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Writing Date

Pub. Date





<Apr 16, 1963


What The Dead Men Say

Stand By

4,000 wds



    On Apr 16, 1963 only a day after "Man With A Broken Match" arrived at the SMLA the Agency noted the reception of another short story, "Orpheus With Clay Feet." But this one was written by someone named Jack Dowland. After scratching their heads a bit and reading the story they realised that this story was indeed by Philip K. Dick but pretending to be Jack Dowland! Was this shades of CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST??? No, it’s Philip K. Dick having fun with the science fiction format, bleeding his fiction into reality by writing a story in which a crucial point is that the story be written by a fictional character!

    So, "Orpheus With Clay Feet" was first published in Escapade in 1964 as by ‘Jack Dowland.’ This was PKD’s first appearance in a so-called ‘Men’s Magazine’ and perhaps he wasn’t too unhappy to pose under a pseudonym. As a collector’s item I imagine this Escapade would now be quite valuable.

    After its initial publication the story was lost until THE COLLECTED STORIES were published in 1987.

    The story told in "Orpheus With Clay Feet" is really a mini-masterpiece. A loser of a man pays to take a trip back in time to inspire some historic genius in his or her art or science. His first choice (to inspire Beethoven to write his Choral Symphony) is already taken and he decides instead to go back and inspire one of the greats of Literature: the famous science fiction author Jack Dowland. Unfortunately he fails at this and actually uninspires the famous author so much that he gives up writing science fiction altogether! And in the histories of the future the name of Jack Dowland shrinks to a footnote and the once-great author dies an anonymous hack.

    But, undeterred, and espying a new angle for their business, the time-travel agency decides to add a new category to its offerings: uninspiration. They decide to send the loser back to uninspire Adolf Hitler. That is, if he pays first…

    A playful, loosely written story, "Orpheus With Clay Feet" got and won the Nebula Award back at the same 1956 convention in which Jack Dowland won Best Novel of The Year for his masterpiece of future history THE FATHER ON THE WALL.

Other magazine and Anthology appearances




Collector’s Notes


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