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The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume Two: Adjustment Team (1952-1953)
Philip K. Dick
Subterranean Press, 488 pages

The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume One: The King of the Elves (1947-1952)
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928. While attending UC at Berkeley, he dropped out rather than take ROTC training. He went on to write some 36 novels and 5 short story collections. He won the 1962 Hugo for The Man in the High Castle and the 1974 John W. Campbell Award for Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. He died of heart failure caused by a stroke in 1982.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume One: The King of the Elves (1947-1952)
SF Site Review: Valis
SF Site Review: UBIK
SF Site Review: Ubik: The Screenplay
SF Site Review: Human Is?
SF Site Review: Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
SF Site Review: The Zap Gun
SF Site Review: The Simulacra
SF Site Review: Lies, Inc.
SF Site Review: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
SF Site Review: Time Out Of Joint
SF Site Review: The Game-Players of Titan
SF Site Review: Minority Report
SF Site Review: Now Wait For Last Year
SF Site Review: Dr. Bloodmoney
SF Site Review: Beyond Lies the Wub and The Father-Thing
SF Site Review: Second Variety
SF Site Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Martian Time-Slip and A Scanner Darkly
SF Site Reading List: Philip K. Dick

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Richard A. Lupoff

  In the box was a small, motionless figure, perhaps ten inches high. Its tiny claw-like hands were pressed against its scaly breast. Its insect face was twisted in a scowl of anger -- mixed with cynical lust. Instead of legs, it rested on a nest of tentacles. The lower portion of its face dissolved into a complex beak, mandibles of some hard substance. There was an odor to it, as of manure and stale beer. It appeared to be bisexual.... Its name was Tinokuknoi Arevulopapo.  

Keep that quotation in mind. We'll come back to it.
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The second volume of this new edition of the collected stories of Philip K. Dick contains some 26 stories from the early period of his career. Written in 1952 and 1953, they represent an astonishing outpouring of talent.

This kind of productivity was by no means unique for scriveners of the period. Writers working for the last of the pulps and newly burgeoning digest fiction magazines, especially those mired in low-end markets, had to produce at a frantic pace if they hoped to earn even a marginal living at their craft. The alternative was to keep a day job and write in stolen moments, the quiet hour before dawn while the rest of the household slept, the interval between dinner and bedtime, weekend days when the author's contemporaries were playing with their children or carousing with their fellows. Still, the young Philip K. Dick seemed to be in every science fiction magazine you could pick up.

As far as I know, Dick became a full-time writer fairly early on. To exacerbate the stresses he thus faced, he was frequently slotted to the low-end, penny-a-word markets, most often Imagination or Fantastic Universe, magazines that subsisted largely on the leavings of their higher-paying competitors. Of the stories in the present volume, there is one originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, at that time one of the highest-paying and most prestigious markets in the field (the others being Galaxy and Fantasy and Science Fiction).

Two of the stories in the book were published in Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy or Orbit Science Fiction, a pair of magazines phonied up by Dick's literary agent, Scott Meredith. Disguised to look like independent publications, these two magazines were actually created by the Meredith agency to provide last-ditch markets for otherwise unmarketable stories by Meredith clients.

The rest of the stories were scattered among such marginal markets as If, Science Fiction Quarterly, and Fantasy Fiction. One also appeared in Planet Stories. An anomaly, Planet was the most sensational of science fiction pulps, featuring lurid cover paintings of tentacled aliens harassing buxom spacewomen, yet carrying stories by a remarkable array of authors including Alfred Coppel, Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, and Leigh Brackett.

It's hard to understand Dick's relegation to bottom-rung magazines. Perhaps -- it's only my guess -- it was because he was so much his own man, even in those early days. Anthony Boucher, Dick's early mentor and sponsor, commented that Dick's stories were "exactly suited to the editorial tastes and needs of (any) particular publication: the editors of Whizzing Star Patrol and of the Quaint Quality Quarterly are in complete agreement upon Mr. Dick as a singularly satisfactory contributor."

Well, maybe so but maybe not. Maybe Dick appeared so often in Fantastic Universe and Imagination because the editors with higher budgets -- John Campbell, Horace Gold, Boucher himself -- were more demanding in their choice of stories. It wasn't exactly a matter of quality, but of theme and world-view. Dick was already developing his unique way of seeing things and dealing with reality.

Donald A. Wollheim, a canny editor best known for his work at Ace Books and then at his own company, DAW, told me about dealing with Dick early in his career. "He showed me his mainstream novels," Wollheim said, "and I told him to stick to science fiction because his science fiction was distinctive and his mainstream fiction was not."

Being distinctive cuts both ways.

Or maybe the anonymous desk-man at the Meredith agency was just being lazy. He could send Dick's stories to low-end markets where a sale was virtually guaranteed rather than to higher-end magazines where the competition was stiffer.

Many of the stories Dick wrote in the 1950s deal with war. The Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union -- and their respective satellites, surrogates, and client states -- pervaded American political and cultural life to a remarkable degree. Certainly one of the most effective short stories Dick ever wrote, "Second Variety," takes place on the automated battlefield of the future. The world has been largely destroyed, covered with gray ash and dark, rolling clouds, while killer robots relentlessly hunt down the few remaining survivors.

Some of the stories in this book are slight and formulaic. When Dick tried for a boffo ending he tended to telegraph his punch, leaving the reader with a discouraged sigh as he waits for the obvious and inevitable pay-off. An example is "Prominent Author" (If: Worlds of Science Fiction, May 1954). A clever and involving story in many ways, but anybody who can't see the "surprise" ending coming a mile off has been sleeping under a rock since the days of Johannes Gutenberg.

In other stories one finds a surprising bow to unexpected sources. I guess this is a good time to look at that quotation again, the one that I put at the head of this review:

  In the box was a small, motionless figure, perhaps ten inches high. Its tiny claw-like hands were pressed against its scaly breast. Its insect face was twisted in a scowl of anger -- mixed with cynical lust. Instead of legs it rested on a nest of tentacles. The lower portion of its face dissolved into a complex beak, mandibles of some hard substance. There was an odor to it, as of manure and stale beer. It appeared to be bisexual.... Its name was Tinokuknoi Arevulopapo.  

Sounds like H.P. Lovecraft, doesn't it? Something out of "The Call of Cthulhu" or "The Dunwich Horror." But in fact it's from Phil Dick's opus "A Present for Pat," originally published in Startling Stories for January, 1954.

In sum, the stories in this book are very much worth reading. Each of them has at least some redeeming value, and the best of them are still valid and powerful narratives, not merely relics of the Cold War or of the author's earliest efforts.

On the other hand -- and I'm sorry to end on a down note -- the book is poorly edited. As in the previous volume, no editor is listed on the contents page, although several members of the author's family are listed as copyright claimants. Credits are also given to biographer Gregg Rickman and scholar-fan Paul Williams for ordering the stories. But the story notes are spotty and one important story, "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale," is listed in the story notes but does not appear in the book.

Bad scholarship, sloppy editing, irresponsible publishing. But overlook these and just read the stories. They're worth the effort, and one hopes that the promised three volumes yet to come will be produced with more care.

Copyright © 2011 Richard A. Lupoff

Richard A. Lupoff is the author of many novels and short stories. His most recent books are The Classic Car Killer (St. Martin's Press) and Dreams (Mythos Books). His next book will be Rookie Blues (Dark Sun Press).


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