Blog No. 396
Back when I was in high school, I got into the habit of spending hot summer days in the basement sitting on an old couch and watching movies on my parent’s first VCR. It was a huge grey beast that cost them something like a thousand dollars when they bought it. Years later it was relegated to the basement with the same old TV from the blog I wrote about watching Aliens with my dad. My parents also had a huge library of tapes (several hundred at one point) and I had many of my own. I would sit on the couch, running to the chest freezer to grab popsicles or freezies and watch movie after movie. One day I watched Blade Runner. I don’t think it was the first time, but for some reason, that watch had more impact than the others. I was in the habit of watching the credits back then, and at the end of the list of names and titles was a line of text that said the movie was based on the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.
That was the first time I had heard of the author who became my favourite very quickly. This isn’t a post about Blade Runner or Do Androids, though. I’ll get there (hopefully) soon. I had been reading some Star Wars books at the time (some of them are pretty good) and when I was at the mall (usually to see a movie at the old theatre) I would stop in at the Coles to see what books they had in their small science fiction section. After seeing Blade Runner that time in the basement, I desperately wanted to read the book on which it was based. Of course, the small book store didn’t have any Philip K. Dick in stock, but I asked the person working that day to order a cop of Androids for me. I’m still suffering from the terrible joke the man made, even though I can’t remember it completely. He put the order in, though, and in a few weeks, I had the book in my hands.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I never could have guessed what the story would be like. There were similarities to the movie, but the book had so much more going on. It wasn’t a perfect read, but I was excited by it and wanted to read more. After an order of Man in the High Castle, I was hooked on Philip K. Dick’s writing. Eventually I found a copy of the Philip K. Dick Reader. It was a collection of short stories. I didn’t care one way or the other, I just wanted to read more. I had no idea that the author of those two interesting but flawed books was actually a master of the short story who switched to writing novels when the market changed. I don’t want to diminish the novels, but they don’t compare to the short stories.
Every story I read in that collection sparked my imagination. I had thought of writing when I was younger, but they mostly revolved around movies. It was from reading those short stories that I was inspired to write my own short stories and books. There are twenty-four stories in the Reader and while I don’t have them memorized, I can read the first couple of sentences and remember what the story is about and how I felt the first time I read it. It was that book that really led me down the rabbit hole of not only Philip K. Dick, but other sci-fi authors of that time.
He has written a ton great short stories and I’ve read so many of them, that when something from one of them floats into my conscious, I can’t always remember which story I’m experiencing again, but it’s a good feeling every time. No author is perfect, and not every story he wrote is amazing, but the stories in that collection are fantastic. I remember sitting on my futon in my room, getting more and more uncomfortable as I moved from story to story. But I would keep reading, chasing that feeling of awe, ignoring my sore back or numb arm. Many of his stories that would eventually be made into movies are in that collection. (And there are a lot of them). Even movies that weren’t in development when I first read the book have their origins in the collection.
I loaned the book out to a coworker back when I was in college and never got it back. I had to eventually buy another one, even though I have several more collections of Philip K. Dick shorts that contain most of the same stories. There is something about the book and the impact it had on me that made me want to have a copy. It’s a pretty flimsy book. It’s light and there is a lot of text on a page. The cover is permanently curled back even though it spends most of its time on the shelf and I’m pretty easy on books when I read them. I have a couple of beautiful hard cover collections that are much more physically appealing. The stories inside are just as good (some of them the same). It’s the experience that is so important to me. It’s the joy and wonder from my first, third, and twelfth time reading that book.
I’ve red them in my bedroom as a teen and in the waiting room of a mechanic. I pulled out the book when I finished my last exam for the year at university and could finally do some reading for pleasure. I’m sure I’ll give it a read again years from now and have the same feelings all over again. I have dozens of books on my shelf and in my digital library waiting to be read. I probably always will. I know I’m going to read this book again, despite the new experiences waiting for me.