Tuesday, December 6, 2011

philip k dick, psychedelia - book - 2000 - What if Our World is Their Heaven?: The Final Conversations of Philip K Dick

What if Our World is Their Heaven?: The Final Conversations of Philip K. Dick
Gwen Lee and Doris Elaine Sauter (eds.)
The Overlook Press
2000
204 pages

Hi. Readers.  I borrowed What if Our World is Their Heaven? from University of Toronto’s Robarts Library.

What if Our World is Their Heaven is a collection of transcribed interviews with science-fiction mystic Philip K Dick.  These interviews are administered by a journalist named Gwen Lee during the final months of the authors life, and it is very apparent from their rapport that they have a close relationship with each-other.  Many of the interviews are, presumably, unedited in their transcription, as they contain tangential musings on popular culture (such as banter about the singer, Meatloaf) and even expressions of self-doubt (from Lee, the interviewer)  who occasionally discussed her uncertain career shifts.  These interviews are fairly casual, but perhaps because Dick was speaking, on record, with a friend, he felt comfortable discussing some of the more critical issues that he was dealing with towards the end of his life.  

These interviews were recorded in the last four months of Dick’s life, during the production period of Blade Runner, the first of several films based on the author’s work.  Dick’s impressions of the film-making process, his encounters with the starring actors of the movie, and his excitement over the promotion materials for the upcoming release make up a sizable component of these transcriptions.  More importantly, though, are Dick’s discussions of the ideas he has for the manuscript he ultimately left unfinished, The Owl In Daylight, and his memories of his mystic encounters with the divine that occurred in February and March 1974.






These interviews reveal why Philip K Dick continues to be a fascinating personality.  In his discussions of his working-class writer lifestyle and his recent success in Hollywood, he appears through his speech as a man crossing between plateaus, as he moves from everyday talking about the things he watched on television and the stress of publishing constraints, to talking about his encounters with god, and his transposition of those experiences into The Owl in Daylight.  These are probably Dick’s most candid revelations of those experiences beyond his private notes on the subject that have been published since his death.  

While Dick had written shards of these experiences into several of his late novels, including A Scanner Darkly, Radio Free Albemuth, and VALIS, his concept for The Owl In Daylight appeared almost prophetic, in that its protagonist was a composer whose work improved dramatically through contact with some form of extraterrestrial intelligence.  This alien intelligence attaches itself to the protagonist and kills him slowly, and the protagonist prefers to die and produce profound works of art than to disengage.  This almost mirrors the last few years of Dick’s life, when his post-1974 writing took a turn from its already philosophically profound idioms, towards the avant-garde - not long before his death.


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