When an art form or genre once dismissed as kids’ stuff starts to get taken seriously by gatekeepers – by journals, for example, such as the one you are reading now – respect doesn’t come smoothly, or all at once. Often one artist gets lifted above the rest, his principal works exalted for qualities that other works of the same kind seem not to possess. Later on, the quondam genius looks, if no less talented, less solitary: first among equals, or maybe just first past the post. That is what happened to rock music in the late 1960s, when sophisticated critics decided, as Richard Poirier put it, to start ‘learning from the Beatles’. It is what happened to comics, too, in the early 1990s, when the Pulitzer Prize committee invented an award for Art Spiegelman’s Maus. And it has happened to science fiction, where the anointed author is Philip K. Dick.

When he died in 1982, Dick was a cult figure, admired unreservedly in the science fiction subculture, and in the American counterculture as a chronicler of psychedelia and fringe religion. By then he had published more than thirty novels, most of them as fleeting mass-market paperbacks, and well over a hundred short stories, most of them in SF magazines. By dying in March, Dick missed the May premiere of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the first movie made from his work.

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