Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) sits on the couch for some deep analysis.
Arnold, a clinical psychologist at Coney Island Hospital, believes that Dick “grappled with madness” his entire life. He begins this highly detailed psychobiography in the publisher’s Inner Lives series with a story about an apprehensive Dick visiting director Ridley Scott on the set of Blade Runner. Dick had recently written a scathing review of Scott’s Alien. He loved watching some of the film—the only one made from a Dick book while he was alive—but was worried when Scott said he was leaving out most of the book’s spiritual themes. Dick felt they were central to this story, as they were to all his writings, believing he was a “mystical seer and prophet.” Arnold goes into great detail in his psychoanalysis of Dick, and he identifies key episodes in his life that were instrumental in providing the imaginative fodder for his profoundly autobiographical fictions. The first was the death of his twin sister, Jane; Arnold calls it Dick’s “origin story.” They were born premature, and she died a few weeks later. He constantly obsessed over the fact that she died and he lived. The theme of “deadly doubling” is common in Dick’s works. Then there was the event on 2-3-74 (as Dick officially called it) when he believed he was hit by a bright pink light he called Zebra; it filled his brain with mystical information. Arnold believes this event was actually a mental breakdown. Dick’s addiction to amphetamines, not LSD, Arnold argues, caused Dick’s paranoia. Arnold effectively describes how Dick’s psychological problems play out in some of his characters and stories, and more of this would have been welcome. There’s little here that doesn’t relate solely to discussing his mental state. The book is overly prescriptive in its telling, and the prose is dry and academic.
An inquiry into the SF master’s mind that will interest only the most devoted of Dick’s fans.