As you can probably tell if you’ve interacted with any of his hard-core fans, the science fiction of Philip K. Dick has a way of getting into readers’ heads. What better way to adapt it, then, than in the medium of radio drama, with its direct route into the head through the ears? Science fiction in general provided radio drama with a good deal of bread-and-butter subject matter since pretty much its inception, and suitably so: its producers didn’t have to bother designing distant worlds, alien races and elaborately futuristic technologies when, with the right sound design, the listeners would design it all themselves in their imaginations.
But does it really do justice to Dick to call his work “science fiction”? Sure, he knocked out a fair few straight-ahead (or sub-straight-ahead) sci-fi potboilers in his productive career, but many of his writings, despite their rough edges, qualify under Walter Benjamin’s definition of great works of literature, which “either dissolve a genre or invent one.”
Some of Dick’s novels and stories even seem to do both at once, creating their own particular (as well as peculiar) psychological space in the process. Can radio drama render a Dickian world of multilayered reality and rich paranoia as easily as it does so many Martian colonies, laser guns, and sentient computers? So you can judge that for yourself, we submit today for your approval six radio plays adapted from Dick’s stories.
Into the mix we also throw Sci-Fi Radio’s “Sales Pitch,” Dick’s satirical tale of a self-marketing robot. Some of this material, of course, sounds not terribly different than the whiz-bang stories of outer-space adventure children of the 1950s grew up loving.
But some of it sounds altogether more, well… Dickian. Those children of the 1950s, after all, grew into the twentysomethings of the late 1960s and 70s, who knew a thing or two about tuning in to a different headspace.
Find these stories listed in our collection, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.