Philip K. Dick has become something of a cultural icon, a classic example of the artist becoming famous after he is dead. What is especially sad is the fact that PKD died before Blade Runner, the movie based on his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, was finished and released. There is no question that this movie started the process of putting PKD on the map in terms of a wider audience and he would have finally started to make some real money. Over the years, a massive industry devoted to the recording of PKD’s thoughts and ideas, and to the analysis of those thoughts and ideas, has developed. Extracts from PKD’s monumental Exegesis (an 8,000 page analysis of his own sanity and perception of reality following a series of visions he experienced in 1974) are available, along with numerous volumes of his letters, collections of interviews, biographies and analyses of PKD’s life and work. There is even a movie based on PKD’s life planned, starring Paul Giamatti as the man himself.
What makes What If Our World Is Their Heaven? special is the fact that it collects the very last known recorded interviews with PKD. He died two months after the recordings transcribed here. What you get is a rare insight into the workings of PKD’s mind; literally. Making the reading experience fascinating and frustrating in equal measure, Lee and Sauter have left in all the ums and ahs, all the trips to the kitchen to get a coffee or a glass of water, all the incredible digressions and all the joking about. The two biggest treats for PKD fans are his reactions to the rushes for Blade Runner, which he had recently seen, and his thoughts and ideas for the next novel (entitled The Owl in Daylight) he was going to write if he had lived. What emerges is a portrait of a man deeply involved with the investigation of the nature of reality. Dry as that sounds, it is actually an eye opener for anyone interested in the creative process. He really was on another planet, but all the more captivating for that.
What If Our World Is Their Heaven?: The Final Conversations of Philip K. Dick, edited by Gwen Lee and Doris Elaine Sauter (Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, pb, 204pp, €10.79)