Everything began in Chicago, on the 16th of December, 1928.
Philip Kindred and Jane Kindred Dick cried and wept for
the first time in their lives. Jane died after 41 days,
because of the carelessness of their mother, Dorothy Grant
Kindred (who didn't take her to the hospital at the proper
time, a money matter). Since then, Phil had a unconscious
culpability complex and we can understand perhaps a bit
more why he felt anger toward his parents. Moreover, Jane
would be found in many phildickian writings later on. Phil's
dad, Joseph Edgar Dick, had a nice job indeed: cutting the
throats of pigs as an employee of the government. His mother
censored official texts of the government's spokesmen. Here
again, what feelings went through the young Dick about his
parents? Censorship is one of the most important features
in Philip K. Dick's writings: distinguishing truth from
falsehood, the real from the imagined.
1930 was the year of his departure for Berkeley, CA. In
1932, his parents divorced and three years later he and
his mother moved to Washington, DC. 1938: back to Berkeley.
In '40, '42 and '43 they moved around in Berkeley. Phil
let his friends call him Jim Dick. He entered Hillside School
in northern Berkeley. There, his originality made him very
popular. His relationship with his mother was very distant,
almost cold. Phil wrote some small poems, and other short
texts. Already at 13 years old, he was a reader of Astounding
and Unknown, published at this time by the well-known John
W. Campbell. In these periodicals, he read Asimov and Heinlein,
for instance; without forgetting Van Vogt, whose influence
on Dick is certain (take a look at 'Solar Lottery'). At
14, he wrote his first novel (lost, alas!) called 'Return
to Liliput' (strongly influenced by Swift).
Around 1944-46, he underwent intensive psychiatric treatment
against agoraphobia and some other psychological troubles.
He entered Berkeley High School in 1944. At 18, he left
his mother's flat, where he had been living since his parents'
divorce. He moved to a flat shared with artists and homosexual
poets; doing so was probably only to show his mother he
could manage himself alone, since homosexuality didn't attract
him. Besides, he quickly moved out to a small attic apartment,
of course still in Berkeley. At this time he suffered tachycardia.
He quickly became dependent on the medicines he's prescribed.
In 1947, he received a diploma for finishing high school,
and worked in a TV sales and repair shop (they also sold
records). Music would remain his great passion: it would
stay omnipresent throughout his works. In September 1949,
after having moved to a real flat (not just a small attic),
he registered at the University of California in Berkeley
and studied German and philosophy. During May 1948, Dick
married Jeanette Marlin, divorcing at once, six months later;
he never saw her again. He met his second wife, Kleo Apostolides,
a student at Berkeley, in 1949 and married her in June 1950.
Kleo was three years younger than Phil, so she was 19. The
house they moved into was full of mice, which explained
the large number of cats that could be found at this period
at 1126 Francisco st. in Berkeley.
Concerning Dick's reading, he admired various authors, as
different as H. P. Lovecraft and Fredrik Brown, and read
still and always a lot of Van Vogt. At 24, he began his
literary career without an agent; that is, he was trying
to put out his short stories with as much success as possible
via US mail. His health was growing better.
At the end of 1951, he gave his resignation to the record
shop. In June 1952, a certain fellow named Scott Meredith
in New York agreed to be his literary agent. 1952 was the
time of discoveries like Herbert, Sheckley, Farmer, Aldiss,
Silverberg, Vonnegut and many others. In 1954, as Dick finished
the manuscript of his first published novel, SOLAR LOTTERY,
he and his wife met Poul and Karen Anderson; they stayed
good friends. Let's specify that money is a rare thing at
the Dicks' of the fifties. An interesting story follows:
at this period, the Dicks were contacted by FBI agents,
who wanted them to go and study in Mexico and be their informants
there. Because of ethics, they refused.
Between 1951 and 58, our author wrote and sold about eighty
short stories! In 1954, Dick met Van Vogt at the SF WorldCon
in San Francisco. Between 1950 and 1960, he wrote eleven
novels of pure fiction, but didn't sell any of them, as
you know. Having sold in 1955 SOLAR LOTTERY to Ace Books,
a firm that had been printing paperbacks for two years,
he managed to write four novels in 1954 and 1955. We underlined
Van Vogt's influence, but there also is Vonnegut with his
PLAYER PIANO (1952).
Nearing their thirties, Dick and his wife Kleo left Berkeley
for Point Reyes in Marin County, CA. Marin County appears
in many mainstream phildickian novels. There, he met Anne
Williams Rubinstein, born 1927 in St Louis. Five months
after their move to Point Reyes, in 1958, Phil and Kleo
divorced; he married Anne almost immediately thereafter.
Anne already had three children. Beginning with 1959, Dick
let his beard grow. On February 25th, 1960, Dick became
father of a girl named Laura Archer (Archer is also a very
present name in his work). It was reported that the first
thing he said after the birth was more or less: "And this
is for Jane!". When, in the fifties, Dick wrote his dozen
of mainstream novels, it was probably to locate himself
in this mainstream literary genre, very 'en vogue' in this
period. None were sold and they were returned to him in
1963. Only in 1975, a small editor published CONFESSIONS
OF A CRAP ARTIST.
With the beginning of the sixties, he suffered worse and
worse breakdowns; the cause of this was the amphetamines
that allowed him to hold the speed of sixty pages per day;
this was the speed he needed not to starve. He received
the Hugo Award (in remembrance of Hugo Gernsback of the
AMAZING's beginning) in 1963 for THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.
Starting late 1962, the third marriage began to fail, to
really collapse in 1964. The same year, he met Nancy Hackett,
21, fragile and who had just recovered from a nervous breakdown.
They moved to San Raphael and were married in 1966. A girl,
Isa (abreviation of Isolde), was given to them in 1967,
before they moved to Santa Venetia.
Dick's need for amphetamines didn't decline, nor did his
long breakdowns. After a stay at the hospital because of
a case of pancreatitis that almost cost Dick his life, Nancy
left him taking Isa with her in 1970. That was the really
dark period in Dick's life; he was in profound despair.
Dick filled his empty house in Santa Venetia with junkies.
Nevertheless, he fell in love with a young DARK-HAIRED GIRL
named Kathy Demuelle.
The 17th of November, 1971, somebody broke into his house.
He was convinced it was the CIA. This troubling event starts
a paranoia in Dick's mind, for nothing of value has been
taken away, just perishable food; it appears to have been
more a military operation than a simple burglary, not to
mention that his safe was opened with explosives!
Around this period (1972), he met K. W. Jeter and Tim Powers
at Cal- State in Fullerton; they attended a lecture by a
writing professor named John Schwarz.
The next year, he got many threatening phone calls. He sheltered
in Canada without Kathy. There, he gave his famous lecture,
THE ANDROID AND THE HUMAN, in Vancouver, first at the University
of British Columbia and a day or two later as his Guest
of Honor speech at the second annual Vancouver Science Fiction
Convention; and met another DARK-HAIRED GIRL named Jamis.
Back in California, he stayed in Fullerton where he met
first Linda, and then Tessa Busby, whom he married on April
18th, 1973. A son, Christopher, grew of this union the same
year. In 1975, he was awarded the John W. Campbell Memorial
Award for FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID.
At this time, Dick had one of his mystical experiences that
explain the almost divine nature of his last novels. His
last lecture took place in Metz (France) in 1977. He died
in 1982 on a hospital bed, of heart failure, leaving a unfinished
novel, THE OWL IN DAYLIGHT.
Copyright 1993 by Joel Margot