Writers on the Web: Philip K Dick, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson…
I have been longer and later getting to this post than I meant to. Some of this stuff may seem a little old already. But here it is anyway: Philip K Dick sees a giant fish emitting a golden light, Neil Gaiman talks about exploding cats, William Gibson remembers ray guns, plus Georg Heym and zombies from Lee Williams.
In this first of a three part series called ‘Philip K Dick, Sci-Fi Philospher,’ Simon Critchley of the NYT, revisits '2-3-74', the seminal events of February and March, 1974 that began with Dick seeing a giant glowing fish and that led to Dick's own 'total recall of the entire sum of knowledge' that he attempted to put down in the Exegesis, (pictured) a 8000 page scrawl on mind, art, God and the universe.
Now, was this just bad acid or good sodium pentothal? Was Dick seriously bonkers? Was he psychotic? Was he schizophrenic? (He writes, “The schizophrenic is a leap ahead that failed.”) Were the visions simply the effect of a series of brain seizures that some call T.L.E. — temporal lobe epilepsy? Could we now explain and explain away Dick’s revelatory experience by some better neuroscientific story about the brain? Perhaps. But the problem is that each of these causal explanations misses the richness of the phenomena that Dick was trying to describe and also overlooks his unique means for describing them.
What I think is really interesting is that Dick described himself as a ‘fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist.’ Which is so Platonic it’s not funny. Western philosophers have been fictionalizing since forever. Plato made shit up. Or rather he made shit up about Socrates making shit up. The Republic, in which Plato formulates his theses for and against mimesis (representation) is hyper-mimetic, a performative dream of performing in an impossible world where men dream in caves and poets are the ultimate confidence men. Dick’s point is that philosophers make stuff up to prove their point.... to get at the truth. Which is what novelists try and do too.
William Gibson, in the recent and much hyped sci-fi edition of the New Yorker, talks about his own Golden age of Science Fiction, and the ‘otherness of [his] adolescence joining up with the wider tributary of literature, the mother of all otherness.’ The mother of otherness. I like that.
The zeitgeist was chewy with space-flavored nuggets, morsels of futuristic design, precursors of a Tomorrow whose confident glow was visible beyond the horizon of all that was less wonderful, provided one had eyes to see it.
Gibson’s article reminds me of the story, ‘The Gernsback Continuum,’ in Burning Crome, his 1995 collection that had a profound influence on me.
And Neil Gaiman, fresh from his lovely interview with Stephen King gives the mother of all commencement speeches to the University of Philadelphia Arts Class of 2012.
When things get tough. This is what you should do. Make. Good. Art. .... The moment when you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, showing too much of yourself... that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.
And just in case the 'good art' bit had you stumped, here's some to chew on. Zombie vs Ninja, a story by Lee Williams at Smokelong Quarterly.
Desmond watches the telly and draws a cross over the face of anyone he would like to assassinate with a red marker pen. By lunchtime the whole screen is red and he is forced to guess at the presenters from their voices.
"Jonathan," he shouts. "Jonathan."
Finally, I was going to talk about the Georg Heym story, Dissection, in Anne and Jeff Vandemeer’s Weird Fiction Review. But that will have to wait until next week.