Philip K Dick, that is. He’s my bookshelf selection for my favourite author whose surname begins with the letter D, nestling between Colin Dexter and Charles Dickens.
Easy choice, really, if you’re a science fiction writer. I could have gone for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but (whisper it) I find his writing turgid, repetitive and uninspired. I could have gone for Dickens, too, but I am occasionally conscious we’re living in the 21st Century and all that rich boy unexpectedly finding themselves poor then regaining riches nonsense gets a bit wearing after a while. Still, Miss Havisham. Now there’s a gothic legend.
Dick, though, has influenced me way more than Charles Dickens (reputedly the world’s most famous novelist of all time – in print continuously since 1837). Growing up, it was all Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein – until I discovered Philip K Dick. There was something… off about his fiction. It wasn’t all square jawed pilots and hardy space explorers with Dick. No, it was all stuff to make your head spin. Dreamscapes, people who weren’t people at all. People with other people in their heads. Androids. Nazis winning the war. Dystopia. The paranormal. World War III. All written with an unsettling confidence each page, each idea primed to set his readers off balance.
The world didn’t really catch up with Philip K Dick until after he died an untimely death of a stroke in 1982, aged just 53, an agonising three months before the release of Blade Runner, based on his pacey but thoughtful exploration into humanity Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. After that our screens were full of Dick adaptations – Total Recall, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau and (on Amazon Prime) The Man in the High Castle. I learned from Philp K Dick that fiction doesn’t have to be ordinary and straightforward. It can be irreverent, take twists and turns with logic and ideas and really take a poke at what is and what isn’t. And that’s why D is for Dick.