Sunday, May 9, 2010

Interview with PKD-Fest Organizer Lord RC Part 1

I'm starting to get excited about the PKD Festival this August in Colorado. I will be attending and hope to give two lectures, more on that later. For now, here is part one of an interview with David Hyde, aka Lord Running Clam, the only man brave enough to stand up to the tsunami of bureaucratic kipple associated organizing a festival like this. If you don't own David's book Pink Beam: A Philip K Dick Companion, your PKD collection is incomplete.

Q. Why did you decide to organize a Philip K. Dick Festival?

Lord RC: This is something that came to me slowly after I moved to Colorado in 2003. While doing research for my book, 'PINK BEAM: A Philip K. Dick Companion', I enjoyed reading about PKD's experience as guest of honor at the Metz Festival in 1977. I thought it was so funny when he changed his speech – which had already been translated into French – and went off on his own to the confusion of the French fans. And I knew that the British had had a couple of small academic-type festivals, so it was not unprecedented to have a Philip K. Dick festival. What is remarkable, however, is why hasn't there been a PKD festival in the USA until now?

The answer to this I didn't fully realize myself until after I announced the festival in December 2009. It involves time, of course, and some fannish PKD history. Back in the bleak days after Philip K. Dick died in 1982 his friend, the writer Paul Williams, founded The Philip K. Dick Society and published the Society Newsletter. The PKD Society established a place where fans could communicate with each other, back then we were few and far between. Philip K. Dick was not then the hugely successful writer that he is now. In fact, I believe it was due to the Philip K. Dick Society and its action to centralize the fans enthusiasm that in large part enabled PKD's great posthumous success. It was during the ten-year existence of the Philip K. Dick Society (1982 -92) that Dick went from sci-fi cult writer to a writer who was attracting worldwide attention beyond the science fiction realm. PKDS was such a solid foundation and the PKDS Newsletter such a healthy forum that it gave us an accumulation of PKD news, criticism and history combined with downright fannish commentary around which academic and general criticism formed.

After Paul retired the PKDS Newsletter in 1992, Greg Lee with Radio Free PKD and I with For Dickheads Only picked up the baton. Where there had been one PKD zine now there were two (and at this point we should certainly mention the many zines published throughout the years by fans toiling in the wilderness, as it were. I think a good example here would be the work of Bruce Gillespie in Australia with his PKD-focused zine SF Commentary which he has published since 1969).

Greg and I took PKD fandom up to the late 90s when we both retired our zines about the same time. The Internet was about to explode and that changed everything for any fan-based activity from sports to Barbie dolls to science fiction. I won't go into details here but with the advent of the Internet even more PKD fans were coming into the field. Like electric sheep they munched their way through the PKD info on the Internet and found themselves a part of an exciting movement that had its roots in an exclusive, cultish fandom. Everyone liked this and wanted to be a part of it. So they started websites of their own, traded books online and formed little PKD networks of their own and before you know it Philip K. Dick is what he is now, practically a household name.

So it all started with Paul Williams and his helpers at The Philip K. Dick Society and the fans who contributed to the Society newsletter.

The point of this long preamble to what is, apparently, a straightforward question as to why I decided to announce a PKD festival, is that if anyone is to call for a Philip K. Dick festival it is Paul Williams.

Now, with that said, back to my decision to do a PKD festival. Living in the mountains is what put the idea in my head. It would never have occurred to me in Indiana. Living up here at 9000 ft is not like living anywhere else, here there are not so many people getting in each others way, here we have some space, beautiful space. But it does take a certain amount of ruggedness to live up here, the winters are brutal and last for seven months. Such hard living engenders communal strength, we all help each other out and if one should break down on the roads here the first person who sees you will likely stop and help you out, there will be no speeding by and pretending not to see you as seems to happen everywhere else. So these small mountain towns form a loose community and the inhabitants get to know each other. Kinda like a village but spread along 100 miles of mountain roads!

With this background then the idea of a PKD festival took shape in my mind. I discussed it with a few friends as time went by and I built a festival in my head which, naturally, has changed quite a bit now we're putting it into practice. It wasn't until 2008 that I thought it could be done the way I wanted it done but I puttered about, waiting on I knew not what, just waiting for something to happen and another year passed and no USA Philip K. Dick festival. So the idea sat in my mind a little longer and it wasn't until Patti and I were stranded by a vicious snowstorm in Black Hawk in October last year that it occurred to me to just do it. I hadn't even been thinking about it but had made a decision somewhere in the depths of my brain and it had finally made it to consciousness.

Since then I've been in a bubble where I must accomplish a task – I must produce this PKD Festival on August 13, 14 & 15 2010 here in the mountains of Colorado.

But I've yet to answer why it has taken so long! It has to do with Paul Williams and the nature of a Dickhead. I knew in a vague way that Paul had been in a car accident in San Francisco in 1995, but I didn't understand until February this year that he was down for the count. No matter what he had been thinking and planning before his accident – and I like to think he was planning a PKD Festival for 1999! he would not now and never would be able to produce a PKD festival anymore. He's in a nursing home now requiring total care. And for all you PKD fans reading this I ask that you kindly donate some wherewithal to Paul's welfare fund at Paul Williams is the 'official' PKD Festival charitable cause. We shall donate a percentage of everything to his welfare and all the proceeds from our Auction. Many fans will not be able to make the festival so I hope they can contribute via the link here.

So, that was what I was waiting on. I was subconsciously waiting for Paul to make the announcement. But what bugs me is that I should've known Paul is in bad shape! But this is the nature of a Dickhead. In many ways we are alone, we do not know others of our kind. In 25 years of being a hardcore PKD fan I've probably not met more than a half dozen similar fans. Even my good friend, Patrick Clark (editor of PKD OTAKU and PKD Festival Fan Guest of Honor), with who I've corresponded for more than 15 years, I've never met. I'm looking forward to meeting him at this year's festival. That's part of what I want to accomplish with this PKD 'fest: bringing the fans together. So, I didn't know Paul, had only corresponded slightly with him and most of that before 1992. I thought he was ok. But I will say this, when I realized Paul was not able to make the call then I knew I'd made the right decision.

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