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Writing Date

Pub. Date





<Feb, 1981

Feb 1981

Fawn, Look Back


PKD’s last story



    1981, Philip K. Dick’s last full year on Earth, began with him writing one more short story: "The Alien Mind." According to Paul Williams this was the last short story that PKD ever wrote. It also has a strange genesis with Williams declaring that it was

    done at the request of a high school student Phil met while buying cat food at the grocery store.

    This statement has proven to be false, as we shall see in a moment.

    "The Alien Mind" did indeed make its first appearance in a high school periodical: The Yuba City High Times in Feb 1981. It was then sold to F & SF where it was accepted on April 23, 1981 and published in the Oct 1981 edition of F & SF.

    In 1982 "The Alien Mind" was reprinted in Edward L. Ferman’s THE BEST FROM FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, 24TH Series and was selected by Mark Hurst and Paul Williams for the Doubleday PKD collection, I HOPE I SHALL ARRIVE SOON in 1985.

    In 2002 PKD collector and scholar Frank Hollander published an article in PKD Otaku in which he decides to track down the truth of the ‘cat food’ origin of "The Alien Mind". With much diligence Hollander sought out a copy of The Yuba City High Times, discovering in passing that the origin of the ‘cat food’ statement was not Paul Williams but whoever wrote the blurb for the story when it appeared in F & SF. Here’s the blurb in full:

    This short and surprising tale grew from an encounter at a Santa Ana, CA grocery store, where the author was buying cat food and encountered a teenager who was editor of the Yuba City High School student paper and who was enterprising enough to ask Mr. Dick to write a story for the paper. Phil agreed, and here is the happy result (which will also appear in the Yuba City High School Times).

    By following clues on the internet Hollander found an Alumni group from Yuba City high school to whom he emailed his request for information. With this and good luck he got a reply from someone who actually had a stack of old Yuba City High Times newspapers in a box. The first one his correspondent pulled from the box was the issue in question dated Feb 20, 1981!

    Hollander also found out that the student who supposedly asked PKD for a short story in the grocery store was named Ben Adams, a freshman at the high school at the time who had nothing to do with the paper.

    With more effort Hollander actually found an address for Ben Adams on the internet and Hollander learned the real story. Adams also sent Hollander a copy of a letter PKD had written to Adams which referred to the short story:

    Enclosed you will find a short-short story that I wrote for you. Needless to say, I expect no monetary remuneration; go ahead and print it.

    Hollander asked Adams to write a brief description of his encounter with PKD. Adams consequently wrote of that in an article published in PKD Otaku directly after Hollander’s piece. In his article Adams takes us back to when he first met PKD as a boy in the 70s. His father, an Episcopal priest living in Santa Ana, knew Doris Sauter. As we’ve noted Doris Sauter was PKD’s girlfriend in the late 70s. She also knew that the young Benjamin Adams was a science fiction fan and she herself knew several science fiction writers: Ray Bradbury, Norman Spinrad, and Philip K. Dick.

    Adams had never heard of Philip K. Dick until his father left a first edition of DEUS IRAE laying around in his house. Adams read it and notes, now, that his father is the person who forms the basis for the character ‘Father Larry’ in VALIS.

    The 11-year old Adams actually met PKD at Thanksgiving in 1978 when the writer visited his house as Doris’ date. After dinner, to keep the boy quiet, PKD gave him paperback editions of his novels THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH and CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST which he signed.

    After the Adams family moved to Yuba City, Benjamin corresponded with Philip Dick, sending him his own short stories which PKD would critique. Adams ended up on the staff of the high school paper and without really thinking about it wrote to PKD asking him for a short story for the paper. PKD sent him the manuscript for "The Alien Mind."

    As for the ‘cat food’ anecdote Adams dismisses it as a fabrication of Ed Ferman, then the editor of F & SF.

    One more item concerns Adams and Dick, this was the dedication in THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER which is from the poem "An Ode To Him" by the 17th century poet Robert Herrick which begins, "Ah Ben!" Adams believes this was meant for him.

    We certainly thank Hollander and Adams for clearing up the ‘cat food’ mystery.

Other Magazine and Anthology appearances.    More Cover Pix: aaaPKDickBooks.jpg (3234 bytes)

1982   THE BEST FROM F & SF, 24th Series,Doubleday, ?, ? 1982, ?, ?, (?) {Ed. Ferman}
1987 Oct MagicalBlend17.jpg (14126 bytes) MAGICAL BLEND #17
1991   WE CAN REMEMBER IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE {Grafton edition only}


PKDS-8 9

    "The Alien Mind," the last story Phil ever wrote, was done at the request of a high school student Phil met while buying cat food at the grocery store. It first appeared in the Yuba City High Times, Feb 1981, and was later reprinted in F&SF. {Paul Williams}

PKD OTAKU # 7, Nov 2002, p3ff, ‘Stalking the PKD Fiction oddities: Part 1 (Yuba City High Times)’ by Frank Hollander. See also the Oct 1981 F & SF.

PKD OTAKU # 7, Nov 2002, p5ff, ‘Nobly Wild, Not Mad: Memories of Philip K. Dick’ by Benjamin Adams. Adams is now a writer and editor of horror stories, appearing in such anthologies as BLOOD MUSE, DARK THEATRES and HORRORS! 365 SCARY STORIES. He was also co-editor of THE CHILDREN OF CTHULHU which was published by Del Rey in 2002.

Collector’s Notes

Barry Levin: "The Alien Mind" in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Oct 1981. NF. The story is SIGNED and inscribed by Philip K. Dick to the parents of Tim Powers, friend and fellow author. Housed in handsome portfolio with ribbon ties. $250

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