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Philip K. Dick [Archive]

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

Last night, I went to the famed Berkeley, California bookstore Moe’s Books to hear writer Jonathan Lethem and editor Pamela Jackson talk about the new book The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. As the name “Haikasoru” itself hints, we are great fans of Philip K. Dick, and his Hugo Award-winning novel The Man in the High Castle (high castle=haikasoru), and Dicks’ exegesis has been a long time coming. The house was packed with fans!

In 1974, Dick had a religious experience (check out the comic strip summary by R. Crumb) in which he “realized” that the Roman Empire had never fallen. He spent the rest of his life trying to come to terms with his vision, and he left behind nearly 9000 pages of material—letters, graphs, and other writing—trying to come to philosophical and theological terms with his experience. He did this while still being a prolific writer of science fiction novel. The three novels of the VALIS trilogy hint at his religious experience, but the exegesis itself has gone unpublished…until now.

Of course, Lethem pointed out right away, it’s not the whole exegeis. The new book is only about 1000 pages long, and has annotations and remarks from the editors and from scholars as well. So maybe a tenth of the two file cabinet drawers worth of material is represented in the book.

Two of Dick’s daughters were present as well. Laura Leslie and Isa Dick Hackett had conflicted memories of their father, and both only made a few comments, but they were interesting. Leslie noted that her father wasn’t “crazy” or “schizophrenic”, and that the exegesis shows a grasp of philosophy that few people have. Hackett relayed an anecdote in which her father, having described seeing an angel, burst into tears.

It was a very strange night about a very strange book. And that strangeness reminded me of the many joys of science fiction.

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A new high castle

Is it odd to highlight the release of a book from another publisher here? Not when it’s this book! Check out the new edition of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle:

A classy cover, and Dick is finally famous enough that a publisher can easily launch a reissue of his work using the initials PKD. As many of you know, the name Haikasoru comes from the book—it’s a Nipponized pronunciation of the words “High Castle.” Given that thee book is both a science fiction classic and explicitly about a Japanese takeover of California, how could we resist?

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HARMONY nominated for the Philip K. Dick award!

It’s been a great couple of weeks for Harmony by Project Itoh. First it got a great review by io9.com on New Year’s Eve, and thanks to a million people having gotten Kindles and iPads for Christmas a week before became an ebook hit! Then io9.com named Harmony one of its best books of the year. And io9.com is not alone in its appreciation—Harmony was also just nominated for the Philip K. Dick award! Here is the list of nominees:

YARN by Jon Armstrong (Night Shade Books)
CHILL by Elizabeth Bear (Ballantine Books/Spectra)
THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS by Alden Bell (Henry Holt & Co.)
SONG OF SCARABAEUS by Sara Creasy (Eos)
HARMONY by Project Itoh, translated by Alexander O. Smith (Haikasoru)
STATE OF DECAY by James Knapp (Roc)

It’s great to see some other independent presses on the list, and we’re especially happy given the nature of the award, which is for the best paperback original science fiction title of the year. Poor Philip K. Dick wrote tons of books, nearly all of which were paperback originals or paperback only (he miiiight have had a book club title or two) back in the days when paperback originals were basically considered disposable junk.

Of course, today Dick is widely appreciated by fans, critics, and Hollywood, and by us…what is “Haikasoru” after all but a Nipponized pronunciation of the words “High Castle”? As in The Man in the High Castle. As in that PKD book about the Japanese taking over San Francisco and the western United States. As in, you know, us!

So we’re thrilled. See you science fiction fans in Seattle at Norwescon 34 and congratulations to the other nominees!

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Recently a coworker went to Kayo Books in downtown San Francisco and scored a mint-condition first-edition copy of Science Fiction Terror Tales. Lucky! This book, containing stories by Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein and others, is semi-famous for connecting the dots between science fiction and horror fiction. Author Mike Resnick, for one, credits it for sparking his life-long interest in the weird and bizarre.

Undoubtedly Science Fiction Terror Tales inspired many kids around the world as well. It was even translated into Japanese at one point. Which leads us back to a discussion we had previously on the Haikasoru blog: Why are we publishing a book of horror short stories? The answer is: why not? We’re thrilled to include ZOO by Otsuichi in our catalog. As Nick wrote earlier, “There’s a long tradition of horror being published alongside (and even as) SF and fantasy… the appeal is often broadly similar.”

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