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Electric Dreams

Philip K. Dick


  * * *

  Title Page



  Exhibit Piece

  Introduction by Ronald D. Moore

  Exhibit Piece

  The Commuter

  Introduction by Jack Thorne

  The Commuter

  The Impossible Planet

  Introduction by David Farr

  The Impossible Planet

  The Hanging Stranger

  Introduction by Dee Rees

  The Hanging Stranger

  Sales Pitch

  Introduction by Tony Grisoni

  Sales Pitch

  The Father-Thing

  Introduction by Michael Dinner

  The Father-Thing

  The Hood Maker

  Introduction by Matthew Graham

  The Hood Maker

  Foster, You’re Dead

  Introduction by Kalen Egan and Travis Sentell

  Foster, You’re Dead

  Human Is

  Introduction by Jessica Mecklenburg

  Human Is


  Introduction by Travis Beacham


  Read More from Philip K. Dick

  About the Author

  Connect with HMH

  First U.S. edition, 2017

  Collection copyright © 2017 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick

  Introductions copyright © held by the respective author of each introduction

  ‘Exhibit Piece’ copyright © 1987, 1954 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in If, Aug. 1953.

  ‘The Commuter’ copyright © 1987, 1953 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Amazing, Aug.–Sept. 1953.

  ‘Impossible Planet’ copyright © 1987, 1953 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Imagination, Oct. 1953.

  ‘The Hanging Stranger’ copyright © 1987, 1953 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Science Fiction Adventures, Dec. 1953.

  ‘Sales Pitch’ copyright © 1987, 1954 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Future, June 1954.

  ‘The Father-Thing’ copyright © 1987, 1954 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Dec. 1954.

  ‘The Hood Maker’ copyright © 1987, 1955 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Imagination, June 1955.

  ‘Foster You’re Dead’ copyright © 1987, 1955 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Star Science Fiction Stories, no 3, 1955.

  ‘Human Is’ copyright © 1987, 1955 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Startling Stories, Winter 1955.

  ‘Autofac’ copyright © 1987, 1955 by The Estate of Philip K. Dick.

  Originally published in Galaxy, Nov. 1955.

  First published in Great Britain in 2017 by Gollancz, an imprint

  of the Orion Publishing Group Ltd

  All rights reserved

  For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to [email protected] or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

  ISBN 978-1-328-99506-3

  Jacket art © Amazon Content Services LLC

  Author photograph © Frank Ronan

  eISBN 978-1-328-99509-4


  Introduction by Ronald D. Moore

  Story Title: Exhibit Piece

  Script Title: Real Life

  Ronald D. Moore is an American screenwriter and producer. He is best known for developing the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, for which he won a Hugo and a Peabody Award, and for Outlander, based on the novels of Diana Gabaldon. He began his career as a writer/producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

  The first time I read this piece it was in the context of looking for a PKD story to adapt for Electric Dreams. Right from the start, I was attracted to the underlying theme of losing one’s self in another reality. I’d been playing around in this arena since I started working on Star Trek, as well as in a pilot I produced for Fox called Virtuality. When I read ‘Exhibit Piece’ it struck me that there was an opportunity to do a show about the virtual reality technology that was just coming into being for the consumer market. I think VR is an exciting new frontier in entertainment but, as always, we tend to create new devices first and then think about their societal ramifications later. The more I thought about a story where the central character lost himself (or herself) in another world, the more I realized that I could take the core idea of this short and expand it out into a bigger exploration of both VR and the nature of reality itself. I’ve found this happens over and over in the PKD universe—interesting and provocative themes buried within his work that are still relevant to our lives many years after they were originally written. Very little remains of this story in the show, but the heart, and perhaps more importantly, the brains behind the episode originate in this tale.

  Exhibit Piece

  ‘That’s a strange suit you have on,’ the robot pubtrans driver observed. It slid back its door and came to rest at the curb. ‘What are the little round things?’

  ‘Those are buttons,’ George Miller explained. ‘They are partly functional, partly ornamental. This is an archaic suit of the twentieth century. I wear it because of the nature of my employment.’

  He paid the robot, grabbed up his briefcase, and hurried along the ramp to the History Agency. The main building was already open for the day; robed men and women wandered everywhere. Miller entered a PRIVATE lift, squeezed between two immense controllers from the pre-Christian division, and in a moment was on his way to his own level, the Middle Twentieth Century.

  ‘Gorning,’ he murmured, as Controller Fleming met him at the atomic engine exhibit.

  ‘Gorning,’ Fleming responded brusquely. ‘Look here, Miller. Let’s have this out once and for all. What if everyone dressed like you? The Government sets up strict rules for dress. Can’t you forget your damn anachronisms once in a while? What in God’s name is that thing in your hand? It looks like a squashed Jurassic lizard.’

  ‘This is an alligator hide briefcase,’ Miller explained. ‘I carry my study spools in it. The briefcase was an authority symbol of the managerial class of the later twentieth century.’ He unzipped the briefcase. ‘Try to understand, Fleming. By accustoming myself to everyday objects of my research period I transform my relation from mere intellectual curiosity to genuine empathy. You have frequently noticed I pronounce certain words oddly. The accent is that of an American businessman of the Eisenhower administration. Dig me?’

  ‘Eh?’ Fleming muttered.

  ‘Dig me was a twentieth century expression.’ Miller laid out his study spools on his desk. ‘Was there anything you wanted? If not I’ll begin today’s work. I’ve uncovered fascinating evidence to indicate that although twentieth-century Americans laid their own floor tiles, they did not weave their own clothing. I wish to alter my exhibits on this matter.’

  ‘There’s no fanatic like an academician,’ Fleming grated. ‘You’re two hundred years behind times. Immersed in your relics and artifacts. Your damn authentic replicas of discarded trivia.’

  ‘I love my work,’ Miller answered mildly.

  ‘Nobody complains about your work. But there are other things than work. You’re a political-social unit here in this society. Take warning, Miller! The Board has reports on your
eccentricities. They approve devotion to work . . .’ His eyes narrowed significantly. ‘But you go too far.’

  ‘My first loyalty is to my art,’ Miller said.

  ‘Your what? What does that mean?’

  ‘A twentieth-century term.’ There was undisguised superiority on Miller’s face. ‘You’re nothing but a minor bureaucrat in a vast machine. You’re a function of an impersonal cultural totality. You have no standards of your own. In the twentieth century men had personal standards of workmanship. Artistic craft. Pride of accomplishment. These words mean nothing to you. You have no soul—another concept from the golden days of the twentieth century when men were free and could speak their minds.’

  ‘Beware, Miller!’ Fleming blanched nervously and lowered his voice. ‘You damn scholars. Come up out of your tapes and face reality. You’ll get us all in trouble, talking this way. Idolize the past, if you want. But remember—it’s gone and buried. Times change. Society progresses.’ He gestured impatiently at the exhibits that occupied the level. ‘That’s only an imperfect replica.’

  ‘You impugn my research?’ Miller was seething. ‘This exhibit is absolutely accurate! I correct it to all new data. There isn’t anything I don’t know about the twentieth century.’

  Fleming shook his head. ‘It’s no use.’ He turned and stalked wearily off the level, on to the descent ramp.

  Miller straightened his collar and bright hand-painted necktie. He smoothed down his blue pinstripe coat, expertly lit a pipeful of two-century-old tobacco, and returned to his spools.

  Why didn’t Fleming leave him alone? Fleming, the officious representative of the great hierarchy that spread like a sticky gray web over the whole planet. Into each industrial, professional, and residential unit. Ah, the freedom of the twentieth century! He slowed his tape scanner a moment, and a dreamy look slid over his features. The exciting age of virility and individuality, when men were men . . .

  It was just about then, just as he was settling deep in the beauty of his research, that he heard the inexplicable sounds. They came from the center of his exhibit, from within the intricate, carefully regulated interior.

  Somebody was in his exhibit.

  He could hear them back there, back in the depths. Somebody or something had gone past the safety barrier set up to keep the public out. Miller snapped off his tape scanner and got slowly to his feet. He was shaking all over as he moved cautiously toward the exhibit. He killed the barrier and climbed the railing on to a concrete pavement. A few curious visitors blinked, as the small, oddly dressed man crept among the authentic replicas of the twentieth century that made up the exhibit and disappeared within.

  Breathing hard, Miller advanced up the pavement and on to a carefully tended gravel path. Maybe it was one of the other theorists, a minion of the Board, snooping around looking for something with which to discredit him. An inaccuracy here—a trifling error of no consequence there. Sweat came out of his forehead; anger became terror. To his right was a flower bed. Paul Scarlet roses and low-growing pansies. Then the moist green lawn. The gleaming white garage, with its door half up. The sleek rear of a 1954 Buick—and then the house itself.

  He’d have to be careful. If it was somebody from the Board he’d be up against official hierarchy. Maybe it was somebody big. Maybe even Edwin Carnap, President of the Board, the highest ranking official in the N’York branch of the World Directorate. Shakily, Miller climbed the three cement steps. Now he was on the porch of the twentieth-century house that made up the center of the exhibit.

  It was a nice little house; if he had lived back in those days he would have wanted one of his own. Three bedrooms, a ranch style California bungalow. He pushed open the front door and entered the living room. Fireplace at one end. Dark wine-colored carpets. Modern couch and easy chair. Low hardwood glass-topped coffee table. Copper ashtrays. A cigarette lighter and a stack of magazines. Sleek plastic and steel floor lamps. A bookcase. Television set. Picture window overlooking the front garden. He crossed the room to the hall.

  The house was amazingly complete. Below his feet the floor furnace radiated a faint aura of warmth. He peered into first bedroom. A woman’s boudoir. Silk bedcover. White starched sheets. Heavy drapes. A vanity table. Bottles and jars. Huge round mirror. Clothes visible within the closet. A dressing gown thrown over the back of a chair. Slippers. Nylon hose carefully placed at the foot of the bed.

  Miller moved down the hall and peered into the next room. Brightly painted wallpaper: clowns and elephants and tightrope walkers. The children’s room. Two little beds for the two boys. Model airplanes. A dresser with a radio on it, pair of combs, school books, pennants, a No Parking sign, snapshots stuck in the mirror. A postage stamp album.

  Nobody there, either.

  Miller peered in the modern bathroom, even in the yellow-tiled shower. He passed through the dining room, glanced down the basement stairs where the washing machine and dryer were. Then he opened the back door and examined the back yard. A lawn, and the incinerator. A couple of small trees and then the three-dimensional projected backdrop of other houses receding off into incredibly convincing blue hills. And still no one. The yard was empty—deserted. He closed the door and started back.

  From the kitchen came laughter.

  A woman’s laugh. The clink of spoons and dishes. And smells. It took him a moment to identify them, scholar that he was. Bacon and coffee. And hot cakes. Somebody was eating breakfast. A twentieth-century breakfast.

  He made his way down the hall, past a man’s bedroom, shoes and clothing strewn about, to the entrance of the kitchen.

  A handsome late-thirtyish woman and two teenage boys were sitting around the little chrome and plastic breakfast table. They had finished eating; the two boys were fidgeting impatiently. Sunlight filtered through the window over the sink. The electric clock read half past eight. The radio was chirping merrily in the corner. A big pot of black coffee rested in the center of the table, surrounded by empty plates and milk glasses and silverware.

  The woman had on a white blouse and checkered tweed skirt. Both boys wore faded blue jeans, sweatshirts, and tennis shoes. As yet they hadn’t noticed him. Miller stood frozen at the doorway, while laughter and small talk bubbled around him.

  ‘You’ll have to ask your father,’ the woman was saying, with mock sternness. ‘Wait until he comes back.’

  ‘He already said we could,’ one of the boys protested. ‘Well, ask him again.’

  ‘He’s always grouchy in the morning.’

  ‘Not today. He had a good night’s sleep. His hay fever didn’t bother him. The new anti-hist the doctor gave him.’ She glanced up at the clock. ‘Go see what’s keeping him, Don. He’ll be late for work.’

  ‘He was looking for the newspaper.’ One of the boys pushed back his chair and got up. ‘It missed the porch again and fell in the flowers.’ He turned towards the door, and Miller found himself confronting him face to face. Briefly, the observation flashed through his mind that the boy looked familiar. Damn familiar—like somebody he knew, only younger. He tensed himself for the impact, as the boy abruptly halted.

  ‘Gee,’ the boy said. ‘You scared me.’

  The woman glanced quickly up at Miller. ‘What are you doing out there, George?’ she demanded. ‘Come on back in here and finish you coffee.’

  Miller came slowly into the kitchen. The woman was finishing her coffee; both boys were on their feet and beginning to press around him.

  ‘Didn’t you tell me I could go camping over the weekend up at Russian River with the group from school?’ Don demanded. ‘You said I could borrow a sleeping bag from the gym because the one I had you gave to the Salvation Army because you were allergic to the kapok in it.’

  ‘Yeah,’ Miller muttered uncertainly. Don. That was the boy’s name. And his brother, Ted. But how did he know that? At the table the woman had got up and was collecting the dirty dishes to carry over to the sink. ‘They said you already promised them,’ she said over her shoulde
r. The dishes clattered into the sink and she began sprinkling soap flakes over them. ‘But you remember that time they wanted to drive the car and the way they said it, you’d think they had got your okay. And they hadn’t, of course.’

  Miller sank weakly down at the table. Aimlessly, he fooled with his pipe. He set it down in the copper ashtray and examined the cuff of his coat. What was happening? His head spun. He got up abruptly and hurried to the window, over the sink.

  Houses, streets. The distant hills beyond the town. The sights and sounds of people. The three dimensional projected backdrop was utterly convincing; or was it the projected backdrop? How could he be sure. What was happening?

  ‘George, what’s the matter?’ Marjorie asked, as she tied a pink plastic apron around her waist and began running hot water in the sink. ‘You better get the car out and get started to work. Weren’t you saying last night old man Davidson was shouting about employees being late for work and standing around the water cooler talking and having a good time on company time?’

  Davidson. The word stuck in Miller’s mind. He knew it, of course. A clear picture leaped up; a tall, white-haired old man, thin and stern. Vest and pocket watch. And the whole office, United Electronic Supply. The twelve-story building in downtown San Francisco. The newspaper and cigar stand in the lobby. The honking cars. Jammed parking lots. The elevator, packed with bright-eyed secretaries, tight sweaters and perfume.

  He wandered out of the kitchen, through the hall, past his own bedroom, his wife’s, and into the living room. The front door was open and he stepped out on to the porch.

  The air was cool and sweet. It was a bright April morning. The lawns were still wet. Cars moved down Virginia Street, towards Shattuck Avenue. Early morning commuting traffic, businessmen on their way to work. Across the street Earl Kelly cheerfully waved his Oakland Tribune as he hurried down the pavement towards the bus stop.

  A long way off Miller could see the Bay Bridge, Yerba Buena Island, and Treasure Island. Beyond that was San Francisco itself. In a few minutes he’d be shooting across the bridge in his Buick, on his way to the office. Along with thousands of other businessmen in blue pinstripe suits.