Philip K. Dick (1928–1982) was a science fiction writer most celebrated for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became the movie Blade Runner, as well as his other acclaimed writings like Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, and Minority Report, all of which became major motion pictures.
Here are three of his fantastic quotes to help improve your writing!
1. In 1955, when I’d write a science-fiction novel, I’d set it in the year 2000. I realised around 1977 that, ‘My God, it’s getting exactly like those novels we used to write in the 1950s!’ Everything’s just turning out to be real.
One thing I marvel about the world of science fiction, in books, television, and film, is that moment when you realize something imagined as a future possibility actually does become an aspect of the future. It’s why I think Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 continues to resonate decades after its publication, because Bradbury got so much right, all the way down to the little details, about the future world that very much has become a reality.
Philip K. Dick has certainly been able to predict a lot that was to come as well. And it’s why he and so many other science fiction writers have an easier time setting their stories way, way, way in the future rather than just a few years away. Write a book that’s set thirty years in the future, one of two things happens. You get a lot right, or you get a lot wrong. If you get a lot right, that’s scary! If you get a lot wrong, your book might lose interest from readers. Therefore, it seems almost smarter in a way to set a science fiction book hundreds of years in the future… or not give it a year at all.
2. We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, ‘What is real?’ Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.
Words mean something. Words can make a difference. Words have power. And they’re not meant to be taken lightly, throughout your life, and of course in your fiction. A big theme Dick uses in his writings is “What is real?” and it’s an important question to ask in whatever work that you do. But especially in the world of fiction writing, it’s essential to keep in mind the power of your words and how you go about using them.
You have to tell stories that feel real to the reader, that linger in the reader’s mind long after he or she has turned the final page. To write something that feels fake, like something manufactured, is not a place you ever want to be in or want your readers to suddenly find themselves in either. You want to choose words that don’t feel forced into your many sentences and paragraphs but instead create a realistic world that come off as something unique and authentic for your reader. Whether you’re writing science fiction or another genre, that’s something you should always aim for.
3. I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards.
One of the beauties of science fiction is creating fascinating, three-dimensional characters that readers can fall in love with in an instant and completely relate to, and toss them into a world we don’t at all recognize. The great thing is that tossing these characters into a fictional world does not make them any less real, any less important. Usually one can use a fictional world to build upon themes and give the readers ideas that wouldn’t have been possible if the story were told in our world.
I think about all the classic science fiction novels I’ve read and adored. All the television shows and films in the science fiction universe that have opened my eyes to other worlds and new ideas, that have had major impacts on me. When done well, there’s really nothing else like stories in this genre. Because there’s no limit to the imagination, no limits to what can be explored and discussed.
Philip K. Dick gave us some of the most fascinating science fiction stories of all time, and his work will continue to mean something for many decades to come. All the way to 2100, 2200… and beyond!