Monday, May 19, 2008

Alternate Plot For The Owl in Daylight Unearthed!

I've been reading Gregg Rickman's exhaustive biography of PKD: To The High Castle: Philip K Dick A Life recently and last night stumbled upon some interesting information. According to most accounts PKD's final novel, which he did not live to complete, was going to be called The Owl in Daylight. Wikipedia describes Dick's outline for the novel:

"A spaceship carrying members of this race arrives on Earth and they mug Ed Firmley, a famous composer they quickly discover, as a cover-up for plugging a bio-chip into his head. This bio-chip is a digitized form of one of the aliens with a link back to the ship – essentially allowing everyone to experience Ed Firmley by proxy. The bio-chip is supposed to be passive, serving only as a means of relaying the mystic experience of sound to an entire race. Soon the alien presence in the bio-chip becomes bored of Firmley’s music, which is bland, schmaltzy schlock and the pop music that he constantly listens to. As a consequence of this boredom, the bio-chip turns from being passive to active, controlling what Firmley listens to as well as feeding him mathematical formulas that he begins to use as the basis of his compositions. His career, from a financial perspective, dwindles but he becomes a respected avant-garde artist. The active role the bio-chip takes in the relationship begins frying Firmley’s brain. At this point the aliens make themselves known and offer to remove the chip, but Firmley refuses. He sees himself as an artist where as before he was of no consequence, doing what he did simply for money. Firmley decides to give up his body to be transformed into a bio-chip which is in turn implanted into an alien brain. This will also lead to the eventual death of the alien host but it offers Firmley a chance of experiencing their world of lights, our heaven."

This outline was produced chiefly using notes from Gwen Lee's interviews with PKD published under the title What if Our World Is Their Heaven?. There have been rumors that Lee's publishers are even suing the Dick estate over their use of these transcriptions as the basis for the estate-sanctioned bio-pic.

Rickman paraphrases a letter PKD wrote to his agent David Hartwell with this description of the novel:

"... an ancient scientist 'supervises the construction of an amusement park (something like the 'lands' of Disneyland) of Berkeley, California circa 1949-1952 with all the various groups and subcultures represented.' A malicious computer traps the scientist in the park and wipes his memory of his true identity, and gives him the body of a high school boy. The boy must find his way out by solving a series of ethical problems posed to him by the computer" (172).

Damn Wikipedia is good. Not only do they offer this alternate plot line, they disclose a few others courtesy of Pocket Essential Dick-head Andrew Butler:

"Andrew Butler offers several alternative summaries which contradict the Lee/Dick interview cited above. A god-like being, Ditheon, fuses the Torah and Jesus Christ into a single being and takes over an individual. A scientist travels through the events of Dante's Divine Comedy, and a Beethoven-like composer is writing a film score, while pursued by aliens.

And finally,

"Alternatively, Dante's Divine Comedy is a portal to alternate subjective realities that represent three ways of perceiving the world."

If this first bio-pic flops, maybe we could try one of PKD's other bio-pic lives. Or, if you think this bio-pic is bad you should see some of the others.


MDK said...

"If this first bio-pic flops, maybe we could try one of PKD's other bio-pic lives. Or, if you think this bio-pic is bad you should see some of the others."

LOL, Dave

Darryl Mason said...

I love the amusement park version of Owl. Of course, PKD inserts about 70 plot twists which would have driven Hollywood producers crazy, as they don't like anymore than seven plot twists in a 90 minute film (an LA producer actually told me that - "Three plot twists is okay, five is pushing it, and more than six is for Europeans.")

Terry Gilliam will direct the Grisoni's script - in the perfect universe.

Anonymous said...

I think PKD was getting too close to a truth certain people didnt want exposed. Its always been suspicious to me that he "died" soon after discovering Valis