A Special New, Two-Volume Collection of Philip K. Dick Stories Comes Illustrated by 24 Different Artists

Philip K. Dick­’s mul­ti­ple worlds have appeared in increas­ing­ly bet­ter edi­tions since the author passed away in 1982. In the 21st cen­tu­ry, respectable hard­backs and qual­i­ty paper have ful­ly replaced yel­lowed, pulpy pages. Maybe no edi­tion yet is more attrac­tive than the Folio Soci­ety of Lon­don’s two-vol­ume hard­back set of Dick­’s select­ed short sto­ries, illus­trat­ed by 24 dif­fer­ent artists and includ­ing tales that have sur­vived film adap­ta­tions, for bet­ter and worse, like “Pay­check,” “The Minor­i­ty Report,” and “We Can Remem­ber It for You Whole­sale.” The books will set you back $125, but that’s a small sum com­pared to the price of an ear­li­er, four-vol­ume Com­plete Short Sto­ries, pub­lished in a lim­it­ed edi­tion of 750, day-glo, hand-num­bered copies. These sold out in less than 48 hours and now go for $2,500 in rare online sales.

In death Dick has achieved what he sought in his writ­ing life: suc­cess as lit­er­ary author. He thought he would even­tu­al­ly pub­lish his real­ist fic­tion to earn the rep­u­ta­tion, vow­ing in 1960 that he would “take twen­ty to thir­ty years to suc­ceed as a lit­er­ary writer.” Instead, he’s famous for great fic­tion that just hap­pens to use the idiom of sci-fi to ask, as he wrote in an unde­liv­ered 1978 speech: “What is real­i­ty?” and “What con­sti­tutes an authen­tic human being?”

We tend to asso­ciate these exis­ten­tial, pre-post-mod­ernist ques­tions with nov­els and novel­las from the 60s and 70s that com­mu­ni­cate Dick­’s para­noid world­view — works nom­i­nat­ed for a Neb­u­la Award, for exam­ple, like Do Androids Dream of Elec­tric Sheep?, the source for the best of the film adap­ta­tions, Blade Run­ner.

Dick first won fame in 1963 when he was giv­en the Hugo Award for The Man in the High Cas­tle, a book that exceeds the bound­aries of genre to become, unmis­tak­ably, a PKD orig­i­nal. His ear­li­er sto­ries, on the oth­er hand, writ­ten through­out the 1950s when the author was in his twen­ties, tend to fol­low the con­ven­tions of the hard sci-fi of the time, with the same themes of space trav­el, robot­ics, and oth­er futur­is­tic tech­nol­o­gy that pre­dom­i­nate in Robert Hein­lein and Isaac Asi­mov. Super­fi­cial­ly, there might seem lit­tle to dis­tin­guish Dick­’s ear­ly sto­ries from oth­er writ­ing of the time pub­lished in pulps like Sci­ence Fic­tion Quar­ter­ly, Galaxy Sci­ence Fic­tionand IF

But the ear­ly sto­ries show the unmis­tak­able touch of the lat­er nov­el­ist. There are the flash­es of humor, absur­di­ty, deep insight into the human psy­che, and the warmth and empa­thy Dick­’s nar­ra­tive voice nev­er lost even in his most bizarre fugues. In his first pub­lished sto­ry, “Roog,” sold in 1951, Dick imag­ines a dog who believes the garbage men come to steal the fam­i­ly’s food, leav­ing only the emp­ty met­al stor­age can behind. “Cer­tain­ly, I decid­ed,” he writes, “that dog sees the world quite dif­fer­ent­ly than I do, or any humans. And then I began to think, maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a pri­vate world, a world dif­fer­ent from those inhab­it­ed and expe­ri­enced by all oth­er humans.”

It’s a short leap from these thoughts to the idea that there might be no sin­gu­lar real­i­ty at all to fight over. Back then, he says, “I had no idea that such fun­da­men­tal issues could be pur­sued in the sci­ence fic­tion field. I began to pur­sue them uncon­scious­ly.” His uncon­scious led him, in 1954’s “Adjust­ment Team” — the source of a less-than-great film — to imag­ine anoth­er dog, one who talks and inter­feres in human affairs (a detail omit­ted, thank­ful­ly, from The Adjust­ment Bureau). Dick­’s ear­ly sto­ries often fea­tured com­i­cal ani­mals — such as the Okja-like Mar­t­ian pig in “Beyond Likes the Wub,” a high­ly-intel­li­gent crea­ture capa­ble of telepa­thy and deep feel­ing. While he would turn his atten­tion from ani­mals and aliens to androids, alter­nate real­i­ties, and altered states of con­scious­ness, Dick always had the abil­i­ty to turn the genre of sci­ence fic­tion into a lit­er­ary tool for the most dar­ing of philo­soph­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tions.

Learn more about the two-vol­ume Folio Soci­ety Select­ed Sto­ries of Philip K. Dick here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

33 Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Philip K. Dick as Free Audio Books & Free eBooks

Hear Philip K. Dick’s Famous Metz Speech: “If You Find this World Bad, You Should See Some of the Oth­ers” (1977)

Hear 6 Clas­sic Philip K. Dick Sto­ries Adapt­ed as Vin­tage Radio Plays

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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