Last week, Jill commented on the madness and prophecy of Philip K. Dick:
And then you have those oddities, such as Phillip K. Dick, who was clearly insane, but had uncanny predictions about the future. Most sci fi writers just plunge ahead and get things wrong or a little off, though.
Fortunately for the sane and otherwise occupied, a couple of stalwarts–Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem–have done yeoman’s work in gathering and editing the more than 8,000 pages of correspondence, journals and notes relating to Phil Dick’s personal/cosmic 2-3-74 event. Although it is condensed to a mere 900 pages, and one must imagine that there are entire office boxes full of scratchings that haven’t even been scanned yet, it is a phenomenal introduction to the broad-reaching vision, experience and uncertain insight of one of the most beloved of science fiction’s “Damaged and Dangerous Men.”
In The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, Dick notes (anticipating a somewhat more prestigious essay on semiotics) that error is fundamental to the flexible transmission of meaning. That is, because the mystical experience of writing to anticipate the future will most certainly be inaccurate, one is more likely to anticipate the future by looking to the past…and scrambling it.
His novel Ubik, for example, assumes that the present moment (in-novel) is receiving data transmissions from the future, and is being redeemed by the titular substance, Ubik (which means “everywhere,” as in “ubiquitous.”) But that future data is as fragmented as the ever moving present time, and as spotty as memory.
In writing of time in this way, however, Dick wrote a book that anticipates the future (or, more accurately, June of 1992) quite well. It holds up where other books that took a more literal approach to projecting the future fall apart into an amusing array of bubbletop cars and computers the size of planets.
It is clear in reading his edited Exegesis, that, yes, there may have been something not quite right about Dick’s brain, but one only needs to read his clear-eyed, humble words to know that there was nothing wrong with his mind. If the brutal language of Frank Dec had an expressive and emotive opposite, it might be found in Dick.
What he indicates is that to prepare for the future, one must expect it to arrive in shattered bits. That way, you can be pleasantly surprised on the rare occasion when it does not.