The Matrix Regurgitated — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #113

In light of the release of The Matrix Resurrections, we talk through the franchise as a whole. What made the first one remarkable, and does that a bar that any sequel can reach? We talk through the choices that fed into the new film, why people don’t seem to care about their matrix families, the endless fight scenes, and more. Who will choose the blue pill?

This very special holiday episode of Pretty Much Pop reunites the full season one panel: Mark Linsenmayer, Brian Hirt and Erica Spyres, and features the podcasting debut of Mark’s son Abe Linsenmayer.

Some articles we considered included:

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Rare Book Featuring the Concept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune Goes Up for Auction (1975)

Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune has made a decently promising start to what looks set to shape up into an epic series of films. But however many installments it finally comprises, it’s unlikely to run anywhere near as long as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version — had Jodorowsky actually made his version, that is. Previously featured here on Open Culture, that project promised to unite the talents of not just the creator of the Dune universe and the director of The Holy Mountain, but those of Mœbius, H.R. Giger, Salvador Dalí, Pink Floyd, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger. Even David Lynch’s Dune, for all its large-scale weirdness, would surely play like My Dinner with Andre by comparison.

Alas, none of us will ever get to see Jodorowsky’s Dune, now one of the most storied of all unmade films. But one of us — one of the deep-pocketed among us, at least — now has a chance to own the book. Not Herbert’s novel: the book assembled circa 1985 as a pitching aid, meant to show studios the extensive pre-production work Jodorowsky, producer Michel Seydoux, and their collaborators had done.

“Filled with the script, storyboards, concept art, and more, the book is basically as close as anyone can get to seeing Jodorowsky’s version of Dune,” writes io9’s Germain Lussier.But, of course, the director and his team only created a handful of copies and this was decades ago. This isn’t a book you can just get on Amazon.”

But you can get it at Christie’s, on whose auction block it’s expected to go for between €25,000 and €35,000 (around USD $30,000-40,000). Reckoning that only ten to twenty copies were ever printed, the house’s listing describes the book as “an extraordinary artifact” from “a doomed project which inspired legions of film-makers and moviegoers alike.” Despite all of Hollywood ultimately passing on this enormously ambitious adaptation, “all of this was not in vain.” Jodorowsky himself claims that, though unrealized, his Dune set a precedent for “a larger-than-life science fiction movie, outside of the scientific rigor of 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Its influence, according to Christie’s, is present in 1970s films like Star Wars and Alien. Would it be too much to sense a trace of the Jodorowskyan in Villeneuve’s Dune as well?

Related Content:

The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pink Floyd, Salvador Dalí, Moebius, Orson Welles & Mick Jagger Never Made

Mœbius’ Storyboards & Concept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

Mœbius & Jodorowsky’s Sci-Fi Masterpiece, The Incal, Brought to Life in a Tantalizing Animation

The Dune Graphic Novel: Experience Frank Herbert’s Epic Sci-Fi Saga as You’ve Never Seen It Before

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 82 Commandments For Living

Watch the First Trailer for Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s Adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Classic Sci-Fi Novel

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Isaac Asimov Predicts the Future on The David Letterman Show (1980)

In 1980, Newsweek published a cantankerous and sadly on-the-nose diagnosis of the United States’ “cult of ignorance” — written by one Isaac Asimov, “professor of biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine” and “author of 212 books, most of them on various scientific subjects for the general public.” Given this intimidating biography, and the fact that Asimov believed that “hardly anyone can read” in the U.S., we might expect the science fiction legend wanted nothing to do with television. We would be wrong.

Asimov seemed to love TV. In 1987, for example, the four-time Hugo winner wrote a humorously critical takedown of ALF for TV Guide. And he was a consummate TV entertainer, making his first major TV appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1968, appearing four times on The Mike Douglas Show in the next few years, and giving his final television interviews to Dick Cavett in a two-part series in 1989. The same year he wrote about America’s cult of ignorance, he appeared on The David Letterman show to crack wise with the biggest wiseass on TV. Asimov held his own and then some.

“Asimov, sixty in this video, proves himself a natural comedian,” writes the Melville House blog; “Letterman, thirty-three, can barely keep up.” Surely Asimov’s banter had nothing to do with The David Letterman Show’s cancellation three days later. (Letterman was back on the air for eleven seasons two years later.) Their interview ranges widely from pop culture (Asimov confesses his appreciation for both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) to “the future of medicine, space exploration, hope for mankind, and much more,” Vic Sage writes at Pop Culture Retrorama.

Asimov’s dry delivery — honed during his English-and-Yiddish-speaking Brooklyn childhood — is delightful. But the writer, teacher, and scientist hasn’t only come on TV to crack jokes, promote a book, and flaunt his muttonchops. He wants to educate his fellow Americans about the state of the future. (His Newsweek bio was outdated. As Letterman says, his appearance marked the publication of his 221st book.) Like Hari Seldon, the hero of his 1951 novel Foundation, Asimov felt confident in his ability to predict the course of human progress (or regress, as the case may be).

He also felt confident answering questions about what to do with outer space, and where to “put more men,” as Letterman says. His recommendation to build “factories” may strike us as a banal forerunner of Jeff Bezos’ even more banal plans for office parks in space. Asimov boasts of the vision he had of “pocket computers” in 1950 — hardly a reality in 1980. Dave complains about how complicated computers are, and Asimov accurately predicts that as technology catches up, they will get simpler to use. “But these are little things,” he says. “I never tried to predict. I just tried to write stories to pay my way through college.” He must have paid it several times over, and he seemed to get more right than he got wrong. See more of Asimov’s predictions in the links below.

Related Content:

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Free: Isaac Asimov’s Epic Foundation Trilogy Dramatized in Classic Audio

Isaac Asimov Predicts in 1964 What the World Will Look Like Today

Isaac Asimov Laments the “Cult of Ignorance” in the United States (1980)

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

Hear Brian Eno’s Contribution to the Soundtrack of David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

Though released just a few weeks ago, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune seems already to have garnered more critical acclaim than David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of the same material. This comparison is, of course, unfair: Lynch was working under different conditions in a different time, not to mention with a markedly different cinematic sensibility. And in fact, Lynch’s version of the ambitious, saga-launching novel by Frank Herbert does have its fans, or at least viewers willing to praise certain of its aspects. Lovers of 1980s music, for example, value its score composed by the virtuosic rock band Toto — with the exception, that is, of a track from Brian Eno, Roger Eno, and Daniel Lanois.

Brian Eno in particular is credited with popularizing ambient music, and “Prophecy Theme,” heard on the Dune soundtrack album as well as in the film itself, conjures up an atmosphere as effectively as any other piece of his work in the genre. “David flew me to Los Angeles to see Dune,” Eno recalls in New York Times interview about his recently released compilation Brian Eno (Film Music, 1976-2020), which includes the track.

It wasn’t finished then. And I don’t know whether his intention or his hope was that I would do the whole soundtrack, but I didn’t want to, anyway. It was a huge project, and I just didn’t feel like doing it. But I did feel like making one piece for it, so that’s what I did.”

Dune was indeed a formidable undertaking, and one that ultimately proved too big for Lynch. Some fans would argue, even after the successful first installment from Villeneuve, that it’s too big for any filmmaker. But the world Herbert created, one both sweeping and uncommonly detailed, has inspired many a creator to produce impressive work for projects both realized and unrealized. Perhaps it counts as a missed opportunity that the latest Dune film, with its apparent clean-slate approach to previous attempts at adaptation, didn’t commission a score from Eno, whose signature sonic textures could nicely have complimented Villeneuve’s instinct for the sublime. But then, a studio can’t go far wrong with Hans Zimmer either.

Related Content:

Hear Hans Zimmer’s Experimental Score for the New Dune Film

Brian Eno Once Composed Music for Windows 95; Now He Lets You Create Music with an iPad App

The Glossary Universal Studios Gave Out to the First Audiences of David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

The Dune Coloring & Activity Books: When David Lynch’s 1984 Film Created Countless Hours of Peculiar Fun for Kids

A Side-by-Side, Shot-by-Shot Comparison of Denis Villeneuve’s 2020 Dune and David Lynch’s 1984 Dune

Brian Eno Reveals His Favorite Film Soundtracks

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Neal Stephenson’s Sci-Fi Novel Snow Crash Invented the “Metaverse,” Which Facebook Now Plans to Build (1992)

Whatever the benefits and pleasures of our current internet-enriched world, one must admit that it’s not quite as exciting as the setting of Snow Crash. Originally published in 1992, that novel not only made the name of its author Neal Stephenson, it elevated him to the status of a technological Nostradamus. It did so, at least, among readers interested in the internet and its potential, which was much more of a niche subject 29 years ago. Of the many inventions with which Stephenson furnished Snow Crash‘s then-futuristic 21st-century cyberpunk reality, few have captured as many techie imaginations as the “metaverse,” an enormous virtual world inhabited by the avatars of its users.

“Lots of other science fiction media includes metaverse-like systems,” writes The Verge’s Adi Robertson, but “Stephenson’s book remains one of the most common reference points for metaverse enthusiasts.” This holds especially true in Silicon Valley, where, as Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson puts it, “a host of engineers, entrepreneurs, futurists, and assorted computer geeks (including Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos) still revere Snow Crash as a remarkably prescient vision of today’s tech landscape.” It’s rumored that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will soon announce his company’s intent to change its name to one that better suits its own long-term plan: to transition, as Zuckerberg himself put it, “from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

Bold though this may sound, astute readers haven’t forgotten that Snow Crash is a dystopian novel. The metaverse it presents “is an outgrowth of Stephenson’s satirical corporation-dominated future America,” writes Robinson, “but it’s undeniably depicted as having a cool side.” After all, the novel’s protagonist is “a master hacker who gets in katana fights at a virtual nightclub,” though his virtual existence compensates for a grimmer real-world lifestyle. “In the book, Hiro lives in a shabby shipping container,” Stephenson says, “but when he goes to the Metaverse, he’s a big deal and has access to super high-end real estate.” This may sound faintly reminiscent of certain online worlds already in existence: Second Life, for example, whose heyday came in the early 2010s.

Though presumably more ambitious, Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse remains, for the moment, broadly defined: it will consist, he’s said, of “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” But as The Verge’s Alex Heath notes in an article on Facebook’s impending name change, the company “already has more than 10,000 employees building consumer hardware like AR glasses” — glasses, that is, for augmented reality, the overlaying digital elements onto the real world — “that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.” It’s not impossible that he could be leading the way toward the thrilling, dangerous, and often hilarious virtual world Snow Crash held out to us — and in whose absence we’ve had to make do with Facebook.

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William Gibson, Father of Cyberpunk, Reads New Novel in Second Life

Sci-Fi Author J.G. Ballard Predicts the Rise of Social Media (1977)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Sci-Fi Pioneer Hugo Gernsback Predicts Telemedicine in 1925

If you’ve ever wondered why one of science fiction’s greatest honors is called the “Hugo,” meet Hugo Gernsback, one of the genre’s most important figures, a man whose work has been variously described as “dreadful,” “tawdry,” “incompetent,” “graceless,” and “a sort of animated catalogue of gadgets.” But Gernsback isn’t remembered as a writer, but as an editor, publisher (of Amazing Stories magazine), and pioneer of science fact, for it was Gernsback who first introduced the earth-shaking technology of radio to the masses in the early 20th century.

“In 1905 (just a year after emigrating to the U.S. from Germany at the age of 20),” writes Matt Novak at Smithsonian, “Gernsback designed the first home radio set and the first mail-order radio business in the world.” He would later publish the first radio magazine, then, in 1913, a magazine that came to be called Science and Invention, a place where Gernsback could print catalogues of gadgets without the bother of having to please literary critics. In these pages he shone, predicting futuristic technologies extrapolated from the cutting edge. He was understandably enthusiastic about the future of radio. Like all self-appointed futurists, his predictions were a mix of the ridiculous and the prophetic.

Case in point: Gernsback theorized in a 1925  Science and Invention article that communications technologies like radio would revolutionize medicine, in exactly the ways that they have in the 21st century, though not quite through the device Gernsback invented: the “teledactyl,” which is not a robotic dinosaur but a telemedicine platform that would allow doctors to examine, diagnose, and treat patients from a distance with robotic arms, a haptic feedback system, and “by means of a television screen.” Never mind that television didn’t exist in 1925. Sounding not a little like his contemporary Buckminster Fuller, Gernsback insisted that his device “can be built today with means available right now.”

It would require significant upgrades to radio technology before it could support the wireless internet that lets us meet with doctors on computer screens. Perhaps Gernsback wasn’t entirely wrong — technology may have allowed for some version of this in the early 20th century, if medicine had been inspired to move in a more sci-fi direction. But the focus of the medical community — after the devastation of the 1918 flu epidemic — had understandably turned toward disease cure and prevention, not distance diagnosis.

Gernsback looked fifty years ahead, to a time, he wrote, when “the busy doctor… will not be able to visit his patients as he does now. It takes too much time, and he can only, at best, see a limited number today.” Home visits did not last another fifty years, but remote medicine didn’t take their place until almost 100 years after Gernsback wrote. Indeed, the webcams that now give doctors access to patients in the pandemic only came about in 1991 for the purpose of making sure the break room in the computer science department at Cambridge had coffee.

Gernsback even anticipated advances in space medicine, which has spent the last several years building the technology he predicted in order to perform surgeries on sick and injured astronauts stuck months or years away from Earth. He would have particularly appreciated this usage, though he isn’t given credit for the idea. Gernsback also deserves credit for poking fun at himself, as he seemed to realize how hard it was for most people to take him seriously.

To non-visionaries, the technologies of the future would all seem equally ridiculous today, as in the pages of Gernsback’s satirical 1947 publication, Popular Neckanics Gagazine. Here, we find such objects as the Lamplifier, “the lamp that has EVERYTHING.” Gernsback’s love of gadgets blurred the boundaries between science fiction and fact, always with the strong suggestion that — no matter how useful or how ludicrous — if a machine could be imagined, it could be built and put to work.

Related Content: 

The Isolator: A 1925 Helmet Designed to Eliminate Distractions & Increase Productivity (Created by SciFi Pioneer Hugo Gernsback)

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

17th Century Scientist Gives First Description of Alien Life: Hear Passages from Christiaan Huygens’ Cosmotheoros (1698)

Astrobiologists can now extrapolate the evolutionary characteristics of possible alien life, should it exist, given the wealth of data available on interplanetary conditions. But our ideas about aliens have drawn not from science but from what Adrian Horton at The Guardian calls “an engrossing feedback loop” of Hollywood films, comics books, and sci-fi novels. A little over three-hundred years ago — having never heard of H.G. Wells or the X-Files — Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens answered the question of what alien life might look like in his work Cosmotheoros, published after his death in 1698.

Everyone knows the names Galileo and Isaac Newton, and nearly everyone knows their major accomplishments, but we find much less familiarity with Huygens, even though his achievements “make him the greatest scientist in the period between Galileo and Newton,” notes the Public Domain Review.

Those achievements include the discovery of Saturn’s rings and its moon, Titan, the invention of the first refracting telescope, a detailed mapping of the Orion Nebula, and some highly notable advancements in mathematics. (Maybe we — English speakers, that is — find his last name hard to pronounce?)

Huygens was a revolutionary thinker. After Copernicus, it became clear to him that “our planet is just one of many,” as scholar Hugo A. van den Berg writes, “and not set apart by any special consideration other than the accidental fact that we happen to be its inhabitants.” Using the powers of observation available to him, he theorized that the inhabitants of Jupiter and Saturn (he used the term “Planetarians”) must possess “the Art of Navigation,” especially “in having so many Moons to direct their Course…. And what a troop of other things follow from this allowance? If they have Ships, they must have Sails and Anchors, Ropes, Pillies, and Rudders…”

“We may well laugh at Huygens,” van den Berg writes, “But surely in our own century, we are equally parochial in our own way. We invariably fail to imagine what we fail to imagine.” Our ideas of aliens flying spacecraft already seem quaint given multiversal and interdimensional modes of travel in science fiction. Huygens had no cultural “feedback loop.” He was making it up as he went. “In contrast to Huygens’ astronomical works, Cosmotheoros is almost entirely speculative,” notes van den Berg — though his speculations are throughout informed and guided by scientific reasoning.

To undermine the idea of Earth as special, central, and unique, “a thing that no Reason will permit,” Huygens wrote — meant posing a potential threat to “those whose Ignorance or Zeal is too great.” Therefore, he willed his brother to publish Cosmotheoros after his death so that he might avoid the fate of Galileo. Already out of favor with Louis XIV, whom Huygens had served as a government scientist, he wrote the book while back at home in The Hague, “frequently ill with depressions and fevers,” writes the Public Domain Review. What did Huygens see in his cosmic imagination of the sailing inhabitants of Jupiter and Saturn? Hear for yourself above in a reading of Huygens’ Cosmotheoros from Voices of the Past.

Huygens’ descriptions of intelligent alien life derive from his limited observations about human and animal life, and so he proposes the necessity of human-like hands and other appendages, and rules out such things as an “elephant’s proboscis.” (He is particularly fixated on hands, though some alien humanoids might also develop wings, he theorizes.) Like all alien stories to come, Huygens’ speculations, however logically he presents them, say “more about ourselves,” as Horton writes, “our fears, our anxieties, our hope, our adaptability — than any potential outside visitor.” His descriptions show that while he did not need to place Earth at the center of the cosmos, he measured the cosmos according to a very human scale.

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Richard Feynman: The Likelihood of Flying Saucers

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

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

A newspaper article about this speech could well be titled: AUTHOR CLAIMS TO HAVE SEEN GOD BUT CAN’T GIVE ACCOUNT OF WHAT HE SAW. — PKD

In 1977, cult writer Philip K. Dick arrived at a science fiction convention in Metz, France to deliver a speech called, “If You Find this World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others.” (Read an edited transcript here.) The audience would leave bewildered, mystified. His talk ranged widely across such topics as cosmological time, the possibility of the universe as a computer simulation, the experience of deja vu, and the oppressive regime of Richard Nixon. It would become a sort of rebus for decoding Dick’s fiction.

If the “Metz address” were only a key to the strange occurrences in novels like A Scanner Darkly, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, and The Man in the High Castle, it would be an extraordinary document for Philip K. Dick fans.

But just as Dick claimed that the events of his 1981 novel V.A.L.I.S. were real– he had actually had a visionary encounter with “God” after dental surgery in 1974 — so here he claims to have actually experienced, or remembered, multiple realities and, after said encounter, to have recognized them all as true.

I, in my stories and novels, often write about counterfeit worlds, semi-real worlds, as well as deranged private worlds inhabited, often, by just one person, while, meantime, the other characters either remain in their own worlds throughout or are somehow drawn into one of the peculiar ones. …At no time did I have a theoretical or conscious explanation for my preoccupation with these pluriform pseudoworlds, but now I think I understand. What I was sensing was the manifold or partially actualized realities lying tangent to what evidently is the most actualized one, the one that the majority of us, by consensus gentium, agree on.

“The world of Flow My Tears is an actual (or rather once actual) alternate world, and I remember it in detail. I do not know who else does. Maybe no one else does. perhaps all of you were always — have always been — here. But I was not. In novel after novel, story after story, over a twenty-five year period, I wrote repeatedly about a particular other landscape, a dreadful one. In March 1974, I understood why. …I had good reason to. My novels and stories were, without my realizing it consciously, autobiographical. It was — this return of memory – the most extraordinary experience of my life. …

The narrower subject of his speech, Dick says by way of introduction, is “orthogonal time,” or “right-angle time.” To explain this he calls up an image of parallel universes overlapping at the edges of a “lateral axis.” These blend and “come into focus,” as an entity he calls “the Programer-Reprogrammer” changes the variables, while a “counterentity” he calls the “Dark Counterplayer” tries to mess things up. Despite the use of software terms, Dick’s imagery seems to draw as much from chess, or Taoism, as computer science. The interplay of programmer/counterprogrammer is a dialectic, resulting in new syntheses. God is not an independent, self-existent being but something more akin to Atman, “the view of the oldest religion of India, and to some extent… of Spinoza and Alfred North Whitehead …. God within the universe… The Sufi saying [from Rumi] ‘The workman is invisible within the workshop’ applies here.”

We cannot see the workings of this mystical intelligence except when the illusion of seamlessness breaks down and memories of past or alternate lives intrude. These are not memories of a linear time, but of other possible present times, all existing at once just out of focus. Dystopian police states, an alternate present ruled by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan… These currently exist, Dick says, on the orthogonal line of time, only we cannot see them because the variables, and our memories, have been changed to suit the latest version of reality, a synthesis and updated improvement. However, it’s entirely possible that we’re all experiencing slightly different realities, depending on the “memories” of alternate presents leaking into our experience.

Thus, the talk’s title: not only could the world be worse, he says, but it is currently worse in the multiverse of rejected alternate worlds we can’t (or can’t quite) see. Here, at the end of his speech, Dick gets theological, and teleological, again, claiming to have seen a vision of a “parklike” world that “was not what my Christian training had prepared me for at all.” His description sounds ripped from the cover of a 70s pulp fantasy novel, complete with a naked goddess and an alien “landscape beyond a golden rectangle doorway.” He takes pains to distance his vision from the Christian garden of Eden, but his final remarks sound more like C.S. Lewis than the paranoid, drug-addled conspiracist his audience might have been prepared to meet:

The best I can do …is to play the role of prophet, of ancient prophets and such oracles as the sibyl at Delphi, and to talk of a wonderful garden world, much like that which once our ancestors are said to have inhabited — in fact, I sometimes imagine it to be exactly that same world restored, as if a false trajectory of our world will eventually be fully corrected and once more we will be where once, many thousands of years ago, we lived and were happy.

…I believe I know a great secret. When the work of restoration is completed, we will not even remember the tyrannies, the cruel barbarisms of the Earth we inhabited… the vast body of pain and grief and loss and disappointment within us will be expunged as if it had never been. I believe that process is taking place now, has always been taking place now. And, mercifully, we are already being permitted to forget that which formerly was. And perhaps in my novels and stories I have done wrong to urge you to remember.

Was Philip K. Dick out of his mind? He sounds perfectly lucid in other interviews he gave at the same time, and dismisses the notion that his ideas are the product of mental illness. Travis Diehl writes at Art Papers that Dick has come to seem more like an actual than a self-styled prophet in the decades since this interview, and his “paranoia comes to seem more and more like prescience,” foreseeing the major themes of The Matrix, Jean Baudrillard’s postmodern classic Simulacra and Simulation, and favorite philosopher of Silicon Valley Nick Bostrom.

Whatever the source of the author’s experiences, “the rupture that pushed Dick’s life toward a knowledge of other worlds — towards gnosis — was an aesthetic one: Dick’s visions appeared accompanied, or induced, by art,” and it was only by means of art that he claimed to apprehend them. “Our God is the deus absconditus: the hidden god.” We cannot know what it is, he says. But this does not exempt us from the making and remaking of the world. No one is — to use a current term of art — a non-playable character. “Concealed though the form is,” Dick says, “the latter will confront us; we are involved in it — in fact, we are instruments by which it is accomplished.”

Related Content: 

Hear VALIS, an Opera Based on Philip K. Dick’s Metaphysical Novel

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The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick: Documentary Explores the Mysterious Universe of PKD

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

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