“Science-fiction…comes of age”

by Michael Walsh

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

from: Vancouver Provence, Friday, February 18, 1972, p. 23

…Dick, 43, and the author of 36 novels and more than 110 short stories, is the convention’s guest of honor. He was a luncheon guest Thursday at UBC’s faculty club and during the afternoon he lectured groups of second, third-and-fourth-year students.

Saturday evening he speaks to the convention. His topic The Human and the Android — the contrast between the authentic person and the reflex machine.

His fellow science-fiction writers have paid tribute to him in a number of ways, calling him “one of the newest of the ‘old pros’,” “the first of the new wave,” and “the most consistently brilliant S-F writer in the world.” Dick made his writing debut in 1951 shortly after leaving the University of California.

He left, in fact, on a matter of principle. “As a state-supported college,” he explains, “the university required ROTC (U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training). I refused to participate and dropped out.”

In an interview with UBC’s Mike Bailey, Dick said, “I did not intend to become an S-F writer, but a fantasy and avant garde writer. The fantasy sold but did not pay. The avant garde stuff was no good. The S-F sold…”

Although Dick was well acquainted with the “old S-F,” his ideas and his prose style were his own. He did not write adventure, preferring movement in the inner mind rather than in outer space. His mental excursions were helped along by the emotional momentum of four broken marriages and, finally, a selection of hallucinogenic drugs.

Recently Dick has been living in San Raphael, Calif., gathering strength and material for what he sometimes calls his “final” book. His recent letters to various people connected with the local S-F convention have the tone of deep weariness and relentless sincerity.

To Hugo-winning author Ursula K. LeGuin, guest of honor at last year’s Vancouver convention, he wrote: “All three of us (Mrs. LeGuin, Dick and Fritz Leiber) to an extent write about evil — as for instance I did in The Three Stigmata (of Palmer Eldritch). We are usually concerned with what is good, the genuinely good, that which is overall worth our lives and work, our efforts both as writers and persons. I mean to talk about this at Vancouver in February. That is, I mean to discuss, as specifically as I can, what I find in the world that is evil…and that, only that I may then depict what most matters: what I believe in. There can be no awareness of evil without an abiding awareness of what is of positive value, I think. And, in addition to talking about it, I want, if I can, to bring with me a little girl who embodies for me what I believe in and am working to bring about as a kind of person — a nineteen-year-old friend of mine, Kathy Denuelle.”

To Bailey, he contributed a self-profile. Written in the third person, it concluded: “He is currently working day and night on his new novel simply called Kathy, named after the girl he is bringing with him to the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention Feb. 16. He had meant to bring with him someone representing the youth of America, but Kathy, he feels, represents more; all youth, all life to come in later time. The novel really does not exist as yet, except in his head, but Kathy does, and he hopes the people at the convention will welcome her and like her.

“About her, the people of the future world such as her, which he is sure will someday be, he would say this, quoting from an autobiographical sketch which he wrote but never got around to mailing off: “his greatest fear is that the dear, fine, quiet gentle people here and there who cheered him and encouraged him and comforted him when he was ready to give up will be forgotten while he will be remembered.” He would have it the other way.”

Conventioners do not seriously expect any resolution on the issue of Verne versus Wells or new versus old wave. They have no doubt, however, that Philip K. Dick will present a deeply moving, uncommonly memorable address.

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