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Sunday, June 17, 2012

My five-foot shelf of Philip K. Dick

I didn't think I'd start out doing a series of blog posts about writers I admired and influenced me, but the one on John D. MacDonald was popular, so I thought I'd do one about Philip K. Dick.

To be honest, I was looking for ways to promote 3 Very Quirky Tales and I always search for Philip K. Dick (PKD) sites because the first tale in my trilogy, Tell Us Everything is a sci-fi work in which I really tried to channel PKD.

One of the many things I admired about his writing is how quickly he could set a scene and grab the reader and not let go. I hope all three stories in Quirky (also on Smashwords) might grab you.

I encountered PKD in high school. That was in Larned, KS. Our access to books was the small library and then Knupp's Drug Store (yep, with a counter, cherry cokes and all that) that had a magazine sales rack and above the magazines a shelf for paperback books. I knew the day the salesman stopped by to bring in new books, so Wednesdays after school it was stop at Knupp's, get that cherry coke, and look at the new titles.

I was drawn to science fiction. I think the first PKD I read was Solar Lottery. It amazes me that I still have the first edition ace paperback, which cost 50c. We're talking a lot of moving around here and storing books while I was in Italy and Japan. We're talking about 50 years here.

PKD showed me that a writer could completely immerse a reader in word-created reality. And what a reality he created. It was a reality that made you question reality. I didn't read his books. I absorbed them.

There are many works out there discussing his books and his craft and his tortured brain. I could add nothing except this acknowledgement:

I have a bookcase of six shelves I built in my small den. Not enough room for all my books. Which ones to put there? I was reminded of Harold Bloom's, The Western Canon. This book has been viewed by some as a sort of list for literary elite snobs or his view of the most influential books. What I understood Bloom to be saying is because of the books he lists, we are the way we are today.

So that's how I looked at the books in my library. Which ones made me the way I am today? So on those shelves is the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald and one five-foot shelf is all PKD. And I turned on my son and so we both still collect, although rarely will you find the old paperbacks in any used bookstore. He's caught on. Also on those shelves is the Fu Manchu series by Sax Rohmer, the works of John Le Carre, Eric Remarque, and more (am I committing to a blog post about each? We'll see).

A Philip K. Dick festival is planned for this fall in San Francisco. Details here.


  1. what, no picture of the shelf?

  2. You're right. Must add, if you still believe in photographic evidence.

  3. Photo added. That's a 15-inch ruler sitting on the shelf, by the way. I regret this photo doesn't show the 5 hard bound copies I have of Man in the High Castle, none of them, unfortunately non-book club first editions.