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Remembered for you wholesale

April 6, 2017

We knew it was coming.   Perhaps we had precogged it, perhaps we’d received the information in a hallucination beamed to us from a higher life form, or perhaps we’d just read about it on Wikipedia: we knew that Philip K Dick would die, and @DoAndroidsTweet would end.  Here are some final words on the project and the man himself.

That we knew it would come didn’t make it any easier.  Yesterday I was slumped over in my chair and I must have been looking pretty down as my wife asked me, “What’s up?”

“Philip K Dick’s dying,” I said, “I’ve just written his last tweets. He just wanted to get one more novel out.”  It was very sad to write these tweets, knowing he had been struggling even at the end.

We’d been with him as he’d struggled right at the start as well – in his early 20s as he stuck rejection letter after rejection letter up on his wall.  When Phil declared, aged 24, he had “finally arrived as a writer” @pawl_schwartz said “Finally! Only 70 or so more novels to go until you can rest….” At various points @regtardis told Phil to “chin up” and that he should push through the “wingey periods” since they were actually the source of some of his best writing.   The real Philip K Dick certainly could’ve done with the encouragement that Phil got from his followers, bearing in mind that at many points in his career he nearly gave up on writing altogether.

Encouragement gradually turned to concern.  When Phil started seeing his pink lights, @MatthewCallaway said “I’m starting to worry about you, man.”  When Phil went too far down a few rabbit holes regarding the ultimate nature of existence, @djsheldrick said “I have a feeling this is the beginning of something strange and sad. Godspeed, Phil.”

People also weren’t afraid to call Phil out on some of his behaviour, which was at times despicable.  When Phil declared, “Once again I am my father and have broken up my family,” @sevensixfive put it plainly: “Stop being such a dick, Phil.”

Knowing the depression and anguish that would come, some willed Phil to walk a simpler counterfactual past.   When Phil presented this difficult decision: “A deal for a ‘Blade Runner’ novelization for $400k, or a deal for a mainstream novel for $7.5k.  What would you do?” @SheriSys2 said “Go on, take the money and run.” But I got the impression that most of Phil’s concerned followers just wanted to give him a hug.

Followers have been all too aware of Philip K Dick’s early death (he was 53) and they’ve been gradually coming to terms with it.  @JueRobWilPo said, “It was so sad reading PKD’s thoughts on his post-Bladerunner success, yet knowing that the end was approaching.”  I’d initially stated there’d be 600 tweets but as the project went on I realised I needed more.  @LeeCash said “Following Philip K Dick’s life in 700 tweets is a real rollercoaster.  If the rollercoaster was made out of meth & misery.”  Months later he said, “And we hit 800. :(“.  We ended up with 829.

Right up to his death, people often commented on how Phil appeared to be writing for our time as much as his.   When Phil said, “As you get older you lose touch with reality until you wind up puttering around with your flowers in the backyard while WWIII breaks out,” @ClipperChip said, “How disturbingly fitting.” But he seemed to offer a lot of reassurance there too.  @highway_62 said, “In these rough days, I kinda treasure @DoAndroidsTweet regular reminders of humanity and feeling adrift in too big a world.”

I cannot thank Lawrence Sutin enough for writing the excellent biography, Divine Invasions, and for giving me the ‘OK’ to make use of this for the tweets.  Thanks again to Lauren Farnsworth for her fantastic artwork.  I thank all of the early promoters and retweeters, including @SFbookclub (a PKD retweet was their 6000th tweet!), @rfamovie, @scifilondon, and everybody quoted here. I thank my wife, Emily, for talking with me again and again about books she has never read.  A quote from PKD even featured in our wedding ceremony.

Thank you very much to people who have said kind words about the project.  @smashgamestate called it “fucking haunting” but then he also said it was “Better than #Hamilton”.  2 years from his death, when Phil said, in dire frustration: “Back to writing the Exegesis.  SOMEWHERE in here is the truth but I just haven’t quite found it yet,” @X1Sblu said “I feel your struggle, Phil. I know this is a tribute account, but this let me feel so close to him and his feelings.” To me, knowing that a few people have connected with Philip K Dick through the tweets makes the whole thing worth it.

I thank the man himself, Philip K Dick.  I didn’t intend to, but I ended up reading 8 more of his novels and I love each of them so much. Because of what I knew he had gone through, I found myself in tears at the end of ‘A Scanner Darkly’.  When Phil figured he wasn’t going to live much longer, @ZontarianMome said, “Thanks for the fictions and philosophies that abide over all that follows you.” I echo these words.

The most popular tweet of them all was an exact quote originally appearing in his short story, “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.” It featured again in VALIS.  It was: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing it, doesn’t go away.” Philip K Dick may be dead, but he has certainly not gone away, and he is very much a part of our reality.  We are better for it.

**

I spent almost a whole year tweeting as Philip K Dick. You can read my introduction to the project here. I have also tweeted the lives of Ludwig Wittgenstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer. If you have any suggestions for who I tweet as next, please comment below!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    April 9, 2017 9:59 am

    thank
    you
    — a pkd reader from China

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