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Born in Chicago, Illionis, Philip K. Dick has been lauded as one of the most imaginative and prolific American science fiction writer, completing more than 112 short stories and 30 novels throughout his career. Prior to his sci-fi career, he has written over half-a-dozen mainstream novels but without much success. Science fiction soon became his new playground for his philosophical speculations, and he gained his first major recognition with The Man in the High Castle (1962), a defining novel of the alternate history sub-genre that won him the prestigious Hugo Award.
Few writers have such significant impacts on contemporary philosophy as Dick does, and his works reflect ingenious ideas drawn from a wide variety indeed – from Buddhism, Kabbalism, Gnosticism, Taoism, theology and mysticism – and explores sociological, political and metaphysical themes. He was also known for drawing upon his own life experiences and addressing the nature of drug use, paranoia and schizophrenia.
Dick’s paranoid view of reality was revealed through his article 'Man, Android and Machine', where he wrote about sly and cruel creatures among us, whose "handshake is the grip of death, and their smile has the coldness of the grave,” and commented about the threads behind technological inventions. That perhaps explains his frequent use of alternate universes and simulacra as plot devices, wherein common, working inhabits fictional worlds people rather than galactic elites.
Other favourite themes include mental illness (possibly due to his own schizophrenic conditions) and drug use. The former permeates his works, especially in the 1964 novel Martain Time-Slip and Clans of the Alphane Moon, which centres on an entire society made up of descendants of lunatic asylum inmates. The latter could be attributed to purported mental illness and schizophrenia, and shouts out at readers in works like A Scanner Darkly and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
Packed with imaginative sci-fi elements that appeal to teenagers and adults alike. Since 1982, Dick has seen his works adapted into films. Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles AD 2019, where a licenced-to-kill policeman tracks down and destroys a group of intelligent robots who have returned to Earth.
Dick’s life is by and large a science fiction on its own. In March 1974 the writer claimed to have been contacted by an extraterrestrial force, a 'beam of pink light' theoretically originating from a satellite he calls VALIS: Vast Active Living Intelligence System. Call it occupational hazard if you may, but his works of literature and science fiction are certainly one of a kind; going beyond trite clichés and over explored themes of time travel and extraterrestrial worlds.
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