Fiction Reviews

The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick: vols 1 – 4

vol. 1 (2023) Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, £10.99, pbk, 512pp ISBN 978-1-399-61123-7

vol. 2 (2023) Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, £10.99, pbk, 512pp ISBN 978-1-399-61125-1

vol. 3 (2023) Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, £10.99, pbk, 512pp ISBN 978-1-399-61127-5

vol. 4 (2023) Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, £10.99, pbk, 512pp ISBN 978-1-399-61129-9


I remember when Philip K. Dick died in 1982 our college SF society (Hatfield Polytechnic's PSIFA, now at the rebranded Hertfordshire University) put a notice of his passing on the Student's Union notice board. Space on that board came at a premium and it was harshly curated with anything related to an event date removed as soon as the event took place. Yet the notice of Philip K. Dick's passing remained untouched through to the end of term. Such is the man's standing even beyond the core SF community.

Half a decade later, there came a real treat for anyone wanting to read Dick's short SF stories in the US. In 1987, as it happened co-incident with the founding of SF² Concatenation, the publisher Underwood-Miller published a five volume set of nearly all (with just a couple of exceptions) of Dick's short SF stories .  These collections were:

Volume I – Beyond Lies the Wub

Volume II – Second Variety

Volume III – The Father-Thing

Volume IV – The Days of Perky Pat

Volume V –The Little Black Box

These volumes were then published in Britain by Gollancz in 1990. British editions from 1991 to the mid-1990s also appeared by Grafton and Harper Collins as well as Millennium (the latter being an imprint of Orion as is Gollancz whereas the others were separate publishers).  So you can see that this series of collections has done the rounds: the Philip K. Dick estate was getting its money's worth.

Then came the films.  First there was the Hugo-winning Blade Runner (1982) which is, of course, based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) and not a short story. But the films Total Recall (1990), based on the Nebula Award short-listed, short 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale' (1966) and the Hugo-short-listed Minority Report (2002) based on his 1956 short story of the same name, were both box office hits and novels and collections were re-titled to capitalise on these.  This resulted in there being a few editions of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep being re-titled as Blade Runner, though since then novel has been re-released under its original title. It also resulted in the collection The Days of Perk Pat being re-titled as Minority Report.

Further, The Little Black Box was re-titled We Can Remember It For You Wholesale in 1991 following the Total Recall (1990) film release and then re-titled again as Total Recall following the (dire, except for the car chase scene) 2002 Total Recall film re-invention.

At this point the serious SF academic tracking stories' provenance, should note that the copyright pages are not always correct. For example, the 2017 Gollancz edition of Minority Report was not previously published, as the copyright page claims, as The Little Black Box but as The Days of Perky Pat.

In edition to the various incarnations of what originally was the five volume Underwood-Miller collections, there have been other collections of Philip K. Dick's shorts. Perhaps the most notable is the Del Rey The Best of Philip K. Dick (1977). This was part of Del Rey's Classic Science Fiction – The Best of… series. As a youngster barely out of my teens, I found this series most useful in providing samplers of authors I had yet to come across. Others in this series related to the writers: Fritz Leiber, Frederik Phol, Henry Kuttner, Cordwainer Smith, C. L. Moore, John W. Campbell, C. M. Kornbluth, Raymond Z. Gallun, Murray Leinster, Frederic Brown, and Robert Bloch among others.  However, serious readers would be better off with the various incarnations of what originally was the five volume Underwood-Miller collections…

This brings us up to 2023 and Gollancz are re-releasing (nearly) all of Dick's short SF stories using the Underwood-Miller sequence of short titles but in four volumes, instead of five.  The other thing about this re-release is that the text has been re-set: most of Gollancz's reprints use old setting and so some have that slightly fuzzy, photocopy of a photocopy look to them. Not so with this new, four volume release: it is all fresh.

For those wishing to track Dick's stories down, here is the listing and breakdown on both the original five volume and the new four volume set of collections. The 'Volume' numbers relate to the new 2023 Gollancz The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick four volume collection. The 'Vol.' numbers relate to the original Underwood-Millar set of collections.

Volume 1. (2023). Originally Vol.1 Beyond Lies the Wub
          1.  Stability
          2.  Roog
          3.  The Little Movement
          4.  Beyond Lies the Wub
          5.  The Gun
          6.  The Skull
          7.  The Defenders
          8.  Mr Spaceship
          9.  Piper in the Woods
          10. The Infinites
          11. The Preserving Machine
          12. Expendable
          13. The Variable Man
          14. The Indefatigable Frog
          15. The Crystal Crypt
          16. The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford
          17. The Builder
          18. Meddler
          19. Paycheck
          20. The Great C
          21. Out in the Garden
          22. The King of the Elves
          23. Colony
          24. Prize Ship
          25. Nanny
Originally Vol. 2 Second Variety
          26. The Cookie Lady
          27. Beyond the Door
          28. Second Variety
          29. Jon’s World

Volume 2. (2023)
          1.  The Cosmic Poachers
          2.  Progeny
          3.  Some Kinds of Life
          4.  Martians Come in Clouds
          5.  The Commuter
          6.  The World She Wanted
          7.  A Surface Raid
          8.  Project: Earth
          9.  The Trouble with Bubbles
          10. Breakfast at Twilight
          11. A Present for Pat
          12. The Hood Maker
          13. Of Withered Apples
          14. Human Is
          15. Adjustment Team
          16. The Impossible Planet
          17. Impostor
          18. James P. Crow
          19. Planet for Transients
          20. Small Town
          21. Souvenir
          22. Survey Team
          23. Prominent Author
Originally Vol. 3 The Father-Thing
          24. Fair Game
          25. The Hanging Stranger
          26. The Eyes Have It
          27. The Golden Man
          28. The Turning Wheel
          29. The Last of the Masters
          30. The Father-Thing
          31. Strange Eden
          32. Tony and the Beetles
          33. Null-O
          34. To Serve the Master
          35. Exhibit Piece

Volume 3. (2023)
          1  The Crawlers
          2.  Sales Pitch
          3.  Shell Game
          4.  Upon the Dull Earth
          5.  Foster, You’re Dead
          6.  Pay for the Printer
          7.  War Veteran
          8.  The Chromium Fence
          9.  Misadjustment
          10. A World of Talent
          11. Psi-Man Heal My Child!
Originally Vol. 4 The Days of Perky Pat and then Minority Report
          12. Autofac
          13. Service Call
          14. Captive Market
          15. The Mold of Yancy
          16. The Minority Report
          17. Recall Mechanism
          18. The Unreconstructed M
          19. Explorers We
          20. War Game
          21. If There Were No Benny Cemoli
          22. Novelty Act
          23. Waterspider
          24. What the Dead Men Say

Volume 4. (2023)
          1.  Orpheus with Clay Feet
          2.  The Days of Perky Pat
          3.  Stand-By
          4.  What’ll We Do with Ragland Park?
          5.  Oh, To Be a Blobel!
Originally Vol. 5 The Little Black Box and then We Can Remember It for You Wholesale and finally Total Recall
          6.  The Little Black Box
          7.  The War with the Fnools
          8.  A Game of Unchance
          9.  Precious Artifact
          10. Retreat Syndrome
          11. A Terran Odyssey
          12. Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday
          13. Holy Quarrel
          14. We Can Remember It for You Wholesale
          15. Not By Its Cover
          16. Return Match
          17. Faith of Our Fathers
          18. The Story to End All Stories for Harlan Ellison’s Anthology Dangerous Visions
          19. The Electric Ant
          20. Cadbury, The Beaver Who Lacked
          21. A Little Something for Us Tempunauts
          22. The Pre-Persons
          23. The Eye of the Sibyl
          24. The Day Mr Computer Fell Out of Its Tree
          25. The Exit Door Leads In
          26. Chains of Air, Web of Aether
          27. Strange Memories of Death
          28. I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon
          29. Rautavaara’s Case
          30. The Alien Mind

As for the stories themselves, there are simply too many to provide a teaser summary for each here. However, it is safe to say that there are a number of recurring themes in common with his novels. These include: the determination of identity; life or recovery following a catastrophe (commonly nuclear war); and alternate perceptions. That a number of these shorts – including the afore mentioned ' We Can Remember It for You Wholesale' and ' The Minority Report' – have been made into full-length feature films is a testimony to their power and how much each says. Others that have include 'Paycheck' and 'Second Variety', the latter as a film called Screamers.

If you can't get the original Underwood-Miller hardbacks, and these days who can except those who are prepared to seriously hunt as well as pay the price, then this four volume set of short stories is a must for those into this mid-twentieth century's grand master of science fiction's oeuvre.

Jonathan Cowie


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