“Canada Gains A Noted Science Fiction Writer”

by Michael Walsh

Thanks to Frank Bertrand for contibuting this long-lost article to philipdick.com.

from: Vancouver Provence, Entertainment Arts column, Monday, February 21, 1972, p 25

….This year’s convention, held during the weekend at the Biltmore Motor Hotel, did not repeat that first jaunty display of nationalism. It did, however, attract an immigrant.

Author Philip K. Dick, the gathering’s guest of honor and keynote speaker, has decided to stay in Canada. Although Dick had previously discussed the possibility of such a move with convention planners, the apparent abruptness of his decision was a surprise.

According to Dick, he has been deeply impressed by this, his first trip to Vancouver. That, combined with a growing disenchantment with the United States, most forcefully expressed in his speech to the convention, led him to decide to stay.

Dick, 43, currently owns a home in the San Francisco suburb of San Rafael. Friday he made arrangements for its sale and is now actively searching for a new home here in Vancouver.

The Dick decision was one of the major conversation points Friday evening as conventioneers gathered for a showing of the 1936 film Things To Come and a social evening….

Most eagerly awaited was convention guest of honor Philip K. Dick. His talk, “The Human and the Android: The Contrast between the Authentic Person and the Reflex Machine,” had been delivered in a somewhat modified form Thursday at UBC but many of its conclusions were more sharply pointed in light of Dick’s decision to remain in Vancouver.

Though his talk was laced with a quick, absurdist wit, his ideas were serious and frightening. The android, he said, is an inauthentic human and “the production of such inauthentic human activity has become a science of government and such like agencies, now.

“The reduction of human beings to mere use — men made into machines, serving a purpose which although ‘good’ in an abstract sense has, for its accomplishment, employed what I regard as the greatest evil imaginable: the placing on what was a free man who laughed or cried and made mistakes and wandered off into foolishness and play, a restriction that limits him, despite what he may imagine or think, to the fulfilling of an aim outside of his own personal — however puny — destiny. As if, so to speak, history has made him into its instrument.”

Describing his life in contemporary California, Dick said, “The totalitarian society envisioned by George Orwell in 1984 should have arrived by now. The electronic gadgets are here. The government is here, ready to do what Orwell anticipated. So the power exists, the motive, and the electronic hardware.”

From this particularly bleak vision Dick emerges optimistic. Not all people can be made into androids.

“Becoming what I call, for lack of a better term, an android, means as I said, to allow oneself to become a means, or to be pounded down, manipulated, made into a means without ones knowledge or consent — the results are the same. But you cannot turn a human into an android if that human is going to break laws every chance he gets. Androidization requires obedience. And, most of all, predictability.

“If, as it seems we are, in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that’ll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities.”

In other words, said Dick, the lifestyles of today’s youth. As horrifying as it sounds for the conventional, the establishmentarian and the parental generation, “even the most base schemes of human beings are preferable to the most exacted tropisms of machines.”

According to Dick the preservation of humanity is preferable to the preservation of systems, possessions, principles, or positions. “Our flight must be not only to the stars but into the nature of our own beings. Because it is not merely where we go, to Alpha Centaurus or Betelgeuse, but what we are as we make our pilgrimages there. Our natures will be going there, too. ‘Ad astra’ — but ‘per hominem’. And we must never lose sight of that.”

58 thoughts on ““Canada Gains A Noted Science Fiction Writer”

  1. Like many sf writers,he was undoughtedly influenced by George Orwell and “Nineteen Eighty-four”,although it’s not been openly cited by Dick himself as far as I know.Like him though,he was interested in how all too human people would have the courage to survive and endure in totalitarian regimes.His statements,”the reduction of human beings to mere use,made into machines” and “becoming an android,means what I said,to allow oneself to become manipulated”,I think could be metaphors for Orwell’s feelings for the characters in his book.

    Dick though,can no more be called Orwellian than Orwell could be described as Dickian,but his influence on him is undeniable,especially in books like the “Penultimate Truth”.Unlike Orwell though,as Larry Sutin notes in his biography “Divine Invasions”,the supression of the masses might be for their own good:”they might be right and we are wrong”.

  2. An article from February, 1972! Very nice. Thanx for posting this on
    your site. P. K. Dick wrote “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, the
    novel which became “BladeRunner”. Interesting how the science-fiction
    writers saw our future. Here we are in 2022, and the wars are beginning,
    – both cultural and real.

    Our little analysis enterprise is concerned that we might be on the cusp
    of a really nasty economic downturn, rather like the 1930 to 1932 time
    period. We are researching the economics of the 1970’s. Mr. Dick could
    see the future – as well as write good stories about it. The 1970’s were a
    time of very great change – much of it bad.

    Nixon took USA off the gold standard in 1971, because he could not pay
    for the Vietnam War, while maintaining any sort of currency link to gold.
    This, combined with the 1973 “Arab Oil Shock” (where gasoline prices
    doubled, and then doubled again), resulted in a massive inflation, high
    unemployment, and reduced economic growth. Paul Volker eventually
    ended the inflation-run, by raising interest rates over 20%, and this
    destroyed over-leveraged businesses and indebted households, but
    economic sanity was restored. In the 1980’s – with Ron Reagan’s
    “Star Wars” projects (to make nuclear-weapon missiles obsolete) and
    a 40-year reduction in interest-rates down to below-zero, gave us all
    the greatest economic boom the world has ever seen in all of human
    history.

    Then we got the coronavirus plague, the mRNA vaccines, and here we
    are now, up to our global eyebrows in debt, and now ramping rates up
    to “fight inflation” – by raising everyone’s debt-service costs, while also
    taking Russia out of the global transactional economy. This could harm
    us all, we worry, in a number of curious ways.

    We are thinking that Phillip K. Dick might have written this story we are
    now thrashing around within. It feels a bit like it.

    We don’t have moon-rockets or even Space Shuttles – and if not for
    Elon Musk, we would not have any spaceships at all.
    NASA dropped the ball, and USA is turning inward to fight with
    itself, like an octopus eating it’s own arms. They fight about the “right”
    for women to kill their own unborn children. Is this not madness?
    And the Federal Reserve will now *raise* everyone’s debt-service costs,
    so as to fight rising prices. Can this possibly work? It reminds us of
    that comment from the 1970’s about the Vietnam War: “Fighting for
    peace, is like fucking for virginity.”
    We look at our world now, and think: “Our leaders don’t know Dick.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.