I’ve been meaning to repost two interviews I did, one with professor Richard Doyle and the other with Erik Davis. Both authors have made some extensive commentary on the writings of Philip K. Dick where, arguably, others in the genre of science fiction commentary dare not tread: the so-called high-weirdness of Dick’s experiences with VALIS, and his subsequent real-life journal dubbed The Exegesis which goes on to describe his complicated personal theology (and ramblings) that Dick developed in the last years of his life.
Books like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, VALIS, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch are examples of Dick’s philosophical and theological questioning, but they’re rooted in downright strange experiences he had concerning a Christian fish symbol and a beam of otherworldly pink light that he claims blasted his mind on 2-3-74. He dubbed this the “Vast, Active, Living Intelligence System,” or the acronym V.A.L.I.S. for short.
And therefore, books like VALIS and Radio Free Albemuth are practically embellished autobiographies.
Erik Davis is the author of TechGnosis and something of a journalist for the “consciousness culture” of high weirdness, alt. scenes, psychonautic spiritual counter-cultures at places like Burning Man. He’s recently been finishing up his Religious Studies PhD at Rice University (where I have my sights set on) on P.K.D., Robert Anton Wilson and other counter-cultural icons of “high-weirdness” who occupied the strange decade that was the 1970s.
Earlier this year I reached out to Prof. Richard Doyle, who edited Dick’s Exegesis and directs the ZebraPedia project, a “collective scholarship” of The Exegesis (YOU can sign up for this project. FYI.) Doyle was kind enough to answer my questions in this neat video.
What’s that? You want more…? Well, darn. I can’t write fast enough. Nor read, for that matter, but I would definitely recommend a book, this one by a Rice University professor Dr. Jeffrey Kripal: Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal. I read it for the first time last year (right around Christmas, truthfully), and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve read it on my Kindle, but I hear the hard-copy, with color photographs of comics and other 20th century scifi artwork, is worth the price. Here’s Kripal talking about the book.
I’ve obviously geeked out on this long enough for a “short” blog post. Happy readings!
PS: I’d like to know how many of you who’ve bumped across this article have been drawn to this weird element of scifi literature – arguably at the core PKD. The uncanny that evolved into literary genre movements like transrealism and slipstream (see Margaret Atwood’s excellent In Other Worlds) is rooted in an uncanny view(s) and portals that lie lurking behind our world.