From January to December 2016, I took part in a Philip K. Dick read-along hosted by Nikki of Bookpunks. The challenge was to read The Exegesis of P.K.D. accompanied by one of his novels each month. You can find the first of those posts here.
I won’t lie, The Exegesis was challenging to get through, but the 12 novels kept me going. They were so much fun, as well as being bonkers in a uniquely Dickian way. Well, reading those books has turned me into a PKD fan.
In 2017, I didn’t read anything by him. After a while, I started to miss his quirky worlds and mind-blowing ideas. I even missed his everyman characters and their – at times – unintentionally hilarious dialogue. (Or maybe it was intentional, only PKD knows).
So, this year I am going to read and review some of his 150-ish short stories, starting with this 1953 tale “Impostor”.
Impostor (1953) by Philip K. Dick
‘No one cares anymore. All they can think of is the war.’ (p.1)
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1953, “Impostor” is an early short story by Dick. It is set on Earth during a war with ‘Outspacers’ from Alpha Centauri. Spence Olham has been working hard at ‘the Project’ and wants a vacation.
‘Everything seems so grim and serious, no color to life.’ (p.2)
Sharing a ride to work, Olham is suddenly arrested by the other two passengers: his friend Nelson and Major Peters. He is suspected of being a robot sent by the Outspacers to destroy the Project.
“But I’m Olham. […] Don’t you recognize me? You’ve known me for twenty years.” (p.6)
It’s a classic Dickian tale of paranoia, identity, trust, and the threat of the outsider. Olham is a man racing against time to prove he is who he claims to be. All he needs is proof, but will the others listen to him?
‘… everyone was willing to sacrifice the individual because of the group fear.’ (p.8)
Dick later wrote this about the story:
‘Here was my first story on the topic of: Am I a human? Or am I just programmed to believe I am human? When you consider that I wrote this back in 1953, it was, if I may say so, a pretty damn good new idea in sf. Of course, by now I’ve done it to death. But the theme still preoccupies me. It’s an important theme because it forces us to ask: What is a human? And — what isn’t.’
Below are some of the publications “Impostor” has appeared in. Thanks to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database – ISFDB – for some of the images!