An Evening with Philip K. Dick.

An Evening with Philip K. Dick.

In 1979/80 I secured a teaching exchange to the USA and ended up teaching in Norwalk in Los Angeles. Following an initial culture shock I had a fabulous year. My students were wonderful and I still think of them very fondly. It was a tough area, full of racism and gangs. But I digress already.

The people we exchanged with had a grown-up daughter. As we had exchanged houses and cars she had access to my library of books and discovered I had a whole row of Philip K Dick, one of my favourite Sci-Fi writers. Susan was a friend of Philip K. Dicks – or Phil, as she called him.

Around Christmas time she was returning to the USA and asked if I would like to go to meet him.

Would I? I would certainly have given a limb or two for the opportunity.

So it was that a young would-be Science Fiction writer (namely myself) found himself being escorted for an evening with the great man.

It all seemed surreal. I had so much to ask. I wanted advice. I wanted to ask him about his writing, where he got his ideas, how he set about it, how he became published.

When I found myself in his apartment in the presence of one of the greatest Sci-Fi writers of all time, I was too overawed to say much. Everything seemed blank.

We sat on sofas, drank beer and talked. The evening seemed a blur. All I can remember is him telling me that he had just been to the studio to see the rushes for a new film based on one of his books. It was called ‘The Claw’. He showed me a poster of this huge metal claw grasping a planet. It looked fantastic. He told me that seeing the rushes it was like looking inside his own head.

I have subsequently looked for the film and seen nothing that resembled the poster he showed me. Perhaps it was scrapped? Perhaps it later came out as Screamers – based on Second Variety? Or perhaps I imagined it? I was in such a state.

The only other thing I remember was that I asked him what he thought was the best thing he’d ever written. He laughed. He told me that he thought it was a scene of a gun duel between a gun shooter and a man with telekinetic powers. The gun shooter went to draw his gun and found himself holding his own pancreas.

At the end of the evening I thanked him and that was that.

I often look back and kick myself. If only I’d taken a book for him to sign, had a selfie that I could cherish, or relaxed enough to have a real conversation.

Never mind. I spent an evening with Philip K Dick. That’s enough.

2 thoughts on “An Evening with Philip K. Dick.

  1. Oh, my! Of course you were beyond overwhelmed and star struck. My dad always said, “You can’t saw sawdust.” Yes, at least you spent an evening with one of the greats. Few people can say that.

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