Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Science fiction often uses technology as a metaphor for broader philosophical and social concerns. Look at specific technological leaps in Philip K. Dick’s work and consider the broader issues implicit in these imagined developments.

Using specific works, how is Dick’s writing a historical document of the times in which he lived and not just a projection of the future?

Dick often mixes the fantastic elements of science fiction with more mundane aspects of life. What is achieved in this combination, and how does that influence our understanding of the science-fiction genre?

What are Dick’s targets of satire, and why does he choose to critique them? Keeping this in mind, explore Dick’s sense of absurd—that is, how he utilizes it and what it reveals.

Name specific ways in which countercultures of underground cultures function in Dick’s work. Are they always opposed to the mainstream, or do they provide valid alternatives? What does this reveal about Dick’s views on society?

Explore the logical puzzles that Dick’s plots often create to call into question basic questions, such as “What is reality?” and “What defines identity?” Citing specific works, explain what he does to provide concrete answers for readers, and what he does to deny the same.

Consider mysticism and religion in Dick’s work. How does it relate to technology? When is it a positive force, when does it work against a character?