Roog is PKD’s first short story sale, but it was his eighth published. He was only paid $75 for his hard work to whittle it down (at the advice of Tony Boucher the editor in chief) from about eight thousand words or more, to the published two thousand, while still maintaining his job at the record store. On November 8, 1951 he wrote a thank you letter to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for purchasing his story that included the following snippet:
“Oddly, most of my writing tends to fantasy of a religious, questing nature, ill-suited for worldly things or large publications.”
Kleo, PKD’s second wife at the time, was originally unaware of his dream of a writing career. It was only after their marriage that she learned of his aspirations, when he asked her to read Of Withered Apples and Friday Morning (Roog’s original title).
Roog is “a dog’s eye view of garbage men as aliens.” Boris the dog (inspired by the snooper Australian shepherd that lived next door and kept Dick awake at night) faithfully guards the strong metal food containers that serve as offering urns. He ‘understands’ the disparaging talk of the ‘alien’ and rotten smelling garbagemen who conspire to abduct his owners. Their nefarious plans begin with the stealing of the garbage for analysis. In warning Boris barks “roog” (the dog’s chosen name for the plotting aliens) to his owners, but to no avail. He is not understood; worse, his cries annoy his owners Alf (alien life form? is this a coincidence?) and Mrs. Cardossi, who in turn, now talk of giving him away. The humans’ indifference put Boris in peril. The story ends with the garbagemen laughingly making yet another getaway with the sacred garbage, as Boris despairingly watches in terror.
This short story is considered one of PKD’s favorites where he attempts to get into another creature’s head (its idios kosmos). In The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick the author says that Roog “tells of … a good creature who cannot convey knowledge of that menace to those he loves.” In a later interview he states, “it’s like the dog’s dreams of his own world. Not just the dog’s – his own dream of his own world – his own nightmare of his world.” Perhaps in the dog, PKD even saw a little of himself, as the author who can sense the horrifying penultimate reality but cannot faithfully articulate what he envisions to his readers.
Rickman, Gregg (1989), To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1963, Long Beach, Ca.: Fragments West/The Valentine Press
Levack, Daniel (1981). PKD: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography, Underwood/Miller.
The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 1, The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford, (1990) Citadel Twilight.
Dick, Anne R. The Search for Philip K. Dick. Tachyon Publications. Kindle Edition.
Lawrence Sutin. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. Kindle Edition.
Carrère, Emmanuel. I Am Alive and You Are Dead. Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
Disclaimer: this is an amateur attempt, and I claim no academic or inside knowledge. I am only a fan, and in no way affiliated with PKD. I’ll make sure to credit my sources, but errors will be made, and I will be solely responsible. Feel free to correct me, but please do so with a gentle hand. Let’s talk first.