PHILIP K. DICK
Written in 1962 and titled Goodmember Arnie Kott of Mars then serialized in Worlds of Tomorrow as "All We Marsmen" in 1963, Martian Time-Slip was finally published as a paperback book in 1964. Although not initially a commercial success, it came to be considered one of the best books of Philip Dick's peak period in the 1960s when the author wrote sixteen novels. Martian Time-Slip was reprinted several times as Dick's reputation grew and as hit movies were made from his stories, such as Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Minority Report (2002).
Set on the deserts of Mars in 1994, the story is a satire of the business world and suburban life on Earth. In addition, Dick was fascinated with schizophrenia, and in this novel, he explored the nature of reality as a central theme. In Martian Time-Slip, Dick shows how what is real is determined by how it is perceived; the same scene is repeated from the points of view of three characters. Union leader Arnie Kott calls upon a repairman, Jack Bohlen, to develop a device for communicating with the nonverbal, autistic child, Manfred Steiner, who has precognition abilities. Kott wants to get the edge in a business deal, but the child projects schizophrenic vibes onto the two men that skew everyone's reality. The "time-slip," therefore, is the nonlinear timeframe. The native Martians, called Bleekmen, recognize the malleability of time and understand the value of Manfred's gifts although the colonists debate the value of keeping "anomalous" children alive. These simple tribal people also serve as a contrast to the Teaching Machines that spout Establishment-approved information to school children on Mars. From intelligent machines to schizophrenic humans to psychic indigenous observers, this story has nothing to do with Mars, except as a backdrop, and everything to do with the vagaries of human nature on Earth.
Philip Kindred Dick and his twin sister, Jane Charlotte, were born six weeks prematurely on December 16, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, to Joseph Edgar, a fraud investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Dorothy Kindred Dick. Jane died several weeks later, and the loss of his twin had a residual impact on Dick's life and the themes in his writing. The family relocated from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area, but Dick's parents divorced when he was five. He attended high school in Berkeley then briefly attended the University of California at Berkeley. His teen years were plagued by two problems: a serious swallowing disorder that prevented him from eating in public and acute vertigo that gave him the strange sensation of being disconnected from real life. This unnerving feeling contributed to the paranoia that often appears in his writing. For several years he worked in a record store, the only real job he ever held other than writing. His first short story was published in 1952, and he sold his first novel in 1955. By 1958, he had written thirteen novels and eighty short stories, but other prolific periods lay ahead. While he tried to write more mainstream work, his science fiction was the work that got published and gained attention.
Dick became increasingly paranoid and often feared that he suffered from schizophrenia. His concern was expressed notably in Martian Time-Slip, the 1964 book that centered on schizophrenia. In February and March of 1974, Dick experienced a series of visions, dreams, and a hallucination involving a "pink light" beam transmitting information directly into his mind. He later used the shorthand "2-3-74" to describe this time period and spent the remainder of his life trying to decipher the meaning of these events. Dick married five times: to Jeanette Martin in 1948, to Kleo Apostolides from 1950 to 1958, to Anne Williams Rubenstein from 1958 to 1964, to Nancy Hackett from 1967 to 1973, and to Tessa Busby from 1973 to 1976. He had one child with each of his last three wives: Laura, Isolde, and Christopher.
Dick won the Hugo Award in 1963 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1975 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. He died on March 2, 1982, at the age of fifty-three in Santa Ana, California, after a series of strokes followed by heart failure. Posthumously, Dick's work regained popularity, especially after the film adaptations Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, and A Scanner Darkly. Dick was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005.
- The official website of the estate of the late Philip K. Dick is www.philipkdick.com.
- www.philipkdickfans.com, the former official website for Dick, is now maintained by admirers of science fiction and Philip K. Dick and has many resources and links.
It is August 1994 in a United Nations colony on Mars where families get rations of water for their home use from a canal, including neighboring families the Bohlens and the Steiners. Jack Bohlen, a repairman, receives a call from his father in New York City saying that he wants to come to Mars to research a real estate deal. Jack copters out to a job and sees along the way Lewistown, the second most successful colony on Mars—the one for the Water Workers' union people who control the canals. The most successful colony is New Israel.
Arnie Kott, head of the Water Workers' union, enjoys the luxury of a steambath while discussing with his minions some land in the F.D.R. Mountains. He also complains about the UN demands that he improve the wages of the Bleekmen, the indigenous Martian tribe, who are used as laborers in the mines. Beside a New York Times newspaper ad for prospective colonists for Mars, touting the opportunities for those who have only a bachelor's degree and thus cannot get a job on Earth, Arnie sees an article about the Colonial Safety Committee on Mars that irritates him, especially since his ex-wife is on the committee. On his way to see her, his helicopter pilot gets a message asking for aid for some stranded Bleekmen. Jack hears the same emergency call and is the first to arrive and give food and water to the Bleekmen who reward him with a water witch. Arnie's pilot also provides water even though Arnie protests because he does not consider Bleekmen to be people.
Norbert Steiner, who runs a black-market food operation, goes to Camp Ben-Gurion, a home for "anomalous children," where his son Manfred is a resident. Having an autistic son is considered shameful, but he can talk to Anne Esterhazy, who also has a child at Camp B-G. She tells him about a bill under consideration at the UN that would kill the anomalous children in an effort "to keep the race pure." Although at first horrified by the news, Norbertwonders if such action might be best for children like his son who cannot communicate. The institute's psychiatrist, Dr. Milton Glaub, tells Norbert about a new theory that looks at how autism speeds up time and the possibility of being able to communicate with autistic children if they were able to slow down sights and sounds. Norbert dismisses Milton's ideas as idealistic nonsense. He then goes to a bar where the owner rants about how the freaks like those at Camp B-G should be destroyed. Norbert reveals that his son lives at the camp, and the bar owner becomes angry that Norbert never told him before. In despair from all this conflict, Norbert suddenly decides to kill himself and steps in front of a bus.
UN policemen come to the Steiner home to tell the family that Norbert has died. Silvia babysits the four Steiner girls and learns of the existence of Manfred. Arnie learns about Norbert's death when he and Anne have lunch together. She then tells him of the possible closure of Camp B-G, and even though he and Anne have a son there, he thinks it is better for Mars not to have a place like Camp B-G. Milton hears about Norbert's suicide, and the implication that he might have said something to drive Norbert to it makes Milton worry about his position. Silvia calls Jack to tell him about Norbert and to ask him to come home early because she is caring for the girls. However, Mr. Yee will not let Jack go and sends him to a job at the Public School.
Jack is unnerved by the Public School. As he repairs one of the mechanical teachers, he speculates about the function of the Public School within the society on Mars and how people with autism and schizophrenia are feared and rejected. Jack then recalls his own bout with schizophrenia back on Earth. Right before he left for Mars, Jack hallucinated that his boss was a machine and that everything around him was lifeless and mechanical. It was then he realized he was sick and needed help. Jack thinks now that the reason the Teaching Machines make him so uncomfortable is that they remind him of this hallucination.
Arnie calls Yee and specifically requests that Jack come to repair his encoder device. He thinks about rumors that the UN is buying up some of the F.D.R. Mountains and how they will become very valuable. He needs to know what part of the mountains, so he begins wondering if there might be a precognitive schizophrenic living at Camp B-G who would be able to tell him. An aide tells Arnie to ask Milton. Meanwhile, Otto Zitte sits in a storage shed in the F.D.R. Mountains where Norbert keeps the black-market food. He wonders where Norbert is and why it is taking him so long to return. He thinks about how he ended up working for Norbert after he lost his union membership and failed at his own black-market business. Jack arrives at Arnie's and meets Doreen Anderton, to whom Jack is instantly attracted. Arnie invites Jack to go with him and Doreen to meet Milton for drinks. Arnie explains that he needs to find a precognitive schizophrenic, and Jack reveals that he is himself a schizophrenic. Arnie wants to know if Jack can see the future, but Jack says he cannot. Arnie does not believe him.
On his way to meet Arnie, Milton muses about how much money he will make when he is on Arnie's payroll. He assumes Arnie must need his services to deal with an onset of schizophrenia, and he is excited about the large opportunity this presents. Then he learns that Arnie wants to know if he has an advanced schizophrenic at Camp B-G. Milton tells them about Manfred. Arnie becomes convinced that if Jack can build a machine that can communicate with this child, then Manfred will be able to tell them the future. Arnie puts Jack on his payroll, but not Milton. Sitting at the table, Jack begins to have a schizophrenic episode. Doreen notices and takes him away. As they walk, Doreen tells Jack that her brother is schizophrenic, and Jack confides to Doreen about the nature of his visions. He decides to take the job with Arnie, and he vows to keep fighting off his schizophrenia. Later that night, Arnie decides to start up his own black-market food business now that Steiner is gone. Jack considers calling Doreen. He decides against it, but then Doreen calls to ask him over. She assures Jack that she will tell Arnie, who will not object. So Jack goes.
Leo Bohlen arrives on Mars. As they spend some family time, Leo asks Jack about his relationship with Silvia and his mental state. He can tell Jack is withdrawn. He wants Jack to go in on the land deal with him, but Jack is not interested. Leo confronts Jack about his affair with Doreen, but Jack says he has everything under control. Silvia, in her drug-induced haze before sleep, wonders why Jack has changed recently and why he is distant from her. Meanwhile, Manfred has a terrifying vision of meat-eating birds and large, wet worms. He tries to run, but the steps give way underneath his feet. He starts to fly up, but the birds eat his head off. He is then standing on a bridge over a sea where sharks try to attack him. He is then strangled with a loop of shark teeth that cuts off his head. He is trapped in a decaying world without a voice. At Arnie's, Doreen is told about a land speculator who arrived on Mars that day, and Arnie expresses excitement about Manfred's potential to help him get ahead of the game and make a fortune. Doreen is tired and wants to sleep, but Arnie wants sex, and he is the boss.
Jack, Leo, and Manfred fly over the F.D.R. Mountains. Leo explains to Jack that the UN is planning to build a huge co-op there, and Leo wants the UN to have to buy the land from him at a huge profit. Leo tells Jack not to share this information. They see some Bleekmen below them, and Jack wonders what it would be like for Manfred to live among them. Jack lands the 'copter and he and Leo drive a stake into the ground, claiming ownership. They notice that Manfred is drawing a picture of what the co-op will look like when it is old and crumbling. He writes the word "AM-WEB" on the building, but only says "gubbish." Jack begins to understand Manfred's visions and how limiting and awful they are. Manfred later has a vision of his own future. He is eighty-three with no teeth or eyes. He sees himself interned at AM-WEB for a hundred and twenty-three years, where most of his body is removed or artificial. When Arnie asks him what he sees, the only response Manfred has is "gubble, gubble."
Jack, Doreen, and Manfred are at Arnie's having drinks. Arnie tries to play a tape but has the wrong one. Arnie inquires about Jack's progress with Manfred, but he does not get the answer he wants. Jack has not built the machine, but he does show Arnie Manfred's drawing. He explains what the picture means and relays the information about the co-op that he learned from his dad. Arnie realizes that it is already too late for him to get in on the deal; he has lost out. He seems to take it surprisingly well, and even though Jack feels badly about how things turned out, Arnie does not blame Jack or even want to fire him. Suddenly, Jack, Leo, and Manfred are flying away from the F.D.R. Mountains again. Jack calls Arnie and tells him that he will see him that night, and he somehow knows he will show Arnie the drawing and will tell him everything he knows. He asks Manfred to draw a picture of what will happen that evening, and Manfred draws one man punching another in the eye. Jack drops his father off then watches Manfred change his drawing so one of the men falls and dies. Jack does not know if it will be him or Arnie.
Once again, Jack, Doreen, and Manfred are at Arnie's having drinks. Arnie tries to play a tape but has the wrong one. Arnie inquires about Jack's progress with Manfred, but he does not get the answer he wants. Jack is having a schizophrenic hallucination in which Doreen decays and rots away. He hears only the word "gubble" in his head. He turns up the music very loud to try to clear his head.
It is the afternoon again, and Jack has just dropped off his dad. He and Manfred fly to Doreen's apartment. He tells Doreen that he knows things are not going to go well that night at Arnie's, and Doreen tries to convince him to send Manfred back to Camp B-G and forget the whole thing before he loses his mind, but Jack says he has to go through with it. Jack then goes to the Public School to pick up David, taking Manfred with him.
Once again, Jack, Doreen, and Manfred are at Arnie's having drinks. In this hallucination, Doreen's clothes are infested, and she rips them off her body. Arnie sees her stripping, pulls her to the floor, and they have sex. Doreen can tell something is watching them. It is the afternoon again, and Jack and Manfred arrive at the Public School. Jack realizes that Manfred's presence is leading him into schizophrenia and that he is on the verge of going permanently insane. Meanwhile, Silvia sits in June Henessy's kitchen, gossiping about the Steiner family. June talks about her current affair, and Silvia wonders what it would be like to cheat on Jack and what it would be like if Jack cheated on her. Otto comes to the door selling health food and black-market goods. Silvia is intrigued by him and asks him to come by her house later. Over at Milton's office, Milton is looking over Sam Esterhazy's file. He decides he can get back at Arnie by sending Sam home. Milton tells Anne that Samcan no longer stay at CampB-G, but she counters by saying that she will cease to object to the closing of Camp B-G if Sam leaves. Knowing her influence, Milton realizes that he is defeated. At the Public School, Jack searches for Manfred. When Jack finds him, Manfred is clearly distressed, and the teaching machines are all saying "gubble." Jack realizes that Manfred's presence has disrupted the entire school system.
It is evening again, and Manfred sits on the floor of Arnie's living room. The sights and sounds are harsh and overwhelming to him. He hears the voice of Heliogabalus, Arnie's Bleekman servant, in his head. To escape the overload, Manfred uses his mind to look into the future, where once again he is two hundred years old and interned at AM-WEB. Everything is falling apart, and the only thing holding it together is Manfred. Arnie inquires about Jack's progress with Manfred, but he is not getting the answer he wants. Jack start to hallucinate; suddenly, the evening is over, and he and Doreen are walking in Lewistown. Doreen is discussing the events of the night that Jack does not remember.
Otto goes to Silvia's house ostensibly to sell black-market items but also to seduce Silvia, and he succeeds. That same morning, Jack wakes up at Doreen's. Doreen talks about their shaky future with Arnie, assuming that he will fire Jack and dump her once he knows about her affair with Jack. Milton visits Anne in hopes that she can prevent Arnie from harming Jack in his scheme with Manfred. Arnie learns that Helio can communicate telepathically with Manfred. Helio tells Arnie that Manfred's attention wanders because of his dread of his old age and death. Arnie tells Helio that he thinks Manfred can control time. Helio warns Arnie not to hurt Jack. That afternoon, Jack finds out that Arnie bought his work contract from Mr. Yee.
Otto leaves Silvia's. She feels hatred for him then disgust for herself, but she calls June and tells her every detail. Otto goes back to the mountains to find his storage shed destroyed, his goods stolen, and a warning note from Arnie. Otto swears he will get back at Arnie. Meanwhile, Helio explains to Arnie that he must go on a pilgrimage to the Bleekman sanctuary in the F.D.R. Mountains with Manfred if Arnie wants to be able to go back in time to beat Leo to the land deal. Arnie and Manfred set out in Arnie's car, but Anne and Milton catch up to them trying to plead about Jack. Arnie's goons and Jack arrive in helicopters, and, while everyone is fighting, Arnie drives away.
With Jack and Doreen hovering overhead in the 'copter, Arnie and Manfred climb up to Dirty Knobby where they bribe a Bleekman priest to let them visit the shrine alone for an hour. Arnie then follows the step-by-step instruction given him by Helio, which includes Arnie's taking a drug and promising Manfred that he will be spared from AM-WEB if Manfred will take them back about three weeks in time. Arnie next finds himself back in his steam room going through the exact same actions as before. He decides not to keep Norbert from killing himself because he wants the black-market business. The only things he will change is getting a deed to the F.D.R. land and getting back at Jack. However, things start changing on Arnie as he experiences schizophrenic symptoms. His paper blurs and is full of "gubbish" and people have no faces. All his attempts to communicate his desire to buy the mountain land fail, and he finally has to get a stake and fly out to make the claim himself.
Arnie's trip to the mountains is interrupted by an emergency call to assist some Bleekmen. Arnie realizes that the event when he first meets Jack will be repeated. So he asks Jack to step over to the 'copter and then points a gun at him. A Bleekman notices and fires a poisoned arrow into Arnie's chest. Arnie realizes that the Bleekmen knew what would happen the first time they had this encounter and that is why they gave Jack the water witch. Arnie fears he is dying, and, in his mind, Arnie begs Manfred to bring him back to the right time, promising to give up on his revenge and getting the land. Everything goes black, but then Arnie wakes with the priest standing over him. Manfred is gone, but Arnie intends to keep all his promises. He heads to a 'copter, but instead of Jack, Otto comes running towards Arnie and shoots him. Jack arrives, but Otto gets away. Arnie tries to tell Jack this is all just another hallucination, but he dies on the way to the hospital. Jack does not worry about Manfred because he knows it was inevitable that Manfred would join the Bleekmen. Indeed, Manfred finds a tribal group and asks to join them. As he walks away with them, he feels himself transforming. Doreen realizes that with Arnie gone, everything will change, so, despite their feelings, they part, and Jack heads home to his family where he and Silvia agree to give their marriage another try and resume a life of everyday calm and normalcy. A scream draws them to the Steiner house where an old Manfred from the future has stopped by to say goodbye to his mother. He has had a happy life.
As Union Treasurer and Arnie Kott's girlfriend, Doreen Anderton is privy to everything that goes on in Arnie's world. Consequently, she meets Jack Bohlen and Manfred Steiner when they are brought into Arnie's schemes. While she is unnerved by Manfred, she is particularly sensitive to Jack's situation because she has a schizophrenic brother. She seems to genuinely love Jack and declares that she is willing to give up all her luxuries from Arnie to be with Jack. Nonetheless, Doreen is practical. When Arnie dies, she knows that everything will change and that there will be nothing to keep her and Jack together. Even though they still love each other, they will not need each other's comfort in the face of Arnie, and she is wise enough to know that Jack needs and wants to go back to his ordinary life with his wife and son.
The native tribe on Mars, the Bleekmen are described as looking like aboriginal people. They are quite primitive and have an ancient mystical religion. The colonists from Earth use the Bleekmen for cheap labor and treat them as sub-beings. The planned development of the F.D.R. Mountains will force the Bleekmen out of their traditional homeland into the desert and potential extinction, their telepathic and precognitive talents unappreciated, except by Manfred Steiner who finds peace and a home with them.
The son of Jack and Silvia Bohlen, David Bohlen is a normal boy growing up on Mars. He attends the Public School where instruction is delivered by Teaching Machines. David scores on par with his achievement group, relieving Jack's fear that his son will be a schizophrenic like he is.
Jack Bohlen is an "ex-schizophrenic" and repairman. He and his wife Silvia have one child, David, and lead what would be considered on Mars a normal settler's life. However, Jack constantly worries that the schizophrenia of his early adulthood will come back in which visions distort his image of people into death and rot and machinery. The visions and reality become frighteningly confused, so Jack is desperate to keep his sanity.
Hired out by his employer, Mr. Yee, to labor boss Arnie Kott, Jack is drawn into Arnie's scheme to try to communicate with Manfred. In the process, Jack falls in love with Arnie's girlfriend Doreen and has a brief affair with her. Jack finds comfort in Doreen, who understands his fears because she has a schizophrenic brother. Unfortunately, the association with Manfred fulfills Jack's fears because Manfred's powerful autistic aura projects hallucinations onto others. Jack cares about Manfred and wants to help him, but he cannot seem to gain control over what is happening to him. Fortunately for Jack, Arnie's manipulations cause everything to fall apart before Jack loses his mind permanently. He amicably dissolves his relationship with Doreen and gratefully heads straight back to his home and to normalcy. As a final reward for his good-heartedness, Jack is assured that Manfred will live a happier life, too.
Jack's father, Leo Bohlen is a successful real estate developer in his late seventies from New York City. His business involves acquiring cheap land and reselling it for a large mark-up in price once its value has increased. Jack finds this kind of operation distasteful because he sees it as taking advantage of the less savvy. Leo thinks it is just good business and travels to Mars to scope out a possible bonanza in the F.D.R. Mountains. It is Leo's interest in seemingly worthless property that piques Arnie's curiosity and involves him in unsuccessfully trying to beat Leo to the punch through the time travel that he believes Manfred and the Bleekmen can enable. The result, however, is a schizophrenic time warp in which Arnie loses touch with reality. Leo has "a lot of money and doesn't mind spending it," and he also has a lot of opinions and does not mind sharing them. He is very concerned that his son is treating Silvia well and that their marriage is working. In the end, all that Leo wanted has happened: Jack and Silvia are on stable ground again, and Leo has made another immensely successful deal.
Jack's wife, Silvia Bohlen is a homemaker disillusioned with her life on Mars. She takes pills to help her sleep at night and pills to wake her up in the morning. She is generally unsympathetic towards other people's problems, but she does help out when she should, for example, when Norbert Steiner dies and his children need care, yet she resents having to do so. She fantasizes about having an affair, but when she actually does have one with Otto Zitte, she decides it was a horrible mistake and resolves to give her marriage a second chance.
The ex-wife of Arnie Kott, Anne Esterhazy owns a gift shop in the colony of New Israel and is involved in all the political and social happenings on Mars, taking on many causes. Arnie dismisses her as a "do-gooder" but relies on her insider information and valuable advice nonetheless. They still often collaborate on business deals and are friends. Their son, Sam, born two years after their divorce, lives at Camp B-G because of severe physical deformities and mental retardation, although they claim that he is anomalous and thus qualified to live there. Anne can handle having a son who is anomalous but not one who is retarded. Anne tells Norbert Steiner of the impending bill at the UN that calls for the destruction of anomalous children. This news is so upsetting to Steiner that it contributes to his suicide.
Dr. Milton Glaub
A psychiatrist, Dr. Milton Glaub works part-time at Camp Ben-Gurion, a home for "anomalous children." Milton struggles to make ends meet because his wife cannot control her spending, and this problem makes him eager for a more lucrative situation. When he is disappointed in his hope to get on Arnie's payroll, Milton takes out his anger towards Arnie by threatening to dismiss his son Sam from Camp B-G and send him to an institution on Earth. When this attempt fails because of a counter threat from Anne, Milton at least knows enough to admit defeat. Although Milton tends to think of people in terms of the Freudian behavioral category into which they fall, most of the time he does try to do what is right by his patients. In fact, he attempts to protect Jack when he realizes that Jack is in danger of succumbing to schizophrenia as a result of Arnie's exploitation. Milton cares enough to crawl back to Anne to beg for her intercession on Jack's behalf and then to confront Arnie.
A member of the dwindling Bleekman race, Heliogabalus is Arnie Kott's house servant. His is loyal to Arnie and does his duty even though Arnie treats him as if he were an imbecile. Helio is actually very knowledgeable and wise. He is the only one able to discern the true nature of Manfred's autism and what it means for all of them. He can communicate telepathically with Manfred, see what Manfred sees, and understands what Manfred's visions mean and why they are so terrifying to the boy. Helio knows how to help Manfred in ways that no one else can comprehend, and it is Helio who advises Arnie to go with Manfred into the mountains to the tribal mystics to find the answers that Arnie seeks.
Typifying suburban culture, as neighbor, friend, and fellow housewife, June Henessy is the person to whom Silvia Bohlen confides her problems. June has had six affairs, and she keeps her friends well-informed about her extramarital activities.
As Supreme Goodmember of Water Workers' Local, Fourth Planet Branch, Arnie Kott is the most powerful man in the union town of Lewistown and one of the most powerful on all Mars. He enjoys his power and flaunts the luxuries with which he surrounds himself. His life is all about money and control. Brusque, quick to anger, and superficial, Arnie, as he insists on everyone calling him, will seek revenge against those who cross or threaten him. Yet he is dependent on his servant Helio for conversation and advice, and he uses people: the minions from the union who do his dirty work; his girlfriend, Doreen; and the Bleekmen who are like annoying animals to him.
Oddly, Arnie values things from the past—he owns the only harpsichord on Mars, listens to classical music, and continues a close relationship with his ex-wife, Anne. Although he is very sexist and disapproves of Anne's "masculine" features, he relies on her good business sense. Their relationship remained so close for a time that they had a son together after their divorce, but the child is born with physical disabilities and must live at Camp B-G. It is through this association that Arnie discovers Manfred's precognitive potential and decides to find a way to tap into this fortunetelling for an advantage in business deals. He hires Jack Bohlen to create a device for communicating with Manfred, but that leads to both Jack and Arnie suffering schizophrenic hallucinations projected by Manfred.
When Arnie decides to get into the black-market business, he wants a monopoly. So he literally destroys his competition—he steals Otto Zitte's supplies and then has his storage building bombed. In the end, it is this all-or-nothing greed that causes his demise because Zitte shoots Arnie in revenge. Ironically, the hallucinations have caused Arnie to relive the same scene, so he does not even know when his real death actually occurs, and he dies thinking that he has escaped the consequences of his misdeeds once again.
Manfred Steiner is a ten-year-old autistic boy who lives at Camp Ben-Gurion in the Jewish colony with other "anomalous children." He has never spoken a word and does not interact with other people, but Manfred's autism allows him to move through time and to see his own future. Sadly, he sees only horror and destruction, never creation or invention of good things to come. Manfred's world is one of overwhelming sensory stimulation and terrifying visions. When Arnie realizes the potential for gain if he can tap into Manfred's precognition, he hires Jack Bohlen to invent a device for communicating with Manfred. Thus Manfred's life changes as he leaves Camp B-G to be near Jack and Arnie. It is Manfred's drawing of the AM-WEB complex that will be built in the F.D.R. Mountains that verifies Leo Bohlen's claims about upcoming development there. At Arnie's, Manfred meets Heliogabalus, who as a Bleekman can communicate with Manfred telepathically. Helio is able to discern Manfred's fears of the AM-WEB once it is turned into a nightmare of an asylum in Manfred's old age. When Arnie and his schemes die, Manfred asks a group of Bleekmen if he can go off in the desert to live with them. They agree, and Manfred feels "very good, better than he could remember ever having felt before in his life…. Manfred Steiner felt something strange happening inside him. He was changing."
Norbet Steiner, Manfred's father, runs a legitimate health food business and a black-market business on the side. He and his wife live with their four daughters next door to the Bohlens and often try to weasel extra water or other favors from their neighbors. Steiner keeps the existence of Manfred a secret because of the shame associated with having an autistic child—it is assumed that the parents of such a child must be defective themselves. Steiner diligently visits his only son but resents Manfred for the burden his disorder has placed on the family. When he learns that Camp B-G may be forced to close, Steiner's emotions become mixed. Faced with the horrifying possibility of having Manfred destroyed or the stress of having to take him home, Steiner commits suicide. This action sets in motion the series of events that make up the story of Martian Time-Slip.
The calculating owner of a repair company, Mr. Yee is Jack Bohlen's employer. He came to Mars from China for a more profitable business. Yee leases Jack's services to Arnie Kott, hoping for further business with this powerful man and eventually sells Jack's contract to Arnie for a hefty price.
Employed by Norbert Steiner in the black-market food business after losing his union card and his own similar business, the ambitious Otto Zitte lets his vices get the best of him. After Steiner's suicide, Zitte has the opportunity to take over the business and use it as a vehicle for preying upon lonely housewives. With his particular talent for seduction, Zitte manages to get even Silvia Bohlen into bed. His scurrilous new world comes to a sudden halt, however, when Arnie, out of greed and jealousy, destroys Zitte's stash of goods. In a rage of vengeance, Zitte finds Arnie and shoots him.
TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Martian Time-Slip is largely concerned with schizophrenia. What is schizophrenia? Manfred is autistic. What is autism? Divide the class into two groups and have one group look up the definition of schizophrenia and research its treatment. The other group can do the same for autism. Then the two groups can share what they have learned and discuss whether Dick gives an accurate portrayal of these disorders.
- Why do you think that Dick set Martian Time-Slip in 1994 instead of a time much farther into the future? Could Dick have really expected Mars to be colonized by that time? Do many science fiction writers use the distant future or is Dick's short-term choice common? Research and discuss with a partner.
- Write a report on the latest findings about Mars. What are NASA's plans for exploration? Are there plans to send humans to Mars in the near future? Has there been or is there water on Mars? Could the atmosphere support human life? Your report might include photographs of Mars.
- Using specific information from Martian Time-Slip, describe the Bleekmen in words or a drawing.
- Prepare a written point-by-point comparison of the lifestyle and treatment of the Bleekmen as compared to the treatment of aborigines in Australia by white people. Do some research on aborigines and make references to Martian Time-Slip also. While preparing this assignment, you may find it useful to watch the Australian film Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), which deals with related subject matter and is based on fact.
Dick's plot in Martian Time-Slip is something akin to the idea of six degrees of separation in that he uses the death of Norbert Steiner to set in motion a series of events that entangles the lives of characters who are seemingly unrelated. The message is that everyone living on Mars (or elsewhere), whether they like it or not, is dependent on everyone else. The patients in the home for anomalous children are dependent on the those who believe that these children's lives have value. The colony is dependent on Arnie and the plumbers' union for its water. Arnie is dependent on Jack and Manfred to enable him to make his fortune, and Jack is dependent on Arnie's good graces to stay employed. Doreen is dependent on Arnie for her lifestyle, while she and Jack are temporarily dependent on each other for emotional support. The colonists are dependent on the Bleekmen for a labor source. The Bleekmen, whose prior culture has almost disappeared with the coming of the colony, are dependent on the colonists for their livelihood and survival. Connections are made between good and bad people, and, as often happens in a Dick novel, the characters who survive are generally aided by some system of knowledge involving faith—not scientific but ancient like the paranormal understanding of the Bleekmen, whom Jack respects but Arnie despises. Perhaps that is why Jack survives and Arnie does not.
Political and Financial Maneuverings
As a satire on the business world and post-World War II life in the United States, the colony in Martian Time-Slip is a place established purposely for the capitalistic exploitation of consumers. Traveling to and living on Mars is almost a business gimmick, an artificially created market. Those who settle there are motivated much as the pioneers who settled the American West were. Like Jack, those who settle on Mars are trying to escape their former lives, or, like Arnie, they are trying to find new opportunities and riches. However, instead of the classic image of the wholesome, hard-working pioneer families, the colony is populated with stereotypes of the worst of American suburbia. These grasping, social-climbing colonists use scarce water for gardens instead of farming, trade with the black market or become black marketers, and have illicit affairs frequently. Their lives are designed and directed by the industrialists. Even the children are programmed to continue buying into the Establishment view through the cultural propaganda set forth by the Teaching Machines. Meantime, the web of the United Nations and its participating members complicates the governing of the colony with competition and bureaucracy.
Concern with Reality
Individuals face common problems in a shared reality, but they cope with their problems according to each person's psychological makeup. It is tough enough to coexist when people are on the same plane, but when someone is living in a different reality, such as autistic Manfred or schizophrenic Jack, the human commonalities seem more tenuous. For Jack, who is trying to keep his grip on the real world, the question becomes Dick's major theme: How does one tell the real world from the Twilight Zone when the borders keep moving? Furthermore, how does one maintain humanity and compassion when machines and hate dominate?
Dick concludes that there cannot be only one reality. Everything is a matter of perception and relativity. Time is relative. Personal realities collide in the shared world such as when recently balanced Jack is once again unbalanced by Arnie's manic scheme. Jack's only hope for survival is to wait it out until the shifting sands beneath his feet settle into place, until the difference between reality and appearances becomes clear again.
Manfred's precognitive and telepathic abilities are not so much a talent as a curse because his reality is so different from that of the people around him. Critics often note that a hallmark of Dick's novels is the compassionate attitude he takes towards his characters and the empathy he evokes for them. Certainly Dick conveys the pain Manfred feels from his alienation, his inability to get in step with the others. Helio asks the following regarding Manfred: "Who can say if perhaps the schizophrenics are not correct? Mister, they take a brave journey. They turn away from mere things, which one may handle and turn to practical use; they turn inward to meaning. There, the black night-without-bottom lies, the pit." Trying to escape reality leads only to further unreality, but Dick sometimes thought that a schizophrenic withdrawal into oneself could be the safest course of action in a hostile environment.
A recurring theme in Dick's works is the value of the ordinary person. A typical Dick character, like those of Charles Dickens, has an ordinary job and an ordinary life. Real heroes, and the heroes of Dick's stories, are the people who are not given exceptional talents or genius but who manage to cope nonetheless. Facing life without advantages, position, or wealth is a harder path in Dick's estimation, yet the small triumphs achieved by the average person with perseverance, honesty, and kindness lay the foundation of society. Jack Bolton is this type of character in Martian Time-Slip. He has an everyday job as a repairman. He is married, has a son, and lives in an ordinary neighborhood like the rest of the
colonists on Mars. The one exceptional thing about Jack is his recovery from schizophrenia, but that starts to regress when he makes contact with Arnie and Manfred and leaves his ordinary world to work with Manfred for Arnie. He even cheats on his wife with Doreen. The result is almost disastrous, but it is Jack's basic decency that saves him and sends him home to his wife and his normal life.
Three symbols in Martian Time-Slip are of particular note. First of all, is the Martian deserts. They are not intended to represent the topography of Mars as much as to convey the cultural desert, the ethical and spiritual poverty of the people of the colony. Mars is a dreary place where those who had hoped to escape the problems on Earth will only find more problems as they are dehumanized by their environment. Second, the proposed building in the F.D.R. Mountains, the one Manfred identifies as AM-WEB, is a symbol for the grandiose plans that people make which fall apart, particularly those government projects that seem to be the latest great idea but turn into colossal mistakes. Manfred is able to draw pictures of the building as it ages and turns into a horrible place—no longer the trendy new apartment complex with gardens and shopping centers, but a decrepit asylum where his life will be a nightmare. Finally, the Bleekman Heliogabalus symbolizes the higher consciousness that escapes most ordinary people. Helio is unaffected by Arnie's exploitations, not because he is too primitive to understand what is happening, but because he is above such pettiness. Helio is sensitive enough to recognize telepathically Manfred's talents. With these symbols Dick adds to the satiric nature of his novel by using the setting to represent the emptiness and ineptitude of 1960s American ambitions and by using the seemingly brutish Bleekman as a contrast to the truly insensitive humans around him.
In literature, satire is an indirect attack upon a person, idea, or cultural practice through the use of wit, sarcasm, or irony. The intent is to expose foolishness and perhaps instigate change without resorting to rage. Vices and abuses are held up for ridicule. Satire has been an important device in literature since the ancient Greeks and has continued as an effective medium in the hands of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Swift, Dryden, Pope, and Fielding, among others, during what is called the golden age of satire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the nineteenth century, satire became a gentler criticism as practiced in England by William Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw. In the United States, Washington Irving, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the masterful Mark Twain continued the tradition. Perhaps the best known satirists of the early to mid-twentieth century, both British and American, are Sinclair Lewis, James Thurber, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, W. H. Auden, Philip Roth, and Joseph Heller. Toward the end of the twentieth century and into the early 2000s, the most well-known satires may have been cartoons, for example Doonesbury and The Simpsons.
Dick uses satire in Martian Time-Slip to make his point about financial and political maneuvering in U.S. society. Big business as represented by the co-op runs lives as well as manipulates deals and uses political clout for its own gain, just like major corporations everywhere are thought to do. Further, Dick's depiction of Arnie Kott and the Water Workers' Union is a satirical dig at U.S. labor unions. The most precious commodity on Mars is water, yet the Water Workers themselves waste water in ways that suggest derision and excess as a means of flaunting power and privilege. The epitome of a corrupt union boss, Arnie always has eager henchmen to call upon to do his dirty work. Education takes a slap, too, in the form of the Teaching Machines that spout out nothing but Establishment propaganda. Dick is criticizing the white, standardized education of the 1950s and 1960s for being a one-size-fits-all treatment that reinforced stereotypes and did not consider diversity or any kind of innovation. In addition, Martian Time-Slip satirizes most the vapidity that Dick sees as suburban life in the United States of his time.
COMPARE & CONTRAST
- 1962: The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin, or sex, but this prohibition against discrimination is not reflected in Martian Time-Slip in which the native Martians are treated badly.
1994: Denny's restaurant chain agrees to pay more than $54 million to thousands of black customers who have been refused service or have been forced to wait longer or pay more than white customers in one of the largest and broadest settlements following passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Today: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights continues to report on investigations concerning charges of discrimination at polling places and anti-Semitic harassment, as well as to check on the status of desegregation in elementary schools.
- 1962: Dick writes Martian Time-Slip, in which the United States and Russia both have colonies on Mars in cooperation with the United Nations. But, in real life on Earth, 1962 is the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis in which the United States and the Soviet Union come very close to nuclear warfare.
1994: American President Clinton visits post-Soviet Russia, and Russian troops participate as United Nations peacekeeping troops in the Serbian conflict.
Today: Russia and the United States are the primary partners in the International Space Station that orbits the Earth, continuing to expand its size and facilities for scientific research.
- 1962: John Glenn is the first American to orbit the Earth; only seven years later, humans land on the Moon. At the same time, NASA approves the sending of a probe to photograph Mars in 1964.
1994: In Martian Time-Slip, a colony of humans on Mars was several years old in 1994, but in reality 1994 was the year after the end of the 337-day Mars Observer mission, launched in 1992 to make a detailed study of the planet's geology, geophysics, and climate. The spacecraft was lost due to a malfunction.
Today: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which spent two years looking for signs of past or present water in 2005 and 2006, is serving several years as a data relay station for future missions.
Nonlinear Time and Multiple Realities
Typically, Dick incorporates into his stories an outside force that affects how a character experiences reality. In Martian Time-Slip the outside force is Manfred and his contagious schizophrenia. Jack says of Manfred's illness: "It is the stopping of time. The end of experience, of anything new. Once the person becomes psychotic, nothing ever happens to him again." That is why the same scene is repeated, each time from a different perspective. Dick is asking which reality is real, and he is introducing the idea of nonlinear time, of short-term stasis. Since Manfred sees only the worst and any change is only for the worse, then stopping time seems like a good way to avoid change. Unfortunately, it appears that stasis means spiritual death if not physical death as well. So who will make the first move towards starting time again? Will anyone come out of the revolving door of the time slip? Arnie does not make it. Manfred is lifted into a new reality by the Bleekmen, and Jack finds himself able to walk out of the door, released by the death of Arnie and the exit of Manfred.
Although science fiction was a form used by nineteenth-century European and English authors, most notably in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1831) and the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, it is largely an American genre. Science fiction became a distinct form of writing in 1926 with the launching of the magazine Amazing Stories whose stated purpose was to publish stories based on science. The genre also includes fantasies and utopias, set in any time period, not just the future. In the early years, many of the stories were about space exploration, but thanks to the editorship of John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction, which began to publish in 1930, eventually branched out into plots that were concerned with the effects of technology on individuals and society. From this emphasis came writers such as Isaac Asimov and subjects such as robots, alien cultures, alien and human interaction, and the consequences of nuclear warfare. After the United States used the atomic bomb in World War II, science fiction writers were taken more seriously and their works entered the mainstream. In two years' time, two new science fiction magazines were founded: Fantasy and Science Fiction (1949) and Galaxy (1950). Their emphasis on debunking science fiction stereotypes with satire and humanism greatly influenced the field, and it was with these magazines that many of the notable science fiction novelists of the second half of the twentieth century got their start. Often, a novel would first be serialized in a magazine before being picked up by one of the book-publishing houses, as was the case with Dick's Martian Time-Slip. In Britain, science fiction returned with the establishment of the magazine New Worlds and the publications of writers Brian Aldiss and J. G. Ballard, the latter being one of the first writers of the New Wave movement in science fiction. New Wave authors were more sophisticated and metaphorical in style and more concerned with the psychological impact of modern social trends. An anti-utopian pessimism crept into this genre that had started with optimism about the future. After the 1970s, anthropology and cosmology were added to the mix as well as a number of fine works by women such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Doris Lessing. Later, the impact of the computer triggered a whole new group of works exploring the interaction of humans and computers. Long a favorite of the motion picture and television industries, producing such cultural icons as Star Wars and Star Trek among many, many others, science fiction is definitely an established and respected genre in American literature.
American labor unions were initiated among skilled crafts workers in the late eighteenth century to protect their jobs against less trained people. In the 1830s, unions became more concerned with larger social and economic matters. However, by the time the American Federation of Labor was founded in 1886 by Samuel Gompers (Readers may note there is a Samuel Gompers Field near Arnie Kott's settlement), the unions were focused on collective bargaining in regard to wages and working conditions, not on transforming the capitalist system. Eventually, the labor unions became very powerful politically as they lobbied the government and endorsed candidates. In the early 1960s, when Dick wrote Martian Time-Slip, the number of U.S. union members was growing because of the development of public employee unions, although the percentage of all workers that were unionized was starting to drop because the labor force was shifting to service jobs and away from manufacturing and manual jobs, where the bulk of the unions exist for craft or industrial workers. Nonetheless, Dick grew up and lived in a time when the money, power, and influence of labor unions were huge, and corruption among union bosses was legendary. For example, Jimmy Hoffa was the head of the Teamsters Union from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s and was suspected of having ties to the Mafia. In 1964, Hoffa was convicted of attempted bribery of a grand jury member and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Released in 1971, he disappeared in 1975 and is believed to have been murdered by rivals. It is this element of American culture that Dick transferred to Mars with the colonists and which resulted in the character of the plumbers union boss, Arnie Kott, complete with henchmen and dirty tactics.
Martian Time-Slip was written during a particularly prolific period in Dick's life and is considered one of the best novels of his early career. However, in the many reviews and analyses of Dick's long list of works, Martian Time-Slip is frequently left unmentioned. Some critics tend to write about his works in total, noting common themes and style rather than singling out a particular book. Still, Martian Time-Slip garners some attention for its unique qualities. It is a novel that Bernadette Lynn Bosky and Arthur D. Hlavaty, writing about Dick for the St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers state "skillfully combines 1950s social satire and metaphysical uncertainty."
Lawrence Sutin in Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick asserts that Martian Time-Slip "is a brilliant novel of ideas and a humane and hilarious look at life on Earth's struggling colonies on Mars." Also noting the humor in the novel, Neil Walsh, writing for the SF Site, notes that Dick's inconsistent writing style, which "reads like a translation from another language" may have contributed to the "very funny moments" in Martian Time-Slip.
While Dick's writing style may have been inconsistent in this view, Walsh applauds the quality of Dick's structural technique: The repetition of the same scene from different perspective, Walsh says, "is an odd setup, but the payoff is stunning…. Which interpretation of reality is really real? Are any of them? It's a chilling, haunting, beautiful piece of writing." Similarly, Douglas A. Mackey in a Twayne Publishers study of Dick concludes that in Martian Time-Slip "Dick effectively utilizes multifocal view-points to comment on the nature of the schizophrenic experience and its implication for our evaluation of ‘normal’ experience."
Emmanuel Carrère in I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick points out that the "genius misfit" character of Manfred in a "staple of Dick's fiction." Carrère feels that Dick allowed Arnie Kott to die thinking that he was he was just in an alternate reality and that he would wake up and find himself okay because Dick was a "merciful creator" who wanted to let Kott be consoled, yet die in the real world rather than someplace potentially worse. Carrère conjectures that Dick "liked writing the end of this novel. It reassured him. Illusion and reality were clearly separated; the survivors walked on the terra firma of the koinos kosmos [a shared world of universal order, beauty, and ultimate truth]."
Another Dick scholar, Merritt Abrash in "Elusive Utopias: Societies as Mechanism in the Early Fiction of Philip K. Dick" comments that Dick usually does not "pay respect to a machine" in his novels, but he does in Martian Time-Slip. Abrash explains that Dick uses the Teaching Machines to make "his most profound statement about the gap between the device with utopian potential and the actual attainment of utopia." The Teaching Machines seem to be an improvement over human beings not only functionally but "in terms of ability to relate to them"; however, it turns out that the machines were "devised not to break through to a new and better form of education, but to strengthen existing social values." Abrash concludes that "as always with Dick, utopian potential is submerged beneath the kind of self-serving practicality associated with the ‘establishment.’"
The extent of the criticism available since the resurgence of interest in Dick's literary career is testimony to his importance in the world of science fiction and the admiration he garners from scholars and fellow authors alike. Even though Dick died relatively young, he left behind an enormous body of work that was not fully appreciated in his lifetime but is likely to be examined and enjoyed for a long time to come.
Kerschen is an educator and freelance writer. In this essay, she discusses Dick's decision to leave 1960s elements in his 1994 setting, which results in some dated material in this science fiction story.
Although science fiction can be set in any time period, readers usually expect science fiction to be set in the distant future. Martian Time-Slip is a little different, just as Dick himself was a different sort of science fiction writer. Dick actually wanted to be a mainstream novelist, but he could not seem to find a way into that realm. Consequently, he often used futuristic or space settings to give a story the veneer of science fiction when in truth it had a mainstream plot that could have been set anywhere. Martian Time-Slip is a satire of American business and suburban living; consequently, Dick retained much that pertained to 1962, the year the story was written, in this tale set in 1994.
Dick set his 1960s story in the future so that he could satirize his own times without being too obvious, yet not so far in the future that the comparisons to the 1960s would be missed. Philip Purser reports, after a 1974 interview with Dick for the London Daily Telegraph, that Dick's better novels "are set forward only a decade or two so that the ideas come bumping hard at you." True, Dick could have achieved his satire in a very distant future, but then he would have had to think up new technology for his futuristic world. It was easier to use familiar objects in his foreign world so that the focus can be on the satire and not on gadgets.
When it came to technology, Dick did not allow for many advances in thirty-two years, even though he vastly overestimated the speed of the space program by placing colonies on Mars starting in 1988. In 1962, when Martian Time-Slip was written, space travel was only beginning with the first orbit of the Earth. Perhaps Dick knew that the plan was to walk on the Moon in 1969 and assumed that going to Mars was just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the moon landing. Arnie's list of black-market items in chapter three includes typewriters and tape recorders. There are references to tapes, spindles, encoders, and recorders in several other places in the book as well. Tapes were an exciting innovation in the 1960s but seem antiquated for a 1994 setting and for readers in the twenty-first century.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
- A story about hunting down renegade artificial human life forms, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", written by Dick in 1968, was the basis of the film Blade Runner and reissued as a book in 1982 as Blade Runner when the movie was released.
- Player Piano (1952), Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, is like Martian Time-Slip in that it is a satire on the way machines control society and the rebellion that calls for the return to a more natural life.
- Somewhat similar to Martian Time-Slip, The Space Merchants (1952), by Frederick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, depicts an America where huge corporations rule, there is a voiceless working class, and there are plans to colonize Venus.
- Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, published by Pantheon in 2002, contains the original "The Minority Report" on which the Spielberg movie is based, the two short stories on which Screamers and Total Recall are based, as well as twenty other stories that demonstrate Dick's varied talent.
- An admirer of Dick and a famous science fiction writer in her own right, Ursula K. Le Guin published The Left Hand of Darkness in 1984, and a new edition came out in 2001. This novel tells the story of a human emissary to another galaxy and his subsequent involvement with an alien culture.
Scattered throughout the book are references to articles from everyday life in the 1960s. For example, in chapter five, Lou's wife Phyllis turns on the "hi-fi," a term that may not even be recognizable to anyone born after 1970. A "hi-fi" was a high fidelity phonograph machine that played records. Records had been in use since the invention of the phonograph in the late nineteenth century, but after the 1960s recordings moved rapidly through a series of technological advances such as eight-track tapes, Beta tapes, cassette tapes, compact discs, and other electronic devices.
Also in chapter five, Jack thinks back to when he left Earth, leaving his job and selling his Plymouth, an automobile that was still in production in 1994 but which was discontinued in 2001. Two pages later, Jack is asked why he is not cashing his paychecks. In an age in which most salaries are paid through direct electronic deposit to an employee's bank, the idea that Jack would have to manually deliver his paycheck to the bank certainly dates that detail of the story. In addition, in chapter twelve, there is a reference to Helio reading Life, a magazine that appeared in 1883 and was an American institution through the 1960s, but ceased publication in 1972. Although Life reappeared as a monthly magazine with limited production between 1978 and 2000, starting in 2004 the logo was attached to a weekend newspaper supplement. So Helio could have been reading a copy of Life in 1994, but it would have been a quite different publication from what Dick knew in 1962.
Since communism was so strong in the 1960s, it was easy for Dick to assume that communism would still be a dominant force in world affairs just thirty years later. So, in chapter two he writes, "I know a bunch of Communist officials from Russia and Hungary, big boys, was over here around a week ago, no doubt looking around." While communism still existed in 1994, it was no longer the established form of government for Russia or Hungary. Four pages later, mention is made of the "big powers back home, China and the U.S. and Russia and West Germany." In chapter six, there is a reference to the Soviets. West Germany and the Soviet Union did not exist in 1994. To Dick's credit, he was not too far off to mention these countries because the Berlin Wall came down only five years earlier in 1989 with the reunification of East and West Germany following soon thereafter. The Soviet Union then broke apart in 1991.
Concerning autism, Dick was writing about the disorder under the errant assumptions of his time. In chapter three he states that "To have an autistic child was a special shame, because the psychologists believed that the condition came from a defect in the parents, usually a schizoid temperament." This idea was largely touted by Bruno Bettelheim, a leading child psychiatrist at the University of Chicago from 1944 to 1973. Bettelheim thought that autism in children resulted from emotional deprivation from a cold mother and an often absent father. Dick must have been aware of this theory and gives evidence that he was familiar with Bettelheim's "Joey: A ‘Mechanical Boy,’" a famous 1959 article written for Scientific American about a boy who believed himself to be a robot. In chapter 10, Arnie says, "I read about a kid who thought he was a machine." Bettelheim's theory about autism was eventually discredited once it was learned that autism is not a form of schizophrenia but is a neurological disorder that hinders developing skills in social interaction and communication. In the early 2000s research intensified as the frequency of cases of autism continued to increase ten to fourteen percent each year.
Furthermore, the racial and sexual attitudes exhibited by the characters in Martian Time-Slip are taken directly from the time period in which the book was written. Leo Bohlen say the Bleekmen look like aboriginal Negroes. It was not long after the book was written that the term "Negroes" was replaced in common usage with black or African American. Of course, Dick could not anticipate changes in English usage, but "Negroes" does sound strange to younger readers who are not accustomed to hearing or seeing the term and it immediately signals outdated material. In like manner, the sexist remarks made by Norbert and Arnie may leave young readers wondering what the problem is with marrying a woman who has a master's degree. Older readers may likely remember a time before the 1970s when fewer women went to college, and suburban housewives were expected to devote themselves entirely to domestic matters and their husbands, and leave jobs, money matters, and decisions to their husbands. Arnie can be written off as just a macho jerk when he never notices anything about a woman except her looks, and when he criticizes Anne for being "overly masculine," but the aura of sexism hangs over the whole book. Just the fact that Dick calls the Martian natives Bleekmen instead of Bleeks or Bleekers or some other non-sexist term dates the book.
Dick never explains how the colonization of Mars was made possible. Of course, the science of this science fiction novel was not important to him. He wrote a satire filled with questions about schizophrenia and just happened to place the story on Mars without being overly concerned if the setting was plausible. So the reader is left to wonder how humans conquered the problems of the toxic soil on Mars that gives off radiation, gravity (.375 that of Earth), temperature (average -81 degrees Fahrenheit), and atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide, which is lethal to humans). There is a brief mention of adjusting to the air, but it is made with the casualness of someone asking about adjusting to the altitude on Pike's Peak. True, Mars is the only planet in the solar system that has any potential for colonization, but such plans would probably require an artificial atmosphere in an enclosed area and protective gear like an astronaut's suit for going outside.
Dick is not like Jules Verne or H. G. Wells, at least not in Martian Time-Slip. Purser reports that Dick said, "We've got to lock on to the present. Only those who can escape the past are free to seek new solutions." So Dick wrote about the present in his futuristic book to show that old, traditional practices may need changing if society is to truly have a better future. Otherwise, all that will result is the past rehashed. Thus, anyone expecting robots more advanced than the tape machines in the costumed contraptions called Teaching Machines, anyone expecting sophisticated computerized systems, highly imaginative technology or time machines will be disappointed with Martian Time-Slip. On the other hand, readers of this book will find unique time sequences in the plot and time travel via the mind, food for thought about life and what matters most, and an interesting perspective on shaping one's own reality.
Source: Lois Kerschen, Critical Essay on Martian Time-Slip, in Novels for Students, Thomson Gale, 2008.
In the following review, Koornick remarks on the place of Martian Time-Slip in Dick's career and its message about the human mind. Koornick also outlines what he considers to be the critical elements in the novel.
Martian Time-Slip is truly an anomaly in the science fiction genre. While it has many elements of a typical sci-fi novel, including a title highly suggestive of the genre, the main focus of Martian Time-Slip is on the intracies of the human mind with a heavy focus on the introverted world view of the schizophrenic.
The story takes place on the fledling Martian colonies in 1994 and its main character is Jack Bohlen, a skilled repairmen and recovering schizophrenic who still suffers flashbacks. The colonies on the planet are in a period of transition as the fate of the planet is decided by the UN. Jack gets caught up in the frantic business affairs of Arnie Kott, head of the powerful Plumbers Union who isn't afraid to use his power & money to further his goals, often at the expense of others.
Much of the novels psychological (and classic Dick) elements lie with an autistic boy named Manfred Steiner. The son of Jack's neighbor, Manfred boards in a clinic for autistic children who can't communicate with the people around them. Kott discovers that this boy has psychic powers and hires Jack to develop a system to communicate with the boy. Kott's motivations are to foresee the UN's use of Martian land so he can buy and resell the vast desert wasteland for a profit.
Jack's schizophrenic tendencies are exaggerated around the boy with whom he is hired to communicate. Manfred projects his world view to those around him and has a profound influence on the realities of the other characters. Philip Dick creates an incredible and thought-provoking explanation for the way that the schizophrenics experience time in Martian Time-Slip. By offering the readers glimpses into Manfred's and Jack's schizophrenic episodes, one is able to view their situation from a different viewpoint, one that sees time as relative and can foresee the decay of modern society.
There are many classic Dick episodes in Martian Time-Slip. Among them are Dick's fascination with decay and the long-term triumph of chaos over order (of which only Manfred is able to prophecize), the use of a business deal gone bad as a major element of the plot and the outward projection of personal realities onto the shared world. The main character is a normal person who gets caught up in the twisted schemes of a selfish businessman, only to find his own perceptions of reality crumbling.
Written in 1962 and published in 1964, Martian Time-Slip is an important novel in Dick's career and according to some, one of his best. The science fiction aspects of this novel are secondary in importance to the questions Dick is raising about the human mind. The stark Martian landscapes provide the setting but the situations and the characters have little to do with space travel or futuristic science commonly seen in the genre. Instead Martian Time-Slip focuses on the problems of human existence and personal psychological issues in the face of common and shared realities.
Martian Time-Slip was written during an interesting period of Philip Dick's career. In 1962, he had already been accepted into the science fiction community and was trying to hit it big with a mainstream novel. Written in the same period as The Man In The High Castle, Dick was working with ideas that would bring him mainstream acceptance. Both The Man In The High Castle and Martian Time-Slip deal less with the fantastic elements of science fiction and more with the internal struggles of the individual and how they relate to their world. With Martian Time-Slip, Dick was hoping to reach a much broader audience than those used to seeing his stories in pulp magazines and Ace Doubles.
Unfortunetly for him and in our favor, Phil was always able to make more money writing science fiction and after these novels, he would give up his hope for mainstream success and stick to the genre that he had the most success—science fiction. Of course one of Phil's greatest contributions to the genre is that he was able to use the freedom of science fiction to express ideas of philosophy, religion and psychology that were normally found in literature and other "mainstream" writing.
Some have called Martian Time-Slip one of PKD's greatest novels. In this reviewer's opinion, the strongest elements of this novel are (especially compared to his other works):
- A consistent flow from beginning to end. The novel progresses at a slow pace at first but rises to the climax, keeping the reader's attention to the finish.
- Less reliance on weird hallucinations and nightmarish delusions. While these elements are definitely present in Martian Time-Slip, they generally occur in a context which makes their effect stronger and meaningful.
- The use of Mars as a backdrop and setting for the story is tasteful and relevant. As in many PKD stories, the threat of inevitable settlement (in this case, it could be war, collapse of government or extinction) looming in the background plays a major role in the actions of the characters and their psychological profile.
- A fascinating look into the mind of the schizophrenic. Dick's fascination with the way that a schizophrenic views the external world is very apparent in Martian Time-Slip. His attempt to scientifically explain this psychological phenomenon is clever and an expression of PKD's doubts about his own reality.
What this reviewer found difficult about Martian Time-Slip is the sluggish pace of the first half. Instead of the book grabbing the reader's attention from the beginning, it slowly builds and finally rewards the reader with a glimpse at Jack Bohlen's and Manfred Steiner's schizophrenia. The initial part of the book introduces the main characters and sets up the situations that develop later in the novel. We meet typical Dick characters like Jack Bohlem, Mr. Yee and Arnie Kott who are involved in rather ordinary jobs and lives. The only exception is the older Mr. Steiner who is faced with a severe case of depression.
The events surrounding Steiner's suicide are rather irrelevant to the story of Martian Time-Slip. This novel is like other PKD novels in that it incorporates a few unrelated elements into a single story. This book is able to hold its own however and doesn't wander nearly as much as some of his other lesser works.
All in all, this reviewer was most impressed with the subtleties of Martian Time-Slip. It's avoidance of unbelievable and fantastic futuristic adventures works in its favor. The characters are faced with very recognizable and realistic dilemmas. The reactions of characters like Jack Bohlen to circumstances beyond his control are heartfelt and lend more credibility to the characters in this novel than some of PKD's other novels. This reader is able to sympathize with the trappings of Manfred Steiner who is forced to live in a world which he could see decaying. His psychic gifts of telepathy and foresight are a curse when his version of reality is so far removed from the world he lives in. The sense of alienation is expressed eloquently in Martian Time-Slip and Dick is playing with a powerful emotion to which everyone can relate in some way.
Martian Time-Slip is a novel which does not try to be more than a sum of its parts. It is an enjoyable and quick read that is not as bizarre and twisted as some of PKD's other novels but manages to incorporate these elements in an effective manner. This book would be recommended to a more seasoned reader of PKD, rather than as an introduction to the author. Among the reasons are a rather slow-paced first half and a story which doesn't represent the author at his best. Instead it is a novel which would be most appreciated by a reader who has tasted PKD's best flavors and is ready to sample the subtler aspects of his style.
Source: Jason Koornick, "Martian Time-Slip," in philipkdickfans.com, 2007, pp. 1-3.
In the following chapter excerpt, Abbott examines the ways in which the homesteading experience of the American West has been recreated by writers in depicting planetary colonies. In particular, Abbott discusses Dick's treatment of a successful settlement on the Mars frontier that shows the disaster as much as the triumph.
When writers such as Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin wrote about homesteading in ways that questioned simple stories of success through perseverance, they were situating their ideas in this changing context of American historiography and also reflecting specific historical writings of the 1950s and 1960s that were probing beneath the surface of the western myth to find uncomfortable and incongruous realities. Novelist and essayist Wallace Stegner in Beyond the 100th Meridian (1954) and historian Walter Prescott Webb in "The American West: Perpetual Mirage" (1957) documented the fundamental inhospitality of the arid West and the problems that arose when eastern expectations came westward. In Webb's memorable phrase, the western mirage defied eastern farming practices and technological solutions such as dry farming and irrigation. Literary scholar Henry Nash Smith, whose Virgin Island (1950) was one of the most influential works of post-World War II scholarship, analyzed the many ways in which the dream of a welcoming, garden-like continent had misdirected both political decisions and popular culture. Indeed, these scholars argued, expectations of individualism ignored the deep dependence of western settlers and communities on outside institutions….
Dick was correct that homesteading viewed realistically is a hard fit with American narratives of growth, for close examination of the historical experience shows as much disaster as triumph. Settlement from the eastern US has repeatedly washed across the high plains into the Rocky Mountains, lingered a decade or two, and then washed back. One generation of failure began with the Homestead Act of 1862, expanded with the first transcontinental railroads, and crashed in the drought and depression of the 1890s. More generous land laws and European hunger for American grain during World War I attracted another ambitious generation, who hit trouble in the 1920s and disaster in the 1930s. World War II, farm subsidies, and energy exploration subsidies fueled a third generation of ambition that crested and crashed in turn in the 1980s and 1990s.
Towns grew, perhaps even prospered, but they also failed. From the Texas Panhandle to the Dakotas is now a region of declining agriculture, aging population, and few in-migrants (see Frey). Just as the western American mountains are specked with the ghost-town remnants of the mining frontier, the plains are slowly taking back small-farm towns, while regional centers struggle to keep young people from the attractions of Denver, Seattle, or Minneapolis. Some areas actually peaked in population in the 1890s, others in the 1940s or 1950s. Jonathan Raban has chronicled the process of ambition and decline in eastern Montana in Bad Land, and Larry McMurtry fictionalized the experience of Texas in The Last Picture Show (1966). William Least Heat-Moon has explored the thinning human imprint in central Kansas in Prairy Erth. Geographers Frank and Deborah Popper aroused consternation and fascination when they noted that 388 western counties in 1980 supported fewer than six people per square mile, the shorthand for frontier conditions. Their proposal—really a metaphor—was to slowly return unneeded lands to a preagricultural ecology as a Buffalo Commons, pointing out that the extensive tracts of National Grasslands were the result of a similar process following the 1930s. The made-up title Pilgrims without Progress, the banned book that supposedly encompasses the Martian settlement experience in Dick's Stigmata, would not be a bad summary for much of homesteading history.
Martian Time-Slip describes a superficially more successful Mars, but one in which the hopes of a family frontier have given way to the worst of 1960s suburbia, with many of the details taken directly from the popular suburban critique of the 1950s and 1960s that Scott Donaldson incisively summarized in The Suburban Myth. The Martian homesteaders/householders that we see might as well be in San Bernardino County. They use water from the Martian canals for gardens rather than commercial agriculture. Husbands have second jobs as machinery repairmen of black-market merchandisers, while wives carry on sexual affairs in the afternoons. There are ads for automatic farm tractors, but no picture of how they might be used. There is also agribusiness, represented by a "ranch" in an area purchased by a Texas oil tycoon and administered by Texas (but, joke on Texas, it is really a dairy farm).
Meanwhile, the way to make money is through land speculation. The father of one of the homesteaders arrives unexpectedly from Earth with plans to buy land in the arid F.D.R. Mountains: "It was the last gasp of hope springing eternal in the old man; here there was land selling for next to nothing, with no takers, the authentic frontier which the habitable parts of Mars were patently not." In fact, the father is not a deluded romantic but a shrewd insider, attracted by an inside tip about a planned government facility that will cause the value to skyrocket. He wouldn't need his son's warning: "Don't commit yourself, because it's a known fact that any Mars real estate away from the part of the canal network that works—and remember that only about one-tenth of it works—comes close to being outright fraud."
Dick's 1960s Mars novels are satirical assaults on postwar American culture, with similarities to Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano (1952) and Frederick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth's The Space Merchants (1953) and Gladiator-at-Law (1955), but they are also critiques of the nation's past. They are positioned both chronologically and conceptually between the historians and critics of the 1950s, who pointed out the misunderstandings inherent in the agrarian myth, and those historians of the 1980s and 1990s who emphasize conquest, environmental devastation, and the corrupting effects of land monopoly. Dick's version of homesteading coincides with the ideas of numerous writers who have pointed out that the enterprising family of the homesteading West was caught from the start in a web of political and economic institutions beyond its control (see, for example, Dubofsky, Davis, Lukas, Robbins, and Worster). If it existed at all, the agrarian family utopia of nineteenth-century American aspiration and twentieth-century nostalgia was, at most, a brief moment in a process dominated by big institutions and capital.
Source: Carl Abbott, "Homesteading on the Extraterrestrial Frontier," in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 32, No. 96, July 2005, pp. 251, 253-54.
In the following excerpt, Carrère says that Dick wondered what it was like to be psychotic and then described the condition with his novel Martian Time-Slip. This excerpt discusses how other characters in the book become like the one character Manfred, yet Dick allows the plumber to escape the confusion of illusion and reality through death.
Soon after finishing The Man in the High Castle, Dick wrote a novel called Martian Time-Slip, in which, with considerably more earnestness than Huxley had after his mescaline trip, he asked himself the question, What does it feel like to be psychotic?
The story, which begins with a suicide whose effects ripple outward and touch every character at some point in the course of the novel, turns around land speculation on Mars, Earth's somewhat neglected colony, where labor union fiefdoms and United Nations concessions vie for control and influence. In an effort to get the jump on the competition, the chief of Mars's powerful Water Workers Union, an erstwhile plumber, would like to take a peek into the future. An ingratiating psychiatrist tells him of a new theory that holds that autism, and schizophrenia in general, is a derangement of the individual's sense of time. What distinguishes the schizophrenic from other people, according to the theory, is that the schizophrenic gets the whole picture all at once, whether he wants it or not: the entire reel of film that normally passes before people's eyes frame by frame unravels in a rush. Causality doesn't exist for the schizophrenic; he lives in a world governed by a principle of acausal connection that Wolfgang Pauli called "synchronicity" and that Jung, replacing one enigma with another, tried to use to explain the phenomenon of coincidence. Like someone on LSD or like God—insofar as one can know the nature of His idios kosmos—the schizophrenic dwells in an eternal present. All of reality comes rushing headlong at him as though he were in a never-ending car wreck. Accordingly, the psychiatrist tells the plumber, the schizophrenic has access to what we call the future. With this the ex-plumber has heard all he needs to and turns to that staple of Dick's fiction, the genius misfit, in this case a recovering schizophrenic and jack-of-all-trades capable of repairing everything from toasters to helicopter blades—a highly valued skill on Mars, where spare parts are exceedingly hard to come by. The plumber wants him to rig up a machine that will let him enter into mental contact with an autistic child named Manfred and extract precious information about the future from the boy's mind.
The repairman accepts the job reluctantly, fearing it will bring back painful memories of his own schizophrenia and force him to confront the question he has been trying to repress for years, ever since he left Earth: what was it he really saw that day he sat across the desk from his company's personnel manager and the man appeared to him as an assemblage of gears and electric circuitry? A hallucination or a vision, a psychotic breakdown or a sudden glimpse of true reality, stripped of its facade? Nevertheless, he grows attached to Manfred, eventually deciding, in the plumber's words (and with the same optimism that Dorothy felt with regard to her sister, Marion), that "it must be like fairlyland, in there, all beautiful and pure and real innocent."
A serious mistake, of course. Soon strange things start to happen. A Bruno Walter recording of a Mozart symphony becomes a hideous jangle of sound; the bodies of other people seem to split open as if in an accelerated process of organic decay. The entire objective universe in which the characters move about becomes progressively invaded by that of Manfred, who sucks them into his nightmarish reality, a place of absolute entropy, a land of death. The concept of the "tomb world" had fascinated Phil ever since he first came across it in essays by the Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger. The schizophrenic, Binswanger believed, lives (if one can call it living) in a world of eternal death in which everything has happened and at the same time is still happening, in which nothing more can ever happen. This "tomb" swallows up anyone who approaches it; it is waiting there to engulf everything and everyone.
All the characters in the novel become Manfred; no one can speak except to produce the desolate noises that are his response to the world. "I kept on going," the horrified repairman tries desperately to explain, looking for someone who I could still talk to. Who wasn't like—him." The ex-plumber gets his wish and travels through time, but it's Manfred's time that he travels through, the time of the tomb world, and the voyage turns hellish. His once-faithful secretary has become a predatory monster, everyday objects have taken on sharp, angry edges, the coffee he drinks tastes bitter and poisonous. A mask of empty darkness hangs in the air above his face and begins to descend on him. Now he realizes that never again will he see the living world he so foolishly left behind; he knows he will die in Manfred's autistic world—which he does.
It is hard to imagine anything more horrific than dying in someone else's nightmare, and Dick, merciful creator that he was, rescues the ex-plumber from this fate and grants him a kinder, and at the same time more ironic, demise. The hideous spell is lifted and the ex-plumber emerges from the tomb world, only to be killed by a minor character from one of the novel's subplots. As he is being rushed to the hospital in the throes of death, he can't believe what's happening to him and starts to laugh, because now he figures he knows the routine: he is still trapped in one of those fucked-up schizophrenic universes where first you get killed for no reason and then you wake up. That's what's going to happen to him, he thinks: he'll wake up and find himself back in his own reality. And as he's lying there thinking all this, he dies, this time for good.
Perhaps it's better this way, the repairman concludes. Phil thought so too, for two reasons: first of all, the ex-plumber dies consoled by the thought that he is not dying and, second, he dies in the real world, not in a place where things far worse than death can happen.
Phil liked writing the end of this novel. It reassured him. Illusion and reality were clearly separated; the survivors walked on the terra firma of the koinos kosmos. The repairman continues to have his doubts, for no one is ever cured of schizophrenia. "Once a person becomes psychotic," he tells himself, "nothing ever happens to him again. I stand on the threshold of that."
Me too, Phil thought. Perhaps he was standing on that same threshold. Perhaps he had always been there.
Source: Emmanuel Carrère, "Idiocy," in I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, translated by Timothy Bent, Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt, 2004, pp. 82-84.
Brian W. Aldiss
In the following essay, Aldiss identifies and explains the three webs that are integrated into Dick's novels and how they are used in Martian Time-slip: the web of civilization, the web of human relationships, and the web connecting all the good and bad things in the universe. In addition, Aldiss discusses the comic effects and dark wit in the book.
Arnie Kott is on his way back into a schizoid variant of the recent past:
The trail levelled out and became wider. And all was in shadow; cold and damp hung over everything, as if they were treading within a great tomb. The vegetation that grew thin and noxious along the surface of the rocks had a dead quality to it, as if something had poisoned it in its act of growing. Ahead lay a dead bird on the path, a rotten corpse that might have been there for weeks; he could not tell.
The setting is Mars, which is now partly colonized. Colonists live along the water system, where conditions of near-fertility exist.
This web of civilization is stretched thin over utter desolation. There is no guaranteeing that it can be maintained. Its stability is threatened by the Great Powers back on Earth. For years they have neglected Mars, concentrating dollars and man-hours on further exploration elsewhere in the system; now they may interfere actively with the balance of the colony.
Behind this web exists another, even more tenuous: the web of human relationships. Men and women, children, old men, bleekmen (the autochthonous but non-indigenous natives of Mars) all depend, however reluctantly, on one another. When poor Norbert Steiner commits suicide, the effects of the event are felt by everyone.
Behind these two webs lies a third, revealed only indirectly. This is the web connecting all the good and bad things in the universe. The despised Bleekmen, who tremble on the edge of greater knowledge than humanity, are acutely aware of this web and occasionally succeed in twitching a strand here and there, to their advantage; but they are as much in its toils as anyone else.
These three webs integrate at various coordinate points, the most remarkable point being AM-WEB, a complex structure which the UN may build some time in the future in the F.D.R. Mountains. The structure is visible to Steiner's autistic son, Manfred, who sees in it an advanced stage of decay. Its function in the novel is to provide a symbol for the aspirations and failures of mankind. The structure will be a considerable achievement when completed; which is not to say that it is not ultimately doomed; and part of that doom may be decreed by the miserable political and financial maneuverings which form one of the minor themes of this intricately designed novel.
Martian Time-Slip comes from the middle of one of Dick's most creative periods. The Man in the High Castle was published in 1962. In 1963 came The Game-Players of Titan and then, in 1964, The Simulacra, The Penultimate Truth, Clans of the Alphane Moon, and the present volume. Although Dick is a prolific author, with some thirty novels appearing in fifteen years, his production rate is modest when compared with many other writers in the prodigal field of SF.
One of the attractions of Dick's novels is that they all have points at which they interrelate, although Dick never introduces characters from previous books. The relationship is more subtle—more web-like—than that. There is a web in Clans of the Alphane Moon, made by the "world-spider as it spins its web of determination for all life." The way in which Mars in the present novel is parceled up between various nationalities is reminiscent of the parceling up of Earth into great estates in The Penultimate Truth, and The Game-Players of Titan. The horrifying corrupt world of Manfred's schizophrenia, the realm of Gubble, reminds of the tomb world into which John Isidore falls in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or of one of the ghastly fake universes of Palmer Eldritch in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. When Jack Bohlen, in the first few pages of the novel, awaits the arrival of his father from Earth, change is about to creep in; and change is often paradoxically embodied in someone or something old, like the Edward M. Stanton lying wrapped up in newspaper in the back of Maury Rock's Jaguar, in the opening pages of We Can Build You.
Such building blocks are by no means interchangeable from book to book; Dick's kaleidoscope is always being shaken, new sinister colours and patterns continually emerge. The power in the Dickian universe resides in these blocks, rather than in his characters, even when one of the characters has a special power (like Jones's ability to foresee the future in The World Jones Made), it rarely does him any good.
If we look at two of the most important of these building blocks and observe how they depend on each other for greatest effect, we come close to understanding one aspect of Dickian thought. These blocks are the Concern With-Reality and the Involvement-with-the-Past.
Most of the characteristic themes of SF are materialist ones; only the concern-with-reality theme involves a quasi-metaphysical speculation, and this theme Dick has made peculiarly his own. Among his earliest published stories is "Imposter" (1953), in which a robot believes himself to be a man; the faking is so good that even he cannot detect the truth until the bomb within him is triggered by a phrase he himself speaks. Later, Dickian characters are frequently to find themselves trapped in hallucinations or fake worlds of various kinds, often without knowing it or, if knowing it, without being able to do anything about it. In The Man in the High Castle, the world we know—in which the Allies won World War II and the Axis Powers lost—is itself reduced to a hypothetical world existing only in a novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which the victorious Japanese and Germans have banned.
And it is not only worlds that are fake. Objects, animals, People, may also be unreal in various ways. Dick's novels are littered with fakes, from the reproduction guns buried in rock in The Penultimate Truth which later are used, and so become "genuine fakes," to the toad which can hardly be told from real in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the androids masquerading as human in the same novel. Things are always talking back to humans. Doors argue, medicine bags patronize, the cab at the end of Now Wait for Last Year advises Dr. Eric Sweetscent to stay with his ailing wife. All sorts of drugs are available which lead to entirely imaginary universes, like the evil Can-D and Chew-Z used by the colonists on Mars in Palmer Eldritch, or the JJ-180 which is banned on Earth in Now Wait for Last Year.
The colonists in Martian Time-Slip use only the drugs available to us, though these are generally at hand—in the very opening scene we come across Silvia Bohlen doped up on phenobarbitone. Here the concern-with-reality theme is worked out through the time-slip of the title, and through the autistic boy, Manfred.
Manfred falls into the power of Arnie Kott, boss of the plumbing union which, because water is so scarce, has something of a stranglehold on Mars (a typical piece of wild Dickian ingenuity). Arnie worries a lot. He asks his Bleekman servant, Helio, if he has ever been psychoanalyzed.
"No, Mister. Entire psychoanalysis is a vainglorious foolishness."
"Question they never deal with is, what to remold sick person like. There is no what, Mister."
"I don't get you, Helio."
"Purpose of life is unknown, and hence way to be is hidden from the eyes of living critters. Who can say if perhaps the skizophrenics are not correct? Mister, they take a brave journey. They turn away from mere things, which one may handle and turn into practical use; they turn inward to meaning. There, the black night-without-bottom lies, the pit."
Of course, there are many ways of falling into the pit, one of which is to have too much involvement-with-the-past. In a published interview with Philip Purser, Dick admits to a fascination with the past, quoting lines of Henry Vaughan, "Some men a forward motion love / But I by backward steps would move …" Whilst saying how much he enjoys the junk of the past, Dick adds, "But I'm equally aware of the ominous possibilities. Ray Bradbury goes for the Thirties, too, and I think he falsifies and glamourises them" (Daily Telegraph Magazine, 19th July 1974).
Arnie Kott has an innocent fascination with objects of the past—he possesses the only spinet on Mars. In the same way, Robert Childan's trading Mickey-Mouse watches and scarce copies of Tip Top Comics to the victorious Japanese (in The Man in the High Castle) is represented as entirely innocuous. Trouble comes when the interest with the past and all its artifacts builds into an obsession, like Virgil Ackerman's Wash-55, a vast regressive babyland which features in Now Wait for Last Year.
And this is indeed where Dick parts company with Ray Bradbury, and with many another writer, in or out of SF. If he sees little safety in the future, the past is even more insidiously corrupting. So dreadful is Manfred's past that you can die in it. The past is seen as regressive; one of the most striking Dickian concepts is the "regression of forms" which takes place in Ubik, that magnificent but flawed novel in which the characters try to make headway through a world becoming ever more primitive, so that the airliner devolves into a Ford trimotor into a Curtis biplane, while Joe's multiplex FM tuner will regress into a cylinder phonograph playing a shouted recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
In Martian Time-Slip, the involvement-with-the-past is general, as well as being particularised in Manfred's illness. Mars itself is regarded by Earth as a has-been, and is patterned with has-been communities based on earlier versions of terrestrial history. Here it is especially difficult to escape damnation.
With the past so corrupting, the present so uncertain, and the future so threatening, we might wonder if there can be any escape. The secret of survival in Dick's universe is not to attempt escape into any alternate version of reality but to see things through as best you can; in that way, you may succeed if not actually triumphing. The favoured character in Martian Time Slip is Jack Bohlen, whom we last see reunited with his wife, out in the dark garden, flashing a torch and looking for someone. His voice is business-like, competent, and patient; these are high-ranking virtues in the Dickian anthropology. It is significant that Jack is a repairman ("an idiot who can fix things," says Kott)—a survival-rich job, since it helps maintain the status quo. Similar survivors in other novels are pot-healers, traders, doctors, musical instrument makers, and android-shooters (since androids threaten the status quo).
The characters who survive are generally aided by some system of knowledge involving faith. The system is rarely a scientific one; it is more likely to be ancient. In Martian Time-Slip; it is the never-formulated paranormal understanding of the Bleekmen; Bohlen respects this vague eschatological faith without comprehending it, just as Kott despises it. The I Ching, or Book of Changes, the four-thousand-year-old Chinese work of divination, performs a similar function in The Man in the High Castle, whilst in Counter-Clock World, Latta Hermes randomly consults the Bible, which predicts the future with an alarming accuracy. In both Dick's two early masterpieces, Time-Slip and High Castle, this religious element—presented as something crumbling, unreliable, to be figured out with pain—is well-integrated into the texture of the novel.
Dick's next great book, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, was written very soon after Martian Time-Slip, and the two are closely related, not only because Mars is in both cases used as a setting. To my view, Eldritch is a flawed work, over-complicated, and finally disappearing into a cloud of quasi-theology; whereas Martian Time-Slip has a calm and lucidity about it. But in Eldritch we also find an ancient and unreliable meta-structure of faith, in this case embodied in the ferocious alien entity which fuses with Eldritch's being.
Our opponent, something admittedly ugly and foreign that entered one of our race like an ailment during the long voyage between Terra and Prox … and yet it knew much more than I did about the meaning of our finite lives, here; it saw in perspective. From its centuries of vacant drifting as it waited for some kind of life form to pass by which it could grab and become … maybe that's the source of its knowledge: not experience but unending solitary brooding.
So muses Barney Mayerson. Jack Bohlen desperately needs a transcendental act of fusion; he is estranged from his wife, sold by his first employer, threatened by his second, invaded by the schizophrenia of the boy he befriends. He sees in this mental illness, so frightenly depicted in the book, the ultimate enemy. From this ultimate enemy come the time-slip of the title and that startling paragraph which seems to condense much of the feeling of the book and, indeed, of Dick's work in general, when Bohlen works out what Manfred's mental illness means:
It is the stopping of time. The end of experience, of anything new. Once the person becomes psychotic, nothing ever happens to him again.
This is the maledictory circle within which Dick's beings move and from which they have to escape: although almost any change is for the worse, stasis means death, spiritual if not actual.
Any discussion of Dick's work makes it sound a grim and appalling world. So, on the surface, it may be; yet it must also be said that Dick is amazingly funny. The terror and the humor are fused. It is this rare quality which marks Dick out. This is why critics, in seeking to convey his essential flavour, bring forth the names of Dickens and Kafka, earlier masters of ghastly comedy.
Martian Time-Slip is full of delightful comic effects, not least in the way in which Steiner and the lecherous Otto Zitte ship illegal gourmet-food items from Earth in unmanned Swiss rockets. Dick's fondness for oddball entities and titles is much in evidence, notably in the surrealist public school, where the Emperor Tiberius, Sir Francis Drake, Mark Twain, and various other dignitaries talk to the boys. Below this easygoing humour lies a darker stream of wit. Arnie Kott's terrible and fatal mistake of believing that reality is merely another version of the schizoid past is also part of the comedy of mistakes to which Dick's characters always dance.
There is a deeper resemblance to the works of Dickens and Kafka. Dick, like Dickens, enjoys a multi-plotted novel. As the legal metaphor is to Bleak House, the world-as-prison to Little Dorrit, the dust heap to Our Mutual Friend, the tainted wealth to Great Expectations, so is Mars to Martian Time-Slip. It is exactly and vividly drawn; it is neither the Mars as adventure playground of Edgar Rice Burroughs nor the Mars as parallel of Pristine America of Ray Bradbury; this is Mars used in elegant and expert fashion as metaphor of spiritual poverty. In functioning as a drearnscape, it has much in common with the semi-allegorical, semi-surrealist locations used by Kafka to heighten his Ghastly Comedy of bafflement. Staring at his house in the meagre Martian desert, Bohlen smiles and says, "This is the dream of a million years, to stand here and see this."
Dick's alliance, if one may call it that, with writers such as Dickens and Kafka makes him immediately congenial to English and European readers. It may be this quality which has brought him reputation and respect on this side of the Atlantic before his virtues are fully recognized in his own country.
Source: Brian W. Aldiss, "Dicks Maledictory Web: About and Around Martian Time-Slip," in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 2, No. 5, March 1975, pp. 42-47.
Abrash, Merritt, "Elusive Utopias: Societies as Mechanisms in the Early Fiction of Philip K. Dick," in Clockwork Worlds: Mechanized Environments in Science Fiction, edited by Richard D. Erlich and Thomas P. Dunn, Greenwood Press, 1983, p. 119.
Bettelheim, Bruno, "Joey: A ‘Mechanical Boy’," in Scientific American, Vol. 200, March 1959, pp. 117-26.
Bosky, Bernadette Lynn, and Arthur D. Hlavaty, "Philip K. Dick: Overview," in St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, 4th ed., edited by Jay P. Pederson, St. James Press, 1996.
Carrère, Emmanuel, I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, translated by Timothy Bent, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005, pp. 83, 84.
Dick, Philip K., Martian Time-Slip, Vintage Books, 1964.
Mackey, Douglas A., Philip K. Dick, Twayne Publishers, 1988, p. 55.
Purser, Philip, "Even Sheep Can Upset Scientific Detachment," in London Daily Telegraph, No. 506, July 19, 1974, pp. 27, 29.
Sutin, Lawrence, Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, Carroll & Graf, 2005, p. 117.
Walsh, Neil, "Martian Time-Slip: A Review," in SF Site, http://www.sfsite.com/12bpkd71.htm (accessed November 8, 2006.)
Apel, D. Scott, ed., Philip K. Dick: The Dream Connection, Impermanent Press, 1999.
This book contains over eight hours of interviews with Dick, a number of supplementary essays by leading critics and contemporaries of Dick, and a little-known short story by Dick about his mystical experiences.
Bukatman, Scott, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction, Duke University Press, 1993.
This book is a collection of essays about science fiction, the relationship of technology to human culture, and authors such as Philip K. Dick and many others who have tackled social issues in this genre.
Carrère, Emmanuel, I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, translated by Timothy Bent, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005.
A fellow science fiction writer of note, Carrère really gets into Dick's head as he provides literary criticism in a cultural and personal context in this examination of Dick's life and works.
Sutin, Lawrence, Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, Carroll & Graf, 2005.
Although there are other biographies of Dick, Divine Invasions is generally considered the best. Originally published in 1981, it was reissued in 2005 to complement the release of the film A Scanner Darkly, which is based on Dick's book of the same name.
Warrick, Patricia S., "The Labyrinthian Process of the Artificial: Philip K. Dick's Androids and Mechanical Constructs," in Philip K. Dick, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, Taplinger Publishing, 1983, pp. 189-214.
In this essay, Warrick investigates the variety of portrayals that Dick gives to answer the questions of "What is human?" and "What only masquerades as human?" In addition, there is a question about whether and when electronic devices menace or help humans.