A Very PhilDickian Existence

Minority Report author Philip K. Dick found Orange Countys truth stranger than science fiction

Orange County is a gorgeous coda to Dick's life, Powers says. His Fullerton and Santa Ana years were the last and arguably most accomplished third of his career—had he died in that apartment in Vancouver in 1972, he would have died an author of immense unrealized potential. He had honed his techniques for 20 years, and the 2-3-74 experiences gave him a chance to tackle the questions that characterized nearly everything he ever wrote—What is real? What is human?—with renewed vigor and energy.

To his credit, when those questions exploded into his own life here in Orange County, he met them head-on, with the humor and determination he'd always put into his characters. He may have written science fiction, says Tessa, but he was really a philosopher. Even if he never quite got the answer.

Powers remembers a call from Phil: he'd figured out the universe, he said.

"I said, 'Cool!'" Powers says, "And he said, 'So can you come over after work?'"

"Yeah, I'll be right over," Powers said. "But listen: Can you write it out as a limerick?"

"No, I can't write it out as a limerick!" Dick snapped. "It's the secret of the universe—come on!"

But when Powers pulled up on his motorcycle, Dick had a limerick for him anyway:

The determinist forces are wrong
But irresistibly strong
While of God there's a dearth
For he visits the Earth
But not for sufficiently long

He'd even written an alternate ending:

But of God there's no dearth
For he visits the Earth
Though just for sufficiently long

And that was Philip K. Dick, Powers says. He wrote like a man possessed. He—maybe—talked to God. He even put the secret of the universe into a limerick. But he could never quite make up his mind exactly which way it was supposed to end.

Annie Knight contributed to this story.

Back issues of the Philip K. Dick Society newsletter are available online. Dick's papers are on permanent loan at Cal State Fullerton.

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