Philip Kindred Dick was born in Chicago on December 16, 1928, the son of Edgar and Dorothy Kindred Dick. He and his fraternal twin sister, Jane, were six weeks premature; Jane, the smaller and more frail of the two, died on January 26, 1929. When Dick was still a small boy, his mother told him about his sister’s death. As a surviving twin, he felt a mixture of guilt and anger; in later years, he sometimes attributed Jane’s death to his mother’s negligence, probably unfairly so.
Some months after Jane’s death, the Dick family moved to Berkeley, California, and Edgar took a job in the United States Department of Agriculture’s San Francisco office. In 1933, when Edgar was transferred to Reno, Nevada, Dorothy refused to go. A strongly independent woman (she was a feminist and a pacifist at a time when those convictions placed her in a distinct minority), she chose to remain in Berkeley with Philip. A custody battle ensued, as a result of which, in 1935, Dorothy and Philip moved to Washington, D.C., where she wrote pamphlets on child care for the Federal Children’s Bureau. In 1938, they returned to Berkeley, where Philip attended high school and, very briefly, the University of California. Except for a period of a few weeks in 1972 spent in Vancouver, British Columbia, he lived in California for the rest of his life.
In Dick’s own account, he began his career as a writer at the age of twelve. That was when he learned to type—a skill at which he had to become extremely proficient in order to keep up with the pell-mell flow of his imagination. It was at age twelve that he discovered his first science-fiction magazine, inaugurating a lifelong attachment. By that time, too, he suffered from a variety of phobias and other emotional problems, connected, in part at least, to childhood traumas. As an adult, he seemed to move from one emotional crisis to another—he was married five times, attempted suicide several times, and experienced several breakdowns—but through it all he remained an immensely productive writer.
Anthony Boucher (the pen name of William Anthony Parker White), critic and writer of mysteries and science fiction and cofounding editor (1949) of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, played an important role in the development of Dick’s career. Though unimpressed by Dick’s attempts at mainstream fiction, Boucher saw great promise in the young writer’s more speculative fiction and encouraged him to develop his talent in that direction. In October, 1951, Boucher...
(The entire section is 1037 words.)