Dick Book Resurrected by Dick Widow
Philip K. Dick's last wife has self-published his last novel, taking the plot and ideas and writing it in the manner that he would have written it himself, if he were still alive, or were -- perhaps -- an android infused with the exact memories and personality of the dead writer, downloaded into a computer, and given a thousand-word-a-day imperative, lest his spectral intelligence be annihilated, dragged kicking and screaming into a desktop "recycle bin."

Tessa Dick began her restoration project after posting on a PKD blog that it would be easy to write a new PKD book, because she knew the story he wanted to tell and knew how he would have told it.

Images of "Tessa Dick" are difficult to search for on the internet in a crowded coffee shop.

The new novel is called "The Owl in Daylight."

Philip Dick died of a massive stroke in 1982, several years after his famous visionary experience that caused him to believe that the world was trapped in a time illusion manifested by Satan to keep us all trapped in 50 A.D. in order to prevent the Kingdom of God from dawning on Earth.

Dick married Tessa (his fifth wife) in 1974, after being introduced to her at a beach party by his second-to-last ladyfriend, a woman named "Ginger."

Tessa was PKD's helpmeet and exegete until they divorced in 1977, helping him through some of his most famous works, including the VALIS trilogy and "A Scanner Darkly," which was recently made into a peculiarly shitty movie in spite of being animated by exceptional artists. Dick material is difficult to work with: it is hard to strike the right balance between humor and paranoia, while still giving top billing to Dick's feverish ideas. Movies are about characters and setting, and these are always secondary in a Dick story.

According to an interview with "The Self-Publishing Review," Tessa was side-by-side with PKD during "A Scanner Darkly," adding input, serving as ideal reader, and helping the writing process along:

"My primary contribution was making coffee and sandwiches, but I read each page of Scanner as it came out of the typewriter and I did a lot of copy editing. Also, one scene is mine: I came up with the idea of having him see nothing but dog feces when he opened the hood of his car."

Tessa's new novel is based more on speculation than on actual notes or conversations. Dick's idea was to tell a story about a person who builds a computer with artificial intelligence in order to run an amusement park, and then gets trapped inside his own creation. "Westworld" meets "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream."

From the same interview:

"The Owl in Daylight is my concept of what Phil's novel should be. I relied heavily on Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. The plot is loosely based on Phil's life, which will become more apparent in the sequel, The Owl in Twilight.

"Sometimes I do feel that Phil is communicating with me from beyond the grave, but that concept is too spooky for me to accept completely. It's probably just that I knew him so well that I can think the way he did."

Later this year, a film will be released about PKD's life, starring Paul Giamatti, and will be titled the same thing: "The Owl in Daylight." Tessa is not happy about the impending film and worries that it will reduce the author to a caricature, minimizing his complexity and getting the facts wrong.

"This biopic promises to present another fantasy of drug-induced paranoia sprinkled with peppery females who drag the great author down into the gutter," she said. "Someone reminded me that I was interviewed for this film about a year ago, but that conversation was so brief and so directed that they learned very little. The interviewer simply wanted to confirm his own theories, not to gather facts. I shudder at the thought of such a complex personality, as Phil really was, being condensed and portrayed as a caricature of himself."

The new novel is available from Amazon here, although you can read more about Tessa's project at her blog, "It's a Philip K Dick World."

Being in love with a writer is difficult. In their lifetimes, great writers are often insecure, unloved, and disregarded, and when they die, obsession in their work surges. The pressure is on those who knew them best to explain them, defend them, and sustain people's hunger for more by giving them revealing anecdotes and trivial banalities.

I'm not sure that you should write novels in their name, however. Perhaps that is crossing the line?

But where is the line anyway?

Are you the line?

Am I?

What if we are all the line?

What if there is no line?


Posted by miracle on Tue, 17 Feb 2009 12:16:57 -0500 -- permanent link

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