Book Review – Precious Artifacts: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography by Henri Wintz and David Hyde
Precious: Artifiacts: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography is another worthy contribution to the world of PKD appreciation from the mind of David Hyde, a.k.a. Lord Running Clam. Hyde has a long history in the world of PKD fandom; in recent years he ran the inaugural Philip K Dick Festival in 2010, and he published the essential Pink Beam: A Philip K. Dick Companion. This time he’s teamed up with Henri Wintz, PKD collector extraordinaire and the brains behind the Philip K. Dick Bookshelf to produce the first bibliography of PKD’s novels in more than fifteen years. Not just a book for those who actually buy and sell PKD books for profit, Precious Artifacts is in fact another long love letter to that greatest and most humane of twentieth century writers: Philip K. Dick.
PKD produced a LOT of novels in his relatively brief lifetime: 37 novels that have been deemed science fiction, 9 that have been deemed mainstream (only one of these, Confessions of a Crap Artist, was published during the author’s lifetime) plus a handful of lost novels. For information on these lost novels, refer to Lawrence Sutin’s essential biography: Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. But if you’re after information on the various editions of the 46 novels published in the US and UK with the name Philip K. Dick on the cover, as well as the numerous novel collections and various versions and titles that have existed over the years, then you’ve certainly come to the right place. Wintz and Hyde know what other resources exist in the world of PKD appreciation, so they don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Precious Artifacts is a worthy and worthwhile addition to your PKD collection, however large or small that might be.
This book is a labour of love, and it’s full of the kind of meticulous detail that only a true aficionado (or a pair of them) could produce. Precious Artifacts contains a number of supplementary essays, all of which are worth reading. There’s a Foreword, two Introductions, Collector’s Notes, essays on collecting signed editions of PKD novels and cover art, a brief Biography, a Guide to the Collectible Editions, a Glossary, and a Chronology of PKD’s publications. The last of these, the Chronology, I found especially useful given that it is helpfully provided in table form, although personally I’d like to see the lost novels listed here as well.
Those items are just the trimmings, however; the main course is more than 100 pages of bibliographic information on more than 50 publications. The first thing I noticed is that the layout of the pages is exquisite and, even better, the covers are reproduced in full colour. ALL of them. As mentioned before, the novels are separated into sections for Science Fiction Novels and Mainstream novels, and there are also sections dedicated to Story Collections and Non-Fiction. Personally I would have preferred to see each section organised by order of composition, rather than alphabetically, but that’s a small quibble. Rather than attempt to explain the way these pages are laid out, here’s a graphic I stole from David Gill’s Total Dick-Head blog (it’s okay; he stole it from the dickien.fr website):
What we have here is a wealth of bibliographical information on the US and UK editions, all presented in an easy to read format. Wintz and Hyde cannot be praised highly enough for producing this. I predict that in the future Precious Artifacts will be just as important a resource for the budding PKD acolyte as Sutin’s biography. Why? Because you can figure out what you want to collect in advance, dammit. When I started collecting PKD in 1999, I was limited to the three UK Millennium Masterworks editions that existed at that time, US Vintages editions of several other titles, and crusty old paperbacks of the rest. If I was starting my PKD adventure now, I’d use Precious Artifacts to decide which set of PKD novels I’d like to own, partly on the basis of cover art, but also on which publishers have complete or nearly complete lines of PKD, not to mention cost. I’ve never liked the covers of the Vintage editions (some of them, like The Man in the High Castle, are just awful) and I’ve always preferred Chris Moore’s UK covers, but maybe now I’d just collect the brand new Mariner editions, a line which even includes the one PKD novel I don’t own and have never read: Gather Yourselves Together. But that’s just me. Maybe you have tons of cash and you want to collect first editions? Precious Artifacts can help you. Maybe you’ve lucked upon what you believe to be a rare edition of a PKD novel that you’re weighing up whether to keep or sell? Precious Artifacts can help you. Incidentally, my one experience of happening upon a relatively valuable edition of a PKD novel is the Rapp and Whiting hardcover of Ubik, which I spied in a secondhand bookstore for $7 a decade or so back. I sold the book on ebay a few years ago for about $100, which Precious Artifacts tells me might not have been too bad a price. Had it been a first edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, however…
Virtually all of PKD’s work is in print at the present time; we are at a high water mark in his popularity. What, if anything, is out of print? Deus Irae (which was written in collaboration with Roger Zelazny) doesn’t appear to have had a UK edition in a long time. In the UK, three of PKD’s weaker novels have been relegated to Three Early Novels, although they remain individually in print in the US. PKD’s only novel for children, Nick and the Glimmung, was reissued by Subterranean Press in 2008 after its long obscurity, and the same can be said for PKD’s only published dramatic work: Ubik: A Screenplay. There’s the odd PKD novel that has undergone a name change, such as The Crack in Space, which is now known as Cantata-140 in the UK, and The Unteleported Man which now goes by the title of Lies Inc. As far as I can see, the only one of PKD’s science fiction novels to be out of print in 2012 is his collaboration with Ray Nelson, The Ganymede Takeover. I knew all of the above already, from more than a decade of ferreting around on the internet and in the pages of various volumes that include bibliographic elements but are not fully-fledged bibliographies. The point I’m trying to make here is that the budding PKD collector can save all of that time and effort by referring to this precious artifact, Precious Artifacts.
There’s more. Over the years several companies have decided, for whatever reason, to gather some of PKD’s novels together, most notably in the recent Library of America editions. All of that information is contained here. Once you’ve collected PKD’s science fiction novels, you’ll probably want to collect and read the almost-all-never-published-during-his-lifetime mainstream novels. You might decide, as I did, that Gollancz’s covers are the most handsome, but then there’s the problem of not all of the mainstream novels being available in this line. US publisher Tor can bridge the gap, but then you’ll end up as I have with some mainstream novels in Gollancz and others in Tor. That most elusive of PKD novels, Gather Yourselves Together, has just been reissued by Mariner (and I guess I’d better get myself a copy, even though it’s reputed to be virtually unreadable), and then there’s the problem of The Broken Bubble, which isn’t available in Gollancz OR Tor and would presumably be out of print at the time of this writing. In that case, the 1991 Paladin edition is probably the cheapest option. As I’ve tried to illustrate here, these are some of the problems that face the PKD collector, especially collectors like me who desire order in the form of uniform editions (but with stimulating cover art, which rules out Mariner). Here, again, Precious Artifacts will be your guide.
Then there’s the Story Collections, and it doesn’t get any less perplexing there either. You’re collecting PKD, so you might as well grab the Collected Stories, right? How complicated can it be? Well, pretty complicated. Refer to pages 116-119 for the details. But hey, Subterranean Press are bringing out several volumes of their ‘Complete Stories’, aren’t they? Unfortunately those editions aren’t without their problems either. You might end up going back to the original collections, as I have done, and there again Precious Artifacts can show you the best way to go about it.
Finally there’s Non Fiction. Item #1 is a strange and beautiful volume called The Dark Haired Girl, which I happen to own. Some of the best of that book, however, is collected in the even more useful The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, which doesn’t appear to have been reprinted since 1996. If you wanted to dip into the (in)famous Exegesis, you used to have to track down an obscure publication called In Pursuit of VALIS: Selections from the Exegesis, but now you can have the extended edition from Harcourt: The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. And then there’s the Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick from Underwood-Miller, in six volumes. Published over fifteen years. Most of which are now out of print. Sigh. Such is the life of the PKD collector! Imagine how we fared before Precious Artifacts: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography came along to light our path.