Monday, August 13, 2007
Warren Ellis Starts His Sunday Morning Hangover With Some PKD
In his weekly column, 'Sunday Hangover' over at SuicideGirls, Warren Ellis writes one of those 'PKD was a great writer but was also kind of a jerk' articles that appear every now and again. It's been awhile as all the sound and fury of media coverage for the Library of America release has finally died down, but let's see where Ellis is going with this:
"What makes Philip Dick more relevant to today is not necessarily the quality of his fantasy, but the complexity of it. And him. Philip Dick was as much an anti-hero as any of his characters. He's a counter-cultural hero whose personality was forged in the fifties, not the sixties. He was a champion of the drug culture who attempted to sell out friends and acquaintances to the FBI. He saw into people, but knew himself not at all."
I wish I knew what was going on in PKD's head the way Ellis does. Where is Ellis' skepticism? How can he know what Dick knew about himself? He's obviously read Paul Williams' interviews with PKD because he recounts this line of what I feel very strongly to be bullshit that PKD was laying on Williams in an Oct 1974 interview about how his liver was secreting all of the speed in his stomach before it ever reached his bloodstream. Ellis writes:
"This is a guy who took speed every day for years, and then was told by a doctor that his liver was so fantastically efficient that it processed out any drugs in his system before they had a chance to affect his central nervous system. To which he replied, well, I guess that explains why I like to take speed before I go to bed. The only writer on earth who'd write for ninety-six hours straight and then pass out on the office floor due to the placebo effect."
Or it was a guy who wanted you to think he was the kind of guy that would do that. I plan to check this liver story out with an addiction medicine specialist just as soon as I can track one down, but it sounds like nonsense to me. So what's the point of all this? He doesn't have one (seriously, check for yourself).
"Phil Dick didn't need a vast invisible satellite to explain away the fact that he finally started paying his bills and chasing his agent for slipped royalties. But it helped to think so. He suddenly "knew", one day, that his son had some kind of undiagnosed physical defect and took him to get checked out. Which is either knowledge from beyond or the sudden paranoia of someone who was both a famed nutcase and drenched in amphetamines and also wrote some of the most paranoid fiction of the 20th century."
I find no evidence of the certainty that Ellis posits in PKD regarding his 'mystical experiences.' I don't think PKD ever really 'knew' what happened to him. Ellis writes:
"Philip Dick found his own science-fictional epiphany. He swore blind, in fact, that a satellite was firing into his brain an information-rich pink laser from orbit."
Read the rest for yourself here.
I love what Lawrence Sutin said in this interview on PKD's mental health:
"[Was PKD crazy?] was the second most frequent question I was asked during my labors. (The most frequent was "Who is Philip K. Dick?") A good number of the people who asked it (including two psychiatrists of my acquaintance) were smiling in a faintly nasty way, waiting for me to give them the inside poop on just how crazy he was. It was as if they were yearning to hear me say "Yes!" so that they could safely dismiss the strange novels and stories that had somehow, despite themselves, gotten stuck in their heads. To these people I wanted to say (but never did): "The word 'crazy' could be applied with precisely the same justice to Philip K. Dick as the word 'mediocre' could be applied to yourself."
But that's not to say Warren Ellis is mediocre - seems like an interesting guy who needed something to talk about for his weekly column.
Update: Sparks are flying in the comments section!