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Book of Honor
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          


PKD Literary Links

Preview Chapter 1 of A Scanner Darkly online.

Who is Philip K. Dick? (Wikipedia article includes a bibliography of his short stories & novels.)

Robert Crumb's "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).

The Non-Science Fiction Novels of Philip K. Dick: a talk by Bruce Gillespie

Philip K Dick Fan Website: Articles, Essays, and Fiction

The philip k. dick walking tour of San Francisco

PKD Pictorial Bibliography (Book & Story Covers)

Charlie Kaufman screenplay for A Scanner Darkly (requires PDF reader).

Real Audio link: PKD "speed reading" an excerpt from A Scanner Darkly

PK Dicktionary: (a glossary of coined terms that appear in the novels of Philip K. Dick)

ISFDB bibliography of Philip K. Dick


Other PKD Reviews, Criticism, & Interviews


Frank Bertrand's Reviews

Richard Behrens on Philip K. Dick

PKD Interviews: by Erik Davis

PKD:The First Cyberpunk UFOlogist?


“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.” –Ubik (1970)

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – VALIS (1979)