Science fiction appeals to geeks because it effaces all remants of the grown-up world. It is a parallel universe conducted entirely within the confines of childhood.

What do we talk about? Do I talk about... super old sci-fi that nobody cares about? Do I ramble about the differences between Science Fiction and Science Fantasy? No! Rather than waste time on those wonderful topics, lets look at this article by some guy named Philip K. Dick. I'm not sure if he's the guy who made Star Trek though.

Nah, I'm kidding. I think Philip K. Dick wrote something about Tom Cruise.

So anyway, Dick wrote this article entitled How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later. It seems that back in that day (1978), science fiction was considered a juvenile pursuit and writers like Dick didn't get no respect since his work were mostly confined to those sci-fi pulp magazines. (Nowadays, people look at sci-fi like... oh right. People still look down at sci-fi). I decided not to talk the entire article not only because its too long, but it gets really philosophical and religion - something I feel would not work well with this shallow blog.

The problem Dick posed " simply this: What does a science fiction writer know about? On what topic is he an authority?

...The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and "What constitutes the authentic human being?" Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?"

My thoughts:
Maybe sci-fi doesn't deal with this stuff anymore. Who knows? I don't read sci-fi like this. But hey, this article is a good read, and it is sorta educating me... a bit.

Perceptions of Reality

"In 1951, when I sold my first story, I had no idea that such fundamental issues could be pursued in the science fiction field. I began to pursue them unconsciously. My first story had to do with a dog who imagined that the garbagemen who came every Friday morning were stealing valuable food which the family had carefully stored away in a safe metal container. Every day, members of the family carried out paper sacks of nice ripe food, stuffed them into the metal container, shut the lid tightly—and when the container was full, these dreadful-looking creatures came and stole everything but the can.

Finally, in the story, the dog begins to imagine that someday the garbagemen will eat the people in the house, as well as stealing their food. Of course, the dog is wrong about this. We all know that garbagemen do not eat people. But the dog's extrapolation was in a sense logical—given the facts at his disposal. The story was about a real dog, and I used to watch him and try to get inside his head and imagine how he saw the world."

Philip K. Dick's theory:
"I decided, that dog sees the world quite differently than I do, or any humans do. 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. And that led me wonder, If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic?"

My thoughts:
By golly! I mean, WTF! That some real existential crap Dick is pulling here. This is real heady stuff. Not the brand of sci-fi that involves space ships and alien crabs. Man.

Dick Quotes:
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

Dick said that when this kid asked him how to define reality. Ever since, Dick hasn't been able to define it more lucidly. What do you think? Now that I think about it, this topic is really annoying considering I've had a tough week in the real world.

Media and its pseudo worlds

Dick: "Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. The problem of miscuing; consider that. A TV program produced for adults is viewed by a small child. Half of what is said and done in the TV drama is probably misunderstood by the child. Maybe it's all misunderstood. And the thing is, Just how authentic is the information anyhow, even if the child correctly understood it?

What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy to reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive."

My thoughts:
This stuff shouldn't be new to you folks, but coming from Dick, I guess its real profound. I suppose it wasn't really thought about back in the late 70's, that great time of social upheaval.

Dick: "So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of
creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later."

My thoughts:
Intriguing. With the advent of the internet, that power of course, has been disseminated to the masses. Now any Tommy, Dick (I probably shouldn't use that), and Harry has the capability to craft their own reality. I, MMG, have crafted this little kingdom of the Concept Den, as a means to present my reality and perception of art and other heady concepts to you, the Void™. Hey, even the Void™ is merely another concept I created to define an audience that barely offers feedback and suggestion! Truly an intriguing, is it not?

Dick: "However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do
fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life.

Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live.

My thoughts:
Wow. Stories where characters have that deep, profound realization about their reality really interest me! He's right, its always cool to see how the character struggles to deal with his or her new reality.

Reminds me of that one scene in (of ALL the examples to give) a anime series called "Ergo Proxy" where Iggy, the loyal android assistant of the main protagonist, has an 'awakening' due to a strange computer virus that somehow grants self-awareness. The protagonist orders Iggy to head to the city for help or something. Iggy refuses to follow orders of the protagonist and begins questioning why the protagonist is abandoning him when without him, she would be nothing. That he was there since no one else could tolerate the selfishness of the protagonist. It doesn't end well for Iggy.

So It was when that character's world (as a faithful, unquestioning companion) falls apart and begins questioning his place that really caught my attention. Maybe I should start picking up Dick's books??

Dick: "Because the bombardment of pseudo-realities begins to produce inauthentic humans very quickly, spurious humans - as fake as the data pressing at them from all sides. My two topics are really one topic; they unite at this point. Fake realities will create fake humans. Or, fake humans will generate fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves. So we wind up with fake humans inventing fake realities and then peddling them to other fake humans.

He is peddling fakes.
In my writing I got so interested in fakes that I finally came up with the concept of fake fakes. For example, in Disneyland there are fake birds worked by electric motors which emit caws and shrieks as you pass by them. Suppose some night all of us sneaked into the park with real birds and substituted them for the artificial ones. Imagine the horror the Disneyland officials would feel when they discovered the cruel hoax. Real birds! And perhaps someday even real hippos and lions. Consternation. The park being cunningly transmuted from the unreal to the real, by sinister forces. For instance, suppose the Matterhorn turned into a genuine snow-covered mountain? What if the entire place, by a miracle of God's power and wisdom, was changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, into something incorruptible? They would have to close down.

Of course, in science fiction no pretense is made that the worlds described are real. This is why we call it fiction. The reader is warned in advance not to believe what he is about to read. Equally true, the visitors to Disneyland understand that Mr. Toad does not really exist and that the pirates are animated by motors and servo-assist mechanisms, relays and electronic circuits. So no deception is taking place.

And yet the strange thing is, in some way, some real way, much of what appears under the title "science fiction" is true. It may not be literally true, I suppose. We have not really been invaded by creatures from another star system, as depicted in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The producers of that film never intended for us to believe it. Or did they?

And, more important, if they did intend to state this, is it actually true? That is the issue: not, Does the author or producer believe it, but—Is it true? Because, quite by accident, in the pursuit of a good yarn, a science fiction author or producer or scriptwriter might stumble onto the truth... and only later on realize it."

My thoughts:
Okay. Whatever the hell Dick says has probably happened a million times over now that it is the 21st century. Lets read on a bit on where the hell this is all going.

Dick: "The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. George Orwell made this clear in his novel 1984. But another way to control the minds of people is to control their perceptions. If you can get them to see the world as you do, they will think as you do. Comprehension follows perception. How do you get them to see the reality you see? After all, it is only one reality out of many. Images are a basic constituent: pictures. This is why the power of TV to influence young minds is so staggeringly vast.

And—and I say this as a professional fiction writer—the producers, scriptwriters, and directors who create these video/audio worlds do not know how much of their content is true. In other words, they are victims of their own product, along with us. Speaking for myself, I do not know how much of my writing is true, or which parts (if any) are true. This is a potentially lethal situation. We have fiction mimicking truth, and truth mimicking fiction. We have a dangerous overlap, a dangerous blur. And in all probability it is not deliberate. In fact, that is part of the problem. You cannot legislate an author into correctly labelling his product, like a can of pudding whose ingredients are listed on the label... you cannot compel him to declare what part is true and what isn't if he himself does not know.

It is an eerie experience to write something into a novel, believing it is pure fiction, and to learn later on—perhaps years later—that it is true."

My thoughts:
You know what? Lets just cut the crap here. Dick's cool and all, but the just thought too much and its starting to get really weird. And considering this was written in the 70's. Sheesh! So Void, I'll leave it to you to think about what has been said here. If it makes absolutely no sense to you too, then whatever. I guess it was sort of a good read. Anyway, before I go on and on, I think I'll leave y'all with this short student film instead. It has sort of the same madness we are dealing with in this post. Here's 50% Gray.


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. >> "Lets just cut the crap here.
    >> Dick's cool and all, but the just
    >> thought too much and its starting
    >> to get really weird"

    Thinking "too much" is what differentiates science fiction from science fantasy. If you're not too much interested in thinking, maybe Tolkien instead of Philip K. Dick?

  3. ChrisK Says:
  4. Thinking too much when you're recovering from a fever is BAD! (Lousy excuses, huh? But it is sadly the truth) By that part Mr. Dick's essay, I so badly wanted to finish the post so I did.

    But for the benefit of those who think my ending is a copout - here is some semblance of a conclusion. Mr. Dick finally ends up saying he can't answer the question of reality, except to present his view about how this can be seen through revelations from the Bible.

    Then Dick answers the question about what is an "authentic human".

    "The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it.will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history."

    Sort of like the Goya painting:

    "I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals."

    And then... and then, where does this all lead to? Mr. Dick starts yammering about the sick reality the kiddies are exposed to now. And then the reality of time. And the consequences of it all.

    Hard Science fiction? Interesting. Deals with philosophy and stuff. I can dig that. Not a very good topic to type about in length when you feel dizzy after sitting down for 30 minutes though!

    Give me some of that mindless fantasy/escapist crap so I can float away from this lovely reality I am in!

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