Books Received

In the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, I placed an order with amazon.ca. A day later, my books arrived. The Pocket Essential Philip K Dick by Andrew M. Butler, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick, and A Companion to Science Fiction, edited by David Seed

I really didn’t know much about Butler’s book before ordering it, but it does look interesting. Butler covers each of Dick’s novels in chronological order. Although listed by their published names, Butler includes any working titles, the dates associated with the writing and editing of the works, and where it was originally published. In covering the stories he provides a brief synopsis, what other Dickian works it draws upon, any Dickian archetypal characters it uses, a list of recurring ideas in the work, as well as a brief note on subtextual items. Each entry is then finished with a rating out of five. A few of Dick’s more well known short stories are also reviewed. It looks to be a useful book for cross-referencing themes between Dick’s novels. The Pocket Essential Philip K. Dick isn’t exactly what I was expecting, but looks to be worthwhile. 

I’ll review Seed’s companion at a later time, once I’ve had a chance to review it in detail.

Science Fiction at Waterloo

The University of Waterloo is sadly lacking in science fiction literature courses. The only course offered is English 208B, which does provide a good introduction to the field of science fiction in literature. Sadly, it is just an introductory course. It has a very high enrollment, from multiple disciplines. There may have been more engineering and physics students in the course than English majors.

Since there are no further courses offered by the English Department at Waterloo, I’m preparing a “Selected Reading” course. This is an independent study course, supervised by a member of the faculty.  I’ve been working with Assistant Professor Aimée Morrison on the content of a course studying the work of Philip K Dick. The primary texts I will be studying will be

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • The Man in the High Castle
  • A Scanner Darkly
  • Ubik
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
  • Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said
  • VALIS

As well as some short stories

  • “Minority Report”
  • “Imposter”
  • “We Can Remember it for you Wholesale”
  • “The Electric Ant”
  • “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”

This isn’t just a “reading” course. There is a significant literary theory component to this course. I’ve selected a number of articles and book chapters regarding PKD’s work. Some of the more notable texts I will be using include The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, A Companion to Science Fiction edited by David Seed, and the Pocket Essentials guide to Philip K Dick, written by Andrew M Butler.

I’ll be meeting with Professor Morrison tomorrow to work out the syllabus for the course.

I’m really looking forward to this course, and it will wrap up just before my trip to the 2009 World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.

Words

Words flutter around my head, droning like tiny insects. Lazily, I watch them. Careening through the air, they cast shadows on the page below, like those from clouds on a farmers field. Finally, I act. Slowly, I reach out with my pen. Carefully, I select a target. Swiftly, I strike out. Spearing my target, I drag it to the pristine page. Screeching, it spills out ink on the page. The process now started, I select another target quickly. Again and again I lash out, laying the corpses of these words down in a row on the page. I harness the words together, forming thoughts, bending them to my will. Evidence of these words now litters the page. The words pile up on the page. I pause and reflect the carnage. What did I accomplish? Did the words accomplish my goal? In committing the words to the page, did I succeed in expressing my thoughts?

A short writing exercise I used in order to jump start my creativity.