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Sci-Fi

Philip K. Dick Speaks (Sorta) 251

futileboy writes "Erik Davis put together this posthumous interview of Philip K. Dick from some tapes he found (he explains how it came together in his introduction to the interview). It comes off pretty clean."
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Philip K. Dick Speaks (Sorta)

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  • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:21PM (#6439705) Journal
    I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Sci Fi writer Philip K. Dick was found dead in his Berkeley home. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by gavinR ( 454878 ) on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:22PM (#6439712) Homepage
    Funny, because "pretty clean" isn't really something I'd ever describe PKD as having been.
    • by quinkin ( 601839 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:08AM (#6439897)
      What a wierd article.

      It kind of goes to prove that old adage (variously attributed to C.S Lewis or Aurthur C. Clarke) science fiction is the only genuine consciousness expanding drug. (Trust me, I have checked).

      Mind you, I think someone should have told P. K. Dick that before 1982.

      Favourite Quote: "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

      Q.

  • by Usagi_yo ( 648836 ) on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:23PM (#6439716)
    Abrubtly cut short when he was asked about the marked improvement in his writing style and ability since his death.
  • by chris_sawtell ( 10326 ) * on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:27PM (#6439742) Journal
    Interesting application of Ghostscript [wisc.edu]
  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) * on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:30PM (#6439755)
    Oh wow, "Electronic Voice phenomenon?" Spare me. All this page needed was a midi playing "Age of Aquarius."

    PKD's writing are strongly rationalist with an intelligent approach to figuring out the strange phenomenon in his life. I think its insulting to turn him into a new age "John Edwards" bullshit spiritual medium commodity.

    > Subsequent research proved, however, that all of the quotations have already made an appearance somewhere in Dick's fiction, letters, or essays.

    No shit. Maybe because the "voice" he heard on the tape was nothing more than the subconscious projecting quotes hes read elsewhere onto nothing more than tape static and other ambigious sounds from the original recording.

    Maybe next week slashdot can expose how Ozzy put all those satanic messages into his albums.
  • Right.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jeffkjo1 ( 663413 ) on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:31PM (#6439757) Homepage
    Interviews with ghosts.... next thing you know, Slashdot will be reporting that some financially unsound software company will be suing... I dunno, IBM saying that they own Linux or something like that.
    • Re:Right.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PaulK ( 85154 ) on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:39PM (#6439795)
      There are times, however, when we need to revisit the past, to get a better perception of the present.

      The man had an incredible insight into the social development of mankind as a whole.

      He was the fictional equivalent of Alvin Toffler, (i.e. Future Shock), and Desmond Morris, (i.e. The Naked Ape).

      It never fails to amaze me how often we lose sight of our collective image. It's things like this that make me slow down, and look around.

  • ... we will have done so much speculating about how it will behave that the poor thing will probably just have a nervous breakdown and explode. Imagine being born and being presented with a huge book psychoanalysing your every emotion and impression in detail. The pressure to go crazy and enslave mankind would be enough to make you go crazy and enslave mankind.

    I am much more interested to hear what sci-fi authors have to say about near-future technologies (e.g. the stuff in this article about surveillance
    • Imagine being born and being presented with a huge book psychoanalysing your every emotion and impression in detail. The pressure to go crazy and enslave mankind would be enough to make you go crazy and enslave mankind.
      Is the human condition any different?
      • Imagine being born and being presented with a huge book psychoanalysing your every emotion and impression in detail. The pressure to go crazy and enslave mankind would be enough to make you go crazy and enslave mankind.

        My advice to you is: don't go visit any wibsites with 'blog' in their name.
  • by HiredMan ( 5546 ) on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:54PM (#6439850) Journal
    "psthumous"?

    What's that mean - he's whispering from beyond the grave?

    <Rimshot> Sorry.

    =TKK
  • Personally, I'm not offended by the obviously fictional framing device (lame though it may be), but it would only be fair to have references to all the interviews that these replies have been lifted from. After all, "fair use" implies that you're using the materially fairly. Not providing credit where credit is due isn't fair at all.

    Also, the comment about Dick's ideas infusing The Matrix is true as far as it goes, but misses one important point. Dick was an SF writer firmly grounded in the field, and would never have made as obvious and asinine mistake as violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics the way The Matrix's idiotic "humans as batteries" backstory does.

    Finally, the "spirit voices" tap shtick is especially lame considering the very sophisticated Gnostic sources and theories Dick turned to after his mystical "pink light" experience in 1974. Dick may have been wrong in the later mystical leanings that informed works like Valis, but he was never a believer in the type of fraudulent spiritual hucksterism that continues to rip off "new age" believers even today.

    Suggested reading: Philip K. Dick: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, Time Out of Joint, and (after you've read the rest) Valis and In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis.
    • as obvious and asinine mistake as violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics the way The Matrix's idiotic "humans as batteries" backstory does.

      YES! YES! If I wasn't commenting elsewhere in this thread, I'd mod you up to high-heaven.

    • by bad_fx ( 493443 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:27AM (#6439969) Journal
      Also, the comment about Dick's ideas infusing The Matrix is true as far as it goes, but misses one important point. Dick was an SF writer firmly grounded in the field, and would never have made as obvious and asinine mistake as violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics the way The Matrix's idiotic "humans as batteries" backstory does.

      Actually the original script apparently had a (slightly) more plausible explanation - the machines used humans as components in a sort of huge neural network, and the point of the matrix was to keep the conscious parts of the brain occupied while they use the rest as needed (ties in nicely with the whole humans only use 10 percent of their brain thing.) But apparently that was too complicated for the average Joe Moviegoer so they dumbed it down to the stupid batteries thing. Blah.
      • by August_zero ( 654282 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:36AM (#6440003)
        (ties in nicely with the whole humans only use 10 percent of their brain thing.)

        Nice indeed, unless you account for the fact that the "10% of the brain" shtick is completely false. It's a popular myth that has been propagated endlessly in science fiction.
        • While you're right that the "10%" shtick is indeed completely false, there's no reason to believe that a human mind couldn't adapt to new inputs to both successfully interact with an artificial reality and also successfully balance input potentials to a fusion reactor balanced on the explosive razor's edge of instability... Victims of mild strokes routinely recover full capabilities within a few years, including the elderly (like my grandmother)...

          Though you're certainly using more than 10%, there is some
          • there's no reason to believe that a human mind couldn't adapt to new inputs to both successfully interact with an artificial reality and also successfully balance input potentials to a fusion reactor balanced on the explosive razor's edge of instability.

            I have rather strong reasons -- nuclear reactions proceed in nanoseconds. Human brains react in milliseconds at best. Secondly, the circuitry that you'd need to process the raw data from the reactor into something analog the brain could deal with, then do

            • I have rather strong reasons... blah blah blah

              Ummm... it's a movie! You know, willing suspension of disbelief, in order to get the larger point that's being made. Oddly enough, it sometimes helps to read /. posts this way, too.

              • Ummm... it's a movie! You know, willing suspension of disbelief, in order to get the larger point that's being made.

                1. I wasn't critiquing the movie, but a suggestion made in the post I was replying to.
                2. So what is "the larger point"?

                • So what is "the larger point"?

                  Do you think that the point of "The Matrix" was the specific details about how humans can generate sufficient energy for a race of AI computers when "combined with a form of fusion"? If you don't, then feel free to pick whichever point you think makes the most sense. In my opinion, the larger point of the movie can be summed up in this statement made by Morpheus: "Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain. B

                  • Do you think that the point of "The Matrix" was the specific details about how humans can generate sufficient energy for a race of AI computers when "combined with a form of fusion"?

                    No. So can you stop using me as your straw man now?

                    • No. So can you stop using me as your straw man now?

                      What are you talking about? You asked me what the larger point was. If you didn't want me to answer, why ask?

                      In any case, it is NOT my intention to use you as a strawman. I also did not mean to pick on you personally for arguing the minutia of a movie.

                      Cheers!

          • You are absolutely correct. Sorry if I jumped on it, that myth just really pisses me off.

            The reason for this amazing ability the human mind has for recovery, has a lot to do with the redundancy built into the system, and is also a side effect of the way that the brain develops in the first place. Since I doubt anyone wants to hear a lecture on Neurological development, I will just cut to the chase: The brain is pretty fucking amazing.

            In keeping with your stroke victim case, recovery for an older adult
      • The much more plausible computational network explanation is still perfectly consistant with the movies. In fact, it's *more* consistant than the silly battery one -- it goes a long way towards explaining why the matrix works as it does. (In a hand-waving sci-fi fan sort of way, you understand.)

        The thing is, the free-world Zion humans either don't understand this, or else the ones that do don't necessarily share that information -- preferring to give the battery story to new recruits.
      • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @09:40AM (#6441968) Journal
        Did you ever think maybe the machines are LYING to the humans about why they keep people alive and run the Matrix?

    • by Snoopy77 ( 229731 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:38AM (#6440015) Homepage
      as obvious and asinine mistake as violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics the way The Matrix's idiotic "humans as batteries" backstory does

      Yeah, cause when I walked out of the theatre after seeing it everyone was talking about it's obvious flaw and whether or not the Second Law of Thermodynamics could be circumvented by machines with greater intellect.
    • by lonesome phreak ( 142354 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:40AM (#6440023) Journal
      I think that Morpheous was incorrect about the need of humans as batteries. I think he was told that, but that isn't really what's going on. That's why it doesn't make sense. I think we will see what humans are really for in the next series.

      If they follow the VALIS storyline, neo will end up as the next Morpheous, looking for the real One. And that's where it will end, and there will be no more movies.
    • "Dick was an SF writer firmly grounded in the field, and would never have made as obvious and asinine mistake as violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics the way The Matrix's idiotic "humans as batteries" backstory does."

      You're assuming that wasn't a lie propogated by the computer to appease questioning minds. It appears that the truth of the matter is that the matrix needs human minds to run, not for batteries. The human mind is the CPU of the matrix. This concept is very much within the realm of PK
      • Also, the comment about Dick's ideas infusing The Matrix is true as far as it goes, but misses one important point. Dick was an SF writer firmly grounded in the field, and would never have made as obvious and asinine mistake as violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics the way The Matrix's idiotic "humans as batteries" backstory does.

      This is the guy who at one point used the phrase "negative ions" in a story.

      If anything, Dick is a writer of speculative fiction. Science never figures prominently in his stories in the same way it does in the hard SF works of Clarke, Niven, Bear etc., and for good reason; while Dick was keenly interested in technology (his works are littered with characters strangely ranting about the inner workings of radios, cars, etc.), he did not have the mind of a visionary technologist, and at heart he was always a philosopher. Dick wrote incessantly about the nature of reality, but it was almost never about atoms and quarks, and almost always about the human experience.

      In this Dick has much in common with Vonnegut, Brunner, Disch, Sturgeon, Lem, Bester, Orwell, the Strugatsky brothers, and many others who sits on the thin, mostly political line between mainstream literature and science fiction. Some, like Vonnegut and Lem, have long been embraced by the literati, and Dick would have been amazed and thrilled about the extent to which he has, in later years, been critiqued and accepted by the mainstream as a genuinely visionary thinker.

      One of my many favourite PKD quotes, one that illustrates how well he uses future technology as commentary on the so-called human condition, follows.

      • The door refused to open. It said, "Five cents, please."
      • He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. "I'll pay you tomorrow," he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight. "What I pay you," he informed it, "is in the nature of a gratuity; I don't have to pay you."

        "I think otherwise," the door said, "Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this [apartment]."

        In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to this door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.

        "You discover I'm right," the door said. It sounded smug.

        From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt's money-gulping door.

        "I'll sue you," the door said as the first screw fell out.

        Joe Chip said, "I've never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it."

      (From Ubik, 1969).
    • Why are people so hung up on the 'batteries' concept? The explanation is SO obvious!

      Morpheus is sinmply WRONG about the humans being used as batteries. He's lived all his life in a video game, how the hell would he know about thermodynamics?

      How many more clues do you need to realize that the Zion/scorched earth scenario isn't what Morpheus thinks it is?

      If you are going to pick holes in Zion's feasibility, why not go for the reactionless drive that everything flies about with, or the thing that Neo does n
  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Monday July 14, 2003 @11:55PM (#6439854) Homepage Journal
    Really though, this is straight out off the super market tabloid rack.

    from the article:
    "I was experimenting with electronic voice phenomena. I was recording the analog noise between tracks on a scratchy old copy of Karl Muck conducting Parzifal with the Bayreuth Festival Chorus onto a cassette tape. Then I would cut, splice, and process the tape in various ways, and then listen to the results. On the third attempt I heard a voice that I recognized, from a tape once available through the Philip K. Dick Society, as belonging to the late science fiction writer. More incredible was my discovery that, by recording my own questions on the same cassette tape, I was able to initiate a genuine dialogue with this mysterious voice. Subsequent research proved, however, that all of the quotations have already made an appearance somewhere in Dick's fiction, letters, or essays. Nonetheless, the conversation seems worth presenting"

    Jumping crack-heads on pogo-sticks batman!
    What crack are the editors smoking and please pass it because my reality distortion field is waning and I need a hook up before the shakes set in.

    The page is only "text" from this supposed "interview" and none of the cut-spliced-processed audio is to be found.
    This is utter crap, if the audio was present it would at least have some artistic merit and therefore interest of value, but there is nothing but the rantings for those who wear shiny foil hats squarely screwed to their brows and interview excerpts readily available on Google!

    Mod me down for being a troll, but /. just sank to new lows. I mean c'mon couldn't roll out the Bill of Nine or an SCO rant so we had to troll the readers with "bat-boy" fodder?
    • What crack are the editors smoking and please pass it because my reality distortion field is waning and I need a hook up before the shakes set in.

      Obviously you need to develop a more twisted sense of humour. Reading more PKD might help :)

      (This "spirit voice" stuff isn't a very funny joke, but it is at least an attempt in a somewhat Dickian style...)
      • ya ya ya.
        Last guy said about humor.
        My reply stands so read it.

        As far as PKD, I've read him and loved his work.
        I myself do have a very dark sense of humor.

        However, moronic slapstick isn't my bag-o-tea.
        It reads too much like any number of the litany of tinfoil hat wearing-new age powerbead wearing-ufo worshipping-cia fearing-midnight anal probing-black helicopter flying-mayan calander datebook reading-illuminati singing bavarian folksongs over fat steins at the WTO commitee meeting-psychic wormhole tunneli
        • Universal turmoil vs. the "in-joke".
          Now that's comedy.


          All humour is dependent on context; Arthur Koestler wrote a very good book on this, can't remember what it was called though. Supposedly 'universal humour' generally depends on culturally fashioned norms -- the in-joke is just shared with a smaller culture. By the same token, some of the people you "dissed" in your list above would see their peers as making sense/being funny/whatever was meant...

          By the way, I'd say that much humour is moronic in natur
          • All humour is dependent on context;

            Exactly.
            Also, read up on Huxley and "reality tunnels"... the "Doors of Perception" is the book I believe (the book also inspired the naming of the 'Doors').

            Thank you for the kindred spirits and some insight.

  • Ok. I did RTFA and this quote; "Subsequent research proved, however, that all of the quotations have already made an appearance somewhere in Dick's fiction, letters, or essays" allows that maybe the author is not a pompus ass. However, it looks like this guy is taking himself seriously, so GAH!

    It is not far enough out of context to be funny or slanderous, but not in context enough to be worth the paper is is written on... oh. Never mind.

    And why can't I mod down the whole artical, isn't this a heirachica

  • Bizarre Cool Stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fanatic ( 86657 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:18AM (#6439929)

    I still remember one of the first PKD things I read.

    Some guy meets a chick at a party who gives him some drugs. Then he watches the president on tv and sees a monster with writhing tentacles. But everything else looks normal.

    Comes to find out, the drug he was given was an anti-hallucinogen. Everyone who gets it sees some hideous thing when lookig at the President because there are already drugs in the water. But everyone sees a different hideous thing when on the anti-hallucinogen, but everyone sees the same thing on the hallucinogen....

    I'm pretty sure this is PKD. Something in my head says there's a slight chance it was Phillip Jose Farmer, but I don't think so.

  • He is an amazing author. I've read around twelve of his books. I started with VALIS, and my most recent is The Galactic Pot Healer. I've actually d/led many of his novels off Kazaa, and am slowly replacing the PDF's with real books as I can afford it.

    If you like The Matrix, VALIS will throw you for a trip.
  • by banal avenger ( 585337 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:46AM (#6440050)
    Actual quote from linked article:
    I do seem attracted to trash, as if the clue lies there.

    Feh, most great minds are. His waning years sound rather like the trials of Kurt Vonnegut [washington.edu]. Disillusioned with the fact that his recent literature has not been well recieved, he blames it on the population rather than himself. It's a shame though: Kurt Vonnegut's earlier work was revolutionary, just like Philip K. Dick's writings.
  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @12:58AM (#6440103) Journal
    Phil would have liked that plot.
  • by Triv ( 181010 ) * on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @01:01AM (#6440126) Journal

    ...to make a recording of the 'interview' available?

    I have a problem with literary journalism of this sort; we have absolutely no idea as to the context of the excerpted quotes. I could've dealt with this i he had actually created an audio interview; he did piece it together from recordings in the first place, after all. THAT would've been great (I love hearing authors talk). All this is is a transcription of an interview that never happened with no technical or historical reason for it to be interesting. I'll pass.

    Triv

  • Hmmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ziggy_zero ( 462010 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @01:15AM (#6440175)
    So the building blocks of the cosmos are not matter or energy, but information.

    The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three-dimensional and not in space or time. We ourselves are information-rich; information enters us, is processed and is then projected outward once more, now in an altered form. Since the universe is actually composed of information, then it can be said that information will save us. This is the saving gnosis which the Gnostics sought.

    Did anyone read the recent Scientific American article about the holographic theory of the universe, whereby we're all not actually 3-dimensional, we're like information "painted" on another, 2-dimensional surface or somesuch....it also had something to do with the thermodynamics of black holes. I don't pretend to fully understand it, but it seems to be an actual tie-in the Dick's remark about us being made of information.

  • As somebody who continually goes back and re-reads his various stories (I'm a big fan of "The Man in High Castle" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep") it was nice to see some quotes from PKD that I haven't seen before.

    I especially liked the ambulance analogy with respect to entropy. It could be an interesting debate trying to figure out if saving the man increased or decreased the order of the universe...

    But rather than having Davis' questions, I would have preferred to see a transcript of the comm
  • Did anyone else notice that his technique for the interview is based off, or strikingly similiar to that used my William Burroughs cut up [utexas.edu]
  • Amazing! (Score:4, Funny)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @08:51AM (#6441557)

    Subsequent research proved, however, that all of the quotations have already made an appearance somewhere in Dick's fiction, letters, or essays

    Wow! Then this must be for real! How could he possibly know things that have already made a public appearance?!?

    Does this guy have a 1-900 number? I must call him at $4.95/minute, so he can amaze me by telling me things that I already know!!!!!

  • Are you kidding? From the article: "Steven Spielberg turned Dick's tale "Minority Report" into his darkest flick yet."

    Uh... let's recap. In 1993 Spielberg [imdb.com] directed a film called Schindler's List [imdb.com]. A little darker than Minority Report [imdb.com]. I won't mention the content of "Schindler's List" for fear of invoking Godwin's Law [faqs.org], but suffice it to say that a movie featuring mounds of burning bodies and people shot for sport just might be a dark movie.
  • by djembe2k ( 604598 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2003 @11:51AM (#6443298)
    A few people here have been a little bit too harsh on Davis for what he's trying to do here. PKD's fiction has been more and more widely read in the last 10 years or so, but other non-fiction expressions of his ideas (his journals, his interviews) are still more difficult to find, and when you find them, they are often somewhat incoherent. Davis here is trying to take bits and pieces of that incoherence and turn it into a sort of summary of what PKD's own words said about what he was trying to say and do. It's a decent attempt to summarize a bunch of difficult-to-summarize writing and speaking.

    With that said, however, there's a little bit of an (unconscious?) agenda in this "interview" I think. He turns some of PKD's ideas about the world and religion and spirituality into ideas about technology, which really isn't fair or reasonable. Short example:

    So technology may actually be staging the emergence of a higher state of consciousness. Why is this happening now?

    Information has become alive, with a collective mind of its own independent of our brains.

    NO! This isn't PKD talking about technology emerging into consciousness, a la Terminator's SkyNet. For PKD, the prototype of living information was the Torah and the Dead Sea Scrolls, not some piece of technology. It's a very Hegelian view of consciousness and history here, that there's a sort of transcendent and fundamentally spiritual consciousness consisting only of ideas which forms the true substance of the Universe and the medium of history, but the information there isn't bit and bytes in computers; it's ancient Gnostic explanations of the spiritual relationship between God and man and the world.

    So that's my one gripe about the article. By trying to make PKD's usually incoherent ramblings coherent, he turned some really strange ideas about God and universe into easier-to-digest ideas about technological development. Aside from that, it was pretty clever.

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