Philip K. Dick

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Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, and very often, in fact almost … perpetually, he deliberately deceives himself about that precious little fragment as well.

Philip Kindred Dick (16 December 19282 March 1982) was an American writer, whose published works mainly belong to the genre of science fiction. Dick explored philosophical, sociological and political themes in novels with plots dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states of consciousness. In his later works, Dick's thematic focus tended to reflect his personal interest in metaphysics and theology.

See also:
The Last of the Masters (1954)
The Man in the High Castle (TV series) (2015-)
Film adaptations:
Blade Runner (1982)
Total Recall (1990)
Minority Report (2002)
Paycheck (2003)
A Scanner Darkly (film) (2006)
Next (2007)
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Total Recall (2012)


In one of the most brilliant papers in the English language Hume made it clear that what we speak of as "causality" is nothing more than the phenomenon of repetition.
Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.
Spinoza saw... that if a falling stone could reason, it would think, "I want to fall at the rate of thirty-two feet per second."
My major preoccupation is the question, "What is reality?"
  • Can any of us fix anything? No. None of us can do that. We're specialized. Each one of us has his own line, his own work. I understand my work, you understand yours. The tendency in evolution is toward greater and greater specialization. Man's society is an ecology that forces adaptation to it. Continued complexity makes it impossible for us to know anything outside our own personal field — I can't follow the work of the man sitting at the next desk over from me. Too much knowledge has piled up in each field. And there are too many fields.
    • "The Variable Man" (1952), The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, v.1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford (1987)
  • Doctor Labyrinth, like most people who read a great deal and who have too much time on their hands, had become convinced that our civilization was going the way of Rome. He saw, I think, the same cracks forming that had sundered the ancient world, the world of Greece and Rome; and it was his conviction that presently our world, our society, would pass away as theirs did, and a period of darkness would follow.
    • "The Preserving Machine" (1953), The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, v.1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford (1987)
  • One long-past innocent day, in my prefolly youth, I came upon a statement in an undistinguished textbook on psychiatry that, as when Kant read Hume, woke me forever from my garden-of-eden slumber. "The psychotic does not merely think he sees four blue bivalves with floppy wings wandering up the wall; he does see them. An hallucination is not, strictly speaking, manufactured in the brain; it is received by the brain, like any 'real' sense datum, and the patient act in response to this to-him-very-real perception of reality in as logical a way as we do to our sense data. In any way to suppose he only 'thinks he sees it' is to misunderstand totally the experience of psychosis."
    • "Drugs, Hallucinations, and the Quest for Reality" (1964). Reprinted in Sutin, Lawrence, ed (1995). The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick''.  Dick quotes from an unknown psychiatric text.
  • Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.
    • "What The Dead Men Say" (1964)
  • In one of the most brilliant papers in the English language Hume made it clear that what we speak of as 'causality' is nothing more than the phenomenon of repetition. When we mix sulphur with saltpeter and charcoal we always get gunpowder. This is true of every event subsumed by a causal law — in other words, everything which can be called scientific knowledge. "It is custom which rules," Hume said, and in that one sentence undermined both science and philosophy.
    • From "The Day the Gods Stopped Laughing", an unpublished article written in the late 1960s. Quoted in Rickman, Gregg (1989). To the High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life, 1928–1962. 
  • I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.
    • "Self Portrait" (1968), reprinted in Sutin, Lawrence, ed (1995). The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick''. 
  • What about [my] books? How do I feel about them?
    I enjoyed writing all of them. But I think that if I could only choose a few, which, for example, might escape World War Three, I would choose, first, Eye in the Sky. Then The Man in the High Castle. Martian Time-Slip (published by Ballantine). Dr. Bloodmoney (a recent Ace novel). Then The Zap Gun and The Penultimate Truth, both of which I wrote at the same time. And finally another Ace book, The Simulacra.
    But this list leaves out the most vital of them all: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. I am afraid of that book; it deals with absolute evil, and I wrote it during a great crisis in my religious beliefs. I decided to write a novel dealing with absolute evil as personified in the form of a "human." When the galleys came from Doubleday I couldn't correct them because I could not bear to read the text, and this is still true.
    Two other books should perhaps be on this list, both very new Doubleday novels: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and another as yet untitled [Ubik]. Do Androids has sold very well and has been eyed intently by a film company who has in fact purchased an option on it. My wife thinks it's a good book. I like it for one thing: It deals with a society in which animals are adored and rare, and a man who owns a real sheep is Somebody. . . and feels for that sheep a vast bond of love and empathy. Willis, my tomcat, strides silently over the pages of that book, being important as he is, with his long golden twitching tail. Make them understand, he says to me, that animals are really that important right now. He says this, and then eats up all the food we had been warming for our baby. Some cats are far too pushy. The next thing he'll want to do is write SF novels. I hope he does. None of them will sell.
    • "Self Portrait" (1968), reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), ed. Lawrence Sutin
  • Spinoza saw... that if a falling stone could reason, it would think, "I want to fall at the rate of thirty-two feet per second."
    • "The Android and the Human" (1972), reprinted in The Dark-Haired Girl (1988) and in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), ed. Lawrence Sutin
  • I started reading SF when I was about twelve and I read all I could, so any author who was writing about that time, I read. But there's no doubt who got me off originally and that was A. E. van Vogt. There was in van Vogt's writing a mysterious quality, and this was especially true in The World of Null A. All the parts of that book did not add up; all the ingredients did not make a coherency. Now some people are put off by that. They think that's sloppy and wrong, but the thing that fascinated me so much was that this resembled reality more than anybody else's writing inside or outside science fiction. ... reality really is a mess, and yet it's exciting. The basic thing is, how frightened are you of chaos? And how happy are you with order? Van Vogt influenced me so much because he made me appreciate a mysterious chaotic quality in the universe which is not to be feared.
  • These creatures are among us, although morphologically they do not differ from us; we must not posit a difference of essence, but a difference of behavior. In my science fiction I write about about them constantly. Sometimes they themselves do not know they are androids. Like Rachel Rosen, they can be pretty but somehow lack something; or, like Pris in We Can Build You, they can be absolutely born of a human womb and even design androids — the Abraham Lincoln one in that book — and themselves be without warmth; they then fall within the clinical entity "schizoid," which means lacking proper feeling. I am sure we mean the same thing here, with the emphasis on the word "thing." A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.
    • "Man, Androids and Machine" (1975), reprinted in Sutin, Lawrence, ed (1995). The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick''. 
  • My major preoccupation is the question, 'What is reality?' Many of my stories and novels deal with psychotic states or drug-induced states by which I can present the concept of a multiverse rather than a universe. Music and sociology are themes in my novels, also radical political trends; in particular I've written about fascism and my fear of it.
    • Statement of 1975 quoted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 8, Part 1 (1981)
  • People just have no criterion left to evaluate the importance of things. I think the only thing that would really affect people would be the announcement that the world was going to be blown up by the hydrogen bomb. I think that would really affect people. I think they would react to that. But outside of that, I don't think they would react to anything. "Peking has been wiped out by an earthquake, and the RTD — the bus strike is still on." And some guy says, "Damnit! I'll have to walk to work!"
  • I think that, like in my writing, reality is always a soap bubble, Silly Putty thing anyway. In the universe people are in, people put their hands through the walls, and it turns out they're living in another century entirely. ... I often have the feeling — and it does show up in my books — that this is all just a stage.
    • Interview, Science Fiction Review (August 1976)
  • Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.
    • Letter to Patricia Warrick (17 May 1978), as published in Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1977–1979 (1993)
  • I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. Okay, so I should revise my standards, I'm out of step. I should yield to reality. I have never yielded to reality. That's what science fiction is all about.
    • "Now Wait for This Year", introduction to the anthology The Golden Man (1980)
  • Here I am saying that mutants are dangerous to us ordinaries, a view which John W. Campbell, Jr. deplored. We were supposed to view them as our leaders. But I always felt uneasy as to how they would view us. I mean, maybe they wouldn't want to lead us. Maybe from their superevolved lofty level we wouldn't seem worth leading. Anyhow, even if they agreed to lead us, I felt uneasy as where we would wind up going. It might have something to do with buildings marked SHOWERS but which really weren't.
  • Premise: Paul of Tarsus does not have his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, is not converted to Christianity, continues to persecute it as Saul, never writes his Christian letters but instead leaves a canon of anti-Christian letters. This is what caused an alternate world to branch off.
  • Well, I hate to admit it, but it is possible that there is (one) such a thing as telepathy and (two) that the CETI project's idea that we might communicate with extraterrestrial beings via telepathy is possibly a reasonable idea—if telepathy exists and if ETIs exist. Otherwise we are trying to communicate with someone who doesn't exist with a system which doesn't work.
Cris didn't want to play. He never played. He was off in a world of his own, a world into which none of them could come.
He was by himself always. Remote, detached, aloof. Seeing past everyone and everything — that is, until all at once something clicked and he momentarily rephased, reentered their world briefly.
We'll know homo superior when he comes — by definition. He'll be the one we won't be able to euth.
First published in If : Worlds of Science Fiction (April 1954) · Full text online at Wikisource · The 2007 film Next is a very loose adaptation of this story.
He had reached a critical region; he was about to move through worlds of intricate complexity.
  • Cris didn't want to play. He never played. He was off in a world of his own, a world into which none of them could come. He never joined in anything, games or chores or family activities. He was by himself always. Remote, detached, aloof. Seeing past everyone and everything — that is, until all at once something clicked and he momentarily rephased, reentered their world briefly.
  • Cris didn't play fair. He had watched half an hour — then come out and thrown once. One perfect toss, one dead ringer.
  • "No communication." Baines was sweating. "In eighteen years there hasn't been any semantic bridge between you? Does he have any contact? Signs? Codes?"
    "He — ignores us. He eats here, stays with us. Sometimes he plays when we play. Or sits with us. He's gone days on end. We've never been able to find out what he's doing — or where. He sleeps in the barn — by himself."
  • For a moment he studied the massive figure who stood calmly between the two Civil Policemen. Beside him, they seemed to have shrunk, become ungainly and repellent. Like dwarves... What had Jean said? A god come to earth. Baines broke angrily away. "Come on," he muttered brusquely. "This one may be tough; we've never run up against one like it before. We don't know what the hell it can do."
  • "His brain pattern has been fully scanned. But it takes time for them to plot it out. We're all running around like lunatics while he just sits there!" Wisdom poked a stubby finger at the window. "We caught him easily enough. He can't have much, can he? But I'd like to know what it is. Before we euth him."
    "Maybe we should keep him alive until we know."
    "Euth in forty-eight hours," Wisdom repeated stubbornly. "Whether we know or not. I don't like him. He gives me the creeps."
  • Somebody high up was toying with the idea of allowing them to breed. Some sort of industrial use. We withheld euth for years. But Cris Johnson stayed alive outside our control. Those things at Denver were under constant scrutiny.
  • "The Neanderthal probably thought the Cro-Magnon man had merely an improved line. A little more advanced ability to conjure up symbols and shape flint. From your description, this thing is more radical than a mere improvement."
    "This thing," Baines said slowly, "has an ability to predict. So far, it's been able to stay alive. It's been able to cope with situations better than you or I could. How long do you think we'd stay alive in that chamber, with energy beams blazing down at us? In a sense it's got the ultimate survival ability. If it can always be accurate —"
  • The chamber was an inferno of energy. The figure had completely disappeared. Wisdom waited a moment, then nodded to the technicians operating the cube. They touched guide buttons and the muzzles slowed and died. Some sank back into the cube. All became silent. The works of the cube ceased humming.
    Cris Johnson was still alive. He emerged from the settling clouds of ash, blackened and singed. But unhurt. He had avoided each beam. He had weaved between them and among them as they came, a dancer leaping over glittering sword-points of pink fire. He had survived.
  • "He's too far ahead of us. We can't compete with him." Wisdom's eyes were bleak. "We can only guess what's going to happen. He knows. For him, it's a sure thing. I don't think it'll help him at euth, though. The whole stage is flooded simultaneously. Instantaneous gas, released throughout." He signalled impatiently to the guards. "Get going. Take him down right away. Don't waste any time."
  • "We were always afraid a mutant with superior intellectual powers would come along," Baines said reflectively. "A deeve who would be to us what we are to the great apes. Something with a bulging cranium, telepathic ability, a perfect semantic system, ultimate powers of symbolization and calculation. A development along our own path. A better human being."
    "He acts by reflex," Anita said wonderingly. She had the analysis and was sitting at one of the desks studying it intently. "Reflex — like a lion. A golden lion." She pushed the tape aside, a strange expression on her face. "The lion god."
    "Beast," Wisdom corrected tartly. "Blond beast, you mean."
    "He runs fast," Baines said, "and that's all. No tools. He doesn't build anything or utilize anything outside himself. He just stands and waits for the right opportunity and then he runs like hell."
    "This is worse than anything we've anticipated," Wisdom said. His beefy face was lead-gray. He sagged like an old man, his blunt hands trembling and uncertain. "To be replaced by an animal! Something that runs and hides. Something without a language!" He spat savagely. "That's why they weren't able to communicate with it. We wondered what kind of semantic system it had. It hasn't got any! No more ability to talk and think than a — dog."
  • "He can look ahead. See what's coming. He can — prethink. Let's call it that. He can see into the future. Probably he doesn't perceive it as the future."
    "No," Anita said thoughtfully. "It would seem like the present. He has a broader present. But his present lies ahead, not back. Our present is related to the past. Only the past is certain, to us. To him, the future is certain. And he probably doesn't remember the past, any more than any animal remembers what happened."
    "As he develops," Baines said, "as his race evolves, it'll probably expand its ability to prethink. Instead of ten minutes, thirty minutes. Then an hour. A day. A year. Eventually they'll be able to keep ahead a whole lifetime. Each one of them will live in a solid, unchanging world. There'll be no variables, no uncertainty. No motion! They won't have anything to fear. Their world will be perfectly static, a solid block of matter."
    "And when death comes," Anita said, "they'll accept it. There won't be any struggle; to them, it'll already have happened."
  • He was always moving, advancing into new regions he had never seen before. A constantly unfolding panorama of sights and scenes, frozen landscapes spread out ahead. All objects were fixed. Pieces on a vast chess board through which he moved, arms folded, face calm. A detached observer who saw objects that lay ahead of him as clearly as those under foot.
    Right now, as he crouched in the small supply closet, he saw an unusually varied multitude of scenes for the next half hour. Much lay ahead. The half hour was divided into an incredibly complex pattern of separate configurations. He had reached a critical region; he was about to move through worlds of intricate complexity.
  • In one dim scene he saw himself lying charred and dead; he had tried to run through the line, out the exit.
    But that scene was vague. One wavering, indistinct still out of many. The inflexible path along which he moved would not deviate in that direction. It would not turn him that way.
    The golden figure in that scene, the miniature doll in that room, was only distantly related to him. It was himself, but a far-away self. A self he would never meet. He forgot it and went on to examine the other tableau.
    The myriad of tableaux that surrounded him were an elaborate maze, a web which he now considered bit by bit. He was looking down into a doll's house of infinite rooms, rooms without number, each with its furniture, its dolls, all rigid and unmoving.
  • She could kill him easily. But the lash-tube wavered. Cris Johnson stood without fear; he wasn't at all afraid. Why not? Didn't he understand what it was? What the small metal tube could do to him?
    "Of course," she said suddenly, in a choked whisper. "You can see ahead. You know I'm not going to kill you. Or you wouldn't have come here."
  • "You don't go by odds. You know what's coming. You've seen the cards already." She studied his face intently. "No, you can't be cold-decked. It wouldn't be possible."
  • "Maybe his characteristics are recessive. Maybe ours will cancel his out."
    "I wouldn't lay any money on that," Baines said. "I think I know already which of the two strains is going to turn up dominant." He grinned wryly. "I mean, I'm making a good guess. It won't be us."
An error occurred. And now a serious problem exists. You have seen these things. You know a great deal. And you are not coordinated with the new configuration.
Full text online at Wikisource · The 2011 film The Adjustment Bureau was an adaptation of this story
  • You saw something you were not supposed to see — something few elements have been aware of, let alone witnessed.
  • You were supposed to have been in the Sector when the adjustment began. Because of an error you were not. You came into the Sector late — during the adjustment itself. You fled, and when you returned it was over. You saw, and you should not have seen. Instead of a witness you should have been part of the adjustment. Like the others, you should have undergone changes.
  • "I get the picture." His voice was almost inaudible. A chilling premonition moved through him. "I was supposed to be changed like the others. But I guess something went wrong."
    "Something went wrong. An error occurred. And now a serious problem exists. You have seen these things. You know a great deal. And you are not coordinated with the new configuration."
    "Gosh," Ed muttered. "Well, I won't tell anybody." Cold sweat poured off him. "You can count on that. I'm as good as changed."
  • Our methods may seem strange and indirect. Even incomprehensible. But I assure you we know what we're doing.
  • "You are certain you can keep the truth from her?"
    "Sure," Ed said confidently. "I know I can."
    "All right." The Old Man nodded slowly. "I will send you back. But you must tell no one." He swelled visibly. "Remember: you will eventually come back to me — everyone does, in the end — and your fate will not be enviable."
All page numbers from the 2003 Vintage trade paperback edition
  • Ramp hawkers were peddling “methods,” low priced sure-fire theories guaranteed to predict bottle twitches and beat the whole Minimax game. The hawkers were ignored by the hurrying throngs of people; anybody with a genuine system of prediction would be using it, not selling it.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 4)
  • In the early twentieth century the problem of production had been solved; after that it was the problem of consumption that plagued society. In the 1950s and '60s, consumer commodities and farm products began to pile up in vast towering mountains all over the Western World. As much as possible was given away — but that threatened to subvert the open market. By 1980, the pro tem solution was to heap up the products and burn them: billions of dollars of worth, week after week.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 16)
  • Skill is a function of chance. It's an intuitive best-use of chance situations.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 60)
  • “But what are you supposed to do in a society that’s corrupt? Are you supposed to obey corrupt laws? Is it a crime to break a law that’s a rotten law, or an oath that’s rotten?
    “It’s a crime,” Cartwright admitted slowly. “But it may be the right thing to do.”
    “In a society of criminals,” Shaeffer offered, “the innocent man goes to jail.”
    “Who decides when the society is made up of criminals? Benteley demanded. “How do you know when your society has gone wrong? How do you know when it’s right to stop obeying the laws?”
    “You just know,” Rita O'Neill said fiercely.
    • Chapter 14 (pp. 156-157)
  • “We should celebrate,” Rita said.
    “Yes. I'm where I wanted to be.” Benteley sipped the remains of his drink. “Working for the Directorate. Sworn in to the Quizmaster. That’s what I set out for, that day. It seems like a long time ago. Well, I've finally arrived.” He gazed down at his glass and was silent.
    “How do you feel?”
    “Not much different.”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 176)
  • I'm a sick man. And the more I see, the sicker I get. I'm so sick I think everybody else is sick and I'm the only healthy person. That's bad off, isn't it?
  • I'm a strange person. Sometimes I hardly know what I'm going to do or say next. Sometimes I seem a stranger to myself. Sometimes what I do surprises me and I can't understand why I do it.
  • Odd that the brain could function on its own, without acquainting him with its purposes, its reasons. But the brain was an organ, like the spleen, heart, kidneys. And they went about their private activities. So why not the brain?
  • An Irishman hears that the banks are failing. He runs into the bank where he keeps his money and demands every cent of it. 'Yes sir,' the teller says politely. 'Do you want it in cash or in the form of a check?' The Irishman replies: 'Well, if you have it, I don't want it. But if you haven't got it, I must have it immediately.'
People like your wife just won’t take orders.
All page numbers from the 2012 Mariner trade paperback edition
  • The hell with him, he thought bitterly. The hell with patriotism in general. In the specific and the abstract. Birds of a feather, soldiers and cops. Anti-intellectual and anti-Negro. Anti-everything except beer, dogs, cars and guns.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 15)
  • “Cats have no souls,” Hamilton said morbidly, watching his tomcat avidly feed. “The most majestic cat in the universe would balance a carrot on his head for a bite of pork liver.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • “Explain it,” Hamilton muttered. “This place—this bar. Why doesn’t God erase it? If this world operates by moral laws—”
    “This bar is necessary to the moral order. This is a sinkpit of corruption and vice, a fleshpot of iniquity. You think salvation can function without damnation? You think virtue can exist without sin? That’s the trouble with you atheists; you don’t grasp the mechanics of evil. Get on the inside and enjoy life, man. If you’re one of the Faithful, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
    “Bet your sweet soul.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 66)
  • “You know what you can buy at the supermarket?” Laws inquired acidly. “I’ll tell you. Canned burnt offerings.”
    “You know what you can buy at the hardware store?” Hamilton answered. “Scales to weigh your soul on.”
    “That’s silly,” the blond said petulantly. “A soul doesn’t have any weight.”
    “Then,” Hamilton reflected, “you could put one through the U. S. mail for nothing.”
    “How many souls,” Laws conjectured ironically, “can be fitted into one stamped envelope? New religious question. Split mankind in half. Warring factions. Blood running in the gutters.”
    “Ten,” Hamilton guessed.
    “Fourteen,” Laws contradicted.
    “Heretic. Baby-murdering monster.”
    “Bestial drinker of unpurified blood.”
    “Accursed spawn of filth-devouring evil.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 75)
  • “Why?” Hamilton lashed out suddenly and loudly. “Why the hell did God answer that prayer? Why not some of the others? Why not Bill Laws’s?”
    “God approved of your prayer,” Silky said. “After all, it’s up to Him; He has to decide how He feels about it.”
    “That’s terrible.”
    Silky shrugged. “Maybe so.”
    “How can you live with that? You never know what’s going to happen—there’s no order, no logic.” It infuriated him that she did not object, that it seemed natural to her. “We’re helpless; we have to depend on whim. It keeps us from being people—we’re like animals waiting to be fed. Rewarded or punished.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 77)
  • This time, there was no punishment from above. Sighing, Hamilton almost wished there had been; the capricious personality element infuriated him. There was just too little relationship between deed and punishment; the lightning was probably cutting down some totally innocent Cheyennite, on the far side of town.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 92)
  • The hymns were unfamiliar to him, but he quickly picked up the general beat. The hymns had a redundant simplicity; the same phrases and tones appeared and reappeared. The same monotonous ideas, repeated indefinitely. The appetite of (Tetragrammaton) was insatiable, he concluded. A childish, nebulous personality that required constant praise—and in the most obvious terms. Quick to anger, (Tetragrammaton) was equally quick to sink into euphoria, was eager and ready to lap up these blatant flatteries.
    A balance. A method of lulling the Deity. But what a delicate mechanism. Danger for everyone...The easily-aroused Presence that was always nearby. Always listening.
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 97-98)
  • “Time to get up,” he informed her. “Don’t you hear the Almighty bellowing in the living room?”
    “What’s he saying?” Marsha murmured crossly.
    “Nothing in particular. Repent or suffer eternal damnation. The usual tribal tub-thumping.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 103)
  • In all possible universes, Monday was the same.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 119)
  • “People like your wife are dangerous.”
    “Why?” Hamilton asked.
    “They don’t belong to any group. They fool around with everything. As soon as we turn our back—”
    “So you destroy them. You turn them over to the lunatic patriots.”
    “The lunatic patriots,” McFeyffe said, “we can understand. But not your wife. She signs Party peace petitions and she reads the Chicago Tribune. People like her—they’re more of a menace to Party discipline than any other bunch. The cult of individualism. The idealist with his own law, his own ethics. Refusing to accept authority. It undermines society. It topples the whole structure. Nothing lasting can be built on it. People like your wife just won’t take orders.”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 231)
  • I did not attend the services, because it seems to me, as Pythagoras says, the body is the tomb of the soul and that by being born a person has already begun to die.
  • The hell with the newspapers. Nobody reads the letters to the editor column except the nuts. It's enough to get you down.
I open a book and get a report on future events that even God would like to file and forget. And who am I? The wrong person; I can tell you that.
  • What does it mean, insane? A legal definition. What do I mean? I feel it, see it, but what is it? It is something they do, something they are. It is their unconsciousness...Do they ignore parts of reality? Yes. But it is more. It is their plans...Their view; it is cosmic...They see through the here, the now, into the vast black deep beyond, the unchanging. And that is fatal to life. Because eventually there will be no life; there was once only the dust particles of space, the hot hydrogen gases, nothing more, and it will come again.
  • When I was a child, I thought as a child. But now I have put away childish things. ... I must be scientific.
  • (Insanity) is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate — confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.
  • Perhaps if you know you are insane then you are not insane.
  • Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small...and you will escape the jealousy of the great.
  • It's the fault of those physicists and that synchronicity theory, every particle being connected with every other; you can't fart without changing the balance in the universe. It makes living a funny joke with nobody around to laugh. I open a book and get a report on future events that even God would like to file and forget. And who am I? The wrong person; I can tell you that.
  • Can anyone alter fate? All of us combined...or one great figure...or someone strategically placed, who happens to be in the right spot. Chance. Accident. And our lives, our world, hanging on it.
  • Little kids are that way; they feel if their parents aren't watching what they do then what they do isn't real.
  • This is an artifact and that was a relic. This is alive in the now, whereas that merely remained.
  • Life is short. Art, or something not life, is long, stretching out endless, like concrete worm. Flat, white, unsmoothed by any passage over or across it. Here I stand. But no longer.
  • Are we to assist it in gaining power in order to save our lives? Is that the paradox of our earthly situation?
  • To save one life, Mr. Tagomi had to take two. The logical, balanced mind cannot make sense of that. A kindly man like Mr. Tagomi could be driven insane by the implications of such reality.
  • We have entered a Moment when we are alone. We cannot get assistance, as before. Well, Mr. Tagomi thought, perhaps that too is good. Or can be made good. One must still try to find the Way.
  • That is the artist's job: take mineral rock from dark silent earth, transform it into shining light-reflecting form from sky.
  • I feel the hot winds of karma driving me. Nevertheless I remain here. My training was correct: I must not shrink from the clear white light, for if I do, I will once more re-enter the cycle of birth and death, never knowing freedom, never obtaining release. The veil of maya will fall once more.
  • This hypnagogic condition. Attention-faculty diminished so that twilight state obtains; world seen merely in symbolic, archetypal aspect, totally confused with unconscious material.
  • I will never fully understand; that is the nature of such creatures. Or is this Inner Truth now, this that is happening to me? I will wait. I will see. Which it is. Perhaps it is both.
  • Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive. Even though I can't prove that, even though it isn't logical — I believe it.
  • We do not have an ideal world, such as we would like, where morality is easy because cognition is easy. Where one can do right with no effort because he can detect the obvious.
  • (Hawthorne Abendsen) told us about our own world. This, what's around us now. He wants us to see it for what it is. And I do, and more so each moment.
  • You're killing yourself with cynicism. Your idols got taken away from you one by one and now you have nothing to give your love to.
  • [Fiction] Appeals to the base lusts that hide in everyone no matter how respectable on the surface.
  • We can travel anywhere we want, even to other planets. And for what? To sit day after day, declining in morale and hope. Falling into an interminable ennui.
  • Dilemma of a civilized man; body mobilized but danger obscure.
  • There is evil! It's actual, like cement.
All page numbers from the 2002 Vintage trade paperback edition
  • “There’s a law,” Chuck said, “which I call Rittersdorf’s Third Law of Diminished Returns, which states that proportional to how long you hold a job you imagine that it has progressively less and less importance in the scheme of things.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 47)
  • “How come you didn’t recognize me?” Hentman said crossly. “Aren’t I world-famous? Or maybe you don’t watch TV.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 57)
  • Here, the enemy was not merely another group of human beings with a differing political persuasion; the enemy here was death.
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 69-70)
  • But frankly—may I so speak?—your CIA people's theory strikes me as a miserable bundle of random suspicions, a few separate facts strung together by an intricate structure of ad hoc theorizing, in which everyone is credited with enormous powers for intrigue. A much simpler view can be entertained with more common sense, and as a CIA employee you must be aware that, like all intelligence agencies, it lacks the faculty of common sense.
    • Chapter 8, (p. 123)
  • Hands in his pockets he began to walk aimlessly down the sidewalk runnel. And, each minute, feeling more and more scared and desperate. Everything was falling apart around him. And he seemed helpless to halt the collapse; he could only witness it, completely impotent, snatched up and gripped by processes too powerful for him to understand.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 139)
  • You must beware of seeing malice behind accidental injury.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 196)
  • “Hasn’t all this taught you anything?” Annette asked Gabriel Baines as they waited for the simulacrum's return and report.
    “Like what?”
    “That there is no perfect defense. There is no protection. Being alive means being exposed; it’s the nature of life to be hazardous—it’s the stuff of living.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 226)
  • Insanity — to have to construct a picture of one's life, by making inquiries of others.
  • I'm not much, but I'm all I have.
All page numbers from the 1991 Vintage trade paperback edition
  • So that’s that, Barney said to himself. I violated Rule One of career-oriented functioning: never tell your superior something he doesn’t want to hear.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 60)
  • “God,” Eldritch said, “promises eternal life. I can do better; I can deliver it.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 86)
  • You’re not just out of your body; you’re out of your mind, too.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 87)
  • It takes a certain amount of courage, he thought, to face yourself and say with candor, I’m rotten. I’ve done evil and I will again. It was no accident; it emanated from the true, authentic me.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 112)
  • “We all make mistakes,” the cab said piously.
    “But some of us,” Barney said, “make fatal ones.” First about our loved ones, our wife and children, and then about our employer, he said to himself.
    The cab hummed on.
    And then, he said to himself, we make one last one. About our whole life, summing it all up. Whether to take a job with Eldritch or go into the service. And whichever we choose we can know this:
    It was the wrong alternative.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 119)
  • It’s not religious fervor; it’s just a mean, very cruel streak.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 142)
  • Isn’t a miserable reality better than the most interesting illusion? Or is it illusion, Barney? I don’t know anything about philosophy; you explain it to me because all I know is religious faith and that doesn’t equip me to understand this.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 143)
  • The time, then, had come for him to poison himself so that an economic monopoly could be kept alive, a sprawling, interplan empire from which he now derived nothing.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 161)
  • But an artist, he realized. Or rather so-called artist. Bohemian. That’s closer to it. The artistic life without the talent.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 168)
  • “Isn’t there any way—” He broke off. Can’t the past be altered? he asked himself. Evidently not. Cause and effect work in only one direction, and change is real. So what’s gone is gone, and I might as well get out of here.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 173)
  • He glared at her. Women can get a man to do anything, he realized. Mother, wife, even employee; they twist us like hot little bits of thermoplastic.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 183)
All page numbers from the 2011 Mariner trade paperback edition, ISBN 978-0-547-57299-4, 5th printing
  • That’s who I ought to call: Verne Engel. You know what I’d say to him? “You stupid bastard, does what you’re fighting for look so real now? Skin pigment. What a laugh! Why not eye color? Too bad nobody ever thought of that. It cuts it a little finer, but basically it’s the same thing. Okay, Verne, you get out there and die over the issue of upholding one certain eye color. Lots of luck.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 174; in the book, Verne Engel heads up a racist organization)
  • And anyhow, he realized, none of us wants to start slaughtering the Peking people. It would be too much like the old days, back among our cave-dwelling ancestors. Back to their level. We must have grown out of that by now, he said to himself. And if we haven’t—what does it matter who wins?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 179)
  • Obviously it’s impossible to do business with you Homo sapiens; you’re adept, polished liars.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 184)
  • Just what he hoped to see; just what the entire struggle has been about. How long it had been in coming…almost two centuries more than it should have taken. The mind of man was uncommonly stubborn and slow to change. Reformers, including himself, were always prone to forget that. Victory always seemed just around the corner. But generally it was not, after all.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 192)
  • Did we get or learn anything from our unexpected confrontation with the Pekes? he wondered. It showed us, he decided, that the difference between say myself and the average Negro is so damn slight, by every truly meaningful criterion, that for all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist. When something like that, a contact with a race that’s not Homo sapiens, occurs, at last we can finally see this.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 193)
  • “You think life is worth living, Dar?” Hadley demanded suddenly.
    “Who knows. And if you have to ask, there’s something wrong with you.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 195)
I’ve become an unnatural self.
The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are.
Adapted into the 1982 film Blade Runner.
All page numbers from the 1996 Del Rey trade paperback edition
  • No one today remembered why the war had come about or who, if anyone, had won. The dust which had contaminated most of the planet’s surface had originated in no country, and no one, even the wartime enemy, had planned on it.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 15)
  • Silence. It flashed from the woodwork and the walls; it smote him with an awful, total power, as if generated by a vast mill. It rose from the floor, up out of the tattered gray wall-to-wall carpeting. It unleashed itself from the broken and semi-broken appliances in the kitchen, the dead machines which hadn’t worked in all the time Isidore had lived here. From the useless pole lamp in the living room it oozed out, meshing with the empty and wordless descent of itself from the fly-specked ceiling. It managed in fact to emerge from every object within his range of vision, as if it—the silence—meant to supplant all things tangible. Hence it assailed not only his ears but his eyes; as he stood by the inert TV set he experienced the silence as visible and, in its own way, alive. Alive! He had often felt its austere approach before; when it came it burst in without subtlety, evidently unable to wait. The silence of the world could not rein back its greed. Not any longer. Not when it had virtually won.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 20)
  • “Mercer,” Rick said.
    “I am your friend,” the old man said. “But you must go on as if I did not exist. Can you understand that?” He spread empty hands.
    “No,” Rick said. “I can’t understand that. I need help.”
    “How can I save you,” the old man said, “if I can’t save myself?” He smiled. “Don’t you see? There is no salvation.”
    “Then what’s this for?” Rick demanded. “What are you for?”
    “To show you,” Wilbur Mercer said, “that you aren’t alone. I am here with you and always will be. Go and do your task, even though you know it’s wrong.”
    “Why?” Rick said. “Why should I do it? I’ll quit my job and emigrate.”
    The old man said, “You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”
    “That’s all you can tell me?” Rick said.
    • Chapter 15 (pp. 178-179)
  • '“Everything is true”, he said. “Everything anybody has ever thought.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 227)
  • For Mercer everything is easy, he thought, because Mercer accepts everything. Nothing is alien to him. But what I've done, he thought; that's become alien to me. In fact everything has become unnatural; I've become an unnatural self.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 230)
  • “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you—about it being electrical.” She put her hand out, touched his arm; she felt guilty, seeing the effect it had on him, the change.
    ”No,” Rick said. “I’m glad to know. Or rather—” He became silent. “I’d prefer to know.”
    • Chapter 22 (p. 241)
  • The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 241)

Ubik (1969)

All page numbers from the 1991 Vintage trade paperback edition
  • As always, when the opportunity arose, Joe took a long, astute look at the girl whom, if he could have managed it, he would have had as his mistress, or, even better, his wife. It did not seem possible that Wendy Wright had been born out of blood and internal organs like other people. In proximity to her he felt himself to be a squat, oily, sweating, uneducated nurt whose stomach rattled and whose breath wheezed. Near her he became aware of the physical mechanisms which kept him alive; within him machinery, pipes and valves and gas-compressors and fan belts had to chug away at a losing task, a labor ultimately doomed. Seeing her face, he discovered that his own consisted of a garish mask; noticing her body made him feel like a low-class windup toy. All her colors possessed a subtle quality, indirectly lit. Her eyes, those green and tumbled stones, looked impassively at everything; he had never seen fear in them, or aversion, or contempt. What she saw she accepted. Generally she seemed calm. But more than that she struck him as being durable, untroubled and cool, not subject to wear, or to fatigue, or to physical illness and decline. Probably she was twenty-five or -six, but he could not imagine her looking younger, and certainly she would never look older. She had too much control over herself and outside reality for that.
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 58-59)
  • “Is it my fault?” Joe said. “Did I make that quarter you gave me obsolete?” He felt anger.
    “In some weird way,” Al said, “yes, it is your fault. But I don’t know how. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 91)
  • “A philosophical problem of no importance or meaning,” Joe said. “And incapable of being proved one way or the other.”
    • Chapter 9 (p. 115)
  • He now set down all the communications apparatus, rose stiffly from the chair and momentarily stood facing the misty, immobile, icebound shape of Joe Chip resting within its transparent plastic casket. Upright and silent, as it would be for the rest of eternity.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 189)

A novel about colonists to Delmak-O, all seemingly mentally ill and suspicious of each other. One of Dick's weirder and darker novels.

  • Forty-two. His age had astounded him for years, and each time that he had sat so astounded, trying to figure out what had become of the young, slim man in his twenties, a whole additional year slipped by and had to be recorded, a continually growing sum which he could not reconcile with his self-image. He still saw himself, in his mind's eye, as youthful, and when he caught sight of himself in photographs he usually collapsed ... Somebody took my actual physical presence away and substituted this, he had thought from time to time. Oh well, so it went.
  • 'A rolling stone gathers no moss.'
    Try as I might I could not remember the meaning. At last I hazarded, 'Well, it means a person who's always active and never pauses to reflect — ' No, that didn't sound right. I tried again. 'That means a man who is always active and keeps growing in mental and moral stature won't grow stale.' He was looking at me more intently, so I added by way of clarification, 'I mean, a man who's active and doesn't let grass grow under his feet, he'll get ahead in life.'
    Doctor Nisea said, 'I see.' And I knew that I had revealed, for the purposes of legal diagnosis, a schizophrenic thinking disorder.
    'What does it mean?' I asked. 'Did I get it backward?'
    'Yes, I'm afraid so. The generally-accepted meaning of the proverb is the opposite of what you've given; it is generally taken to mean that a person who — '
    'You don't have to tell me,' I broke in. 'I remember — I really knew it. A person who's unstable will never acquire anything of value.'
    • chapter 17, page 224.
All page numbers from the 1993 Vintage trade paperback edition
Fear, ...can make you do more wrong than hate or jealousy. If you're afraid you don’t commit yourself to life completely; fear makes you always, always hold something back.
  • She did not really want to know; she believed she understood already.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 53)
  • He could not endure what he found himself going through, and he could not get away. It seemed to him as if he sat behind the tiller of his custom-made unique quibble, facing a red light, green light, amber light all at once; no rational response was possible. Her irrationality made it so. The terrible power, he thought, of illogic. Of the archetypes. Operating out of the drear depths of the collective unconscious which joined him and her — and everyone else — together. In a knot which could never be undone, so long as they lived.
    No wonder, he thought, some people, many people, long for death.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 54)
  • Am I being paid back for something I did? He asked himself. Something I don't know about or remember? But nobody pays back, he reflected. I learned that a long time ago: you're not paid back for the bad you do nor the good you do. It all comes out uneven at the end. Haven't I learned that by now, if I've learned anything?
    • Chapter 6 (p. 66)
  • Once they notice you, Jason realized, they never completely close the file. You can never get back your anonymity. It is vital not to be noticed in the first place.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 75)
  • The church of my choice is the free, open world.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 124)
  • Probably she should not have gotten away with it for as long as she had...but sometime, he had often thought, the retribution will come: reality denied comes back to haunt.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 129)
  • "Fear,” Jason said, “can make you do more wrong than hate or jealousy. If you're afraid you don’t commit yourself to life completely; fear makes you always, always hold something back.”'
    • Chapter 21 (p. 171)
  • To live is to be hunted.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 213)
  • “Are you an official of some kind? Like a greeter? Or from the L. A. Chamber of Commerce? I've had dealings with them and they’re all right.”
    “No,” Buckman said. “I'm an individual. Like you.”
    • Chapter 27 (p. 222)
All page numbers from the 1991 Vintage trade paperback edition
  • Robert Arctor halted. Stared at them, at the straights in their fat suits, their fat ties, their fat shoes, and he thought, Substance D can't destroy their brains; they have none.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 26)
  • Life in Anaheim, California, was a commercial for itself, endlessly replayed. Nothing changed; it just spread out farther and farther in the form of neon ooze. What there was always more of had been congealed into permanence long ago, as if the automatic factory that cranked out these objects had jammed in the on position.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 31)
  • “Sometimes I wish I knew how to go crazy. I forget how.”
    “It’s a lost art,” Hank said. “Maybe there’s an instruction manual on it.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 56)
  • The pain, the cut in his scalp, so unexpected and undeserved, had for some reason cleared away the cobwebs. It flashed on him instantly that he didn't hate the kitchen cabinet: he hated his wife, his two daughters, his whole house, the back yard with its power mower, the garage, the radiant heating system, the front yard, the fence, the whole fucking place and everyone in it.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 64)
  • That life had been one without excitement, with no adventure. It had been too safe. All the elements that made it up were right there before his eyes, and nothing new could ever be expected. It was like, he had once thought, a little plastic boat that would sail on forever, without incident, until it finally sank, which would be a secret relief to all.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 64)
  • In this dark world where he now dwelt, ugly things and surprising things and once in a long while a tiny wondrous thing spilled out at him constantly; he could count on nothing.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 64)
  • One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven—or even proven at all—to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn't there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car's ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfirings—then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 91)
  • If I had known it was harmless
    I would have killed it myself.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 94)
  • Where there's dope, there's hope!
    • Chapter 7 (p. 118)
  • She took his hand, squeezed it, held it, and then, all at once, she let it drop. But the actual touch of her lingered, inside his heart. That remained. In all the years of his life ahead, the long years without her, with never seeing her or hearing from her or knowing anything about her, if she was alive or happy or dead or what, that touch stayed locked within him, sealed in himself, and never went away. That one touch of her hand.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 156)
  • What does a scanner see? he asked himself. I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner like they used to use or a cube-type holo-scanner like they use these days, the latest thing, see into me—into us—clearly or darkly? I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can't any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners do better. Because, he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we'll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 185)
  • Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, and very often, in fact almost … perpetually, he deliberately deceives himself about that precious little fragment as well. A portion of him turns against him and acts like another person, defeating him from inside. A man inside a man. Which is no man at all.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 185-186)
  • It's a downer to tell anything to a kid. I once had a kid ask me, “What was it like to see the first automobile?” Shit, man, I was born in 1962.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 194)
  • The unconscious is selective, when it learns what to listen for.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 200)
  • A psychologist said, “They used to talk about seeing only ‘reflections’ of reality. Not reality itself. The main thing wrong with a reflection is not that it isn't real, but that it’s reversed.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 213)
  • “Then shall it come to pass the saying that is written,” a voice said. “Death is swallowed up. In victory.” Perhaps only Fred heard it. “Because,” the voice said, “as soon as the writing appears backward, then you know which is illusion and which is not. The confusion ends, and death, the last enemy, Substance Death, is swallowed not into the body but up—in victory. Behold, I tell you the sacred secret now: we shall not all sleep in death.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 214)
  • The mystery, he thought, the explanation, he means. Of a secret. A sacred secret. We shall not die. The reflexions shall leave. And it will happen fast. We shall all be changed, and by that he means reversed back, suddenly. In the twinkling of an eye. Because we are fucking backward right now, I guess, every one of us, everyone and every damn thing, and distance, and even time. But how long, he thought, when a print is being made, a contact print, when the photographer discovers he's got the negative reversed, how long does it take to flip it? To reverse it again so it's like it's supposed to be? A fraction of a second.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 222)
  • Activity does not necessarily mean life. Quasars are active. And a monk meditating is not inanimate.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 244)
  • It sounds like they're saying passive life is good, he thought. But there is no such thing as passive life. That's a contradiction.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 245)
  • The living, he thought, should never be used to serve the purposes of the dead. But the dead—he glanced at Bruce, the empty shape beside him — should, if possible, serve the purposes of the living.
    That, he reasoned, is the law of life.
    And the dead, if they could feel, might feel better doing so.
    The dead, Mike thought, who can still see, even if they can't understand: they are our camera.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 266)
  • “Mountains, Bruce, mountains,” the manager said.
    “Mountains, Bruce, mountains,” Bruce said and gazed.
    “Echolalia, Bruce, echolalia,” the manager said. “Echolalia, Bruce—”
    “Okay, Bruce,” the manager said, and shut the cabin door behind him, thinking, I believe I'll put him among the carrots. Or beets. Something simple. Something that won't puzzle him.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 273)
  • I saw Substance D growing. I saw death rising from the earth, from the ground itself, in one blue field, in stubbled color.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 275)
  • They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed—run over, maimed, destroyed—but they continued to play anyhow.
    • Author's Note (p. 276)
  • Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgement. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is “Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying,” but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory.
    • Author's Note (pp. 276-277)

"If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others" (1977)


A speech published in the collection The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick.

  • A novelist carries with him constantly what most women carry in large purses: much that is useless, a few absolutely essential items, and then, for good measure, a great number of things that fall in between. But the novelist does not transport them physically because his trove of possessions is mental. Now and then he adds a new and entirely useless idea; now and then he reluctantly cleans out the trash -- the obviously worthless ideas -- and with a few sentimental tears sheds them. Once in a great while, however, he happens by chance onto a thoroughly stunning idea new to him that he hopes will turn out to be new to everyone else. It is this final category that dignifies his existence. But such truly priceless ideas... perhaps during his entire lifetime he may, at best, acquire only a meager few. But that is enough; he has, through them, justified his existence to himself and to his God.

"An Interview With America’s Most Brilliant Science-Fiction Writer (Philip K. Dick)" (1978)


By Joe Vitale. Source: The Aquarian, No. 11, October 11-18, 1978; PKD OTAKU, No. 4, 2002. Available online.

  • I've always had this funny feeling about reality. It just seems very feeble to me sometimes. It doesn't seem to have the substantiality that it's suppose to have.
  • The capacity for indignation is the most important thing for a creative person. Not the aesthetic capacity but the capacity for indignation. And especially indignation at the treatment afforded other people.

"How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (1978)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
A speech published in the collection I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon and The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick. Available online.
  • Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups...So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.
  • The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
  • Science Fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful.
  • This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance.
  • An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion.

Introduction to The Golden Man (1980)

  • This is why I love SF. I love to read it; I love to write it. The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just "What if..." It's "My God; what if..." In frenzy and hysteria.
  • That was my problem then and it's my problem now; I have a bad attitude. In a nutshell, I fear authority but at the same time I resent it — the authority and my own fear — so I rebel. And writing SF is a way to rebel. ... SF is a rebellious art form and it needs writers and readers and bad attitudes — an attitude of "Why?" or "How come?" or "Who says?"
  • And of course, in my writing, there is the constant theme of music, love of, preoccupation with, music. Music is the single thread making my life into a coherency. ... It's my job and my vice mixed together. You can't hope for better than that: having your job and your sin commingled.
  • People have told me that everything about me, every facet of my life, psyche, experiences, dreams, and fears, are laid out explicitly in my writing, that from the corpus of my work I can be absolutely and precisely inferred. This is true.
  • Writing is a lonely way of life. You shut yourself up in your study and work and work.
  • One thing I've found that I can do that I really enjoy is rereading my own writing, earlier stories and novels especially. It induces mental time travel, the same way certain songs you hear on the radio do ... the whole thing returns, an eerie feeling that I'm sure you've experienced.
  • Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him — one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don't agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.

VALIS (1981)

A novel featuring Dick himself. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, Dick's gnostic vision of God.
  • We hypostasize information into objects. Rearrangement of objects is change in the content of the information; the message has changed. This is a language which we have lost the ability to read. We ourselves are a part of this language; changes in us are changes in the content of the information. We ourselves are information-rich; information enters us, is processed and is then projected outwards once more, now in an altered form. We are not aware that we are doing this, that in fact this is all we are doing.
  • For each person there is a sentence — a series of words — which has the power to destroy him ... another sentence exists, another series of words, which will heal the person. If you're lucky you will get the second; but you can be certain of getting the first: that is the way it works. On their own, without training, individuals know how to deal out the lethal sentence, but training is required to deal out the second.
  • It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.
  • Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, it doesn't go away.
  • A lot can be said for the infinite mercies of God, but the smarts of a good pharmacist, when you get down to it, is worth more.
  • To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement ... Whoever defeats the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus ... thereby it becomes its enemies.
  • The Empire Never Ended
  • Mental illness is not funny.
  • The distinction between sanity and insanity is narrower than the razor's edge, sharper than a hound's tooth, more agile than a mule deer. It is more elusive than the merest phantom. Perhaps it does not even exist; perhaps it is a phantom.
  • Crazy people do not apply the principle of scientific parsimony... they shoot for the baroque.
  • Helping people was one of the two basic things Fat had been told to give up; helping people and taking dope. He had stopped taking dope, but all his energy and enthusiasm were now totally channelled into saving people. Better he had kept on with the dope.
  • Fish cannot carry guns.
  • God is either powerless, stupid or he doesn't give a shit.
  • No man is infinitely strong; for every creature that runs, flies, hops or crawls there is a terminal nemesis which he will not circumvent, which will finally do him in.
  • It is amazing that when someone else spouts the nonsense you yourself believe you can readily perceive it as nonsense.
  • Certainly it constitutes bad news if the people who agree with you are buggier than batshit.
  • Madness has its own dynamism. It just goes on.
  • "You of all people," the void communicated. "Out of everyone, it is you I love the most."
  • "matter is plastic in the face of mind."
  • It was evident to Elias Tate that this was the government. First they shake hands with you, he thought, and then they murder you.
  • They think they are free because they have never been free, and do not know what it means.
  • Barefoot conducts his seminars on his houseboat in Sausalito. It costs a hundred dollars to find out why we are on this Earth. You also get a sandwich, but I wasn't hungry that day. John Lennon had just been killed and I think I know why we are on this Earth; it's to find out that what you love the most will be taken away from you, probably due to an error in high places rather than by design.
    • Page 7
  • The trouble with being educated is that it takes a long time; it uses up the better part of your life and when you are finished what you know is that you would have benefited more by going into banking.
    • Page 13
  • I realized, then, that I had stood without intending to. Flight reaction, I said to myself. Instinctive. Upon experiencing close adversaries. The lizard part of the brain.
    • Page 158
  • Madness, like small fish, runs in hosts, in vast numbers of instances.
    • Page 236

Originally published as The Unteleported Man in 1964, republished with additional material in 1983. Published with further additional material as Lies, Inc. in 1984.

All page numbers from the 2004 Vintage trade paperback edition, ISBN 1-4000-3008-0
  • That's the trouble with living in a police state, he said to himself; you think—you imagine—the police are behind everything. You get paranoid and think they're beaming information to you in your sleep, to subliminally control you. Actually the police wouldn't do that. The police are our friends.
    Or was that idea beamed to me subliminally? he wondered suddenly. “The police are our friends.” The hell they are!
    • Chapter 1 (p. 6)
  • Too bad, Matson thought archly, that George Hoffman didn't discover more planets in more star systems habitable by us, the frail needs of living, sentient, mentating biochemical upright bipeds which we humans are.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 19)
  • If you are wise, Matson said to himself grimly, you never take one-way trips. Anywhere. Even to Boise, Idaho...even across the street. Be certain, when you start, that you can scramble back.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 27)
  • This one fact alone, Rachmael reflected, should have frightened the rational citizen. But—
    The people did not know. The media had not reported it.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 56)
  • The merest presence of life, even the smallest possible quantity of volition, desire and intent was enough to reverse the process by which the eternal landscape of hell made itself known.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 79)
  • You're a goldmine of misinformation.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 124)
  • The book business is hidebound.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 131)(This and the next six quotes are referred to by the author as "Thingisms")
  • The representative of the drayage firm failed to move me.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 131)
  • The vidphone company let me off the hook.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 132)
  • The highway construction truck tore up the street at forty miles an hour.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 132)
  • I am not in a position to enjoy sexual relations.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 132)
  • He flushes at his presence in a comfort station.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 139)
  • The hopes of the woolen industry are threadbare.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 157)
  • Fully absorbed in the peculiar text he had become totally oblivious to the noises and movements around him; all that existed for him now was the printed page held motionless before his intense scrutiny.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 163)

Quote needing to be placed:

  • When two people dream the same dream, it ceases to be an illusion.
Edited by Lawrence Sutin
  • I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel and story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps: they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, and, for them, my corpus of writing is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an investigation and presentation, analysis and response and personal history. My audience will always be limited to those people.
  • Each of us assumes everyone else knows what HE is doing. They all assume we know what WE are doing. We don't ... Nothing is going on and nobody knows what it is. Nobody is concealing anything except the fact that he does not understand anything anymore and wishes he could go home.

The Phillip K. Dick Reader

  • Loyce gazed up, rigid with horror. The splotch of darkness, hanging over the City Hall. Darkness so thick it seemed almost solid. In the vortex something moved. Flickering shapes. Things, descending from the sky, pausing momentarily above the City Hall, fluttering over it in a dense swarm and then dropping silently onto the roof. Shapes. Fluttering shapes from the sky. From the crack of darkness that hung above him. He was seeing—them.
    • "The Hanging Stranger"
  • The emotional masses of ordinary people who resented the Great Work, the bombs and bacteria and guided missiles, were coming to the surface. The were rising up - finally. Putting an end to super-logic: rationality without responsibility.
    • "Null-O"
  • How can I join one of the parties? All their slogans and propaganda, it seems so damn - silly. How the hell can I get exited about clean teeth and underarm odor. People kill each other over these trifles... it doesn't make sense. There's going to be suicidal civil war, if that amendment passes, and I'm supposed to join one side or the other?
    • "The Chromium Fence"
  • He awoke—and wanted Mars. The valleys, he thought. What would it be like to trudge among them? Great and greater yet: the dream grew as he became fully conscious, the dream and the yearning. He could almost feel the enveloping presence of the other world, which only Government agents and high officials had seen. A clerk like himself? Not likely.
    • "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"


  • To live is to be haunted.
    • A misquote of the line "To live is to be hunted" from Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, often reproduced on the internet[1]

Quotes about Philip K. Dick

  • [Dick's] chosen manner of writing … [is] comparable to downhill racing. The results can be spectacular, though often the spectacle provided is one of disaster.
  • I have no guilt regarding my love of fantasy and science fiction, only pleasure. I grew up reading the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I chuckle over how this “genre” has become mainstream and how time travel, alternative universes and magic are now so everyday. Plus, no one could ever feel guilty about reading writers like Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick.
  • There are no heroes in Dick's books, but there are heroics. One is reminded of Dickens: what counts is the honesty, constancy, kindness and patience of ordinary people.
  • [He would spend] three days straight writing a couple hundred pages. I didn't get any sleep either because every ten minutes [he would ask] "How do you spell _____, I need some coffee, Is there any food?" ...He'd lay down for about ten minutes, get up again, and write some more.
  • [H]e never went anywhere, and never left his house. I didn't realize what a big deal it was then, but the older I get, the less I want to go anywhere. We live in the mountains, on a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere. ... He didn't like driving either. I remember he had a car for about three or four years before he passed away and it only had about 600 miles on it.
  • It was either Phil [Dick] or [Ace editor] Terry Carr who came up with the idea of an Ace Double edition of the Holy Bible. One of these days Ace will print the Holy Bible as a Double, back to back, the Old Testament and the New Testament each cut to exactly 30,000 words, the Old Testament titled Master of Chaos and the New Testament titled The Thing with Three Souls.
    • Poul Anderson, posthumous appreciation of Philip K. Dick in Locus magazine #256 (5/82)
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle; Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
      • alternate versions: In Divine Invasions by Lawrence Sutin, Karen Anderson, wife of Poul Anderson, is quoted. In this version of the anecdote, each half is 20,000 words, and the New Testament is The Things with Three Souls. In an e-mail from Arthur Hlavaty (5/28/95) the Old Testament is given as Wargod of Israel and the New Testament as The Thing with Three Souls.
  • Writer X may sell 500,000 copies. All those 500,000 people may think, nice book. I liked it. I'll read the guy's next one. And 40,000 people may read a Phil Dick book, and be loud and vocal and persuasive about feeling the book had incredible impact on them intellectually and emotionally. The guy with the 500,000 will not be seen as a major writer and the guy with the 40,000 will. Because nobody's talking about the guy with the 500,000 readers.
    • Russ Galen, Philip K. Dick's agent
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
  • "I'm getting awfully choosy in my science fiction reading at this point; I have read too much. It's not science fiction's fault, it's my fault. I've O.D.'d on it. I'm full up. I know all the plots. But there are some writers I can read without question and with pleasure and joy, like Vonda McIntyre. Or Gene Wolfe...And, with a kind of bitterness in my heart, I have to say that I think probably the best American science fiction writer alive is still Philip K. Dick, although he let me down really badly when he turned against abortion rights and women. He still is a superb artist, one of the best novelists we have got. My favorite is Martian Time Slip. This is a man who has never been recognized by any critic of any stature. He has never had a decent edition of any of his books. They come out in these ratty little paper backs with gaudy covers and go out of print again, but I tell you, he is one of the best we've got going.
  • only snobbery or ignorance apologizes for liking science fiction anymore, with writers like Philip K. Dick and Gene Wolfe around…You could almost call The Lathe of Heaven, "Homage à Dick." I was openly, I trust, acknowledging the influence. My approach was like saying, "This is one great way to write a novel, invented by Philip K. Dick."
  • One of the American science fiction writers I admire most is Philip K. Dick, and Philip K. Dick's world involves immense tracts of pure insanity. It's a world which is always in danger of falling to pieces. It is an accurate picture of what is going on in a lot of people's heads and how the world actually does affect us—this weird, disjointed, unexpected world we're living in now. Well now, Phil Dick reflects that by using a sane, matter-of-fact prose to describe the completely insane things that happen in his novels. It is a way of mirroring reality. Peyton Place is a fine trivial example of non-realism. What reality is that reflecting? Nothing. A literary pseudo-reality where everybody goes to bed all the time with each other. It doesn't exist, you know; it has no relevance. It is escapism. Whereas serious science fiction is a modern literary device for handling this insane world we live in.
  • What Franz Kafka was to the first half of the 20th century, Philip K. Dick is to the second half.
    • Art Spiegelman, As quoted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick : Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings (1995) edited by Lawrence Sutin, p. x.
  • Dick's fiction calls up our basic cultural assumptions, requires us to reexamine them, and points out the destructive destinations to which they are carrying us. The American Dream may have succeeded as a means of survival in the wilderness of early America; it allowed us to subdue that wilderness and build our holy cities of materialism. But now, the images in Dick's fiction declare, we live in a new kind of wilderness, a wasteland wilderness, because those cities and the culture that built them are in decay. We need a new American dream to overcome this wasteland.
    • Patricia S. Warrick, Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick (1987)
  • The worlds through which Philip Dick's characters move are subject to cancellation or revision without notice. Reality is approximately as dependable as a politician's promise.
    • Roger Zelazny in Philip Dick: Electric Shepherd (1975), Bruce Gillespie, ed.
  • Is it real? Does it matter?
    • Robin Temple, on all of Philip K. Dick's books.
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