Interview With Philip K. Dick

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Interview With Philip K. Dick

Postby kg » 11 Jul 2013, 22:38


I found this video on Youtube whilst surfing from wave to wave on the ocean that is called the Internet. In it, PKD discusses the psycho-social attitudes of the time and their impact on his writing.

While I don't agree with all his assessments, it is interesting nonetheless. For instance, whoever considered Science Fiction as a form of "Western Space-Opera," suitable only for teenagers and demented, paranoid older people, were never a part of my crowd, though they seem to have inhabited his. There were many SF novels written besides those of PKD that made political statements, as well as presenting a preview of technologies that are common place today.

Ah well, it has been posited that he was a bit mentally unstable, so perhaps that was his true motivation. I found the interview interesting, and maybe you will as well. The video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ewcp6Nm-rQ
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Re: Interview With Philip K. Dick

Postby Kellemora » 12 Jul 2013, 11:34

Hi Glenn - Over 25 years ago, we watched a newsreel where Philip K. Dick was in an interview. The original was long and the part we saw had several segments cut out so it fit into our event schedule. Too long ago to remember much about it. However, in a nutshell, he more or less explained the many things writers of science fiction should avoid, to keep from being scrutinized by the government.
I came away from that event feeling that the government knew of many things that if we spoke about them, in any form, we would be looking for trouble.
My reason for attending these guild sponsored conventions, had more to do with changing my venue to what was popular in that day. I was doing OK ghost writing teen romance, however, those writing sci-fi were being paid more than triple for almost anything they turned in. Even then, a heck of a lot got edited out and changed, but most found their way onto the bookshelves. It was a hard to fill niche at the time.
Interesting interview, quite different than when he was younger.
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Re: Interview With Philip K. Dick

Postby kg » 12 Jul 2013, 16:05

Kellemora wrote:I was doing OK ghost writing teen romance, however, those writing sci-fi were being paid more than triple for almost anything they turned in. Even then, a heck of a lot got edited out and changed, but most found their way onto the bookshelves.


One heckuva "fringe genre," isn't it? It was well received, and there were many acclaimed authors who wrote classics at that time, and even before, practically from the heyday of Jules Verne forward. In spite of the opinion of the pooh-poohers, looking down their nose at anything that isn't in "classical" form and on "classical" subjects, the majority of readers want their curiosity piqued and their imaginations challenged.

What the classical purists fail to realize is that, while the classics survive the ravages of time and period due to the quality of their content, they eventually become mere curiosities--a window into a period of time long past. They are soon joined, and eventually displaced, by more contemporary works, accompanied by a great wailing and gnashing of teeth by the purists.

"How can this be considered a classic? Look around you; everything the author wrote is common, concerning common, everyday occurrences."

This said, all the while ignoring the fact that much of the background information in "Around The World In 80 Days," was common in Verne's day, and while we're at it, as was much in Shakespeare's writings. I'm sure Shakespeare had his contemporary detractors, or would have were his works widely distributed. Most of what he wrote would be quite common in the early 1600's, and his works could easily be considered a "soap opera of kings and queens" by his contemporaries, not classics at all!

Much of Verne's and Heinlein's work has now been relegated into the lofty realm of "classic science fiction" now, read as part of a respectable library of "have reads" for Science Fiction aficionados. There are even college courses on some of the SF Classics (scroll down a bit and you'll find the SF section). Many of the authors listed wrote the novels and series around the period under discussion; that the purists refused to recognize their legitimacy changes nothing.

I think PKD's world outlook was too focused. That can be good in some ways, but bad in others. It gives one a distorted view of the surrounding world, which can be beneficial in generating an "alternate world," which was PKD's forte, but at the same time, it can cause one to react inappropriately when forced to interact with RL, and the real people that inhabit it.

Enough of my pontifications. Suffice it to say that, while I respect his preeminent abilities, I disagree with some of his premises. Indeed, he was prescient in some of the scenarios he developed, as demonstrated by close parallels in contemporary life, but his views on Science Fiction as a fringe genre leaves me a bit tepid and wont to debate.

Kellemora wrote:...in a nutshell, he more or less explained the many things writers of science fiction should avoid, to keep from being scrutinized by the government.
I came away from that event feeling that the government knew of many things that if we spoke about them, in any form, we would be looking for trouble.


I sometimes wonder about that, myself, considering that I propose presenting a form of government different from existing forms and the situations and conditions from which they arose. A bit will concern it directly, though completely fictional.

We have become a paranoid society, with even more paranoid leadership, one in which even the slightest misspoken word can draw the scrutiny of those who "protect" us (I still wonder who will protect us from our protectors). Such scrutiny can lead to serious consequences, from being required to "prove your innocence" to...well, it goes downhill from there!

It's a sad state of affairs, but there it is, and we're ensconced in the middle of it. All one can do is protect oneself as best as possible, trembling internally and in a constant state of quiet trepidation.
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Re: Interview With Philip K. Dick

Postby Kellemora » 13 Jul 2013, 18:03

Hi Glenn

Today, more than at any other time in history, due to the rapid spread of info on the internet. The government issues hundreds of thousands of hoax messages on-line. Most are obviously hoaxes, but they have an important purpose. They are placed out there to cover up real stories that are floating around, and done in such a way that it places the real story in question.

I think it was Harper Collins who set the wheels in motion to publish a book, name was something like, The World Within. Although it was printed, it never made it to the bookstore shelves, and all existing copies were shredded.
What was in that book that the government did not want the people to know?

I'm sure all the information in that book is now on the internet, if not in its entirety, then in bits and pieces. And for every leaked piece of info that may be a true story, hundreds of like-kind hoax stories soon cover it up. Or conflicting information is released to add to the confusion. It doesn't take long to make a true story appear to be just another hoax.

If I was going to write a Sci-Fi novel about life (past or present) on another planet. Two I would purposely avoid would be Mars and our own Moon. Why? Simply because if I stumble across some phraseology that the government feels it too close to reality. Those Men in Black will be busting down my front door and hauling me off somewhere.

As far as classics. As you pointed out, most were written during their present time, about the common things of that era. There were not classics at the time, and probably rather boring for the next hundred years.
The Great Gatsby was written when, around 1932? About 1932? Great book, that is now considered a classic. But is it classical? I don't feel it is.

My biggest mistake over the years, was relying on other people to fix my writing. I never got better, no matter how many pages I pounded out. I wrote as I think and speak.
Now that I do not have my personal editor, and where I work no longer provides pre-editors. I'm learning just how bad my work really is. About all I do is get the concept down so someone else can understand where I'm going with it.

I've tried a little experiment, in the semi-public sector, for the sole purpose of seeing who says what about my writing.
An open website where one can post anything from flash fiction up to short stories. I posted a dozen 750 word to 10,000 word stories. One per week, in different venues. There were no spelling errors, several punctuation errors, and probably tons of grammatical errors. I did edit them as best I could, including using a few on-line helper programs. Compared to other works, they were awful, to say the least. I felt they were good stories, just not polished enough and not enough show don't tell to them. Narrative stories with a little dialog.
I was amazed at the comments made. I thought they ALL would be BAD to the bone.
The common readers, not writers or editors, gave very favorable comments.
The bad reviews were from those we call the grammar police. Only two out of nine gave a suggestion or two, on how a sentence should be worded.
Common readers well versed in English, offered pointers on how to fix areas of the story, without being condescending about it. One even took the time to rewrite an entire paragraph, adding color and intensity.
Immediately after some of the grammar police comments. Simple common readers said they liked it the way it was. It sounded more personal, like the author was speaking to them, not at some English majors convention, where everything had to be just proper. They like the more homespun feel of what one called "the way real people talk and tell stories to one another." There were some rebuttals to their comment by grammarians. But overall, the comments were most favorable.

Many eons ago, when I was considering the venue; I attended a short interactive seminar. The title of the seminar, "Science Fiction Discussion, Based on Theoretical Facts." It sorta evolved around the fact that we don't need to reinvent the wheel. Take what is already considered the norm in SciFi and grow from it, unless copyrighted of course. The drift of the whole meeting was not to invent new words for things already commonplace in SciFi. If you mean Warp Drive say Warp Drive. If you mean Worm Hole, use Worm Hole and save Portal for other instances where Portal is most commonly used. Things like that. Don't invent new measurements for things already well established in SciFi. Heck, I can't remember 5% of the things they covered. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting meeting.

I realize the times change, sometimes way to fast too. Back when I was writing the teen romance novels, words that are commonplace in today's teen novels, were strictly taboo. And I'm not talking about vulgar words which are so prevalent today. Many words we considered common and ordinary were never used, at least in teen novels, some were allowed in young adult, but not many, only thirty years ago. Even the word "Dang" was not allowed in the teen novels, OK in YA. Nor egad or cripes sakes which would limit sales to non-Catholics. The times sure have changed, however, I still don't use any vulgar words in anything I write. Not even minced oaths.

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