of-eden slumber. "The psychotic does not merely think he sees four blue bivalves with floppy wings wandering up the wall; he does see them. An hallucination is not, strictly speaking, manufactured in the brain; it is received by the brain, like any 'real' sense datum, and the patient act in response to this to-him-very-real perception of reality in as logical a way as we do to our sense data. In any way to suppose he only 'thinks he sees it' is to misunderstand totally the experience of psychosis."
    • "Drugs, Hallucinations, and the Quest for Reality" (1964) quoting an unknown psychiatric text
    • reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995) Lawrence Sutin, ed.
  • Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.
    • "What The Dead Men Say" (1964)
  • In one of the most brilliant papers in the English language [David] Hume made it clear that what we speak of as 'causality' is nothing more than the phenomenon of repetition. When we mix sulphur with saltpeter and charcoal we always get gunpowder. This is true of every event subsumed by a causal law - in other words, everything which can be called scientific knowledge. "It is custom which rules," Hume said, and in that one sentence undermined both science and philosophy.
    • "The Day the Gods Stopped Laughing," unpublished article written in the late 60's
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
  • I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.
    • "Self Portrait" (1968), reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), ed. Lawrence Sutin
  • What about [my] books? How do I feel about them?
    I enjoyed writing all of them. But I think that if I could only choose a few, which, for example, might escape World War Three, I would choose, first, Eye in the Sky. Then The Man in the High Castle. Martian Time-Slip (published by Ballantine). Dr. Bloodmoney (a recent Ace novel). Then The Zap Gun and The Penultimate Truth, both of which I wrote at the same time. And finally another Ace book, The Simulacra.
    But this list leaves out the most vital of them all: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. I am afraid of that book; it deals with absolute evil, and I wrote it during a great crisis in my religious beliefs. I decided to write a novel dealing with absolute evil as personified in the form of a "human." When the galleys came from Doubleday I couldn't correct them because I could not bear to read the text, and this is still true.
    Two other books should perhaps be on this list, both very new Doubleday novels: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and another as yet untitled [Ubik]. Do Androids has sold very well and has been eyed intently by a film company who has in fact purchased an option on it. My wife thinks it's a good book. I like it for one thing: It deals with a society in which animals are adored and rare, and a man who owns a real sheep is Somebody. . . and feels for that sheep a vast bond of love and empathy. Willis, my tomcat, strides silently over the pages of that book, being important as he is, with his long golden twitching tail. Make them understand, he says to me, that animals are really that important right now. He says this, and then eats up all the food we had been warming for our baby. Some cats are far too pushy. The next thing he'll want to do is write SF novels. I hope he does. None of them will sell.
    • "Self Portrait" (1968), reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), ed. Lawrence Sutin
  • Spinoza saw... that if a falling stone could reason, it would think, "I want to fall at the rate of thirty-two feet per second."
    • "The Android and the Human" (1972), reprinted in The Dark-Haired Girl (1988) and in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), ed. Lawrence Sutin
  • These creatures are among us, although morphologically they do not differ from us; we must not posit a difference of essence, but a difference of behavior. In my science fiction I write about about them constantly. Sometimes they themselves do not know they are androids. Like Rachel Rosen, they can be pretty but somehow lack something; or, like Pris in We Can Build You, they can be absolutely born of a human womb and even design androids - the Abraham Lincoln one in that book - and themselves be without warmth; they then fall within the clinical entity "schizoid," which means lacking proper feeling. I am sure we mean the same thing here, with the emphasis on the word "thing." A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.
    • "Man, Androids and Machine" (1975)
    • reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995) Lawrence Sutin, ed.
  • My major preoccupation is the question, 'What is reality?' Many of my stories and novels deal with psychotic states or drug-induced states by which I can present the concept of a multiverse rather than a universe. Music and sociology are themes in my novels, also radical political trends; in particular I've written about fascism and my fear of it.
    • Statement of 1975 quoted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography (1981) vol. 8, part 1
  • People just have no criterion left to evaluate the importance of things. I think the only thing that would really affect people would be the announcement that the world was going to be blown up by the hydrogen bomb. I think that would really affect people. I think they would react to that. But outside of that, I don't think they would react to anything. "Peking has been wiped out by an earthquake, and the RTD -- the bus strike is still on." And some guy says, "Damnit! I'll have to walk to work!"
  • I think that, like in my writing, reality is always a soap bubble, Silly Putty thing anyway. In the universe people are in, people put their hands through the walls, and it turns out they're living in another century entirely. ... I often have the feeling -- and it does show up in my books -- that this is all just a stage.
    • Interview, Science Fiction Review (August 1976)
  • Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.
    • Letter to Patricia Warrick (May 17, 1978), published in Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1977-1979 (1993)

The Man Who Japed (1956)

  • Odd that the brain could function on its own, without acquainting him with its purposes, its reasons. But the brain was an organ, like the spleen, heart, kidneys. And they went about their private activities. So why not the brain?

The World Jones Made (1956)

  • An Irishman hears that the banks are failing. He runs into the bank where he keeps his money and demands every cent of it. 'Yes sir,' the teller says politely. 'Do you want it in cash or in the form of a check?' The Irishman replies: 'Well, if you have it, I don't want it. But if you haven't got it, I must have it immediately.'

Confessions of a Crap Artist (1959)

  • I did not attend the services, because it seems to me, as Pythagoras says, the body is the tomb of the soul and that by being born a person has already begun to die.
  • The hell with the newspapers. Nobody reads the letters to the editor column except the nuts. It's enough to get you down.

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

  • What does it mean, insane? A legal definition. What do I mean? I feel it, see it, but what is it? It is something they do, something they are. It is their unconsciousness...Do they ignore parts of reality? Yes. But it is more. It is their plans...Their view; it is cosmic...They see through the here, the now, into the vast black deep beyond, the unchanging. And that is fatal to life. Because eventually there will be no life; there was once only the dust particles of space, the hot hydrogen gases, nothing more, and it will come again.
  • (Insanity) is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate - confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.
  • Perhaps if you know you are insane then you are not insane.
  • Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small...and you will escape the jealousy of the great.
  • It's the fault of those physicists and that synchronicity theory, every particle being connected with every other; you can't fart without changing the balance in the universe. It makes living a funny joke with nobody around to laugh. I open a book and get a report on future events that even God would like to file and forget. And who am I? The wrong person; I can tell you that.
  • Can anyone alter fate? All of us combined...or one great figure...or someone strategically placed, who happens to be in the right spot. Chance. Accident. And our lives, our world, hanging on it.
  • Little kids are that way; they feel if their parents aren't watching what they do then what they do isn't real.
  • This is an artifact and that was a relic. This is alive in the now, whereas that merely remained.
  • Life is short. Art, or something not life, is long, stretching out endless, like concrete worm. Flat, white, unsmoothed by any passage over or across it. Here I stand. But no longer.
  • Are we to assist it in gaining power in order to save our lives? Is that the paradox of our earthly situation?
  • To save one life, Mr. Tagomi had to take two. The logical, balanced mind cannot make sense of that. A kindly man like Mr. Tagomi could be driven insane by the implications of such reality.
  • We have entered a Moment when we are alone. We cannot get assistance, as before. Well, Mr. Tagomi thought, perhaps that too is good. Or can be made good. One must still try to find the Way.
  • That is the artist's job: take mineral rock from dark silent earth, transform it into shining light-reflecting form from sky.
  • I feel the hot winds of karma driving me. Nevertheless I remain here. My training was correct: I must not shrink from the clear white light, for if I do, I will once more re-enter the cycle of birth and death, never knowing freedom, never obtaining release. The veil of maya will fall once more.
  • This hypnagogic condition. Attention-faculty diminished so that twilight state obtains; world seen merely in symbolic, archetypal aspect, totally confused with unconscious material.
  • I will never fully understand; that is the nature of such creatures. Or is this Inner Truth now, this that is happening to me? I will wait. I will see. Which it is. Perhaps it is both.
  • Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive. Even though I can't prove that, even though it isn't logical - I believe it.
  • We do not have an ideal world, such as we would like, where morality is easy because cognition is easy. Where one can do right with no effort because he can detect the obvious.
  • (Hawthorne Abendsen) told us about our own world. This, what's around us now. He wants us to see it for what it is. And I do, and more so each moment.
  • You're killing yourself with cynicism. Your idols got taken away from you one by one and now you have nothing to give your love to.
  • [Fiction] Appeals to the base lusts that hide in everyone no matter how respectable on the surface.
  • We can travel anywhere we want, even to other planets. And for what? To sit day after day, declining in morale and hope. Falling into an interminable ennui.
  • Dilemma of a civilized man; body mobilized but danger obscure.

Martian Time-Slip (1964)

  • Insanity - to have to construct a picture of one's life, by making inquiries of others.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Adapted into the 1982 film Blade Runner.

  • For Mercer everything is easy, he thought, because Mercer accepts everything. Nothing is alien to him. But what I've done, he thought; that's become alien to me. In fact everything has become unnatural; I've become an unnatural self.
  • "Everything is true", he said. "Everything anybody has ever thought".
  • The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are.
  • You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.

A Maze of Death (1970)

A novel about colonists to Delmak-O, all seemingly mentally ill and suspicious of each other. One of Dick's weirder and darker novels.

  • Forty-two. His age had astounded him for years, and each time that he had sat so astounded, trying to figure out what had become of the young, slim man in his twenties, a whole additional year slipped by and had to be recorded, a continually growing sum which he could not reconcile with his self-image. He still saw himself, in his mind's eye, as youthful, and when he caught sight of himself in photographs he usually collapsed ... Somebody took my actual physical presence away and substituted this, he had thought from time to time. Oh well, so it went.

We Can Build You (1972)

  • 'A rolling stone gathers no moss.'
    Try as I might I could not remember the meaning. At last I hazarded, 'Well, it means a person who's always active and never pauses to reflect - ' No, that didn't sound right. I tried again. 'That means a man who is always active and keeps growing in mental and moral stature won't grow stale.' He was looking at me more intently, so I added by way of clarification, 'I mean, a man who's active and doesn't let grass grow under his feet, he'll get ahead in life.'
    Doctor Nisea said, 'I see.' And I knew that I had revealed, for the purposes of legal diagnosis, a schizophrenic thinking disorder.
    'What does it mean?' I asked. 'Did I get it backward?'
    'Yes, I'm afraid so. The generally-accepted meaning of the proverb is the opposite of what you've given; it is generally taken to mean that a person who - '
    'You don't have to tell me,' I broke in. 'I remember - I really knew it. A person who's unstable will never acquire anything of value.'
    • chapter 17, page 224.

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1974)

  • Fear... can make you do more wrong than hate or jealousy. If you're afraid you don't commit yourself to life completely; fear makes you always, always hold something back.
  • He could not endure what he found himself going through, and he could not get away. It seemed to him as if he sat behind the tiller of his custom-made unique quibble, facing a red light, green light, amber light all at once; no rational response was possible. Her irrationality made it so. The terrible power, he thought, of illogic. Of the archetypes. Operating out of the drear depths of the collective unconscious which joined him and her — and everyone else — together. In a knot which could never be undone, so long as they lived.
    • p.54

A Scanner Darkly (1977)

  • If I had known it was harmless I would have killed it myself.
  • Where there's dope, there's hope!
  • "Sometimes I wish I knew how to go crazy. I forget how."
    "It's a lost art," Hank said. "Maybe there's an instruction manual on it."
  • They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed--run over, maimed, destroyed--but they continued to play anyhow.
  • Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgement. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is "Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying," but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory.
  • One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven - or even proven at all - to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn't there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car's ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfirings- then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.
  • What does a scanner see? he asked himself. I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner like they used to use or a cube-type holo-scanner like they use these days, the latest thing, see into me - into us - clearly or darkly? I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can't any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners do better. Because, he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we'll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.
  • "Then shall it come to pass the saying that is written," a voice said. "Death is swallowed up. In victory." Perhaps only Fred heard it. "Because," the voice said, "as soon as the writing appears backward, then you know which is illusion and which is not. The confusion ends, and death, the last enemy, Substance Death, is swallowed not into the body but up - in victory. Behold, I tell you the sacred secret now: we shall not all sleep in death."
  • Robert Arctor halted. Stared at them, at the straights in their fat suits, their fat ties, their fat shoes, and he thought, Substance D can't destroy their brains; they have none.
  • I saw Substance D growing. I saw death rising from the earth, from the ground itself, in one blue field, in stubbled color.
  • How did I get here? The pain so unexpected and undeserved and for some reason cleared away the cobwebs. I realized I didn't hate the cabinet door, I hated my life my house, my family. My backyard, my power mower. Nothing would ever change, nothing new would ever be expected; it had to end, and it did. Now in the dark world where I dwell ugly things and surprising things, and sometimes little wondrous things spill out at me constantly, and I can count on nothing.
  • "Mountains, Bruce, mountains," the manager said. "Mountains, Bruce, mountains," Bruce said and gazed.
    "Echolalia, Bruce, echolalia," the manager said. "Echolalia, Bruce-"
    "Okay, Bruce," the manager said, and shut the cabin door behind him, thinking, I believe I'll put him among the carrots. Or beets. Something simple. Something that won't puzzle him.

"If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others" (1977)

A speech published in the collection The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick.

  • A novelist carries with him constantly what most women carry in large purses: much that is useless, a few absolutely essential items, and then, for good measure, a great number of things that fall in between. But the novelist does not transport them physically because his trove of possessions is mental. Now and then he adds a new and entirely useless idea; now and then he reluctantly cleans out the trash -- the obviously worthless ideas -- and with a few sentimental tears sheds them. Once in a great while, however, he happens by chance onto a thoroughly stunning idea new to him that he hopes will turn out to be new to everyone else. It is this final category that dignifies his existence. But such truly priceless ideas... perhaps during his entire lifetime he may, at best, acquire only a meager few. But that is enough; he has, through them, justified his existence to himself and to his God.

"How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (1978)

A speech published in the collection I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon and The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick. Available online.

  • Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups...So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.
  • The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
  • Science Fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful.
  • This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance.
  • An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion.
  • Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Introduction to The Golden Man (1980)

  • This is why I love SF. I love to read it; I love to write it. The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just "What if..." It's "My God; what if..." In frenzy and hysteria.
  • That was my problem then and it's my problem now; I have a bad attitude. In a nutshell, I fear authority but at the same time I resent it -- the authority and my own fear -- so I rebel. And writing SF is a way to rebel. ... SF is a rebellious art form and it needs writers and readers and bad attitudes -- an attitude of "Why?" or "How come?" or "Who says?"
  • And of course, in my writing, there is the constant theme of music, love of, preoccupation with, music. Music is the single thread making my life into a coherency. ... It's my job and my vice mixed together. You can't hope for better than that: having your job and your sin commingled.
  • People have told me that everything about me, every facet of my life, psyche, experiences, dreams, and fears, are laid out explicitly in my writing, that from the corpus of my work I can be absolutely and precisely inferred. This is true.
  • Writing is a lonely way of life. You shut yourself up in your study and work and work.
  • One thing I've found that I can do that I really enjoy is rereading my own writing, earlier stories and novels especially. It induces mental time travel, the same way certain songs you hear on the radio do ... the whole thing returns, an eerie feeling that I'm sure you've experienced.
  • Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him -- one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don't agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.

VALIS (1981)

A novel featuring Dick himself. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, Dick's gnostic vision of God.

  • We hypostasize information into objects. Rearrangement of objects is change in the content of the information; the message has changed. This is a language which we have lost the ability to read. We ourselves are a part of this language; changes in us are changes in the content of the information. We ourselves are information-rich; information enters us, is processed and is then projected outwards once more, now in an altered form. We are not aware that we are doing this, that in fact this is all we are doing.
  • It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.
  • A lot can be said for the infinite mercies of God, but the smarts of a good pharmacist, when you get down to it, is worth more.
  • To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement ... Whoever defeats the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus ... thereby it becomes its enemies.
  • The Empire Never Ended
  • Mental illness is not funny.
  • Crazy people do not apply the principle of scientific parsimony... they shoot for the baroque.
  • Helping people was one of the two basic things Fat had been told to give up; helping people and taking dope. He had stopped taking dope, but all his energy and enthusiasm were now totally channelled into saving people. Better he had kept on with the dope.
  • Fish cannot carry guns.
  • It is amazing that when someone else spouts the nonsense you yourself believe you can readily perceive it as nonsense.
  • Certainly it constitutes bad news if the people who agree with you are buggier than batshit.
  • Madness has its own dynamism. It just goes on.

The Divine Invasion (1981)

  • It was evident to Elias Tate that this was the government. First they shake hands with you, he thought, and then they murder you.
  • They think they are free because they have never been free, and do not know what it means.

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982)

  • Barefoot conducts his seminars on his houseboat in Sausalito. It costs a hundred dollars to find out why we are on this Earth. You also get a sandwich, but I wasn't hungry that day. John Lennon had just been killed and I think I know why we are on this Earth; it's to find out that what you love the most will be taken away from you, probably due to an error in high places rather than by design.
    • Page 7
  • The trouble with being educated is that it takes a long time; it uses up the better part of your life and when you are finished what you know is that you would have benefited more by going into banking.
    • Page 13
  • I realized, then, that I had stood without intending to. Flight reaction, I said to myself. Instinctive. Upon experiencing close adversaries. The lizard part of the brain.
    • Page 158
  • Madness, like small fish, runs in hosts, in vast numbers of instances.
    • Page 236

Lies, Inc. (1984)

Originally published as The Unteleported Man in 1964, republished with additional material in 1983. Published with further additional material as Lies, Inc. in 1984.

  • When two people dream the same dream, it ceases to be an illusion.

In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis (1991)

Edited by Lawrence Sutin.

  • I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel & story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps: they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, & for them, my corpus of writing is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an investigation & presentation, analysis & response & personal history. My audience will always be limited to those people.
  • Each of us assumes everyone else knows what HE is doing. They all assume we know what WE are doing. We don't...Nothing is going on and nobody knows what it is. Nobody is concealing anything except the fact that he does not understand anything anymore and wishes he could go home.

Quotes about Philip K. Dick

  • Dick's fiction calls up our basic cultural assumptions, requires us to reexamine them, and points out the destructive destinations to which they are carrying us. The American Dream may have succeeded as a means of survival in the wilderness of early America; it allowed us to subdue that wilderness and build our holy cities of materialism. But now, the images in Dick's fiction declare, we live in a new kind of wilderness, a wasteland wilderness, because those cities and the culture that built them are in decay. We need a new American dream to overcome this wasteland.
    • Patricia S. Warrick, Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick (1987)
  • [He would spend] three days straight writing a couple hundred pages. I didn't get any sleep either because every ten minutes [he would ask] "How do you spell _____, I need some coffee, Is there any food?" …He'd lay down for about ten minutes, get up again, and write some more.
  • [H]e never went anywhere, and never left his house. I didn't realize what a big deal it was then, but the older I get, the less I want to go anywhere. We live in the mountains, on a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere. ... He didn't like driving either. I remember he had a car for about three or four years before he passed away and it only had about 600 miles on it.
  • It was either Phil [Dick] or [Ace editor] Terry Carr who came up with the idea of an Ace Double edition of the Holy Bible. One of these days Ace will print the Holy Bible as a Double, back to back, the Old Testament and the New Testament each cut to exactly 30,000 words, the Old Testament titled Master of Chaos and the New Testament titled The Thing with Three Souls.
    • Poul Anderson, posthumous appreciation of Philip K. Dick in Locus magazine #256 (5/82)
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle; Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
      • alternate versions: In Divine Invasions by Lawrence Sutin, Karen Anderson, wife of Poul Anderson, is quoted. In this version of the anecdote, each half is 20,000 words, and the New Testament is The Things with Three Souls. In an e-mail from Arthur Hlavaty (5/28/95) the Old Testament is given as Wargod of Israel and the New Testament as The Thing with Three Souls.
  • Writer X may sell 500,000 copies. All those 500,000 people may think, nice book. I liked it. I'll read the guy's next one. And 40,000 people may read a Phil Dick book, and be loud and vocal and persuasive about feeling the book had incredible impact on them intellectually and emotionally. The guy with the 500,000 will not be seen as a major writer and the guy with the 40,000 will. Because nobody's talking about the guy with the 500,000 readers.
    • Russ Galen, Philip K. Dick's agent
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
  • The worlds through which Philip Dick's characters move are subject to cancellation or revision without notice. Reality is approximately as dependable as a politician's promise.
    • Roger Zelazny in Philip Dick: Electric Shepherd (1975), Bruce Gillespie, ed.
  • Is it real? Does it matter?
    • Robin Temple, on all of Philip K. Dick's books.

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