Philip K. Dick inspired more biographers than any other science fiction writer. Were they drawn to Dick’s strange life, or did they hope to learn more about his books? For anyone wanting to know Philip K. Dick, picking a biography can be hard. A definitive biography has not yet emerged, and each of the existing biographies have unique appeals. I’ve been reading books about PKD for thirty years, and find they’re revealing in two ways. First, PKD was an exceedingly complex person. Even if you’ve never read one of his novels, his personal story is as far out as his fiction. Second, if you do have a passion for PKD’s work, you’ll want to read the biographies, because Phil often weaved his own experiences into his plots and characters, making those stories deeper if you learn how and why.
But which biography to pick? The latest? The longest? PKD had five wives, two of which wrote biographies. I loved In Search of Philip K. Dick by Anne R. Dick (married to PKD 1959-1965) because she influenced The Man in the High Castle. And Tessa B. Dick, (married to PKD 1973-1977) has wonderful insight into Phil’s later mystical writings. I wished Kleo Apostolides (married 1950-1959) and Nancy Hackett (married 1966-1972) had also written biographies, so we’d have complete spousal coverage of Dick’s writing years.
Paul Williams and Greg Rickman’s books are out of print, yet very worthy of tracking down. Divine Invasions is excellent, but older, still a top contender. If you’re attracted to Dick’s weirdness, consider Anthony Peake’s book. However, if you only read one, a good place to start will be I Am Alive and You Are Dead by Emmanuel Carrère, a French writer. Be warned though, reading one biography of PKD can draw you into the black hole of PhilKDickian madness.
- Only Apparently Real – The World of Philip K. Dick by Paul Williams (1986, 184 pages)
- To The High Castle – Philip K. Dick: A Life (1928-1982) by Greg Rickman (1989, 451 pages)
- Divine Invasions by Lawrence Sutin (1989, 368 pages)
- The Search for Philip K. Dick by Anne R. Dick (1995-2010, 279 pages)
- I Am Alive And You Are Dead: A Journal Into The Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrere (2005, 336 pages)
- Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright by Tessa B. Dick (2009, 228 pages)
- A Life of Philip K. Dick – The Man Who Remembered The Future by Anthony Peake (2013, 262 pages)