Philip K. Dick, Writer


Philip K. Dick, Writer

Final Berkeley Residence: 1126 Francisco Street

The sci-fi writings of Berkeley High School grad and long-time Berkeleyan Philip Kindred Dick have been a Hollywood goldmine. PKD lived for 25 years in Berkeley, in near poverty, and died in 1982 (aged 53), weeks before the release of Blade Runner, based on his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ten films have been produced based on his work.

Educated in Washington DC Quaker schools, PKD and his divorced mother Dorothy returned to Berkeley in 1938, living at 1212 Walnut Street (1940) and 1711 Allston Way (1944). Once on his own, PKD lived at 2208 McKinley (1947) and 1553 San Lorenzo and bought a house at 1126 Francisco Street (1950).

PKD read his first sci-fi magazine, Stirring Science Stories, at age 11. Post-BHS he briefly attended the University of California, Berkeley. From 1948 until 1952 PKD clerked at record stores; he sold his first story, Roog, in 1951. Despite panic attacks, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, suicide attempts, and almost constant amphetamine abuse, PKD published 44 novels and 121 stories. He won the Hugo Award, and Time magazine named UBIK “one of the 100 greatest English language novels since 1923.” PKD became the first sci-fi writer included in the Library of America series.

Dick, a twin whose sister died after only six weeks of life, married five times and had three children by three different wives. PDK’s work explores Platonic notions of reality through a filter of paranoia, hallucination, Jungian theory, and near-insanity. Dick believed that he had been contacted by the Divine and that Richard Nixon was the incarnation of a Roman Emperor. “In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.”

Contributed by Gary Parsons, 2013

  • Philip K. Dick Residence 1126 Francesco St. (2011), photo R. Kehlmann.

  • Philip K. Dick and Philosophy, Ed. D.E. Wittkower (2011)

  • Philip K. Dick Android (2007), Chicago Technology Fair, photo John Gress, Reuters.

  • Blade Runner, Dir. Ridley Scott, poster (1982), based on a PKD novel.

  • UBIK book cover, DAW Books.

  • Total Recall, Dir. Len Wiseman (2012), based on a PKD novel.

More information:
Dick, Four novels of the 1960s,  The Library of America, (2007).
NY Times “Opinionator”

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society