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Writing Date

Pub. Date





<Apr 9, 1954

Jul 1955

War Veteran


5750 wds



   "The Chromium Fence" reached the SMLA on April 9, 1954 and was first published in Imagination in July 1955. The story never resurfaced until THE COLLECTED STORIES in 1987.

    As for comments, we have those of the reader at the SMLA who thought "The Chromium Fence" was ‘a fine story that never quite attains any stature.’ The file card at the Agency also notes that Dick himself characterized "The Chromium Fence" as ‘a New Yorker story set in the future’ so the Agency suggested trying to sell the story to the New Yorker, then Esquire then Fred Pohl who was then preparing an anthology, then Horace Gold. Gregg Rickman notes that the story ended up at Imagination for $50.

    The story is a strange one of a man living in a future society where two factions, the Naturalists and the Purists vie for supremacy at the polls. The Naturalists believe in letting mankind be, well, natural, whereas the Purists cannot stand things like bad breath and sweat and wish to mandate that everyone have their sweat glands removed and other bodily functions sanitized. The Purists win the election and Don Walsh, the protagonist, who just wants to be left alone is turned in to the authorities by his own son and even though Walsh wants simply to live his life in peace, he cannot opt out of his society. In the end, despite being given an out by a state psychiatric robot, Walsh is rounded up by the police and eliminated.

    Perhaps this story is a comment by PKD on fascism or nazism. Later in several stories the character of the ‘Hitler youth’ will recur.

    "The Chromium Fence" rates

Other Magazine and Anthology appearances



TTHC      263

Dick's sub-agents at Scott Meredith felt free to comment on Dick's work as they received it. Some of the stories are rated: "G" for    "Good," "G plus" for better. Sometimes there are just comments, {...}
    "The Chromium Fence" is "a fine story that never quite attains any stature."
    {... ...}
    The agency, moreover, made more than one attempt to break their author through into the non-sf market.{...} Dick called "The Chromium Fence," according to its green card, "a New Yorker story set in the future," so the sub-agent advised trying it at the New Yorker just to see if it gets a bite. Then Esquire, then Pohl [Frederik Pohl, then editing an original anthology series], then Horace [Gold]...." It wound up at Imagination, for $50.

TTHC 275

    One of Dick's most obscure stories, never reprinted anywhere after its single appearance in the bottom-market Imagination (July 1955) -- at least until the advent of Dick's collected stories in 1987 -- is "The Chromium Fence." (This was the story Dick called "a New Yorker story," and that the agency tried at that magazine.)
    It's certainly an unusual story, even for Philip Dick, rooted as it is in very personal issues of hygiene. In the mode of the Kornbluth - Pohl satires, popular at the time, a current trend is magnified to absurd proportions, and made to dominate society: Dick sets one social faction's obsession with cleanliness against another factions desire to sweat and smell as a proof of manhood. Dick's protagonist, who just wants to be left alone, is destroyed for his presumption. In effect, he commits suicide. Dick's psychology, in this story, at least, seems revealed in a fugue state of withdrawal.


Collector’s Notes

Ken Lopez: "The Chromium Fence" in Imagination, Jul 1955 (1st). VG. Signed by author. $125

Rudy’s Books: "The Chromium Fence" in Imagination, Jul 1955 (1st). VG-F. $10

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