Extrapolation

Philip K. Dick's Unconventional Dystopias

From Radio Free Albemuth to A Scanner Darkly

Extrapolation (2014), 55, (2), 153–172.

Abstract

Since the earliest days of P. K. Dick scholarship the SFnal works of the Californian writer have been repeatedly labelled "dystopian," even though such a categorization sounded more like a critical commonplace than the result of a painstaking and detailed analysis of his oeuvre. This article focuses on one of the most important novels written by Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977), and a less celebrated one, Radio Free Albemuth (1985), as the most interesting examples of his dystopian imagination. While skeptical about the contention that Dick's SF is mostly dystopian (as dystopia theories help us to tell the difference between dystopian and pessimistic narratives), these two novels show that their author reinterpreted the dystopian tradition stemming from Huxley, Orwell, and Zamjatin in a most original way through the figure of the informant, which becomes central both in Scanner and Albemuth, and constitutes one more embodiment of the characteristically Dickian split subjectivity.

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Rossi, Umberto