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Philip K. Dick



  Science Fiction Masterworks Volume 43


  Enter the SF Gateway

  In the last years of the twentieth century (as Wells might have put it), Gollancz, Britain’s oldest and most distinguished science fiction imprint, created the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series. Dedicated to re-publishing the English language’s finest works of SF and Fantasy, most of which were languishing out of print at the time, they were – and remain – landmark lists, consummately fulfilling the original mission statement:

  ‘SF MASTERWORKS is a library of the greatest SF ever written, chosen with the help of today’s leading SF writers and editors. These books show that genuinely innovative SF is as exciting today as when it was first written.’

  Now, as we move inexorably into the twenty-first century, we are delighted to be widening our remit even more. The realities of commercial publishing are such that vast troves of classic SF & Fantasy are almost certainly destined never again to see print. Until very recently, this meant that anyone interested in reading any of these books would have been confined to scouring second-hand bookshops. The advent of digital publishing has changed that paradigm for ever.

  The technology now exists to enable us to make available, for the first time, the entire backlists of an incredibly wide range of classic and modern SF and fantasy authors. Our plan is, at its simplest, to use this technology to build on the success of the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series and to go even further.

  Welcome to the new home of Science Fiction & Fantasy. Welcome to the most comprehensive electronic library of classic SFF titles ever assembled.

  Welcome to the SF Gateway.

  ‘Dick’s plastic realities tell us more than we’ll ever want to know about the inside of our heads and the view looking out. In his tortured topographies of worlds never made, we see mindscapes that we ourselves, in our madder moments, have glimpsed and thought real. Dick travelled out there on our behalf. It is our duty to read the reports he sent home.’ James Lovegrove

  ‘Dick quietly produced serious fiction in a popular form and there can be no greater praise.’ Michael Moorcock

  ‘One of the most original practitioners writing any kind of fiction, Philip K. Dick made most of the European avant-garde seem navel-gazers in a cul-de-sac’ Sunday Times

  ‘The most consistently brilliant SF writer in the world’

  John Brunner

  ‘Dick’s abundant storytelling gifts and the need to express his inner struggles combined to produce some of the most groundbreaking novels and ideas to emerge from SF in the fifties and sixties’

  Waterstone’s Guide to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

  ‘In all his work he was astonishingly intimate, self exposed, and very dangerous. He was the funniest sf writer of his time, and perhaps the most terrifying. His dreads were our own, spoken as we could not have spoken them’

  The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction



  Gateway Introduction


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14


  About the Author

  Also by Philip K. Dick

  To Russell Galen,

  Who showed me the right way.


  Excerpt from The Pre-Socratics by Edward Hussey; copyright © 1972 by Edward Hussey. By permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons.

  Excerpt from The Introduction from Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, translated by D. C Lau; copyright © 1963 by D. C. Lau. By permission of Penguin Books Ltd.

  Excerpt from The Nag Hammadi Library in English, ‘On the Origin of the World,’ James Robinson, General Editor; translated by Hans-Gebhard Bethge and Orval S. Wintermute; copyright © 1977 by E. J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands. By permission of Harper & Row.

  Excerpt from Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant; copyright 1935, © 1963 by Will Durant. By permission of Simon & Schuster, a Division of Gulf and Western Corporation.

  Excerpt from A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick; copyright © 1977 by Philip K. Dick. By permission of Doubleday and Company, Inc.

  Excerpt from ‘Gnosticism’ from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, by Hans Jonas; Paul Edwards, Editor in Chief; copyright © 1967 by Macmillan, Inc. By permission of the publisher.

  Excerpts from ‘On Death and Its Relation to the Indestructibility of Our True Nature,’ from The Will to Live; Selected Writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, by Arthur Schopenhauer, edited by Richard Taylor; copyright © 1962 by Doubleday and Company, Inc. By permission of the publisher.

  Excerpt from The New Encyclopaedia Britannica; copyright © 1980. By permission of the publisher.

  Excerpt from Protestantism by J. Leslie Dunstan; copyright © 1961. by J. Leslie Dunstan. By permission of George Braziller, Inc.

  VALIS (acronym of Vast Active Living Intelligence System, from an American film): A perturbation in the reality field in which a spontaneous self-monitoring negentropic vortex is formed, tending progressively to subsume and incorporate its environment into arrangements of information. Characterized by quasiconsciousness, purpose, intelligence, growth and an armillary coherence.

  – Great Soviet Dictionary Sixth Edition, 1992

  Chapter 1

  Horselover Fat’s nervous breakdown began the day he got the phonecall from Gloria asking if he had any Nembutals. He asked her why she wanted them and she said that she intended to kill herself. She was calling everyone she knew. By now she had fifty of them, but she needed thirty or forty more, to be on the safe side.

  At once Horselover Fat leaped to the conclusion that this was her way of asking for help. It had been Fat’s delusion for years that he could help people. His psychiatrist once told him that to get well he would have to do two things: get off dope (which he hadn’t done) and to stop trying to help people (he still tried to help people).

  As a matter of fact, he had no Nembutals. He had no sleeping pills of any sort. He never did sleeping pills. He did uppers. So giving Gloria sleeping pills by which she could kill herself was beyond his power. Anyhow, he wouldn’t have done it if he could.

  ‘I have ten,’ he said. Because if he told her the truth she would hang up.

  ‘Then I’ll drive up to your place,’ Gloria said in a rational, calm voice, the same tone in which she had asked for the pills.

  He realized then that she was not asking for help. She was trying to die. She was completely crazy. If she were sane she would realize that it was necessary to veil her purpose, because this way she made him guilty of complicity. For him to agree, he would need to want her dead. No motive existed for him – or anyone – to want that. Gloria was gentle and civilized, but she dropped a lot of acid. It was obvious that the acid, since he had last heard from her six months ago, had wrecked her mind.

  ‘What’ve you been doing?’ Fat asked.

  ‘I’ve been in Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco. I tried suicide and my mother committed me. They discharged me last week.’

  ‘Are you cured?’ he said.

  ‘Yes,’ she said.

  That’s when Fat began to go nuts. At the time he didn’t know it, but he had been drawn into an unspeakable psychological game. There was no way out. Gloria Knudson had wrecked him, her friend, along with her own brain. Probably she had wrecked six or seven other people, all friends who loved her, along the way, with similar phone conversations. She had undoubtedly de
stroyed her mother and father as well. Fat heard in her rational tone the harp of nihilism, the twang of the void. He was not dealing with a person; he had a reflex-arc thing at the other end of the phone line.

  What he did not know then is that it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane. To listen to Gloria rationally ask to die was to inhale the contagion. It was a Chinese finger-trap, where the harder you pull to get out, the tighter the trap gets.

  ‘Where are you now?’ he asked.

  ‘Modesto. At my parents’ home.’

  Since he lived in Marin County, she was several hours’ drive away. Few inducements would have gotten him to make such a drive. This was another serving-up of lunacy: three hours’ drive each way for ten Nembutals. Why not just total the car? Gloria was not even committing her irrational act rationally. Thank you, Tim Leary, Fat thought. You and your promotion of the joy of expanded consciousness through dope.

  He did not know his own life was on the line. This was 1971. In 1972 he would be up north in Vancouver, British Columbia, involved in trying to kill himself, alone, poor and scared, in a foreign city. Right now he was spared that knowledge. All he wanted to do was coax Gloria up to Marin County so he could help her. One of God’s greatest mercies is that he keeps us perpetually occluded. In 1976, totally crazy with grief, Horselover Fat would slit his wrist (the Vancouver suicide attempt having failed), take forty-nine tablets of high-grade digitalis, and sit in a closed garage with his car motor running-and fail there, too. Well, the body has powers unknown to the mind. However, Gloria’s mind had total control over her body; she was rationally insane.

  Most insanity can be identified with the bizarre and the theatrical. You put a pan on your head and a towel around your waist, paint yourself purple and go outdoors. Gloria was as calm as she had ever been; polite and civilized. If she had lived in ancient Rome or Japan, she would have gone unnoticed. Her driving skills probably remained unimpaired. She would stop at every red light and not exceed the speed limit – on her trip to pick up the ten Nembutals.

  I am Horselover Fat, and I am writing this in the third person to gain much-needed objectivity. I did not love Gloria Knudson, but I liked her. In Berkeley, she and her husband had given elegant parties, and my wife and I always got invited. Gloria spent hours fixing little sandwiches and served different wines, and she dressed up and looked lovely, with her sandy-colored short-cut curly hair.

  Anyhow, Horselover Fat had no Nembutal to give her, and a week later Gloria threw herself out of a tenth floor window of the Synanon Building in Oakland, California, and smashed herself to bits on the pavement along MacArthur Boulevard, and Horselover Fat continued his insidious, long decline into misery and illness, the sort of chaos that astrophysicists say is the fate in store for the whole universe. Fat was ahead of his time, ahead of the universe. Eventually he forgot what event had started off his decline into entropy; God mercifully occludes us to the past as well as the future. For two months, after he learned of Gloria’s suicide, he cried and watched TV and took more dope – his brain was going, too, but he didn’t know it. Infinite are the mercies of God.

  As a matter of fact, Fat had lost his own wife, the year before, to mental illness. It was like a plague. No one could discern how much was due to drugs. This time in America – 1960 to 1970 – and this place, the Bay Area of Northern California, was totally fucked. I’m sorry to tell you this, but that’s the truth. Fancy terms and ornate theories cannot cover this fact up. The authorities became as psychotic as those they hunted. They wanted to put all persons who were not clones of the establishment away. The authorities were filled with hate. Fat had seen police glower at him with the ferocity of dogs. The day they moved Angela Davis, the black Marxist, out of the Marin County jail, the authorities dismantled the whole civic center. This was to baffle radicals who might intend trouble. The elevators got unwired; doors got relabeled with spurious information; the district attorney hid. Fat saw all this. He had gone to the civic center that day to return a library book. At the electronic hoop at the civic center entrance, two cops had ripped open the book and papers that Fat carried. He was perplexed. The whole day perplexed him. In the cafeteria, an armed cop watched everyone eat. Fat returned home by cab, afraid of his own car and wondering if he was nuts. He was, but so was everyone else.

  I am, by profession, a science fiction writer. I deal in fantasies. My life is a fantasy. Nonetheless, Gloria Knudson lies in a box in Modesto, California. There’s a photo of her funeral wreaths in my photo album. It’s a color photo so you can see how lovely the wreaths are. In the background a VW is parked. I can be seen crawling into the VW, in the midst of the service. I am not able to take any more.

  After the graveside service Gloria’s former husband Bob and I and some tearful friend of his – and hers – had a late lunch at a fancy restaurant in Modesto near the cemetery. The waitress seated us in the rear because the three of us looked like hippies even though we had suits and ties on. We didn’t give a shit. I don’t remember what we talked about. The night before, Bob and I – I mean, Bob and Horselover Fat – drove to Oakland to see the movie Patton. Just before the graveside service Fat met Gloria’s parents for the first time. Like their deceased daughter, they treated him with utmost civility. A number of Gloria’s friends stood around the corny California ranch-style living room recalling the person who linked them together. Naturally, Mrs Knudson wore too much makeup; women always put on too much makeup when someone dies. Fat petted the dead girl’s cat, Chairman Mao. He remembered the few days Gloria had spent with him upon her futile trip to his house for the Nembutal which he did not have. She greeted the disclosure of his lie with aplomb, even a neutrality. When you are going to die you do not care about small things.

  ‘I took them,’ Fat had told her, lie upon lie.

  They decided to drive to the beach, the great ocean beach of the Point Reyes Peninsula. In Gloria’s VW, with Gloria driving (it never entered his mind that she might, on impulse, wipe out him, herself and the car) and, an hour later, sat together on the sand smoking dope.

  What Fat wanted to know most of all was why she intended to kill herself.

  Gloria had on many-times-washed jeans and a T-shirt with Mick Jagger’s leering face across the front of it. Because the sand felt nice she took off her shoes. Fat noticed that she had pink-painted toenails and that they were perfectly pedicured. To himself he thought, she died as she lived.

  ‘They stole my bank account,’ Gloria said.

  After a time he realized, from her measured, lucidly stated narration, that no ‘they’ existed. Gloria unfolded a panorama of total and relentless madness, lapidary in construction. She had filled in all the details with tools as precise as dental tools. No vacuum existed anywhere in her account. He could find no error, except of course for the premise, which was that everyone hated her, was out to get her, and she was worthless in every respect. As she talked she began to disappear. He watched her go; it was amazing. Gloria, in her measured way, talked herself out of existence word by word. It was rationality at the service of – well, he thought, at the service of nonbeing. Her mind had become one great, expert eraser. All that really remained now was her husk; which is to say, her uninhabited corpse.

  She is dead now, he realized that day on the beach.

  After they had smoked up all their dope, they walked along and commented on seaweed and the height of waves. Seagulls croaked by overhead, sailing themselves like frisbies. A few people sat or walked here and there, but mostly the beach was deserted. Signs warned of undertow. Fat, for the life of him, could not figure out why Gloria didn’t simply walk out into the surf. He simply could not get into her head. All she could think of was the Nembutal she still needed, or imagined she needed.

  ‘My favorite Dead album is Workingman’s Dead,’ Gloria said at one point. ‘But I don’t think they should advocate taking cocaine. A lot of kids listen to rock.’

  ‘They don’t advocate it. The song’s just about s
omeone taking it. And it killed him, indirectly; he smashed up his train.’

  ‘But that’s why I started on drugs,’ Gloria said.

  ‘Because of the Grateful Dead?’

  ‘Because,’ Gloria said, ‘everyone wanted me to do it. I’m tired of doing what other people want me to do.’

  ‘Don’t kill yourself,’ Fat said. ‘Move in with me. I’m all alone. I really like you. Try it for a while, at least. We’ll move your stuff up, me and my friends. There’s lots of things we can do, like go places, like to the beach today. Isn’t it nice here?’

  To that, Gloria said nothing.

  ‘It would really make me feel terrible,’ Fat said. ‘For the rest of my life, if you did away with yourself.’ Thereby, as he later realized, he presented her with all the wrong reasons for living. She would be doing it as a favor to others. He could not have found a worse reason to give had he looked for years. Better to back the VW over her. This is why suicide hotlines are not manned by nitwits; Fat learned this later in Vancouver, when, suicidal himself, he phoned the British Columbia Crisis Center and got expert advice. There was no correlation between this and what he told Gloria on the beach that day.

  Pausing to rub a small stone loose from her foot, Gloria said, ‘I’d like to stay overnight at your place tonight.’

  Hearing this, Fat experienced involuntary visions of sex.

  ‘Far out,’ he said, which was the way he talked in those days. The counterculture possessed a whole book of phrases which bordered on meaning nothing. Fat used to string a bunch of them together. He did so now, deluded by his own carnality into imaging that he had saved his friend’s life. His judgment, which wasn’t worth much anyhow, dropped to a new nadir of acuity. The existence of a good person hung in the balance, hung in a balance which Fat held, and all he could think of now was the prospect of scoring. ‘I can dig it,’ he prattled away as they walked. ‘Out of sight.’