The sci-fi writer who was a rat

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Apr 24 07:49:39 MDT 2001


Lingua Franca, Volume 11, No. 4-May/June 2001

Marxist Literary Critics Are Following Me! How Philip K. Dick betrayed his
academic admirers to the FBI.
by Jeet Heer

WHEN THE NOVELIST PHILIP K. DICK DIED IN 1982, THE INFLUENTIAL literary
theorist Fredric Jameson eulogized him as "the Shakespeare of science
fiction." At the time of this encomium, Dick was hardly famous. The author
of more than fifty books, he had an enthusiastic following among science
fiction fans. But he was rarely read by anyone else.

These days, Dick is far better known. Vintage publishes his fiction in a
uniform paperback edition. Hollywood filmmakers transform his stories of
imaginary worlds and conspiratorial cartels into movies like Screamers and
Total Recall. Meanwhile, academic critics laud him as a postmodernist
visionary, a canny prophet of virtual reality, corporate espionage, and the
schizoid nature of identity in a digitized world. Indeed, beginning in the
last years of his life and continuing to the present, these critics have
played a key role in the canonization of Philip K. Dick.

But did Dick return the favor? Not exactly. To their considerable anguish,
Dick's academic champions have had to contend with the revelation that
their hero wrote letters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation denouncing
them. In these letters, Dick claimed that Jameson and other literary
theorists were agents of a KGB conspiracy to take over American science
fiction. When he sent these messages, Dick was not in the best state of
mind: He frequently heard voices and saw visions, often bathed in a
mysterious pink light. Even so, the news of his surreptitious campaign
against his academic admirers has left some of them deeply disturbed.

In his fiction, Dick had a genius for turning reality upside down and
inside out, writing novels in which time runs backward or the Nazis win
World War II. Yet the celebrated "reality breakdowns" of Dick's novels seem
normality itself compared with the bizarre, unsettling missives he sent to
the authorities in Washington, D.C. The laureate of radical postmodernism
was, it turns out, a stool pigeon.

Full article: http://www.linguafranca.com/print/0105/cover.html


Louis Proyect
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