Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Pink Beam - Thumbs Up!
My copy of Pink Beam: A Philip K Dick Companion arrived last week and it looks good! Lord RC, aka David Hyde, has assembled a valuable resource for serious Dick-heads. I mean, I want to read snippets from PKD's angry/despondent letters to editors about royalties for certain editions, but how many other people do? (present company excluded of course)
Lord RC's compendium is a fitting one for Dick. It's totally punk rock. The varying fonts and formatting give it a zine-ish feel which I really like - much better than the thick-papered collections of T.S. Eliot criticism that languish, unread on dusty shelves in university libraries. It's not perfect: Running Clam refers to Leo Bulero in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch as Leo Runcible, but Pink Beam is a labor of love - and not an easy delivery.
Pink Beam provides summary for all of the novels with lots of information about each title and a rating. This is not a comprehensive guide to PKD's short stories. I think only a Dick-head with a genetic predisposition for living to be 90-100 should attempt to write this - but we do need it.
Running Clam's companion represents an enormous amount of research, which to my eye is refreshingly straight-forward in its treatment of Dick as a writer. This book offers a great window into the everyday life of PKD, and serves as a reminder that Dick was a consummate professional - and boy did he write a lot! I can only imagine him, having finished forty or fifty pages of fiction, sitting down for several hours of letter writing.
The Total Dick-Head spoke with Lord RC earlier today and he answered a few questions by way of a How-I-Learned-to-Love-PKD story:
I used to live in Kokomo, Indiana, working for Generous Motors in the Delco Electronics plant there. This factory was a hotbed of union radicalism and it was while working there that I met my second wife, Barb Morning Child and her brother, The Rev Dr X. Not their real names, of course. Soon all three of us were reading Philip K. Dick's stories and we got involved in politics and demonstrations and all that, went to D.C. ranted against the government, etc. But, being so heavily into PKD, we decided to come up with a group name and chose The Ganymedean Slime Mold. I picked the name Lord Running Clam after my favorite character in that novel. So there we are, the three of us, living in Indiana in the early 80s, publishing underground newsletters, making subversive and ridiculous videotapes and putting them on public access tv. Lots of fun! Then Paul Williams closed The Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter and we decided to put out a PKD zine of our own. This was For Dickheads Only which we published for four years until 1997.
During this time I collected and compiled a lot of information about Philip K. Dick; I managed to transfer it from computer to computer, and I wrote an occasional piece on PKD, mostly for Patrick Clark's PKD OTAKU, and my pseudonym just got shortened over time to Lord RC, probably due to all those computer logins I had to do...
In 1999 with the world coming to an end due to supposed Y2K computer bugs, I made an effort to compile what PKD info I had into a website. Y2K may not have affected many people but I remember the last thing I did before 2000 hit was dump everything onto floppies. Good thing too as my computer turned blue just as the new milennium hit. Then I dumped the floppies onto another used computer and uploaded it all to Jason Koornick at the then philipkdick.com. He put it all on the site and it's still there today. In many ways PINK BEAM is an update of this information.
But it didn't come quickly. In 2002 or thereabouts I moved to Colorado, while at the same time trying to maintain family relations in Indiana. I started writing PINK BEAM in 2003. I just balked at everything I was doing, things I didn't want to do, and borrowed another computer and set it up in my brother's tiny cabin in the Rocky Mountains. And I just started writing, which is what I wanted to do, and it took a year and a couple more computers before it was done. i was happy when I finished it and I thought it would be great to get it out to the PKD fans. So I tried to find a traditional publisher to publish it. But I found no interest and it wasn't until last year that my friend, Mark Ivins, who did the cover art for PINK BEAM told me of Lulu.com. I checked it out and said, Wow! This is the way for an old zinester like me! Another year of rewriting, formatting, working on the cover, figuring out how to do things at Lulu and, finally, to my amazement, it was ready for the fans.
As to my sources, I had a lot material written by and on Philip K. Dick: books, magazines, xeroxes, bad audio tapes and I just immersed myself in it as I wrote the book. Mainstays were The Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter, Sutin's and Rickman's biographies, the novels and stories of PKD themselves. In the appendix to PINK BEAM there's an article on sources I wrote many years ago, before the real advent of the internet.
The main reason I decided to write PINK BEAM is that I saw in Philip K. Dick's writing a depth mostly absent from science fiction. I think what interested me was PKD's imagination. The novel that sparked it for me was EYE IN THE SKY, I found a copy laying around the factory in 1983 or thereabouts and read it one night -- I couldn't put it down -- and it just left me in a daze. Now some people can't even read that novel; I give it to people as a first PKD but some just hand it right back! I'd read a lot of sf since I was a child and had read much of PKD's output in the 50s and 60s but had mixed it in with the rest of the sf I was reading: Simak, Heinlein, Brunner, Norton, Hamilton -- all those good writers from the 50s and 60s. But rereading EYE IN THE SKY later woke my brain up! So I wanted to learn more about this great writer and, thanks to PKDSN, I found it. But I also found in the world at large a bunch of crap written about Philip K. Dick and his stories. I wanted solid information not just unsupported opinion and idle speculation. I saw the need for a PKD biography/bibliography that concentrated on the facts known about the stories themselves. With that in hand, I believe, we'd have a more solid basis for the study of Dick's writings. With PINK BEAM I think I've got the basics down and now, with PINK BEAM as a reference, writers interested in writing on PKD's themes and all that literary stuff can go forward more sure of their base. It's time to move on; we've had enough of idle academics explaining PKD away with incomprehensible jargon and we've had enough of defining PKD through hack journalism in magazines and newspapers. Now let those serious about understanding this great writer build on what I've written. PINK BEAM is the floor, now let's start building the monument to PKD's greatness as a writer on this foundation!
-- Lord RC