A Scanner Darkly
Philip K. Dick
This has been a novel about some people who
were punished entirely too much for what they did.
They wanted to have a good time, but they were like
children playing in the street; they could see one
after another of them being killed--run over, maimed,
destroyed--but they continued to play anyhow.
We really all were very happy for a while, sitting
around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing,
but it was for such a terrible brief time, and then
the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could
see it, we could not believe it. For example, while
I was writing this I learned that the person on whom
the character Jerry Fabin is based killed himself.
My friend on whom I based the character Ernie Luckman
died before I began the novel. For a while I myself
was one of these children playing in the street; I was,
like the rest of them, trying to play instead of being
grown up, and I was punished. I am on the list below,
which is a list of those to whom this novel is dedicated,
and what became of each.
Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like
the decision to step out in front of a moving car.
You would call that not a disease but an error in
When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social
error,a life-style. In this particular life-style the
is "Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying," but
the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is
It is, then, only a speeding up, an intensifying, of
the ordinary human existence. It is not different from
your life-style, it is only faster. It all takes place
in days or weeks or months instead of years. "Take the
cash and let the credit go," as Villon said in 1460. But
that is a mistake if the cash is a penny and the credit
a whole lifetime. There is no moral in this novel; it is
not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play
when they should have toiled;it just tells what the
consequences were. In Greek drama they were beginning,
as a society, to discover science, which means causal
law. Here in this novel there is Nemesis: not fate,
because any one of us could have chosen to stop playing
in the street, but, as I narrate from the deepest part
of my life and heart, a dreadful Nemesis for those who
kept on playing. I myself,I am not a character in this
novel; I am the novel. So, though, was our entire nation
at this time. This novel is about more people than I knew
personally. Some we all read about in the newspapers.
It was, this sitting around with our buddies and
bullshitting while making tape recordings, the bad
decision of the decade, the sixties, both in and out
of the establishment. And nature cracked down on us.
We were forced to stop by things dreadful.
If there was any "sin," it was that these people wanted
to keep on having a good time forever, and were punished
for that, but, as I say, I feel that, if so, the
punishment was far too great, and I prefer to think of
it only in a Greek or morally neutral way, as mere science,
as deterministic impartial cause-and-effect.
I loved them all. Here is the list, to whom I dedicate
To Gaylene deceased
To Ray deceased
To Francy permanent psychosis
To Kathy permanent brain damage
To Jim deceased
To Val massive permanent brain damage
To Nancy permanent psychosis
To Joanne permanent brain damage
To Maren deceased
To Nick deceased
To Terry deceased
To Dennis deceased
To Phil permanent pancreatic damage
To Sue permanent vascular damage
To Jerri permanent psychosis and vascular damage
. . . and so forth.
In Memoriam. These were comrades whom I had; there are
no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will
never be forgiven.
The "enemy" was their mistake in playing.
Let them all play again,
in some other way, and let them be happy.