Monday, April 19, 2010


I don't want to say too much about the short story "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon" just yet. I'm posting a few questions generated by one of my students. I think they're pretty good, especially for someone with a Wikipedia-sense of PKD.

1) There is an ongoing struggle between three forces in the text: machines, humans, and animals. How do these elements interact in the text? What can we learn about Dick's view of their roles from the story? How do they act towards each other?

2) What is the importance of the poster? What does it symbolize?

3) How do you think Dick thinks of technology based on this story?

Of course, feel free to make your own points in the comments. I'd like to point out that this is a very late story, published in 1980. How do you guys think this story resonates with the VALIS 'trilogy'? I find the story most closely related to "A Maze of Death" which we have discussed at length. I think there are elements of the Bardo and Dick even talks about karma at one point. Is picking up and moving to a colony on a distant star equivalent to 'starting a new life'? I also think it's beneficial to look at Victor and Martine's attitudes towards technology and how these view reflect their moral vision.

Update: We've got a discussion going in the comments section - join us!


J. W. Gilchrist said...

have this old paperback by Dick..."The Man Who Japed" 1950's

ct-scan said...

It's interesting to see how the ship views it's passengers; much like Victor viewed the bee and bird. It seems agitated at Victor's fragile mind, yet continues to try and solve the problem at hand.

IMO, Victor feels like he doesn't deserve anything nice. Which is why the poster becomes torn, the house starts falling apart, Martine is no longer there...etc. (When things start falling apart and becoming decrepit, I couldn't help but think of Ubik.)

And even when things start to improve (Martine is back, he is done with his travels, hand doesn't have a sing on it), he can't accept reality. His past fears of inadequacy have completely consumed him.

Ragle Gumm said...

ct-scan - great observations.
I'll bet a serious study would reveal those Ubik-style decreptilization moments occur in at least 50% of Dick's works. I prefer the term 'Gubble Visions.' Kim Stanley Robinson wrote in his Phd thesis that 'entropy' is the one theme running through all of Dick's books. I think he might have confused 'withdrawel' with 'entropy' - they look the same from where you're sitting.

There's a repeating line in the story: whenever young Victor is surprised by the irrationality of nature *(like when the bee stings him even though he's trying to save it) he says 'Well I won't do that again' (or something to that effect). I keep thinking about how we're born with this amazing ability to reason, to be rational, to be moral, and yet we are thrown into a world which is none of these things, which has no real place for these concepts.

Binswanger talked about this a bit as 'throwness' - ignorant of the origins of our nature.

So, in the story Kemmings is ignorant of his nature, unable to assess the boundaries of his liminal state. There's something sad and touching about the way Kemmings's best intentions are thwarted the fact that he can't really comprehend the cruelty of nature.

Also, the computer cannot really comprehend Victor's madness; he can merely take note of it. Everybody and everything are just so incredibly alone and the fact that we can't figure ourselves or each other out isn't helping them.