A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick
"Once a man stood in the middle of the room and
tried all day to get the aphids out of his hair. His doctor told him
he had absolutely no aphids in his hair. After he had taken a shower
for eight hours, standing under hot water hour after hour suffering
the pain of the aphids, he got out and dried himself, and he still had
aphids in his hair; in fact, he had aphids all over him. A month later
he had aphids in his lungs."
I checked my German-English dictionary. That's what the words meant,
but I couldn't believe it. I must have missed an idiomatic translation
somewhere. No dice. Aphids. That's what it said. I gave up. I wasn't able
to handle that level of oddness in a language that wasn't my native tongue.
That was my first experience of A Scanner Darkly, or Der Dunkle Schirm
in my edition, back in the days when Philip K. Dick's books were mostly
out of print and you grabbed them when you could find them. Even if they
were in German. When I finally found a copy in English, I found I'd translated
it right after all. ("Once a man stood all day, shaking bugs out of his
hair.") That's how it begins, and it's not supposed to make the kind of
sense you might expect from the first line of a novel. This is not a book
about uber-competent heroes saving the world; it's about regular, damaged
people trying to save themselves. All the familiar themes that draw people
to Dick's work -- religious, humanist, and reality-bending -- are in this
book, pared down to some of their bare essentials. Top that off with a
critique of both drug policy and the drug culture, add a dollop of untranslated
German, and some of the most chilling descriptions of personality breakdown
in the literature, and you have a fascinating and troubling book...in
any language. Time seems finally to have come into joint with Phil Dick,
as his most paranoid suspicions become more and more realistic-sounding,
Hollywood picks up his works to turn into movies, and (thank goodness)
his work comes back into print. A Scanner Darkly is the Potlatch
14 book of honor, and I look forward to hearing the discussions, thoughts,
and arguments it sparks. May you enjoy reading it, and don't worry --
there are no bugs in your hair.
-- Steven Schwartz
1 of A Scanner Darkly online.
Who is Philip K.
Dick? (Wikipedia article includes a bibliography of his short stories
"The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick"
PKDS - The Philip K. Dick
Society Newsletter (includes. link to Paul Williams' Only Apparently
Real -- long conversations with PKD).
Fiction Novels of Philip K. Dick: a talk by Bruce Gillespie
Dick Fan Website: Articles, Essays, and Fiction
The philip k. dick walking tour
of San Francisco
PKD Pictorial Bibliography
(Book & Story Covers)
screenplay for A Scanner Darkly (requires PDF reader).
link: PKD "speed reading" an excerpt from A Scanner Darkly
Dicktionary: (a glossary of coined terms that appear in the novels
of Philip K. Dick)
of Philip K. Dick
Other PKD Reviews, Criticism,
PHILIP K. DICK’S
A SCANNER DARKLY: BETWEEN THEOLOGY AND PARANOIA
Behrens on Philip K. Dick
by Erik Davis
PKD:The First Cyberpunk
“We are served by organic ghosts, he thought, who, speaking and writing,
pass through this our new environment. Watching, wise, physical ghosts
from the full-life world, elements of which have become for us invading
but agreeable splinters of a substance that pulsates like a former heart.”
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
– VALIS (1979)