Philip K. Dick: A Glaring Omission, I Believe

Written by Monkey Woods

Friday, 30 April 2010

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Philip K. Dick: great author, terrible memory

The other day I was reading from a collection by the noted science fiction author Philip K. Dick. The collection included stories such as The Minority Report, Paycheck, Impostor and a lesser-known short story called What The Dead Men Say. It is with regard to the latter that I write today, and about which I would like to pose a question to Mr Philip K. Dick.

Now, I know as well as anyone else, that Mr Dick died at the ridiculously early age of 54 back in 1982, but, he being the master of science fiction, and able to predict, with some success, what might happen in reality in the future, I don't think it is beyond the realms of possibility that he might just be watching or listening today, and might reasonably be able to read this message, and, therefore, to respond to it.

Mr Dick, I enjoy your work on the whole, and embark upon each of your stories expecting to be entertained in a way that few other authors entertain me. However, Sir, I have a bone to pick with you over the aforementioned What The Dead Men Say.

The story, as you will well remember, runs to 56 pages, and is one of your longer short stories. The concept is a great one: people who, after having died, are able to be 'brought back', so to speak, for a limited period in a kind of vegetable state of 'half-life'. So far so good.

The story focuses on Louis Sarapis, an extremely successful businessman who has died and left his half-life return in the hands of his very-strangely-named Public Relations man, Johnny Barefoot. When things start to go awry, however, Mr Barefoot questions his allegiance to Mr Sarapis, and not until the introduction of Kathy Egmont Sharp, Mr Sarapis' grand-daughter, does Mr Barefoot decide to support his former boss.

Claude St Cyr, Mr Sarapis's legal counsel before his death and Phil Harvey emerge as residual characters, and Mr St Cyr, we learn, is 'extremely fond' of Elektra Harvey, Phil's ex-wife. Elektra and Phil are divorced, she having got a poor deal from the separation. Unbeknown to Phil, Claude is determined to redress this unfair imbalance by taking over Phil's company, and giving it to Elektra once he has worked his way in.

This is all well and good, but that story comes to nothing as, I believe, Mr Dick forgets all about the little subplot he has set up.

What happens is that, on page 143, Claude pays a visit to Elektra at her home, and they discuss the TV airwaves that have seemingly been taken over by a signal from outer space, which could well be the voice of the now-dead Mr Sarapis.

Then he vists her again in a scenario described on pages 167 and 168, during which they have a brief conversation, but thereafter she is gone from the story - a gaping hole in Mr Dick's memory, I believe.

Everyone forgets things once in a while - I do it all the time - but this is a best-selling, internationally-known science fiction author, and, frankly, I expect better.

By introducing a character with the, frankly, unlikely name of 'Elektra' into the story, I was looking forward to at least a romp between her and Claude, or her and Barefoot, or, at the very least, her and Kathy Egmont Sharp. Sadly, I was disappointed in this respect.

I humbly suggest, Mr Dick, that you contact your publishers forthwith, and make some aesthetic changes to the aforementioned story, so that the omission of Elektra can be satisfactorily resolved.

I appreciate fully that you are dead. However, I'm sure I don't need to remind you about Half-Life, a concept which you, yourself, raised within this very story. I would appreciate it, therefore, if you could look at this matter with a degree of urgency, and report back to me as soon as is humanly, or unhumanly, possible.

Yours sincerely,

Moys Kenwood


The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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