Thursday, March 03, 2011

Philip K. Dick's Dystopian World Taking Over?

"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."

It should not be surprising - but it is - that we seem to be truly inhabiting the dystopian world envisioned by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. His works explored perception, reality, paranoia, corporate worship, identity, computer technologies, constant surveillance, the mass marketing of tragedy, an emerging global polyglot society and so much more which seems to resonate so strongly with generation after generation. And today his ideas serve as a rich and fertile field for cultural exploration.

Reports are flying today of the rights being secured to create sequels and prequels a TV series and maybe a remake of the movie "Blade Runner" - which already exists as a 5-disc movie collection on DVD with all variant versions and documentaries. Producers seem to be aiming at creating movies within the world created in Ridley Scott's movie -- and already there are 3 novels based in the BR world from writer K.W. Jeter. And the Total Recall 2010 TV series also blended that movie and Total Recall (based on another PKD story) into a short-lived and rather awful TV show.

Really what they are aiming at is franchising writer Philip K Dick, whose works constitute nearly an industry unto themselves - witness this weekend's arrival of "The Adjustment Bureau" based on PKD's short story. an independent film of his novel "Radio Free Albemuth" is seeking a distributor, Disney has an animated feature in production based on "The King of the Elves", and apparently two films called "The Owl In Daylight", one a documentary, are being created as well. A look at 9 of the movies made based on his work so far is here.

Largely regarded as one of his best works, the alternate history of the world wherein the Allies lost World War 2, "The Man In The High Castle", is in production as a mini-series on BBC, spearheaded by Ridley Scott.

The number of new books, festivals, new films, music, and new collections of his work is so large it's more than impossible to list.

I've always enjoyed reading his work (and some of the movies) but I was always left with the great hope that little of his perceived futures would come to pass. He wrote of society endlessly deceived and deluded and controlled by great wealth and nefarious leaders, a hopeless and helpless humanity, yet one in which he searched for hope.

Some years back, a project was launched to create a functioning android with artificial intelligence was created using a model of Dick's face and speech patterns. It was beyond spooky and got stranger still when the head of this android was accidentally lost and went traveling via airplane to California.

The creators were adamant however and now are presenting their creation again, though work is still to be completed for creating an artificial intelligence for the android. A video sample of the PKD2 is quite surreal.

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)


  1. I'm a big Phillip K Dick fan. Remember "Minority Report"? I never read the story but in the movie a big corporation takes over law enforcement ... and it's hard not to look at that and see companies like CCA and Blackwater ...

  2. exactly SB - the horrors of manipulation by faceless authority which he often imagined seem to be coming true at a regretable rate.

  3. I really like your thoughts on PKD. But please do not include the indie movie Radio Free Albemuth as part of the "franchising" of PKD. It is intended as the antidote. PKD straight-up.

  4. duly noted, Anon -- it was included as part of a catalog of his works headed to the screen, not as part of a franchising ... i stated it poorly. it's gotten great reviews and i hope it nabs a distributor as it's getting great film fest exposure. here's a link to the film's website, which also includes a trailer (as a side note, my post above was made just a day after the anniversary of Phil's death)