Thursday, February 19, 2009

Widow Will Self-Publish Philip K. Dick’s Final Work

When I first saw the story in The New York Times, I found it difficult to believe that any SF/F publisher worth the title wouldn’t jump at the chance to publish the final novel of Philip K. Dick, even if his wife did have a hand at drawing some fictional conclusions, but that was pretty much how it sounded:
Philip K. Dick’s last wife has reworked the novel he was working on when he died in 1982 and is publishing the book herself, The Guardian reported. Tessa Dick, the fifth wife of the science-fiction legend, told Self-Publishing Review, an online magazine (, that her version of “The Owl in Daylight” seeks to express “the spirit” of the proposed book, about which little is known.
It was difficult to credit. After all, this is Philip K. Dick we’re talking about. At the time of his death (at age 53 in 1982), in addition to having been married and divorced five times, Dick had written 36 novels and over 100 short stories, nine of which have been adapted into blindingly popular movies including Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. How could publishers not be mauling Tessa Dick to get to The Owl in Daylight?

In the interview that the NYT references, things come a little more clear. Dick says:
I started writing The Owl in Daylight when some of Phil’s loyal readers begged me to write it. I had (somewhat foolishly) posted a comment on a blog about the Owl that I knew the story and could write it. This was followed by pleas that I do so at once. I attempted to express the spirit of Phil’s proposed novel, without using his plot or the one character that he had created.

Phil had written very little about this novel. In fact, all that has been found is a letter that he wrote to his editor and his agent (same letter, two copies). It was very sketchy and did not even name any characters. It did mention Dante’s Inferno and the Faust legend.

I did not use Phil’s ideas as he expressed them in that letter to his editor and his agent.
So, OK, wait: the Times’ “reworked” is pretty generous here. From the sounds of things, Tessa Dick took the broad strokes of her late husband’s idea, discarded some of his suggestions and... wrote her own book. Not exactly the same thing. Still, I imagine Dick fans will want a gander.

The official Philip K. Dick site seems not to have updated their “News” page since early 2008. They do, however, have this to say about unfinished Dick novels:
Only one novel by Philip K. Dick remains to be published, Voices from the Street, a long and very early “experimental mainstream’ novel written circa 1952-53. There are several other unpublished novels he is known to have written, including Pilgrim on the Hill and Nicholas and the Higs, but the manuscripts for these were lost or destroyed by him while he was still alive. At the time of his death in March 1982, he had made plans for a novel called The Owl in Daylight but had not yet started writing it.


Blogger Elton said...

So if i can get Steven King to give me an idea for a story can I publish it and say he wrote it?
PKD's ideas were great but it was his writing which made them special. There are hundreds probably thousands of writers who can come up with ideas, only a handful that can write good novels.

Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 9:46:00 AM PST  
Blogger tuffy777 said...

"reworked" is an unfortunate term and not of my choosing
the Owl was inspired by Phil's work
~~ Tessa

Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 9:50:00 AM PST  

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