Principia Discordia

Principia Discordia => Literate Chaotic => Topic started by: Cramulus on May 19, 2020, 02:22:22 pm

Title: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 19, 2020, 02:22:22 pm
It's about time we had a thread about one of science fiction's most bizarre and fascinating authors.


What's your favorite Philip K Dick story, movie, or fact?
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: LMNO on May 19, 2020, 02:32:12 pm
Oh, man.

Scanner Darkly, Transmigration of Timothy Archer, Flow my Tears, and of course, just for the bat-shit-craziness of it, VALIS.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 19, 2020, 02:35:51 pm
VALIS is always gonna have a special place in my heart. Its one of those books that felt, in places, like it was speaking directly to me. It's probably the best modern exploration of Gnosticism.

PKD's concept of the Black Iron Prison crackles with gnostic energy... the whole thing can be read on a few different levels. One of those levels is a direct commentary on your own spirituality. There are a few gnostic texts which have that same quality, but few hit me like VALIS did.



My second favorite PKD book is definitely Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Blade Runner is an excellent movie which only picked up 2 or 3 threads from the book. The book is much weirder and, IMHO, more interesting. I can see why they couldn't film a lot of those concepts, they're farrrr out there.

That being said, the sequel to Blade Runner, 2049, is also a gnostic masterpiece, but it's not based on Dick's work at all. The writers clearly did their homework on PKD's gnosticism though - there are a few subtle details in that movie (such as a table decorated with jesus-fish designs) that are direct references to very fine and specific images that exist throughout PKD's work.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: chaotic neutral observer on May 19, 2020, 03:56:52 pm
Coincidentally, I'm currently about half-way into Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.  Perhaps I'll post some thoughts here once I'm finished with it.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 19, 2020, 04:09:07 pm
Coincidentally, I'm currently about half-way into Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.  Perhaps I'll post some thoughts here once I'm finished with it.

yes please! I will avoid spoiling.. but god damn, the Mercer machine ... that concept could be a whole movie.

it's especially germane right now... humanity in the real world is isolated by quarantine, craving human contact. Similar to the humans in that novel, who are spread out over largely empty cities. Everybody feels like they're missing something. Everybody feels a shared guilt for how fucked the world is. Conspicuous Consumerism fills the gap.

So they have this machine, looks kinda like a treadmill. When you grip it, your individual consciousness is suddenly replaced by the experience of being this specific guy, who is climbing a mountain while people throw rocks at him. Everybody who uses the mercer machine experiences the same sequence of events.

It creates a "shared sense of suffering", which is one of the building blocks of religion. So that's what religion is right now-- using the Mercer machine to bond with the rest of humanity. Joining the individual and the collective. Everybody identifies with this guy being pelted with rocks. We invent all sorts of lessons to take from this.

arewaglkahlahglagh it's so good -- just wait until the novel develops the idea further.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: altered on May 19, 2020, 04:10:59 pm
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. It’s a horror story in a way none of his other stuff is short of maybe Ubik, and it is a tale of a grand, hideous, petty god. It’s gross and metaphysically poisonous. I fucking love it.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 19, 2020, 04:12:24 pm
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. It’s a horror story in a way none of his other stuff is short of maybe Ubik, and it is a tale of a grand, hideous, petty god. It’s gross and metaphysically poisonous. I fucking love it.

This one is next on my list! It's in the mail right now.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: rong on May 19, 2020, 04:21:36 pm

this is one of my favorite jokes


(https://img.ifunny.co/images/92b25235697f6b7ddac8f4816f1c031b130de4c3b23b7e8b89cf59cce355f254_1.jpg)
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 19, 2020, 04:29:58 pm
The Voight Kampff test is also such an interesting idea.

Throughout the novel, Dick gives us tiny details about the Androids which show they're not exactly what we imagine as robots. They cleary have emotions, fear death, and if you shoot one, it bleeds and screams just like a human. So how do we identify that they're not One Of Us? and keep in mind, this is a universe where spirituality/religion is based on shared experience of suffering.

The Voight Kampff test measures how much guilt and compassion one feels towards animals. That's basically it. Humans, in this universe, destroyed the ecosystem and have a very intense shared guilt about it (similar to German guilt post WWII--how it became a cultural standard; public schools had classes focused on examining and processing that guilt). Robots don't have this same experience, so they're not human and are therefore ok to destroy.

Isn't this similar to the energy that destroyed the environment? Humans > Nonhumans and therefore morally ok to exploit.

It makes me wonder... if we flash back in time by 50 years, and humans are busy destroying the ecosystem and making earth unlivable... would any of those humans pass the Voight Kampff? Isn't the Voight Kampff actually just a fingers-in-ears denial of innate humans callousness?

there's so many god damned IDEAS in that book
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: LMNO on May 19, 2020, 04:33:30 pm
I know for damn sure that there are humans now who'd fail.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 19, 2020, 04:39:48 pm
kinda reminds me of Camus' The Stranger, where the guy is put on trial for murder, but everyone is much more focused on how he didn't have the normal & expected emotional reaction to his mother's death.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Doktor Howl on May 19, 2020, 07:44:59 pm
Philip K Dick was more entertaining before his work turned into a documentary.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Frontside Back on May 19, 2020, 11:40:29 pm
Only one of his books I've gotten around to read was Lies Inc. I don't  know how it compares to other stuff, but it sure left me confused. The book was filled with what can only described as virtual plots. Story shows you some elements, and your head goes "oh I bet these would fit together logically like this in a regular story" and then the story just drops them since it already told that story in your head and zooms off into whole another unpredicted trajectory.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: altered on May 20, 2020, 12:55:43 am
I wanted to expand on the Three Stigmata a bit: it is way farther from reality than Dick’s other work, which is fucking creepy in how well it predicted our cyberpunk dystopia.

In a lot of ways it starts as the inversion of Electric Sheep, taking the same ideas and flipping the script on them. The eugenics subtext is brought out into full view, and the Mercer machine concept is inverted into a tool of capitalism and hedonism. But overall, the same themes are present, being explored from the other side.

Then about halfway through, something terrifying starts to take control of the narrative, and the last third of the book is bleak as fuck. I think it’s probably the most Dok Howl PKD story in some ways. There are no heroes, there is no Deus Ex Machina, and what limited benevolent power exists is stupid, weak, petty, and trying it’s goddamned best.

PKD can be awfully formulaic sometimes, his Gnostic take on reality is usually so heavy handed that you can guess a plot line before it happens, if you’ve read any of his other books. A Scanner Darkly is one of the ones that doesn’t lean too blatantly on the Gnostic  conception of reality, and even there the plotline essentially boils down to the same thing.

Three Stigmata is something different altogether, despite using similar plot elements and near identical symbolism. Wild fucking ride.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 20, 2020, 01:30:29 pm
I read Ubik this summer. I really love books that make you put them down, rub the bridge of your nose, and say out loud "what the living FUCK did I just read??"

He has such an interesting take.. in Ubik, commercialism has joined in on the invisible spiritual battle for the universe ... there are products which are consuming the universe, causing it to decay and regress -- and a product which can save it.

There's also this weird aristotelian idea, that any given object you can see is actually this ancient form which is disguised under a layer of culture. And as the world starts to fall apart in this novel, the forms regress.. Cars slowly become older and older models cars - eventually they become the Model T, and then they vanish. It's like this conceptual archaeology is going on. Any idea you have is actually a russian nesting doll containing all the ideas that it evolved from - the current point in history is basically like a "skin" on top of concepts .. which makes us think it's actually 2020 (or whatever year it is in the novel).

Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: altered on May 20, 2020, 07:14:57 pm
The conceptual archaeology thing you mention feels a lot like Renaissance-era neo-Platonism. Which makes sense for a fucking Gnostic.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on May 20, 2020, 10:12:18 pm
ahhh yeah I meant to say Platonic, not Aristotelian  :punchballs:


Plato Plah-toe
Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Post by: chaotic neutral observer on May 24, 2020, 06:17:39 pm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (spoilers):

1.  The characterization feels backward.  The humans seem flat, unemotional, robotic.  They fill out their roles, they do their jobs.  They acquire and keep animals as a symbol of social status--fake ones, if they can't afford the real thing.  They tune their emotions with a mood organ.  In contrast, the androids are passionate, dangerous, manipulative.  They're fighting for their lives.

We're told that there are different grades of android, but we aren't shown them; instead, we see different grades of human.  Isidore's fallout-induced(?) brain damage qualifies him as a sort of subhuman (Special).  Roy Baty casually discusses killing Isidore in Isidore's presence, but Isidore doesn't react.  If presented with the scene out of context, which one would you think was the android?

Reading a version of this book with the words "android" and "human" swapped might be an interesting exercise.

2.
Quote
"How can I save you," the old man said, "if I can't save myself?" He smiled.  "Don't you see? There is no salvation."
"Then what's this for?" Rick demanded.  "What are you for?"
"To show you, " Wilbur Mercer said, "that you aren't alone.  I am here with you and always will be.  Go and do your task, even though you know it's wrong."

3.  Making the androids organic (rather than electromechanical) is an interesting choice, which isn't seen very often in western science fiction.  But these androids are so close to human that specialized testing is required to identify them; either psychological, neurological, or by bone-marrow testing.  But if they fail these subtle (and potentially error-prone) tests, they are immediately eligible for retirement.  If we can dehumanize entities that are human in practically every way except for their origin and their lifespan, then we can dehumanize humans, too.

I cannot say whether or not I would pass a Voight-Kampff test.

4.  Buster Friendly's revelation that Mercerism is fake was an interesting twist.  But it didn't matter, and PKD knew it didn't matter.  If a person's religion is based on their personal experience, you can't talk them out of it, and Mercerism--fake or not--is entirely a religion of personal experience.

But I don't quite get the mechanics of Mercerism.  How did Mercer just show up out of nowhere and warn Deckard he was being flanked, when Deckard wasn't in contact with an empathy box?

5.  I find it hard not to mentally autocomplete "Deckard" -> "Deckard Cain".
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on June 08, 2020, 03:00:53 pm
I've probably read VALIS five times and finally got myself a paperback copy. (previously, I'd had it all printed out in a 3-ring binder)


The image I'm intrigued by right now is embedded in Horselover Fat's Cosmonogy. There's a section where he's writing his Exegis about where the universe came from, what it actually is. This one section basically says


Back in the Beginning, everything was part of one big thing, called the One, which is actually a mind. But as this unified thing, it can't do anything, or change, or grow, because everything is inside of it. So it separates into two parts, the twins. The One becomes the Two. (we discordians say Chaos, then Discord)

These two parts are Yin and Yang, Universe I and Universe II. But they are not equal - the dark twin is smaller, and sick. The sickness has infected the light twin too. Ideally, these twins would compete against each other in complementary ways. But because of the sickness, the conflict has become toxic and is making everything weak and insane.

at the tail end of this description,

Horselover Fat (who can perhaps be described as the insane part of Philip K Dick) says that the Two will not come into balance. What needs to happen is that the light twin needs to defeat - that is, euthanize - the dark twin. Once this happens, the light twin will split into two halves. And the conflict will become between the two disease-free halves of existence, and proper growth, proper competition between light and dark, will be possible.



he's writing about the self and the world, simultaneously


a lot of material in there to consider
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on June 08, 2020, 03:25:57 pm
also, I only learned yesterday that Philip K Dick actually had a twin sister who died at a young age.

As a kid, his parents took him to visit her grave--and young Philip saw that his parents had also purchased a grave plot and tombstone for him. The two twins would be buried next to each other.

Looking at his own grave, his death date not yet inscribed, Philip became uncertain which twin actually died. Was there another universe in which his sister lived but he died? Is he dead right now?

this confusion, this transposition of two identities - informed PKD's entire writing career
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on June 08, 2020, 08:19:10 pm
also, just rewatched A SCANNER DARKLY


     woah
          \
(https://imgflip.com/s/meme/Conspiracy-Keanu.jpg)

I love it even more than I did when I saw it in 2006.

Rotoscope is the perfect medium for PKD's work.. it makes it feel so dreamy and irreal.

Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on June 23, 2020, 10:26:07 pm
Great interview with Erik Davis (of Techgnosis), who's a PKD scholar.. wrote his thesis on PDK, helped publish Dick's Exegesis, etc...

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=263803811610504&ref=watch_permalink

I enjoyed the whole thing, but if you were only gonna listen to 5 minutes of it, the stuff right after 1:05 is nice and chewy
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on July 02, 2020, 03:22:33 pm
Just finished reading THE THREE SIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH. Whew, what a crazy book! really enjoyed it.


Can I talk about it with some spoilers? If you don't want to read anything about it, plz skip. I'll only talk about the world itself, not the plot.


The book, set in the space travel far future of 2016, follows a few characters who work for these drug companies. The earth is now increasingly uninhabitable due to global warming, and so people are being "drafted" to live in colonies on other planets. Mars is a grim hellworld which is basically a labor camp, but they don't specify exactly why it's so hellish, just that people there are all suicidally depressed and need to do heavy hallucinogens in order to cope with it.

The first drug, Can-D, lets people escape into a communal transcendental experience. They chew up the drug together, and then they appear in this fantasy world which is Earth, New York, in the 1970s. (er.. present day) While tripping, you inhabit the bodies of these specific people - males become Walt and females become Pat. They call this experience Translation. If multiple people are translated at once, they share a body - so all the men are sharing Walt's body and collectively deciding how he'll behave. Furthermore, when you do the drug, you have to sit in these "layouts"... basically like a little doll house. You can buy "min" furniture (basically doll furniture), or other items, and it will appear in your trip. So if you buy this fancy wardrobe, then when you're "translated", it appears in your experience. So there's a materialistic component to it.

The rival drug, Chew-Z, lets people escape into a personal transcendental experience. You can imagine anything you want, and it seems real, but you're alone. You could live in a memory, or a fantasy. Essentially, you are in a mind. But whose mind? maybe it's not yours...

Both drugs are incredibly habit forming, and the colonists on mars are badly addicted. These experiences - which the users regard as spirituality, true religion - are the exact experiences permitted by the drug manufacturers. Users feel like their soul actually moves into another body, which proves (to many) that souls are real and the material world torturing us is actually an illusion. But any of these translation experiences are actually controlled by the company that prodces the drug. 

PKD is commenting on two types of transcendental experiences... but rather than the experience itself, he's more interested in where they come from. Who offers them. People are transformed by religious experiences, and then become servants of whoever offered it. Trapped in a mode of thinking. Freed into a form of bondage.


There's a lot more going on in this book than that. Without spoiling the plot too much, I'll mention that this is another book where PKD explores religion with a very skeptical attitude. He views religious experiences as real, but does not take the church's explanation at face value. A lot of his books seem to say -- the bible actually is divinely inspired, but we shouldn't trust God's statement about who or what he is. We all bought into this ancient/medieval idea of god, but what if it's more like an alien invader? what if god is wrong about himself, and only thinks he's perfect? What if creation is flawed in ways that god cannot understand (in the same way that a psychotic person cannot perceive their own psychosis)?
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: altered on July 02, 2020, 03:46:34 pm
The figure of Palmer Eldritch in the book is hugely fascinating to me.

Quote is spoilers.

Quote
A petty, foolish god with omnipresence and nothing else. God the Observer, another wage slave trying his best is a freakish conception, and I adore it. The idea that he needs a human sacrifice in just the right way to ensure his continued existence feels like a scathing indictment of the accepted story of Jesus Christ.

Crazy shit. My favorite.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: Cramulus on July 02, 2020, 04:08:50 pm
I heard a story that the kernel of the novel is this experience PKD had in the 60s... brain fried on amphetamines, he had a vision... the sky was filled with this terrible face -- steel jaw, metal eyes, a mechanical hand... he got the sense that it was both malevolent and divine. An evil director, in the sky. And that that this was more than just a hallucination; something essential about the nature of the cosmos had been revealed to him.

Quote from: Philip K Dick
I looked up at the sky and saw a face. I didn’t really see it, but the face was there, and it was not a human face; it was a vast visage of perfect evil… it was immense; it filled a quarter of the sky. It had slots for eyes — it was metal and cruel and, worst of all, it was God
(quote ripped from this article (https://medium.com/@fantasmarium/the-three-stigmata-of-palmer-eldritch-philip-k-dick-weird-sci-fi-29492659dc84))

He understood that the vision was likely a product of the drugs he was on... and also a product of a childhood experience... his father was a veteran of World War I, and would tell stories about his time in the war while wearing a gas mask. The mask terrified young PKD, and it probably screwed up his god/father archetype for life.

but despite knowing how it arose in his psychology because of early childhood experiences and heavy drugs, he also thought this vision was real, in a way. Valid, despite his intoxication. The book is an exploration of that moment.
Title: Re: THE PHILIP K DICK THREAD
Post by: altered on July 02, 2020, 08:24:44 pm
The godhood in this case is more debatable.

Quote
Palmer Eldritch wasn’t omniscient, he was outwitted on multiple occasions. He wasn’t omnipotent, his power was purely illusory: remember the scene at the monument. He certainly wasn’t omnibenevolent.

He wanted to do good but his vision was small and petty like him, and limited because he could see everything first hand but had no way of truly understanding any of it. He was purely God the Observer. Not a creator, nor a true interloper, or a scholar, or even a “knower”. He could only watch.

His capacity to shape the future required others to accept he was trying his best and was the best placed one to make sweeping, vast decisions, because all he could do is attempt to convince.

A small, petty, stupid, self-serving divinity trying to help everyone live a better life, and not knowing how or even what that looks like. That was the thing that made Palmer Eldritch such a stand out figure to me. Joe Schmoe gets divine awareness and tries to play god, with none of the power or mindset needed. Nothing quite like it.