PHILIP K. DICK Biography - Writers


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He was born prematurely, along with his twin sister Jane, in Chicago on   
December 16, 1928. His father was Edgar Dick, his mother Dorothy Kindred   
- from her maiden name came Dick's middle initial. Jane died six weeks     
after her birth, a loss that Phil felt deeply throughout his life. As     
time went on, Phil came, with whatever justice, to blame his mother for   
Jane's death. His relationship with both of his parents was decidedly     
difficult, and made only more so when they divorced when he was five       
years old.                                                                 
Sister Jane, his mother, and his father served as models for many of the   
characters who would populate Dick's fictional universes in the decades   
to come. In particular, the death of Jane - and Phil's traumatic sense     
of separation from her, an experience common to many twins who have lost   
their sibling - contributed to the dualist (twin-poled) dilemmas that     
dominated his creative work - science fiction (SF)/mainstream,             
real/fake, human/android. It was out of these pressing dualities that     
the two vast questions emerged which Dick often cited as encompassing     
his writing: What is Real? and What is Human?                             
Mother Dorothy retained custody over her son, and they eventually         
settled in Berkeley, where Dick grew up, graduated from high school, and   
briefly attended the University of California in 1949 before dropping out. 
Starting in seventh grade, however, Dick began suffering from bouts of     
extreme vertigo; the vertigo recurred with special intensity during his   
brief undergraduate stint. In his late teens, Dick later recalled, he     
was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia - a label that terrified     
him. Other psychotherapists and psychiatrists in later years would offer   
other diagnoses, including the one that Dick was quite sane.               
Leaving aside medical terminology, there is no question that Dick felt     
himself, throughout his life, to suffer from bouts of psychological       
anguish that he frequently referred to as "nervous breakdowns." His       
experience of these was transmuted into fictional portraits, most         
notably of "ex-schizophrenic" Jack Bohlen in Martian Time-Slip (1964).     
In a 1968 "Self Portrait" he recalled the moment of discovery of the       
genre that would ultimately set him free to write of the complex           
realities of his own personal experience:                                 
    "I was twelve [in 1940] when I read my first sf magazine?it was       
    called Stirring Science Stories and ran, I think, four issues?.I       
    came across the magazine quite by accident; I was actually looking     
    for Popular Science. I was most amazed. Stories about science? At     
    once I recognized the magic which I had found, in earlier times, in   
    the Oz books - this magic now coupled not with magic wands but with   
    science?In any case my view became magic equals science?and science   
    (of the future) equals magic."                                         
This is not to say that Dick read only SF during his coming of age         
years. On the contrary, he was an omnivorous and devouring reader,         
taking in Xenophon's Anabasis, Joyce's Finnegans Wake, the French         
realists such as Stendhal, Flaubert and Maupassant - all this and much     
more by his early twenties. Dick gave credit to the American               
Depression-era writer James T. Farrell, author of Studs Lonigan, for       
helping Dick see how to construct the SF stories that he sold in such     
numbers to the SF pulps in the early 1950s.                               
And even though Dick never lost his yearning to be accepted by the         
literary mainstream, he always regarded it as a kind of treason to         
deprecate the SF genre he grew up on and flourished in. As he wrote in     
1980, two years before his death:                                         
    "I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional   
    world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have,         
    because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. Okay,   
    so I should revise my standards; I'm out of step. I should yield to   
    reality. I have never yielded to reality. That's what SF is all       
    about. If you wish to yield to reality, go read Philip Roth; read     
    the New York literary establishment mainstream bestselling             
    writers?.This is why I love SF. I love to read it; I love to write     
    it. The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild                 
    possibilities. It's not just 'What if' - it's 'My God; what if' - in   
    frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming."