Gather Yourselves Together – An Intro

Gather CoverNo one knows for sure exactly when Philip K. Dick’s first novel, Gather Yourselves Together was written.  I picked up this First Mariner Books (a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 2012 edition that I am currently re-reading at The Strand in New York City a few years back. In the afterword, Dwight Brown references dates suggested by Lawrence Sutin (between 1949 and 1950) and Gregg Rickman (sometime before 1952).  The PKD Fan site seems to have settled on a happy medium and puts the written date at 1951.  However, it was not published until 1994.

This first novel (and there is some debate as to whether Voices From the Street was written first instead1) does not fall under the genre of science fiction.  Dwight posits it is a semi-autobiographical fiction with Carl Fitter, the protagonist, “clearly an analogue” for PKD himself.  Also, he argues, it deals with some of the anxietal maladies that inflicted PKD at the time of his writing this novel (including agoraphobia and  conversion dysphagia).

The blog posts that follow will be divided across chapters as they are read.  Perhaps at some future date theses posts will be consolidated into one.

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.


1Dwight in his afterword offers alternative opinions of other publishers who argue Voices From the Street was PKD’s first novel.

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Of Withered Apples

We Can Remember CoverAccording to the PKD fan site, the short story Of Withered Apples was written in 1950, after PKD’s attempt at a novel entitled The Earth Shaker.  Supposedly, an outline and a few chapters of that novel are extant, but I have no access to it yet.

After submitting the short story to SMLA in 1953, it was published in Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy in July of 1954. Categorically I define it as a fantasy/horror story; and at a mere 8 pages, it begins with a summoning.  The version I read can be found in Citadel Press Book’s collection, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick.

A withered leaf makes its way into the hands of the young wife Lori. She, recognizing the Withered Applesadulterous message it brings, coyly begs for permission to go (to the modern reader these implorations will seem archaic, and perhaps even offensive, but remember this scene was set in 1950s America).  Steve, her husband, and Ed, her father-in-law, not wanting to be bothered as they conduct business, dismissively allow her visit–with the understanding she’ll be back in time to prepare their supper.

At the sexually charged rendezvouz with the old withered apple tree, Lori (Eve?) lamely rejects her arboreal paramour; but it is evident that this is not their first encounter. Agressively, the dry and shriveled lover manages to plant his seed within her, sending her off with a small, but potent taste of his fruit.

Later that night, Lori awakens in excruciating pain, and dies from appendicitis.  Steve, in agony, laments bringing her to the country away from the city, and blames himself for her untimely death.  His father’s futile attempts to console him do little to ease his pain.

Later, when visiting her grave site with his father, the two men encounter a young vibrant rosy apple tree rising from Lori’s burial ground. Shaken, with Steve’s father sensing the obvious danger, the two retreat and make a hasty exit.

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.

 

Stability

Paycheck_CoverAccording to the PKD fan site, Stability was written in 1947, but was not published until forty years later in 1987.  The version I read can be found in Citadel Press Book’s collection, Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick.  A short 11 pages, the sci fi tale follows Robert Benton’s time travels to discover a sinister lost city manipulating it’s evil return to civilization.

It’s first few paragraphs introduce us to an airborne angelic Benton and his home world of an undisclosed future civilization, which unable to progress and unwilling to regress, has elected and enforced a static society to maintain order and stability. Then through an altered time line, Benton comes into possession of a diabolical time machine with slavish consequences.

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.

An Introduction

I’ve yet to fully decide the direction this blog will take. All I know is that I’ve been a long time Philip K. Dick (PKD) fan since my teenage years, and I’ve always wanted to in some way cover his entire oeuvre and beyond, inclusive of not only his written work, but also its derivations across film and television.

PKD_Collection_01

According to Aaron John Barlow, in his seminal PH.D, thesis ‘Reality, Religion, and Politics in Philip K. Dick’s Fiction’, PKD’s “themes fall into three inter-related categories: metaphysics, religion, and politics.”  PKD’s metaphysics deals with the “perception and the world and interaction of the individual with both.  Religion focuses on “the moralities of creator and creation relations.”  His politics center “on relationships between individuals and political systems.”  Barlow also identifies the models PKD used for presentation in his fiction, particularly “the mask”.  Used as a tool of deception it “explores the possible relationships that may exist between the deceiver and the deceived, between each and the mask itself, how the act of deception might change the relationships, and the impact on them of the discovery of the hoax.”1

“[H]ow we perceive the world and reality is one of Philip K. Dick’s primary concerns.”  PKD’s characters “are often confused and cognitively disoriented.”2 In PKD’s apocalyptic writings he emerges “as the poet laureate of the postmodern adventure in his bleak and frightening portrayals of the future of global capitalism, interplanetary space travel and colonization, and the merging of humans and technology.”3

My next blog entry starts at the beginning of his writings, or at least at the earliest I have access to: the short story Stability.  According to the PKD fan site, chronologically, Stability falls after two earlier writings. PKD’s very first manuscript, Return to Lilliput, was lost and never found nor published. His second writing, Stratosphere Betty, was self-published, but I have not been able to procure a copy (and if anyone knows how I can get my hands on it please let me know).

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.


1Aaron John Barlow.  “Reality, Religion, and Politics in Philip K. Dick’s Fiction” University of Iowa. 1988.

2Rubén Mendoza. “Adapting (to) Philip K. Dick’s Perceptual Play.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 41, no. 1, 2014, pp. 242–247. JSTOR.

3Steve Best & Douglas Kellner. “The Apocalyptic Vision of Philip K. Dick.” Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, 3(2), 186-202. (2003).