The First Ever Philip K. Dick Festival Blows Through Town This Weekend
"Does everyone here love Dick?"
"Are you here because you're a Dick Head?"
"Who's a Dick Head?"
"I can't hear you!"
"WE'RE THE DICK HEADS!"
"ARE YOU READY FOR SOME DICK??!!"
No, I'm not preparing my carnival barker routine for the Folsom Street Fair this Saturday–in my head, that's how the opening remarks will go down at this weekend's first-ever Philip K. Dick Festival, where PKD scholars from all over the country will gather to discuss the "Ubik" author's life and lasting contributions to science fiction (and science fact). The reality is probably somewhat less silly, as the festival, organized by David Gill, who operates the five-year-old blog "Total Dick-Head," is mostly a literary conference centered on Dick's writing, but given his own predilection for silliness, there's bound to be some Dick-ing around (sorry).
The festival doesn't actually begin with a Warriors-like hype session, but something much gentler–a guided walk through Berkeley to Dick's old haunts including his house on Francisco Street and local literary hearth Moe's Books. The other two days are packed with panels with names that will get conspiracy hounds drooling: "Neoplatonism and the Problem of Dick’s Christianity," "Self-induced Amnesia," and “Do Scientists Dream of Electric Thought Experiments,” just for starters. A good portion of the program is also given over to discussion of his film adaptations–why go to church when you can talk about Blade Runner on Sunday morning?
Arguably the most famous Dick in the film game, there have been more movies derived from PKD's work than almost any other author this side of Shakespeare, from blockbusters like Total Recall (based on his story "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale") and Linklater's head trip A Scanner Darkly, all the way on down to the indie-est of the indie. Accordingly, the centerpiece of this weekend's Dick Fest is John Simon's new film adaptation of PKD's pre-VALIS oddball Radio Free Albermath, which recently won the Best Film Adaptation award at SCI-FI-LONDON a few months back…starring, of all people, Alanis Morrisette alongside Shea Whigham. The film's faithfulness to its source is rumored to be second only to the painstaking adaptations recently made by the H.P. Lovecraft Society of their own idol's work…let's just say this is some deeply nerdy stuff, gents.
Like the film, the whole affair this year is loosely structured around "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick," a book published last year packed with Dick's wandering, wonderful journals from the mid-1970s. It was a period during which he was administered sodium pentathol for a wisdom tooth extraction and experienced a series of religious revelations that ultimately led him to write the VALIS Trilogy. All three of the book's editors, "Motherless Brooklyn" scribe Jonathan Lethem, critic Erik Davis, and Dick scholar Pamela Jackson will be at the festival in some capacity, with Lethem presenting the Keynote speech at the closing. Get some Dick here.