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"I've lived six hundred years, Foote; I know when it is and isn't necessary to kill."



Writing Date

Pub. Date






Mar 1964 to May 1964

Sep 1964



See "The Mold Of Yancy"


wpe183.jpg (3742 bytes) tpt     Belmont, pb, 92-603, Sep 1964, 174pp, $0.50, (?)
      Cape, hb, 61158-5, Jun 1967, 254pp, 25/- (?)

    THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH was written concurrently with THE ZAP GUN in early 1964. It’s possible the outline for THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH was written by March 1964 as stated by Thomas M. Disch, and the completed manuscript by May 12,1964. The novel was first published by Belmont Books in paperback form in Sep 1964.

    Disch in his ‘Afterword’ to the Bluejay edition of THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH goes on to say:

    Conceptually it represented the splicing together of two short stories Philip K. Dick had written in the earliest years of his apprenticeship. The first of these, "The Defenders," appeared in the January 1953 issue of Galaxy. It duplicates, in miniature, the Nicholas St. James portion of the plot…


    The second source for the novel was published in If (August 1955), and its title, "The Mold Of Yancy," was intended, in a slightly emended form, "In The Mold Of Yancy", as the original title of the book…

    In 1968 Dick himself commented on the connection between "The Mold Of Yancy" and THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH:

    I liked this story ("The Mold Of Yancy") enough to use it as the basis for my novel THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH; in particular the part where everything the government tells you is a lie. I still like that part; I mean, I still believe it’s so. Watergate, of course, bore the basic idea of this story out.

    Dick also liked the story. In his 1968 ‘Self Portrait’ when he surveyed some of his novels, he said:

    I enjoyed writing all of them. But I think that if I could only choose a few, which for example might escape World War 3, I would choose … THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH…

    Interestingly enough, THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH was the penultimate selection on his list of favorites followed, lastly, by THE SIMULACRA.

    Another note of interest, as Disch records in his ‘Afterword’, is that Dick gave the name of the Agency that controlled the situation in THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH the same address as that of his literary agent, Scott Meredith. This address was then 580 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

    Later in an interesting interview with Joe Vitale in 1978, Dick was asked whether visits by the ‘Red Squad’ (FBI agents) had anything to do with the break-in of his home in 1971. He replied:

    I really don’t know. In the early 60s I did write a novel about a phony war between the United States and Russia that’s carried out with the sole purpose of keeping the citizens of those countries underground while the leaders lived in palatial splendour above ground. In the novel, some Americans and some Russians are able to get above ground and find out what’s really going on and they become friends.

    Now maybe certain people thought this was too close to the truth and that I had some kind of information. Maybe that’s why they wanted to get my files. I don’t know.

    That’s about it for comments. In Sep 1964 Belmont Books published the first edition of THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH in paperback. The first UK edition followed three years later with the hardback from Cape Publishers in Jun 1967. The novel has English-language editions – many of them – in every decade from the 60s to the end of the century as well as many foreign-language editions.

    The plot of THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH is based on the simple premise that things are not quite what they seem in the world. The majority of mankind is repressed and coerced by means both subtle and overt into believing that their condition is a natural and right one. They do not know the truth. Dick, in his typical paranoid way, extrapolates – and I use the word carefully – from this notion a world which explains the falsehood of life under a mendacious government rule. He explains, in effect, the political tactic of ‘the big lie’: tell the people often and loudly enough what you want them to believe and eventually they will believe it unquestioningly. And even though THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH is not a parable or an analogy, after reading the novel one cannot help but turn a jaundiced eye towards our own system of government.

    In the story Dick creates a world where men are forced to live underground and to manufacture robots (‘leadies’) which they are told will be used to fight an above-ground war but which, in actuality, are used to tend the palatial demesnes of the rich. Once the underground dwellers surface they discover that they have been living a lie but are prevented from returning below to inform their fellows of this truth. Instead, the government, uncharacteristically benign, informs them that it has only been living off the fat of the land for the benefit of the underground ‘tankers’. In fact, they’ve been preparing the surface world for that – not so long off – day when all the underground dwellers can be brought up to a world of peace, harmony and good living…

    I wonder that PKD titled the novel THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH; he could have easily titled it THE TRUTH.

    Anyway, this novel would rate down in the ‘ant-tanks.’

    See: "The Defenders" and "The Mold Of Yancy."

OTHER ENGLISH EDITIONS:             For Cover Pix Click Here: aaaPKDickBooks.jpg (3234 bytes)


In Joseph Adams' ears the professional smooth voice whispered, "At this spot, at this moment, the deal was hatched which was to decide the future fate of mankind down unto generations yet unborn."


    In his ‘Afterword’ to the Bluejay edition of THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, Thomas Disch says that the Outline for this novel was completed by March 1964. Butler and Kinman have the finished manuscript at the SMLA on 12 May 1964,

TGM ‘Story Notes’. Also in CSVol4 376. PKD in 1978

See PKDS-2 13

The Aquarian, Oct 11 1978 interview by Joe Vitale.

Collector's Notes

Phildickian: THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, Leisure, pb, 1975. VG+ $10

Phildickian: THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, Dell, pb, 1980. G $5

Phildickian: THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, Bluejay, tp, 1984. VG $10

Phildickian: THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH, Carrol & Graf, pb, 1989. NF $10

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