Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Penultimate Hoax

I started reading 'Welcome to Reality: The Nightmares of Philip K Dick' this morning. It's an anthology of short stories with Philip K Dick starring as a character. I've only read the two introductions, one by editor Uwe Anton, and one by Paul Williams. The book is amazing and I can't believe I had been unaware of its existence for so long.

Anton mentioned an article in his introduction I had never heard of before: "Mystery still surrounds death of local sci-fi writer" from the August 28, 1983 edition of the Oakland Tribune. I immediately walked down the block to the main branch of the Oakland Public Library and after playing Rick Deckard (Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Move in, stop. Pull out, track right, stop. Center in, pull back. Stop. Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop. Enhance 34 to 36. Pan right and pull back. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46. Pull back. Wait a minute, go right, stop. Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance 15 to 23. Give me a hard copy right there) located the article on microfiche:


Page D-1 click to enlarge


Page D-2 click to enlarge

For you conspiracy nuts out there this article may be too much. If you're looking for an excuse to believe that PKD is working for the United Nations on a secret base on the dark side of the moon (actually it's just an old warehouse in the New Mexico desert but PKD believes he's on the moon) then you may not want to read this. The astonishing truth may lead you to quit your job and devote all of your time to solving the riddle.

My favorite cypher is in the fourth paragraph on the second page. It reads:

"But his daughter says she would like to have answers to questions about his hospitalization and death certificate, thus fueling suspicions and raising the possibility of a publicity 8-27-83 19:47te she administers may profit from the attention surrounding investigation of a possible hoax."

What startling revelations could be covered up by the inadvertent insertion of a time index?

Actually this is a pretty cool article. A very interesting snapshot of the state of the estate 18 months after Dick's death. Notice how many of Dick's family members are willing to talk to reporters. Dick's father Edgar was still alive and they got a quote from him. A portion of the article appeared in issue #15 of PKD Otaku, but as far as I know this article has never been available in its entirety on the Internet before now. This is a Total Dick-Head exclusive!

This article is certainly further evidence that Dick's persona has transcended death, but how?

In his introduction to "Welcome..." Paul Williams writes:

"The promiscuous chain of appearances in other people's stories reflects more, I think, than just a desire on the writer's part to pay tribute to a man who has influenced and inspired them. It is rather a testimony to the mysterious substantiality of Dick's personality, as it comes through in his writings (and in interviews, anecdotes, etc.)."

I thought that was quite elegantly said. I argued in my masters thesis that Dick's persona was alluring because his paranoia displayed a narcissism that was attractive to people who had repressed their own overarching self-love in order to become socialized. Williams puts forth a truly beautiful explanation for Dick's posthumous substantiality by arguing that when a text fundamentally destabilizes a reality we invest our need for stability in the author who becomes more substantial as the only constant in worlds that are coming apart at the seams. Williams writes:

"Reality ceases to exist or at least to be perceived as trustworthy, and so the observer of reality's fickleness takes its place, and (like Palmer Eldritch in Dick's novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch) refuses to stop existing. He won't go away."

Today is one of those days I love living in Dick's old stomping grounds.
Update: Reader Mark Daniels kindly retouched these images! Thanks Mark, your empire will end before ours.

8 comments:

MDK said...

David,

Very commendable, friend. Touching post,and indeed, the time stamp is interesting,isn't it?

palmer_eldritch said...

"Dick's persona was alluring because his paranoia displayed a narcissism that was attractive to people who had repressed their own overarching self-love in order to become socialized."

Hey, less of the 'repressed'...! ;)

My theory on the timestamp is that it covers the words "stunt. The estate". Doesn't quite fit the gap but then it's possible a shorter string (the time stamp) could have overwritten a longer string (the end of one sentence and beginning of the next). But we are perilously close to "Elvis is alive" territory as it is!

And "Do Androids..." described as "a fifteen year-old potboiler" - hilarious!

Also notice ex-wife Ann being quoted about the money PKD didn't leave behind - "He didn't eat anything. He didn't buy any clothes..." Interesting. He didn't die of starvation, though, AFAIK.

ludovico said...

I'll work on them with Photoshop...

palmer_eldritch said...

That's what we need - an Esper machine that can 'read between the lines' !

Virion said...

I touched up the article a bit in Photoshop. I've tossed them on my site here http://mark2d.com/images/TribuneD-1.jpg
and here
http://mark2d.com/images/Tribune+D-2.jpg

Alex said...

DADES is set in San Francisco. It says Oakland. The accuracy of this article has been destroyed solely by this mistake!


Great post.

By Darryl Mason said...

When I went to look up that microfiche file of the article in 2001, the woman at the desk gave me a strange look and asked, "What's going on here?" I replied I didn't know, "Is something supposed to be going on?"

She said that nine other people had been in asking to see a copy of the story in the previous few days. She said she hadn't remembered anyone ever asking, specifically, where to find that news story before.

For many of his friends, Philip K Dick didn't die in 1982. He 'visited' many of them over the following years, in dreams and visions, apparently some were extremely vivid.

Weird, but very interesting.

I've always wondered why Larry Sutin wrote barely a few paragraphs about the death of Philip K Dick in his biography.

The last few weeks of PKD's are fascinating, and somewhat strange and confused, and very dramatic.

There doesn't appear to be a 'case closed' explanation for how and why he died. That his death was caused by heart failure, brought on by a stroke, is a theory, though probably the most likely explanation.

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