Appreciating Philip K. Dick.

I love Matt Damon movies. Most of them. I love the imagination of Philip K. Dick. Based on the rarity of their appearances in used book stores, people love his writing.

We don’t all love the same writers, and that’s a good thing.

PKD is one that I tried, and it didn’t take. The Philip K. Dick fans among you needn’t rise up. I don’t much care for Hemingway, either. I’m more of a Faulkner type – not that either wrote science fiction.

In that genre, I find Ray Bradbury to be more my cup of computer-generated tea. When I mention that fact to SF fans, they generally inform me politely that they don’t really consider Bradbury to be a science fiction writer. How does that space capsule really make a solar landing in Golden Apples of the Sun? I don’t know, and upon first reading it, the impossibility never even occurred to me. Admittedly, Ray Bradbury is probably more of an eloquent writer of character studies than a technical scientist – and that’s why I love his prose. Leave the science writing for engineer-readers.

Philip K. Dick possessed a visionary – if dark – imagination. He died at a relatively young age, and another writer might view the circumstances of his life and make a literary connection with Dick’s early demise. He published nearly 50 novels and well over 100 short stories before his death at age 53.

While I eventually turned my personal set of his collected works over to a used book store – and presumably, someone who could better appreciate them, I remain a great fan of the Hollywood adaptations of his stories. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s starring role in Total Recall, based on Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Maybe the Gubinator’s bulging eyes redeemed that one, I don’t know.

Blade Runner remains one of my favorites, having seen it at its 1982 release, when I bought a ticket mostly because it starred Harrison Ford. I don’t think I knew what to expect, going in, but leaving the theater I was a fan of a writer’s imagination and I didn’t even know his name.

Happening onto The Adjustment Bureau, a 2010 release shown on HBO the other night, I had no idea it was a PKD story. The film was just beginning, I was looking for something to watch. It starred Matt Damon (I am a fan of both the writing of Robert Ludlum and his character Jason Bourne – of the Matt Damon movie franchise) so I set aside the remote and leaned back on the couch.

I got caught up in it.

Much like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Adjustment Bureau is a love story disguised as a sci-fi flick, or a Sci-Fi imagining with a heart. Philip Dick loved to moralize, and he heaps it on in Adjustment but the genuine romance in the screenplay buffers his underlying lecture.

We – as humans – have got to take a few chances, says PKD. Respect the fact that we have a free will. But we cannot abuse that freedom or the Bureau will have to push us back on the path. Watch the movie. Dick’s cinematic interpreters have done a nice scripting job, and Damon and Company have acted it well.

In the meantime, the discovery – in reading the credits – that the film was based on a PKD story caused me to Google his film resume.

It turns out I’ve missed several others. I am now on a mission.

The Philip K. Dick list:

Movie and PKD Story

Blade Runner (1982) based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Total Recall (1990) based on We Can Remember It For You Wholesale
Confessions d’un Baarjo (1992) based on Confessions of a Crap Artist
Screamers (1995) based on Second Variety
Impostor (2001) based on Impostor
Minority Report (2002) based on The Minority Report
Paycheck (2003) based on Paycheck
A Scanner Darkly (2006) based on A Scanner Darkly
Next based on The Golden Man
The Adjustment Bureau based on The Adjustment Team
King of the Elves (2013) based on King of the Elves

His children keep a website for his legacy:

Philip K. Dick

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