Saturday, June 8, 2024

Get to Know the Fest Guest: Part 5 -- Gabriel Mckee

We're less than a week away from Dick-Fest 2024. In fact, you'll find some pretty detailed info and a schedule here, which is otherwise dedicated to our series dedicated to getting to know the presenters at this year's Fest. So, without further ado, is my interview with Gabriel Mckee: 

What are you gonna talk about at the fest?

 I'll be talking about ideas of control and freedom in the Exegesis, particularly as they relate to the concept of "astral determinism" in Hellenistic religion and philosophy-- the idea that human destiny is controlled by external forces (in particular, the stars and planets). The starting point of my talk is sections of the Exegesis where Phil is talking about the dreaded "Xerox missive," which took on a central importance in his understanding of what liberation meant. The idea of breaking free from the path that the universe has prepared for you-- metaphorized as "groove override" in the universe's eternal LP-- is an absolutely crucial one in the Exegesis, and the concrete example Phil is talking about is his reaction to the weird photocopy he got in the mail. After a career of writing about androids who think they're human, Phil found himself mired in anxiety over the idea that he was subject to some kind of external control-- but that he had pushed through and found himself experiencing a sense of freedom when he didn't look at the letter, didn't do whatever destructive thing it was that it was intended to bring about. I don't think it really matters what the true origin or content of the letter was; it's mainly important for having become a symbol through which Phil explored themes of fate/destiny/programming and freedom/choice/liberation.  I look at this through the lens of modern ideas--particularly Jay Kinney's concept of "agency panic"-- and ancient ones-- early Christian and Hellenistic texts about astrological control.

How’d you get involved in Dickdom? 

PKD was one of the first SF authors I read when I started getting into the genre toward the end of high school. A friend lent me a copy of VALIS and I was instantly obsessed. It got me interested not just in science fiction, but in religion and theology as well. I was active on the old Jazzflavor email list and ended up studying religion as an undergraduate and going on to a master's from Harvard Divinity School-- along the way writing Pink Beams of Light From the God in the Gutter: The Science-Fictional Religion of Philip K. Dick (University Press of America, 2004), and the PKD-adjacent The Gospel According to Science Fiction (Westminster John Knox, 2007) shortly thereafter. When I heard that Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson were working on an edited version of the Exegesis back in 2010, I knew I had to be involved-- and am grateful to Erik Davis and Rich Doyle for helping to facilitate that. 

What kind of Dick-related work are you currently involved in? 

I've just finished a major non-PKD project that I have been working on for several years: The Saucerian: The Unbelievable Life of Gray Barker, a biography of a prolific UFO book author, publisher, and showman, which is due out early next year from MIT Press. I'm contributing smaller pieces to a couple other PKD projects, including George Sieg & Michael Barros's edited volume The Esoteric Theology of Philip K. Dick (forthcoming from Lexington Books) and Keith Giles and David Agranoff's Dickapedia. I've also been an active collaborator in the Zebrapedia project since its inception, and have been talking to Rich Doyle about ways to enhance the online Exegesis interface-- I hope to have some more news to share at the Fest about coming developments there. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

A Little Adaptation For Us Dick-Heads


News broke last week of another Phil Dick adaptation in the pipeline. This time it's a version of Phil's awesome time-travel story, "A Little Something for Us Tempunauts" being adapted by actor Michael B. Jordan's Outlier Society production company in conjunction with Isa Dick Hackett's Electric Sheep Productions, natch. 

From Deadline: "Outlier Society is developing the Amazon MGM Studios action thriller movie, T-Minus, which is being co-scripted by Fall Guy‘s Drew Pearce and Watchmen and Station Eleven scribe Nick Cuse."

"The project was initially developed by Pearce’s banner Point of No Return Films. Outlier Society’s Elizabeth Raposo heard the pitch—said to be an action-thriller along the lines of “Top Gun meets Back to the Future, with a Philip K. Dick twist”—and saw the potential for it to be the perfect Outlier project: an elevated piece with major tentpole potential."

"MAJOR tentpole potential" -- now that's what you want from a Dick movie! 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

New Issue of PKD Otaku (#45) Out Now!

The pre-eminent PKD Zine, PKD Otaku hit the tubes of the internet earlier today. Lots of great stuff. Particularly relevant (but not super fun to read) are the letters between PKD and Joanna Russ at the height of their beef over Phil's pro-life short story "The Pre-Persons. Read the new issue here. Find old issues here

Sunday, April 21, 2024

More on the Telegraph Ave Location of Art Music

 For Record Store Yesterday I headed up to Telegraph Ave and Amoeba Music. While in the neighborhood I did a little more investigation into the location of Art Music, the record store where Philip K. Dick worked in the late forties and early fifties. The most recent bit of my search began when I found this picture of the corner of Channing and Telegraph in an article about an East Bay Walking tour. 

Kind of amazing how Ferris Fremont's men are occupying the intersection in some fracas likely related to People's Park. Anyhoo, in that shot you can see the sign for the record store. Yesterday I recreated the shot above: 

It's obvious the building on the corner is still there. In the older shot it looks like the record store occupies the second store from from the corner. In 2024 that's the aptly named vintage clothing store "Mars Mercantile."

Here's a shot of the inside:

They were busy selling vintage clothes to college students and hipsters, but I asked an employee what they new about the location. They said that it was their understanding that the current location was subdivided into three separate retail businesses. I mentioned that I was researching science fiction author Philip K Dick and another employee turned and said, "You think he worked here?" 

Looks like I'm going to have to make a pilgrimage to the History Room at the Berkeley Public Library after this semester from hell is over to confirm. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Free Lecture Next Monday: Confessions of a Total Dick-Head

 Next Monday, April 8th (4pm California time) I will be giving a free lecture through Morbid Anatomy titled "Confessions of a Total Dick-Head." The lecture, live on Zoom, will cover my early experience as a fan as well as my radicalization as a Dick scholar, and I'll share a few bits of wisdom I've gained on my 25-year obsession with Philip K. Dick. The lecture is being offered in anticipation of my summer school course, also through Morbid Anatomy, titled "Sometimes It's Hard to Break Free: The Symbolism of Personal Liberation in Popular Culture" -- which I am super excited to teach because the autodidacts at Morbid Anatomy are so interested and engaged! 

You can register for the FREE lecture here. A recording will be available for registered students who can't attend the live session. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Get to Know the Fest Guest: Part 4 -- David Agranoff

Here's the fourth installment in our semi-regular feature, getting to know the speakers at this year's Dick-Fest (June 13-16th in Fort Morgan, Colorado). This time it's hardcore accomplishist and DickHeads Podcaster David Agranoff!

What are you gonna talk about at the fest?

    My research is focused on two aspects of Phil’s work. I consider myself an expert in Phil’s novel writing formula (as laid out in a 1965 letter to fellow author Ron Goulart) and Preview the research involved in my upcoming book Unfinished PKD: The Outlines and Fragments of Philip K. Dick by David Agranoff. It will be the first release of EXEGETICS: PKD STUDIES a series of PKD themed non-fiction books, a side line started by Professor D.Harlan Wilson, as a sub-press from his publishing company Anti-Oedipus Press. He was my dream editor for the book, and then we ended teaming up on the Dickheads Podcast.
    The talk will include deep dives into the materials I used to write this book about 17 outlines and fragments that Phil never got around to writing. So I am going to talk about how the research
was done, where treasures I found and what people can look forward to in the book. It is pretty impossible to be humble about this book. The outline for the novel Anti-Talent eventually morphed into UBIK. That research alone will change how Phil and his writing is taught. That Anti-talent outline which Phil never meant for anyone but himself to read, talks to himself, convinces himself into and out of plot directions, tells himself which ideas he is repeating and openly mentions influences.

How’d you get involved in Dickdom?

I have been reading PKD since the 90s, but I didn’t become a serious Dickhead until my homey Anthony Trevino (who I co-wrote a SF/Horror/Crime novel Nightmare City that is available from Grand Mal Press) pointed out that there is no podcast about Philip K. Dick called Dickheads, and what a shame that was. The idea was that we would read each novel in publication order. The show was co-hosted by Anthony, myself and our friend Langhorne J. Tweed. Six years later, Anthony left the show and Professor D.Harlan Wilson has taken his seat. We are almost done covering the novels. We also have done lots of bonus interviews, panel interviews and more. We were started I barely knew anything and now I am a bit of know-it-all.

What kind of Dick-related work are you currently involved in? 

    Still working on the podcast, I am a nerd for all science fiction history and I also write a column for Amazing Stories. I am doing the final edits on Unfinished PKD. I recently used the PKD formula to write a novel called “Great America in Dead World,” I will be figuring out a publisher for that in the next year or so. Keith Giles and I will be co-editing Dickapedia: A Philip K. Dick encyclopedia. That is a fun project and all volunteer, and in we are putting together a team of volunteers to help us do the research. Each team member will be assigned a novel. You’ll get your name on the back cover, and a bio in the book. Dickfest is a great place to work on those community ties if you want to get involved in that.
    I also just released my 10 th novel and it is very Philip K. Dick influenced. The novel is called People’s Park. It is a really weird novel and I hope people check it out. Bring a copy of any of my books to Dick fest I would love to sign it. I will have a few to sell. My holocaust revenge horror novel The Last Night to Kill Nazis is available nationally at Barnes and Noble so buy that and bring it!
    More importantly come to Dick fest and lets talk PKD! You don’t want to miss it!

Sunday, March 17, 2024

A Picture of Art Music in Berkeley, At Long Last

I've been looking for a picture of Art Music where Phil worked in Berkeley for more than a decade, and at last I've found it. The photo comes from an East Bay Times walking tour guide, and clearly shows the record store where Phil worked in the early 1950s. The caption reads, "California National Guard troops occupy the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Channing Way in Berkeley, Calif. during the People's Park riots in 1969. (William Crouch / Oakland Tribune Archives)"

Sure it's fifteen years after Phil worked there, but at least now we know where it was. Many, including myself, have mistakenly believed the Rasputin Records across the intersection to be the location, but now we know. What a feeling! As you can see, Berkeley has always been a hotbed of political activism and overreactive police responses.