|Philip K. Dick|
The speculative fiction of Philip K. Dick (1928–1982) transformed the paranoid plots of 1930s–1950s pulp fiction nigh conspiratorial threats from exterior past times infusing them alongside anxieties emerging inwards the 1960s–1970s regarding the disintegration of psychological structures nether the pressure level of postmodernity (the turning of every terminal realm of world together with private life into a commodity; disinformation produced past times media elites; the construction of a consensus reality through manufactured illusion; technologies of behaviour modification).
Dick’s most of import books—Time Out of Joint (1959), The Man inwards the High Castle (1962), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), Ubik (1969), H5N1 Maze of Death (1970), H5N1 Scanner Darkly (1977), The Divine Invasion (1981), Valis (1981), The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982)—extrapolate the persuasion of revelation, the ideological nucleus of the conspiracy genre, into something at i time sublime, uncanny, together with insidious. The humdrum lives of his “little guy” protagonists are totally disrupted every bit they honour themselves implicated inwards “an intricate, sustained illusion-system of massive proportion” (The Game Players of Titan, 110).
Nightmarish disclosures that cannot last rationalized away to keep the illusion of gratuitous will, inwards combination alongside the proposition that the paranoid nightmares powerfulness last non fantasies precisely glimpses of the vast underlying organisation of society, incompletely comprehended, allow Dick’s conspiracy narratives to business office simultaneously every bit casestudies of paranoia together with every bit allegorical critiques satirizing the totalitarian tendencies of postwar U.S. capitalism.
Rehearsing the diverse mechanisms together with detours of paranoia, Dick’s protagonists come about to build to a greater extent than together with to a greater extent than elaborate explanatory models inwards compensatory answer to profound feelings of personal insubstantiality together with social impotence.
Dick reconceived the mutual scientific discipline fiction device of the “pocket universe”—a discrete microcosmic enclave of incubated ignorance—as a virtual reality perpetrated past times governmental or corporate media. He presciently depicted dystopian near-future societies characterized past times systems of simulation that serve to command the population past times infiltrating consciousness together with structuring the individual’s sense of self.
Plots concerning the capture of audiences together with markets past times oligarchic networks homecoming inwards fictional damage his recognition of how an emerging monastic state of the spectacle was commencement to create people to invest inwards hegemonic models of the world that were against their best interests.
Dick’s deeply ambivalent piece of occupation typically merges the angst-ridden folklore of take away heed command (e.g., the implantation of faux memories) alongside the superficially to a greater extent than hopeful folklore of alternate realities (e.g., via drug-enhanced psi powers).
By blurring the demarcation betwixt “actual” events together with psychic processes, together with thereby surrendering cognitive suppositions to endless permutation, Dick’s destabilizing narratives throw into interrogation all criteria for establishing credibility or futurity action. For example, H5N1 Scanner Darkly depicts the gradual blurring of demarcated role-identities every bit a constabulary undercover agent is required to surveil a drug user/dealer he had been pretending to be, precisely inwards fact has straight off become.
Here the unimpeachable founding premise, hence honey to conspiracy theory, is tinged for comic upshot alongside digressive persuasion processes typically conduced past times for sure pharmaceuticals: “‘I mean, it’s my theory that I did it,’ Barris said. ‘Under posthypnotic suggestion, evidently. With an amnesia block.... Possibly ... to drive dissension to pause out [about] whom nosotros tin trust, who is our enemy, together with similar that’” (A Scanner Darkly, 53).
The compulsively suspicious scrutiny applied past times Dick’s protagonists to their circumstances typically effects an uncanny homecoming of metaphysical speculation inwards accord alongside his validation of pop culture: “the symbols of the divine present upward inwards our world initially at the trash stratum” (Valis, 212). As Dick’s critique of capitalist production-consumption regimes became increasingly absorbed inwards indeterminacy, the conspiratorial agendas of oligarchies were personified every bit entrepreneurial trickster demigods.
In Ubik a ubiquitously promoted production approximates deity inwards promising to last all things to all people, although—as “a farther hoax, to bewilder them that much more” (Ubik, 212)—it powerfulness non be at all. Similarly, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch concerns a battle for the marketplace betwixt ii hallucinogenic drugs, Can-D, a palliative, together with Chew-Z, a wafer that seems to house the receiver inwards communion alongside a demonic higher reality.
Like hence much of U.S. conspiracy thinking, Dick’s paranoid scenarios ultimately situate the economical together with the political on essentially gnostic metaphysical foundations (“I think we’re living inwards another world than what nosotros see” [Time Out of Joint, 138]). Like their creator, Dick’s protagonists alive inwards a universe of intimations, visitations, together with epiphanies.
And similar him, they appear to last inspired past times the persuasion of existence conspired against because conspiracy makes you lot experience that you lot are at the middle of the universe. Goaded past times the tearing incursions of indiscernible political or commercial power, their complicity resides inwards the ingenious agency they reconstruct their daily existence past times linking seemingly incongruent phenomena together with events.
Obsessively scanning the surroundings for clues together with traces of unseen powers, they speculate themselves into cul de sacs, where they repeatedly revisit unsolvable enigmas: “‘The clues nosotros are getting don’t give us a solution; they exclusively present us how far-reaching the wrongness is.... [They have] introduced confusion rather than verification.... What’s it mean?’.... Ragle found himself poking through reality.... a splitting rent opening up, a slap-up gash” (Time Out of Joint, 180).
Dick’s speculative fictions almost uniquely occupy the nexus where diverse “high” together with “low” traditions of U.S. conspiracy thinking together with paranoid world-designs converge. More accessible because less densely allusive than Melville or Pynchon, Dick tapped the conversation betwixt U.S. vernacular together with pop cultures, overhearing subliminally encoded communiqués of sublime revelation together with subversive admonition.
For this argue his ideas appear comparable to those of other eccentric autodidacts of the U.S. tradition of carnivalesque metaphysics: Charles Fort’s assurance that “we are property”; Richard Shaver’s line of piece of occupation concern human relationship of malign robots inhabiting “the Hollow Earth”; Elijah Muhammad’s revelation that the white race was devolved from the dark past times a cosmic “big caput scientist” [sic]; L. Ron Hubbard’s claim that humans derive from incorporeal entities who became entrapped together with self-forgetful acre playing at “the game” of incarnation.
However, Dick’s bouts alongside psychological dysfunction, legendary binges on mind-altering substances, together with heartfelt terror of FBI cooptation lend existential authenticity to his (knowingly) outrageous conspiratorial fabulations.
In 1974 he reputedly received coded pictographic revelations beamed from a “Vast Active Living Intelligence System”—an lawsuit fictionalized inwards Valis, his magnum opus. The Exegesis, a two-million-word, 1,000+ page commentary on this experience develops the premise that time/space are delusional—an experimental labyrinth devised every bit a game past times higher beings.
Dick sporadically believed he had been contacted past times the original, straight off immortal, Christian resistors to the tyranny of the Roman Empire, who had come upward into Watergate America to aid convey downwards Richard Nixon (“The Savior woke me temporarily, & temporarily I remembered my truthful nature & task, through the saving gnosis, precisely I must last silent, because of the true, secret, transtemporal early on Christians at work, hidden amid us every bit ordinary humans” [Sutin 1995, 288]).
His to a greater extent than radical epiphanies notwithstanding, Dick’s vision of how consensus reality powerfulness last produced past times the conspiratorial manipulation of simulacra has passed into the mainstream through Hollywood films based on his novels (Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report) or reflecting the appropriation of his conceptual image (Capricorn One, The Truman Show, The Matrix). His analysis has much inwards mutual alongside postmodern practitioners of “the hermeneutics of suspicion” such every bit Jean Baudrillard together with Frederic Jameson, who select praised his work.