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The Doctor Will See You Now: the Evolution of Dr. Futurity

By Patrick Clark 

Part One: Time Pawn

Paul Rydeen once wrote an article called "The Worst of PKD." He surveyed various opinions as to which of Phil’s novels was, well, the worst. Perhaps "least successful" would be a kinder way to phrase it. Everyone has an opinion about this and the choices are all over the map: Paul picked A Maze of Death; Gregg Rickman said The Crack in Space is the worst; and Phil himself once chose Vulcan’s Hammer. Even a poor PKD novel generally has some interesting idea or character to redeem it at least somewhat. So "worst" is relative. For me, Dr. Futurity is, hands down, the least successful or all the novels. And unlike other candidates for the designation it is one that seems to lack many redeeming qualities at all.

Dr. Futurity began life as a 23,200-word novella entitled "Time Pawn." It was received by the Scott Meredith Literary Agency on June 5, 1953. A sub-agent there remarked that the story was "very disappointing’’ though there had been "high hope for abt 1/3rd of the way." Nevertheless the tale found a publisher appearing in the Summer 1954 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories with an interior illustration by Virgil Finley. Thrilling Wonder Stories was the lineal descendent of Hugo Gernsback’s Wonder Stories; under this new title it published from 1936 to Winter 1955. Despite it’s usually garish covers (it apparently created the "BEM" motif) the magazine was home to a number of important writers. Van Vogt’s Weapon Shops of Isher first appeared in its pages in 1949. The April 1953 issue contained Philip Jose Farmer’s controversial short story "Mother." Jack Vance debuted there and Ray Bradbury was a regular contributor. "Time Pawn" shared the Summer issue with Theodore Sturgeon’s "The Golden Helix" (both were billed as "novels," by the way) as well as verse by Philip Jose Farmer. Phil wrote only one other piece for the magazine, "Prize Ship," in the Winter 1954 issue. This was a prolific time for Phil. Twenty-eight of his stories appeared in 1954 including "The Golden Man," "Breakfast at Twilight," "Adjustment Team," and "The Turning Wheel."

"Time Pawn" has the unusual distinction of having never been reprinted after it’s initial appearance. There have never been any translations of the story, as opposed to the novel itself. When the multi-volume Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick was assembled, "Time Pawn" was not included, presumably because the editors did not wish to duplicate material available in the novels. "Cantata 140," for example, was also excluded. But "Cantata 140" is contained, word for word, as the first part of The Crack in Space. The situation with "Time Pawn" and Dr. Futurity is quite different.

The plot of "Time Pawn" is as follows. James Parsons, a doctor living in 21st Century New York, is on his way to work in his remotely controlled car one morning. The control suddenly fail and the vehicle crashes. Parsons is thrown clear and into some field of force. When he regains consciousness he finds himself outside a strange city at night. The city is unlike any he has ever seen – the spires were not his own" – and the stars are unfamiliar. He rather quickly realizes that he is in the future and he accepts this extraordinary fact without too much discomfort. He is still holding his medical case and assures himself that, no matter where he is, the civilization will need a competent physician. Indeed, he is excited by the idea and makes his way toward the city via a multi-ramped highway.

Parsons is picked up by a youth named Wade who wears strange robes and an Eagle emblem. He offers to drive Parsons into the city. Wade is no more than 20 years old. More significantly, he appears to be a full-blooded American Indian. He speaks a strange polyglot language, a bizarre combination of Latin and Anglo-Saxon that Parsons has little trouble understanding him. Indeed, Phil rather rushes over a good number of points that might make a discerning reader raise an eyebrow. Phil had laboriously constructed this new language and clearly wanted to try it out. The chances of Parsons really being able to understand such an improbable tongue are nil and Phil quickly drops the whole matter and switches to regular English. After hearing Parsons story Wade confirms that this is indeed his future. It is 700 years after "the War" in the 21st Century and a new society has grown up, one that barely remembers Parson’s era. This society is organized into clans grouped around animal totems such as Eagle, Wolf and Bear. The population is now very young and all of full-blooded American Indian stock. Parsons is White and the people he meets are all repelled by his skin color.

Wade takes Parsons to a place in the city and introduces him to a young woman named Icara. She questions the two of them and it is here that a number of strange terms appear: "Soul Cube," "the Fountain," "the Lists," and "Loris." Other people enter the room including a young man named Kem who insists that Icara leave with him. She refuses and the two struggle. Kem shoots Icara with a terrible weapon that cuts her to pieces. This scene of graphic violence is quite shocking given Phil’s usual restraint in this matter. As she lies dying the other sends for "the Euthanor" but Parsons immediately opens his medical case and attempts to save her. Using 21st Century medical technology he is able to stabilize her. But when the crowd realizes that he is actually saving her life they react in horror and beat Parsons into unconsciousness.

Parsons regains consciousness in a new place surrounded by white robed young men and women. A hospital? But he realizes that this society has no hospitals and no doctors. They use euthanasia. Parsons is in a government center called the Fountain. The Director of the Fountain, a man named Stenog, questions him. At thirty, Stenog is the oldest person in the room. From him Parsons learns that healing is a crime in this society and that he will be sent to a prison colony on Mars as soon as his interrogation is complete. Parsons eventually learns that the average age in the future is fifteen. Society revolves around the operation of the Soul Cube – an immense "cold-pack" unit in which is stored the total reproductive future of mankind in the form of arrested zygotes. When a person dies a new zygote is allowed to begin developing. Meanwhile, at the other end of the process, a fully formed fetus, frozen until needed, emerges from the Cube and goes to the tribe that suffered the death. In this way the population of the planet is stabilized. Contribution of gametes to the Cube is regulated by the Lists – contests of physical and mental ability arranged among clan lines with the winners donating the majority of the new gametes to the Cube for future fertilization. In this way only the best and the brightest gametes are available and so the human race continuously improves. Stenog remarks that the Wolf Clan had recently triumphed in the Lists and made a major contribution to the Cube. This is the sole form of reproduction permitted. "Unauthorized zygote production" is both illegal and impossible as males are sterilized at birth. The Cube has the only source of male gametes, frozen within the Cube for later fertilization. (Phil is at great pains to avoid the terms "sperm" and "ovum" for some reason. Maybe he thought "gametes" sounded more futuristic.) To the people of the future, earlier societies’ use of birth control – "rassmort" ("race death," presumably) – is an incredible perversion.

The reason medical science and the healing arts are illegal is that this society looks upon death as something to be embraced for the good of the clan. When a person dies a superior individual replaces him or her, hence the clan as a whole is strengthened. By saving Icara Parsons saddled her clan with a person who, because of her injuries, would drag them down in the Lists. Her continued existence damaged the clan’s chance to contribute their gametes to the Cube. In this society such an action is intolerable. Indeed, after swearing out a legal action against Parsons, Icara immediately had herself euthanized. The details of this brave new world allow Stenog and Parsons to discuss the whole concept of death within their different cultures, with Parsons coming out rather the worse in the debate. Stenog and his colleagues make an effort to understand Parsons and his profession as a healer but the concept is too alien to their manner of life. They bear him no ill will but he has no place in their society, has transgressed their most basic laws and so must be exiled to Mars.

Parsons is stuffed into a one-way rocket and launched into space but something goes wrong and the rocket crashes back to Earth. When he recovers (this is the third time he’s been rendered unconscious since he left home in the 21st Century) he finds himself a prisoner of the Wolf Clan and their leader, a beautiful 35-year old woman named Loris. She and her group are responsible for Parsons’ predicament. It was they who transported him into the future via a time-dredge and later caused the rocket to crash land. They had originally planned to meet him when he first arrived by time travel is an imperfect technology and so Parsons inadvertently entered the city and came to the attention of the authorities. The reason for this elaborate conspiracy is simple: the Wolf Clan needs a doctor. They have a medical problem and want Parsons to help them.

Loris takes Parsons to a secret chamber within the Wolf Clan stronghold. The Clan has a miniature Cube. Within its cold-pack field is the body of a man, perfectly preserved. Loris explains that he is Corith, the head of the Clan and her father. He died 35 years ago but was placed in cold-pack immediately after death. The Clan lacks the expertise to resuscitate him but hopes that Parson can do so. If he succeeds, Parsons will be returned to his own era. If he fails, he dies.

Parsons is still recovering from the crash landing and so is allowed some time before attempting the operation. He has many questions. How had Corith died 35 years before? How did the Clan acquire cold-pack technology, which is a government monopoly? How did they happen to have a Cube ready at the exact moment they needed it to preserve their deceased leader? But Loris refuses to give him any answers and Parsons is reluctant to press her. He is already developing strong emotional and sexual feelings toward her. He also realizes that this whole situation is highly illegal and that the Clan is desperate. In any case, the Wolf Clan is the only group who can return him to the 21st Century. So, despite his misgivings, Parson agrees to help them.

A large number of people gather to watch Parsons work, including a very old woman of nearly 70. She is Jepthe, Loris’ mother and the wife of Corith. Parsons notes a strong resemblance amongst all three and, indeed, all of the conspirators share the same general look. A family resemblance, Parsons realizes. But he has no time to dwell on this, nor how it happens that a 70-year old woman continues to survive in this future society, nor how a family resemblance can exist in the randomized reproductive system of the Cube. He plugs in the various devices necessary to restore life to his patient – a mechanical lung, a heart pump. Doctors in the 21st Century operate more like mechanics than in the manner we normally associate with physicians. (Eric Sweetscent, in Now Wait For Last Year, works in much the same way. In this sense even doctors resemble the typical working class protagonists of Phil’s world along with squibble repairmen and tire re-groovers.) The operation is a success and Corith revives. He is taken away to recover. Parsons then sees still another old woman in the crowd and she quite the oldest one of all. She is Nixina, the Urmutter, nearly a century old and the progenitor of all the conspirators. Jepthe and Corith are her children and their children are the secret group within the Wolf Clan. They have created an actual family, albeit incestuous, in a society that neither permits nor understands the very concept of a biological family.

Dazed by these revelations, Parsons visits his patient and explains the details of his resuscitation. Corith shouts out "You damn fool! I died once to get away. Wasn’t that enough?" Then the whole story tumbles out. Nixina and Jepthe are plotting to spawn a new race by carefully manipulating the Soul Cube. They are mutants, as is Corith, and have isolated the Wolf Clan mutant gametes from those of the other tribes, forming zygotes only within their own Clan’s genetic material so that the strain breed true. Once they have reached sufficient numbers they will overthrow the government and destroy the Soul Cube. The mutant Wolf Clan alone will be permitted to reproduce and so will inherit the Earth. But they still have to use the official Soul Cube to breed; their own Cube failed in its reproductive function but could be used to preserve Corith. Corith and Jepthe bred nearly 80 children, some of whom are still in the Soul Cube waiting to be released. When Corith realized the nature of this insane conspiracy he killed himself rather than go on. Corith is crucial to the plot because he had not been sterilized; Nixina was able to spirit him away from the Fountain as a child before the operation. Corith is the only fertile male on Earth and when he committed suicide the plot was stuck in its track. But Corith was preserved in cold-pack and could be revived. For more than 30 years the conspiracy has been on hold as the Wolf Clan sought a way to bring Corith back to life. Finally they kidnapped Parsons from the past to perform the necessary procedure. Now Nixina and Jepthe plan to mate Corith with Loris and continue their breeding program. Corith begs Parsons to escape and alert the Government.

Unfortunately a guard overhears them talking and calls for reinforcements. They are about to shoot Parsons when Corith pulls the heart pump from his chest and begins bleeding to death. Horrified the guards rush to help him and in the confusion Parsons escapes from the stronghold. The Clan pursues him but he manages to kill four of the guards. There is not much violence in "Time Pawn" but what there is is quite savage. For a doctor, Parson is quite a ruthless and efficient killer. He escapes finally by hijacking a car driven by a young couple (he does this by threatening to kill the girl unless her boyfriend does follows his orders, by the way) and manages to reach Stenog in the city.

Stenog is not quite sure what to believe but orders the Cube to be ready for a possible attack. A Cube official tells him that Loris is already in the facility. Stenog and Parsons rush to the Cube and discover Loris calmly destroying a tape file. She admits to Stenog the details of the Wolf Clans’ plot. It’s moot now. Corith died when he tore out the pump and there is no way to save him a second time. Without his fertility and with the government now alerted the conspiracy cannot continue. There are still a number of mutant Wolf Clan zygotes in the Cube which will emerge from time to time over the next 40 centuries. Perhaps they will begin the conspiracy again. There is no way to identify them from the normal zygotes; the file she burned was the only record.

And with that, "Time Pawn" draws to a close. The Wolf Clan are rounded up and exiled to Mars. Parsons is to be sent back to his own time. On the way to the time-dredge Stenog and Parsons discuss the ramifications of the mutant zygotes still in the Cube. Will Earth have to exile any unusually talented humans who emerge from the Cube to be on the safe side? But that undermines the whole point of the Lists and the Fountain. Stenog wonders if humanity will have to go back to normal reproduction, "unify reproduction and sexual intercourse into one act" again. Parsons doesn’t care. He’s returning home to his wife. Stenog shudders. "A wife. Well, almost any kind of society can exist. Almost any system of morals.’ Parson smiles and says, "Just about any. I guess you have to take the broad view of it."

While certainly enjoyable as a sci-fi action story with some kinky (for 1953) subtexts, "Time Pawn" has more than a few logical lapses. For example, if all males are sterilized at birth, why do they participate in the Lists? They have no gametes to contribute to the Cube. By sterilizing male at birth the future undermines its own agenda to improve humanity; only half of the human race, the females, can contribute. The supply of male gametes in the Cube freezes male contribution to evolutionary progress to the time when the supply was first preserved. Stenog need have no fear of mutant revolutionaries climbing out of the Cube to overthrow his civilization. Any Wolf Clan zygotes that emerge will be, first, sterilized at birth if male, then distributed to whatever Clan has suffered a recent death. Without a group of conspirators operating within the Fountain the Clan will not be able to isolate these zygotes and monopolize them for their own breeding purposes. In the normal course of events, Wolf Clan genetic material will be contributed to the Cube via the Lists and their heritage either strengthen the total human gene pool or be diluted though fertilization with normal gametes. In no sense do they pose a threat to the future of humanity or the society of the Cube. And why would the future be horrified by the use of artificial birth control in the 20th and 21st Centuries? The Cube itself is a gigantic birth control system and about as "artificial" as one can imagine. It would make much more sense if they were deeply repulsed by the concept of natural impregnation and natural childbirth – things that do not ever happen in the 28th Century.

Beyond these issues, the story as a whole is something of a disappointment. Characterization is weak. Most of the people in the story are mere cardboard. Parsons has a bit more depth but he must be the most unlikable protagonist Phil ever conceived. The pacing is off; events are too hurried and there is too much jumping around. There is too much "pulp fiction action" and the violence is fairly gratuitous. The whole American Indian idea doesn’t make sense nor why so unlikely a society as the Cube evolve from what must have been a genocidal world-wide war (the Caucasian race is extinct). But perhaps we need not be too critical. This is a short story written for the pulps and likely written in a hurry. And perhaps, too, with the intent to be rather shocking speaking, as it does, of sex, birth control, euthanasia, eugenics, and incest -- not, we may imagine, typical fare for SF readers in Eisenhower’s America.

"Time Pawn" is perhaps more significant as being one of Phil’s longest science fiction story to date. At 23,200 words "Time Pawn" easily out-distances his other lengthy tales in the same period: "Paycheck" (13,000 words; received at Meredith 7/31/52), "Second Variety" (16,000 words; received 10/3/52) and --just barely -- "Vulcan’s Hammer" (22,800 words; received 4/16/53). Quite possibly Phil was gearing up to write a full-length novel in 1953 and teaching himself the technique, testing the best way to create a more sustained work than he had heretofore ever attempted. 23,200 words would be about 60 pages in an Ace paperback – only about half of a novel length. He’s not there yet but he is learning the craft. The plot itself went about as far as it could go with the ideas it had and there is certainly nothing to indicate Phil had any intention of doing anything more with this sprawling novelette. But strangely enough, within a few years "Time Pawn" would return to become an actual novel.

Part 2: Dr. Futurity

After "Time Pawn" Phil continued to write short stories but in 1955 he turned his hand to full-length novels. Solar Lottery appeared in 1955, The World Jones Made and The Man who Japed in 1956, Eye in the Sky in 1957 and finally Time Out of Joint in 1959. These novels brought a fair amount of critical attention from Damon Knight in his seminal collection In Search of Wonder. Reviewing Solar Lottery Knight wrote "Dick has caught and intensified the bare-nerve tautness of our own society at its worst, and put it on paper here so you can see, hear, feel and smell it." Knight concludes, "at his intermittent best, Dick is still one of the most vital and working science fiction writers."

But by now Phil was ready to abandon science fiction for mainstream works. He had completed at least eight such novels and finished the manuscript for the ninth, Confessions of a Crap Artist, in 1959. None of these works were accepted for publication at the time. Crap Artist wasn't published until 1975, the others not until after Phil's death. Phil was seen as a science fiction author and it was his science fiction works that sold. So, unsurprisingly, it was to SF that he returned.

At some point, probably 1959, Donald Wollheim at Ace Books suggested that Phil expand his old "Time Pawn" story to novel length and Phil agreed. He probably needed the money after the failure of his realistic novels to find a market. He heavily revised and enlarged Jim Parsons' adventures in early 1959, the manuscript reaching Scott Meredith on July 28 of that year. We learn from some of Phil’s correspondence that Wollheim had reservations about the new version. Apparently Wollheim felt he had been "stuck or stung" in the deal. In a letter to Meredith, dated January 4, 1960, Phil denies this, saying he had been completely candid with Wollheim about the changes he planned and the new direction he intended to go with the material. Anyway, he continues, Wollheim "had the legal right to reject my work entirely [or] to request any amount of changes he wished." Phil also remarked "that TIME PAWN rework almost killed me; it was the hardest job I’ve done to date." In a November 1977 interview Richard Lupoff asked Phil if Wollheim had ever messed with his copy. Phil replied, "Oh, once. He made a lot of cuts in Dr. Futurity, but outside of that he never messed with them. Because in Dr. Futurity I had Christianity dying out and interracial marriages. Don disapproved of Christianity dying out or talk of it dying out. And he definitely disapproved of the interracial marriages." We do not have Phil’s outline and letter to Wollheim nor Wollheim’s objections so the details are is unclear. In any event, Ace published the novel in February 1960.

Ace, as was their habit, changed Phil’s title. Phil seemed unaware of this as he still referred to the novel as Time Pawn as late as January. But it was as Doctor Futurity that the book appeared being one half of an Ace Double (D-421). (The other half of the book was John Brunner’s Slavers of Space.) It carried an unimaginative cover by Edward Valigursky and the teaser line "A bag of tricks for the future." The price was 35 cents. It was re-issued as another Ace Double (15697) in September 1972, (this time with Phil’s The Unteleported Man as the second half), sporting a truly dreadful cover by "Bergman" and the legend "HE WAS THE PUPPET OF THE FUTURE’S WOLVES" across the top. The price had gone up to 95 cents. In January 1979 Berkley Books purchased a package of Phil’s novels for $14,000. These were The Cosmic Puppets, the complete version of The Unteleported Man and Dr. Futurity. Mark Hurst, who arranged the sale, later told Paul Williams that there were plans for a "heavily revised Dr. Futurity (changing the title to Time Pawn and adding some sex)" but this never took place. The Berkley edition was finally published, unchanged, as Dr. Futurity in August 1984, more than two years after Phil’s death. It contains the banner "HIS CHILLING TIME TRAVEL CLASSIC" and another lackluster cover illustration. The price tag had reached $2.75.

There have been a number of foreign language editions over the years. An Italian translation, Il Dottor Futuro, was published in 1963 and again in 1995; one French translation under the title Le Voyageur De L’inconnu published in 1974, and two more as Docteur Future in 1988 and 1993; at least one German edition, Schachfigur im Zeitspiel, published in 1983 and a Greek edition, Tajidi mesa sto horo kai to chrono in 1976. There do not appear to be any Japanese or Russian editions – even Vulcan’s Hammer has a Russian edition. There were also at least four British editions, the most recent in an omnibus of three early novels (The Man Who Japed, Dr. Futurity and Vulcan’s Hammer) published in 2000. When Vintage and, later, Del Ray republished many of Phil’s novels in the 90s they skipped Dr. Futurity. The Berkley is the last American edition.

Phil did not think very highly of his novel. In 1981 he told Gregg Rickman, "Dr. Futurity – Well that’s just worthless. Again, it was an attempt to turn out a novel to make money. It was the state of the art at the time. That was the state at which science fiction was at that point." Nevertheless, he later explained to Scot Apel, "Whenever I write a book, I really write as well as I can. That even includes Vulcan’s Hammer, Dr. Futurity and The Unteleported Man. It isn’t that I say, ‘Well, I’m only paid three cents a word; what the fuck; crummy pay, crummy book.’ I really try to write a good book, but they don’t all come out good. The intent is not sufficient to guarantee a good result."

Reviewers at the time were of much the same mind. Damon Knight, somewhat surprisingly, gave it the most positive evaluation. Writing in the June 1960 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Knight while deploring the "less than plausible " plot and "frequent stylistic howlers" nevertheless praised Phil's "unexpected vividness and power." He remarked that "almost alone among s.f. writers to make the politics of his future worlds sound like more than perfunctory pieties." P. Schuyler Miller, in the October 1960 issue of Analog, thought "Some of the details of the future culture are brilliantly drawn; others, like the Latin-German-whatsit language, just don’t convince. By the end it’s a little hard to work out the score or even who’s up." In Worlds of If for July 1960, Frederik Pohl concluded, "Dick’s narrative is neither bald nor unconvincing. It is quite convincing. It is even hairy. What flaws the story is a really excessive troweling-on of time paradoxes, so that most everybody turns out to be almost anybody else."

These less-than-enthusiastic views were codified in the first edition of The Science Fiction Encyclopedia (1979). The citation for Phil includes the judgment, "PKD is a complex writer who sometimes seems to lose control of his work. He occasionally becomes trapped in ideative mazes and sidetracked, unable to find any kind of resolution – cardinal examples are Dr. Futurity…which leaves most of its questions unresolved and The Unteleported Man…." Lawrence Sutin dismisses the novel as "a potboiler that barely bubbles." Gregg Rickman, usually Phil’s most generous readers, merely says "The book is probably most interesting in its play on the themes of motherhood, abortion, sterility and genetic engineering, all concerns of Dick which the book rather unpleasantly hastens through." And Jonathan Lethem, while reviewing The Dark Haired Girl in the Spring 1979 issue of the PKDS Newsletter remarks, "I’m more comfortable imagining a new reader stumbling across, say, DR FUTURITY, than this…." I don’t believe he meant that as a compliment.

When it came time to expand "Time Pawn" into a novel, Phil recycled a great deal of his original work. The first five chapters of Dr. Futurity are essentially the same as the short story. The future is better defined, there is more detail about the society and the narrative is more logical. There are certain changes in the basic structure. Parsons is now in California rather than New York. He is only 400 years in the future instead of 700. Males are sterilized at the onset of puberty instead of at birth – someone must have pointed out the flaw in Phil’s earlier scheme. Gametes are still harvested based on success in the Lists – and the fact that the participants are pre-pubescent children continues to be ignored. To further the expanded plot the nature of the Cube government is changed. In "Time Pawn" it is essentially decent, even humane. In the novel it is much less so. It is now something of a police state using specially trained juveniles called "shupos" as vicious storm troopers. The woman, Icara, is shot not by a companion but by the shupos during a raid on a clandestine political meeting. The title "Stenog" is now a name, Al Stenog, and he is depicted as vaguely sinister and decadent, rather like an SS official. And the Cube government is aware of time travel. They initiated the experiments but abandoned it as unproductive.

Most of the key elements of the short story -- the culture of death, the operation of the Cube, Parsons' "crime" of restoring the injured and his sentence to exile on Mars – remain intact in the novel, sometimes uncomfortably so. It would appear that Phil had no desire to begin his novel from scratch and by using most of "Time Pawn" he had nearly a third of the novel written before he started.

The big changes begin in Chapter Six. Parsons is launched into space in an automated ship. But instead of being immediately knocked out of the sky the flight proceeds deep into space. Parsons is looking at Mars approaching on his view port when the planet suddenly disappears. After a time a second space ship comes along side. Two men enter and tell Parsons they are there in a time ship to rescue him. They explain they have transported Parsons’ ship into the future to avoid interference from the Earth government. But before they can continue both men are gunned down by a shupo hidden in the walls of the cabin. One of the rescuers manages to kill the shupo before dying, leaving Parsons totally alone, lost in space and time.

Parsons makes his way to the time ship and experiments with the controls. Eventually he lands the ship on a desolated planet that he assumes to be Mars. Searching the surface he discovers a stone marker with a message etched on metal addressed to him! It contains instructions for operating the time ship. A moon rises in the sky and Parsons sees that it is Earth’s moon. He is on a far-future Earth grown old and nearly lifeless, abandoned by mankind. Perplexed he returns to his vessel. Following the instructions he sends the time ship back into the past and emerges in the Wolf Clan’s stronghold to be met by Loris and much of the plot of "Time Pawn" continues. Again, Loris wants Parsons to revive the cold-pack preserved Corinth. The difference this time is that Corinth has been killed by an arrow through his heart. The arrow is still protruding from his chest. Once more Parsons is successful in restoring Corinth to life.

At this point, Dr. Futurity leaves behind the "Time Pawn" material and becomes a completely new work, albeit containing many of the previous characters. While Corinth is recovering from surgery he is killed again by an unseen assailant and once more by means of an arrow through his heart. Nixina then explains to Parsons that Corinth had originally been killed in 1579. He had been obsessed with stopping the English from colonizing North America and, using the time travel equipment, had gone back to the past to assassinate Francis Drake when he landed on the California coast. Dressed as an American Indian of the period, complete with bow and arrows, but armed with modern weapons, Corinth planned to kill the Englishman and so frighten off further incursions to the New World by Elizabethan explorers. Instead, he planned to populate the past with the Wolf Clan. In this way he hopes to prevent the near annihilation of the North American indigenous population by the English colonists. But alone on his way down to the beach he himself had been mysteriously killed. The Wolf Clan had brought him forward to his own time and put his body in cold-pack while they sought medical attention. His second death leads them to believe that his death is immutable by some law of time they don't understand. However, an analysis of the original arrow, which Parsons' had removed, shows that the weapon had been made with materials not available until the 20th Century. Corinth had been killed in the past, but not by someone from the past. His assassin had, like Corinth himself, come from the future.

In an attempt to discover who had killed Corinth, another expedition to 1579 is organized. They land at a slightly different spot so as not to meet themselves from the first attempt. Parsons goes down to the beach and meets Drake. Only it is not Drake; it's Al Stenog. Stenog has come to 1579 to stop Corinth. The Soul Cube government had finally perfected time travel for itself and, somehow learning of Corinth's plot to alter history has taken measures to prevent him so to preserve their culture. Shocked, Parsons runs away. As he climbs up the bluffs he meets Corinth. Parsons tries to stop him from reaching the beach where Stenog, armed with sophisticated weapons from his own era, awaits. But Corinth doesn't believe him and, seeing that Parsons is a white man, jumps to the conclusion that he is an enemy. He attacks Parsons and in the struggle Parsons accidentally kills him with one of Corinth's arrows. Parsons, horrified, realizes that he was the "assassin." He had come back in time to investigate the death of his patient only to become the instrument of his patient's death.

Loris and the rest of her party, now understanding the truth, abandon Parsons in the past. They drop him off slightly later in time, after Drake/Stenog has departed. Parsons wanders the beach for a day when suddenly a time ship appears. It is Loris, come back to rescue him. Parsons is not completely surprised. He knew he would somehow have to get back to the future because he realizes that he will also kill Corinth the second time. He is to be the unknown assailant who plunges a second arrow into the man as he lies recovering from surgery. He must do it; otherwise when Corinth awakes he will identify Parsons as the man who stabbed him in 1579.

Loris and Parsons return to the future. Seizing an opportunity, Parsons steals a time ship and returns to the evening of Corinth's surgery. He enters the room with an arrow ready to kill the helpless man. But he can't do it. He is unable to deliberately murder another human being, even to save his own life. He returns to the time ship but then realizes that someone did kill Corinth the second time. But who? Fine-tuning the controls of the time ship he returns to witness the murder and sees two strangers, a man and a woman, plunge the arrow into the victim's heart.

Finally, all is revealed. The strangers are Parsons' own grown-up twin children. Loris had returned to find Parsons in the 16th Century because she discovered she was pregnant with his children. After the children grow to adulthood they realize they must return to the near past to save their father by killing their grandfather. The society in which they live is much different from the culture Parsons first encountered. The medical arts were being clandestinely revived and a new ethical era was about to start. Forced sterilization of males would end; the Soul Cube would become voluntary and natural childbirth would be allowed. His children and their colleagues are responsible for this change and, using the time ship, have gone farther into the future and so know that they will ultimately triumph.

But Parsons himself will not be a part of this. He must return to his own time, albeit with access to a time ship so he could visit the future from time to time. He will have two families (and two wives), one in his "present" and one in his "future." Parsons does go back home. The book ends with him carefully constructing the stone marker that he will take to the far future on a dead Earth, the marker that will instruct him on how to operate the time ship after he escapes the Mars shuttle. For it is Parsons himself, knowing that someday he will need it, who will now create it in the first place.

In part one of this essay I suggested that Dr. Futurity ranked as Phil's "least successful novel." I base this opinion, in the first place, on the many internal inconsistencies in the work. Corinth's ultimate plan to prevent the colonization of North America by the British by assassinating Drake and his fellow explorers one by one is really ludicrous. How is this supposed to frighten the English? The death of one man or several could not possibly hold back ultimate colonization. Especially so as the Spanish have already taken Mexico and are exploiting its great wealth to solidify their power in Europe. Even supposing Corinth's plan had worked, such a vast alteration of the past would completely change the course of human history and negated the events that eventually lead to Corinth's own existence, not to mention the society and technology that make time travel possible. Parsons brings this issue up but Loris brushes him off. She claims the far future would not be terribly altered. This is absurd. If the British fail to colonize North America there would be no Thirteen Colonies, hence no United States. The world would certainly go on but to say history would not be radically changed makes no sense. Paradox is always an issue in sf time-travel stories. Phil notes that but, breathtakingly, moves right on, totally unconcerned.

The time ships are another problem. Do they work well or don't they? Bringing Parsons into the future was so inexact the conspirators actually lost him. But later on they can fine-tune their machines to an incredible degree, moving back and forth by minutes to arrive at a particular point in time. With all the jumping around from era to era it's sometime hard to keep track but, in biological time, Parsons' adventures unfold over the course of only a week or two.

What about Al Stenog? Is he Francis Drake or only impersonating him? Loris tells Parsons that Stenog "remained in Drake's place for ten years or so" in case Corinth made another attempt to change the past. If he is "Drake" born in the 25th Century than what happened to the real Drake, the one born in 1541 who fought the Spanish Armada?

The character of Jim Parsons does undergo a moral advancement. Unlike the fairly cold-blooded killing he performs in "Time Pawn," in the novel he harms no one, except accidentally while defending himself. Indeed, he consciously refuses to take Corinth's life a second time, even though it may well mean his own death.

The other problem with Dr. Futurity, in my view, is that the plot from the "Time Pawn" and the plot for the novel-length version simply do not adhere. "Time Pawn" is fundamentally about the future "death society." But the expanded material is not concerned with that aspect at all. Indeed, we never hear of it again until, perfunctorily, at the very end of the novel.

In retrospect it would have been far better for Phil to have scrapped his original novelette and begun the novel fresh. But it is clear that Phil's heart simply wasn't in this work. Unsatisfactory as the final results were, by recycling "Time Pawn" he already had one third of the novel out of the way. The remaining two-thirds really do have a "what the fuck; crummy pay, crummy book" feel to it. No wonder Wollheim was annoyed. And no wonder Vintage and Del Ray declined to ever bring it back into print.

This makes Mark Hurst's plans to "heavily revise and add some sex" plan for Dr. Futurity in 1979 rather problematic. Could Phil have done so? It seems unlikely. He remarked to Gregg Rickman concerning a planned re-write of The Unteleported Man, "I can't get back into the action-adventure stuff." Dr. Futurity would have been even a worse problem.

Phil began revising The Unteleported Man in 1979. Remember that UTM was part of the package of novels, including Dr. Futurity purchased that year for revision. What if he had attempted a revision of Dr. Futurity, as Hurst desired? Conceivably he could have concentrated on the "death society" elements of "Time Pawn" and totally recast the whole plot to change history. He had written on both elements in the not-too distant past. "The Pre-Persons," written in 1973, certainly depicts a "death society" and he tackled the time-travel theme again in "A Little Something for us Tempunauts" also written in 1973.

Consider what Phil was writing circa 1979. He completed VALIS in 1978. The next year he wrote "The Exit Door Leads In" and "Chains of Air, Web of Aether." In 1980 he completed The Divine Invasion, "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon" and "Rautaava's Case." Timothy Archer was finished in May 1981. In the winter of 1981 he returned to the revision of UTM, writing what became the first chapter of Lies, Inc. in which Rachmael ben Applebaum dreams he is a rat (or a rat dreams he is Rachmael ben Applebaum). Given these writings, was there any way Phil could have returned to Dr. Futurity and written a satisfactory revision? I don't know. There are certainly old-fashion sf tropes in some of the short stories from that time andin Phil’s novel The Divine Invasion. Lies both raises and dashes one's hopes. Much of it is, to me, incomprehensible. What revisions Phil did make only confuse the plot even more than in the original. But I find that first chapter to be wonderful, one of the funniest things Phil ever wrote. If Phil had seriously wanted to rewrite Dr. Futurity he would have to do exactly what he refused to do in 1959: scrap most of it and start fresh with a few key elements. In effect, he would have to write a brand new book. So, much as I would have loved to see "a heavily revised Dr. Futurity (changing the title to Time Pawn and adding some sex)," better by far if he had spent the time working on The Owl In Daylight.

Phil had reused one key element from this failed novel. In 1964 Corinth appeared again in the form of David Lantano of The Penultimate Truth. In a neat plot reversal, Lantano is a Cherokee Indian from the Sixteenth Century brought to the future to save society (in part by assassinating a man). Was Phil conscious of the parallels? Was he rehabilitating Corinth? If so, what a curious end to his old story.


    This article was originally conceived some years ago for Dave Hyde’s fabulous PKD zine, For Dickheads Only. Each issue of FDO concerned itself with one of Phil’s novels or short stories. Dave had just finished with Eye in the Sky and announced that The Man Who Japed would follow. I wasn’t really interested in Japed and it takes me forever to write anything anyway so I skipped ahead and told Dave I’d have something for him concerning Dr. Futurity. Alas, FDO went into cold-pac soon after and remains there still. I continued to think about Dr. Futurity and in 2001 decided to write the promised piece for the second issue of my PKD zine Simulacrum Meltdown. "The Doctor Will See You Now" originally appeared in Simulacrim Meltdown issues 2 and 3. It appears here revised. Perry Kinman very generously photocopied "Time Pawn" for me. This essay is dedicated to him with my great thanks. I am also indebted to Frank Hollander for saving me from the error of calling "Time Pawn" Phil’s longest story. His letter (printed in Simulacrum Meltdown number 3) is as follows:

"… I'd like to correct some statements in SimMelt #2 about the timing of "Vulcan's Hammer". First of all, there is definitely a long sf story that predates "Time Pawn", and that is "The Variable Man", from the pre-SMLA period. It is easily the longest story not later expanded into a novel (and I believe only because it was already used as the title story in a collection was it not ripe for such treatment). And I think "The Variable Man" (quite incorrectly listed as 2600 words in Levack, it probably should be 26,000) is even a little longer than the original "Vulcan's Hammer", which was substantially expanded for the novel version--it's a 60 page paperback story in the original version, 135 Ace double pages for the novel.

"As for the timing of "Vulcan's Hammer", Paul Williams dates it as "possibly 4/16/53", but Gregg Rickman reverses the dates, and lists 4/16/54 as the "alternate date of receipt". I've spent a bit of time trying to figure it out, and I think 4/16/53 is much more likely. PKD's production in 1953 was as follows (*** by the notable long stories):

"The Trouble with Bubbles" (1/13/53)

"Breakfast at Twilight" (1/17/53)

"A Present for Pat" (1/17/53)

"The Hood Maker" (1/26/53)

"Of Withered Apples" (1/26/53)

"Human Is" (2/2/53)

"Adjustment Team" (2/11/53)

"The Impossible Planet" (2/11/53)

"Imposter" (2/24/53)

"James P. Crow" (3/17/53)

"Planet for Transients" (3/23/53)

"Small Town" (3/23/53)

"Souvenir" (3/26/53)

"Survey Team" (4/3/53)

"Vulcan's Hammer" (4/16/53 [or 4/16/54]) ***

"Prominent Author" (4/20/53)

"Fair Game" (4/21/53)

"The Hanging Stranger" (5/4/53)

"The Eyes Have It" (5/13/53)

"Time Pawn" (6/5/53) ***

"The Golden Man" (6/24/53)

"The Turning Wheel" (7/8/53)

"The Last of the Masters (7/15/53)

"The Father-Thing" (7/21/53)

"Strange Eden" (8/4/53)

"A Glass of Darkness" (8/19/53) ***

"Tony and the Beetles" (8/31/53)

"Null-0" (8/31/53)


"To Serve the Master" (10/21/53)

"Exhibit Piece" (10/21/53)

"The Crawlers" (10/29/53)

"Sales Pitch" (11/19/53)

"Shell Game" (12/22/53)

"Upon the Dull Earth" (12/30/53)

"Foster, You're Dead" (12/31/53)"

"Vulcan's Hammer"’ fits almost as comfortably in sequence as "Time Pawn" and "A Glass of Darkness."

"I believe that the ’gap’ above is when he first starts slowing down with stories and working seriously on novels. He was working on Voices from the Street ca. 1952-53, and I think major work on that novel fits the 9/53 gap. He finished Solar Lottery by March '54, and I believe he was working on Mary and the Giant during a long gap in the Summer of '54. The World Jones Made was also finished by the end of the year. A longer short story like "Vulcan's Hammer" is not the focus of his writing by the time of Solar Lottery. It fits much better as an early longer sf work that never came together, and written before he was concentrating on making it as a novelist."

Frank’s remarks about "Vulcan’s Hammer" are in response to my original footnote which read: "Paul Williams dates "Vulcan’s Hammer" as being received by Meredith as of "4/16/54 – or possibly 4/16/53" but it’s hard to see how Phil could have managed the earlier date. Between January and May, 1953, Meredith received nineteen short stories in addition to "Time Pawn." Plus an additional fourteen by the end of December and the manuscript for what became The Cosmic Puppets. (On the other hand the manuscript for Quizmaster Take All (a.k.a. Solar Lottery, Phil’s full-length novel) arrived on 3/23/54 and if the latter date is indeed correct, he pounded out "Vulcan’s Hammer" in little more than three weeks." In retrospect the 1953 date doesn’t seem out of the question.

August 2002

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