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Philip K. Dick Was A Little Crazy


And by “a little crazy,” I mean “a lot of crazy.”

Now I recognize the man was a literary genius, at least in the sci-fi world.

But his genius was fueled by paranoia and schizophrenia. From an early age, Dick battled problems determining what was real and what wasn’t real.

He claimed to have encounters with a “pink beam”–which he said was an intelligent being that imparted wisdom and clairvoyance to him.

Then this, according to Wikipedia:

Throughout February and March 1974, Dick experienced a series of hallucinations, which he referred to as “2-3-74”, shorthand for February–March 1974. Aside from the “pink beam”, Dick described the initial hallucinations as geometric patterns, and, occasionally, brief pictures of Jesus and ancient Rome. As the hallucinations increased in length and frequency, Dick claimed he began to live two parallel lives, one as himself, “Philip K. Dick”, and one as “Thomas”, a Christian persecuted by Romans in the 1st century AD. He referred to the “transcendentally rational mind” as “Zebra”, “God” and “VALIS”. Dick wrote about the experiences, first in the semi-autobiographical novel Radio Free Albemuth and then in VALISThe Divine Invasion and the unfinished The Owl in Daylight (the VALIS trilogy).

At one point Dick felt that he had been taken over by the spirit of the prophet Elijah.

Well, there you go. I don’t even know what to say.

All that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I struggled with the title of this post, but there’s no other way to describe a man who claims to be a prophet from the Bible. Sadly, it appears that Dick never overcame his mental issues. He died from a series of strokes in 1982.

Despite his instability, he managed to crank out 44 novels and 121 short stories, and he was the first science fiction author to be featured in the Library of America series. Dick penetrated the movie industry as well. His science fiction novels have been adapted to movie more times than any other author (more on that next week).

The guy was prolific, in spite of (or maybe because of) his mental illness.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brandon #

    “Dick penetrated the movie industry as well. ”


    November 14, 2013
    • It’s true. Even since his death, he’s grown bigger and bigger because all the movies based on his books.


      November 14, 2013
  2. How sad for this gentleman, although it did fuel his writing career.


    November 14, 2013
    • My father was diagnosed with Paranoia Schizophrenia and he wrote beautiful poetry. I THINK I’m a bit more normal, but I can only rhyme door with floor! Hehe


      August 4, 2014
      • Julia #

        Kurt Vonnegut was a paranoid schizophrenic as well. Had his first psychotic break with reality as a Nazi prisoner of war, being fire-bombed in Dresden while hiding in a meat packing celler. Hell of a way to realize that you’re schizophrenic. Nevertheless, he became a prolific author, and like Dick, a cynical observer of the real world. I think that struggling with the truth of ones reality can make you cherish it all the more.


        December 1, 2015
  3. the Jenius.


    November 14, 2013
  4. Brings to mind the cliché that there is a fine line between genius and insanity. His 5th wife seems a half bubble off plumb, as well. I’m curious to know what wives 1-4 are/were like.


    November 14, 2013
  5. I’ve read a short story by him called The Minority Report and really enjoyed it. I’d like to read more of his work. I’m not surprised he was a prolific writer considering his personality.


    November 14, 2013
  6. I love Philip K Dick’s writing, but I’ve come to realize recommending it to people can be tricky for this exact reason. Some readers have a hard time getting over the weird/crazy/”how much acid was this guy on” moments which pop up in most of his writing.


    November 14, 2013
    • I think I recently had one of those moments while reading Ubik.


      November 14, 2013
  7. How do we know his “pink beam” wasn’t real? People see things that even science will question.


    November 14, 2013
  8. Reblogged this on Chapters in the Box.


    November 14, 2013
  9. Indeed Mr. Dick was crazy, but so was Edgar Allen Poe and they were both literary geniuses. Phillip K. Dick’s novels ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ and ‘Time Out of Joint’ are both highly entertaining reads, if a bit eccentric.


    November 14, 2013
  10. Don’t always trust Wikipedia. Dick was a complex and brilliant man, and calling his later experiences mere hallucinations is only dodging the question. He was not some gibbering paranoid schizophrenic spouting conspiracy theories – he took his experiences and worked them over with his understanding of philosophy and theology in an attempt to understand them, then set his literary imagination to work on the results of that. He was aware of what he was doing, and his work cannot be so easily dismissed. Also, you can ignore most of the films inspired by his work. Almost uniformly they miss the point of his ideas. “Blade Runner”, for example, is merely a dim shadow of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Give him a chance – he’s an important writer.


    November 15, 2013
    • I really enjoyed Blade Runner and if, as you say, the book is better, it must be a great read. I did, however, read one of his first novels: Voices from the street. In my opinion, it must be one of the worst books I have ever read and this put me off reading anything else he wrote.


      November 19, 2013
      • Tony #

        That’s a junk book he submitted in the very early 50s. It only came out in 2007. That’s not even sci fi, it’s one of his “literary” novels before he committed to sci-fi.

        Out of all the books you HAD to choose that one?!

        It’s only a first novel in the same way a Stephen King sequel to Carrie coming out 30 years after his death would be included in the ouvre.

        Please, you owe it to yourself to forget you ever read that book. It is no good and shows nothing of what people love about PKD.


        October 19, 2015
  11. It’s seems a lot of great speculative fiction writers develop some terrible regressive traits to counterbalance their amazingly progressive ones.


    December 14, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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