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Tuesday, February 17, 2009 12:06 pm
Is The Owl in Daylight what it seems?
Posted by: Keir Graff

From The Guardian, a noteworthy tale of self-publishing (“Widow self-publishes ‘recreation’ of Philip K Dick’s final novel,” by Alison Flood). Tessa Dick, the “fifth and final wife” of Philip K. Dick, “has reworked the novel the legendary science fiction author was working on when he died in 1982.” It’s not at all clear how much he had actually written of The Owl in Daylight, but it does sound as though it had progressed beyond the stage of it being “the novel the sf legend intended to start working on.” 

She told online magazine the Self-Publishing Review that her version of the novel was an attempt to express “the spirit” of Dick’s proposed book. Little is known about the novel, which Dick mentioned in a letter to his editor and agent. According to Tessa, the letter revealed plans to “have a great scientist design and build a computer system and then get trapped in its virtual reality. The computer would be so advanced that it developed human-like intelligence and rebelled against its frivolous purpose of managing a theme park”. The letter also mentioned Dante’s Inferno and the Faust legend, she said.

In Tessa’s version, which she said was “loosely based” on Dick’s life, third-rate composer Arthur Grimley learns that the universe is made of music. “By travelling through Dante’s Inferno and Mozart’s Magic Flute, he enriches his soul with the secrets of the ages,” she wrote on her blog, It’s a Philip K Dick World. “Meanwhile, a secret organisation is working against those who would enlighten humanity.”

After getting the cold shoulder from traditional publishers, Tessa Dick turned to Amazon’s CreateSpace to get the work into the world. Despite the Philip K. Dick connection, it’s not hard to imagine publishers’ hesitation at publishing a work that was not, in fact written by him. So far, the book’s Amazon page looks a little lonely. Part of the problem might be the $18.95 price tag for the paperback. But the fact that Paul Giamatti is involved in a film about Philip K. Dick–also called The Owl in Daylight–seems likely to aid sales somewhat.

Between you and me, the cover image–an owl–combined with the slugline, “Things Are Not As They Appear,” reminds me of the famous Twin Peaks line: “The owls are not what they seem.” But I’m not about to accuse David Lynch of ripping off Philip K. Dick. (Via via.)


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