Philip K. Dick was a celebrated American fiction and essay writer. His fiction works centered on major themes like authoritarian governments, altered states and monopolistic corporations. His own life experiences played a significant role in his selection of themes and subject matter of his novels.
Philip Kindred Dick was born on December 16, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois as a twin. His twin sister died in a span of a month which deeply influenced his writings. When he was five years old his parents divorced and his mother won his custody. In Washington D. C. Dick studied at John Eaton Elementary School later at Berkeley High School in California. Following graduation he briefly studied Philosophy, Psychology, History and Zoology at University of California. During these years he developed interest in science fiction and philosophy. He shortly worked as a radio show host and for a music company. Dick married five times from 1948 to 1977 and had three children.
Dick started off as a full-time writer in 1951 with the publication of his short story. He had his speculative fiction published in Planet Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and If. 1950s was a period of extreme financial difficulties for Dick. However, he managed to publish his debut novel, Solar Lottery. He wished to become a mainstream writer in American literature but could not get his break as his unsold novels were returned by the publishing house. Nonetheless, his science fiction writing brought him praise and Hugo Award in 1963 for The Man in the High Castle.
In 1974, a strange incident led Dick to develop some kind of mental illness stimulating a series of hallucinations. He claimed to have seen a young woman on his door with a fish-shaped design golden necklace to which he instantly became obsessed. He believed the incident departed some kind wisdom and also followed by series of hallucination resulting in his parallel lives. A story from Biblical Book of Acts, which he claimed not to have read, was featured in his novel, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said due to the influence of holy spirits. His private journal discussing his faith and personal experiences regarding the episodes were published posthumously as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, in 2010.
The thematic significance of his fiction work is that they are mostly concerned about the vulnerability of the notion of reality which plays a central role in constructing one’s identity. Most of his stories begin with the idea of absence of any objective reality and the characters are shown to eventually realize the illusive nature of things they once considered reality. His philosophical studies enabled him to theorize that human existence is the matter of internal-based perception which is divorced from external reality. He was of the view that this universe is not separate from God but merely His extension. Thus he was a self-proclaiming ‘cosmic panentheist’.
Dick made a major impact on Hollywood movies with his science fiction stories and novels. His novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) was adapted into a film renamed Blade Runner. The novel again centers on the idea of what’s real and illusive and their determining factors. In Ubik (1969) Dick introduced the concept of alternate realities and alternate form of life and death. Some of his adapted works include, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale as Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, Adjustment Team and Next. Philip K. Dick died of stroke on 17th of February, 1982.