Phillip Kindred Dick is an American science fiction writer who touches on the implications of technological advancement, the nature of reality, and the concept of identity throughout the majority of his work. Known to have struggled with drugs, mental health issues, and paralyzing bouts of paranoia throughout his life, they too would also become themes within his work and impact the overall tone of his literary career.
Born December 16th, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, Philip Dick and his twin sister, Jane Charlotte Dick were six weeks premature. Jane’s death, weeks after her birth, is considered to have profoundly impacted Dick and influenced his work later on in life. At a young age Dick’s family uprooted and moved to San Francisco and shortly after his mother and father divorced. Dick has noted that he first came in contact with science fiction at the age of twelve through a science fiction magazine “Stirring Science Stories”. While at the University of California in Berkeley, Dick focus on classes in Philosophy, Psychology, and History, which served as introductions to many of the reoccurring ideas he would express later in his work. This formative period in Dick’s life is where he starts to postulate theories on the perception and nature of reality.
After selling his first story in 1951 Dick had minimal success in both the science fiction genre as well as his dream of becoming a mainstream American writer with his more conventional novels. However, In 1963 Dick won the Hugo Award for his work, The Man in the High Castle. This work, celebrated within the science fiction community never bridged to the mainstream audience Dick dreamed of.
According to Dick, on February 20th, 1974, as he recovered from the removal of his wisdom teeth, he had a filled prescription of Darvon, related to the dental procedure, delivered to his home. The young lady who delivered the drugs wore a necklace with the Icthys (Jesus Fish) symbol attached. Dick claimed that a “pink beam” of light from the necklace departed upon him enlightenment and semi-clairvoyance. Dick continually experienced hallucinations after this for weeks and would come to refer to this as “2-3-74”. Many of these hallucinations were religious in nature and are accredited as the inspiration for Dick’s Valis Trilogy. Dick, from then on, kept track of his hallucinatory/religious experiences within a journal which was eventually published as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.