Film - The Legacy of Philip K. Dick

Philip K Dick

Kneel Downe takes a look at the legacy and influence of Philip K. Dick and tries to convince you of his importance to modern science fiction cinema...

Hey you...

Yes YOU.

Do you have any idea just how much you and your favourite film/franchise owes to the collected works of Philip K. Dick? And if you do...are you quite sure that that idea is actually real or your own? Come to think of it...are you sure that you yourself are 'Real'?

Hmmmm...

Philip K. Dick is one of my favourite authors and, I would argue, perhaps the most influential SciFi writer of our current age. What we now accept as Science Fiction is built upon and shot through with theories and conceits that originally found birth in his novels and short stories. This is very rarely an universe of giant spaceships and interstellar exploration...no, the exploration here goes deeper than that. Deep down into the nature of humanity and reality itself. Dick was, in his own life, fascinated and sometimes plagued by the concept of mental stability...by visions and voices from a world next door. By the very large question of just what it was that constituted being human. Being real. Most of his impressive body of work was fuelled by chronic Amphetamine abuse...later on he would dabble with L.S.D, although it is interesting to note that his most outlandish scenarios were created before he discovered this drug.

The writing is frantic, often flawed and quite dissimilar to what the public of the time were used to. Rarely in his stories is there a discernable traditional hero...but as has been noted before by writers far more talented than I, Heroics do take place. Characters do grow...emotional arcs are there to be found but always, always, underpinning the whole body of work is a striving to confront Reality and break it down into it's component parts. Many of his characters are just as flawed as the sometimes fractured prose. Some of the books turn into more of a chore than a joy.

BUT...

But...the reason I adore his work so very much is this:

Dick was a never-ending powerhouse of new and exciting concepts and worlds. Of IDEAS.
So many of these ideas are now so woven into the fantasy canon that we forget just where they originated. We, as writers, use them without thinking about it. It's Science Fiction right? That's just the way it is...

Don't be fooled by thinking that after seeing the many films based on his work, ten I believe currently, that you have no need to read the source material. You do. So many of the films deviate from the original texts. Leave out so many rich and varied moments. Moments that will stay in your head (if it IS your head) and grow, mutate over time.

Another of Dick's great strengths is his ability to tell a story in as few words as possible. Most of his books are relatively short, a trait he shares with another of my personal favourites Michael Moorcock. Padding is kept to a minimum. The Idea is given just enough space to resonate and grow. Remember this lesson fellow authors...Less really is more.

Dick lived a life of very few riches...he never really received the financial rewards his work so rightly deserved but I ask you this....Where would Science Fiction be without him?

Not convinced yet?

Forget the films...turn instead to other Cinematic joys...

When it first came out The Matrix was universally compared to the works of Gibson...look closer...the whole film is nothing but a love letter and homage to the constructs of Dick's mind. The same year saw another blockbuster, this one more mainstream...The Truman Show beats with a very Dicksian heart. As does Being John Malcovich...Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...

How about Inception? Memento?

Look around, in any genre and the influence is there...concepts born in drug fuelled words fill our current media like tears in the eyes of dreaming sheep...

Ladies, Gentlemen and Androids...I give to you PHILIP K. DICK...

(We return your mind back to its conceptual user)

Image - Wikipedia.