Oh, to Be a Blobel! (1964) by Philip K. Dick

“Pete, I can’t go on. I’ve got a gelatinous blob for a child.” (p.11)

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First published in the February 1964 issue of Galaxy magazine, Oh, to Be a Blobel! is a satirical short story about interplanetary war veteran George Munster. The Blobels, large amoeba-like aliens, arrived from another star system prompting the Human-Blobel War.

“I fought three years in that war, […] I hated the Blobels and I volunteered; I was only nineteen.” (p.1)

George became a spy, which required him to be medically altered into the jelly-like Blobel form. The problem was, when he returned from the war he was unable to fully relinquish this ‘repellent form.’ Despite his doctor’s best efforts, every twelve hours George reverts to a Blobel.

‘The telephone rang.
“I can’t answer,” he called to it. […] Now Munster had become a single transparent gelatinous mass in the middle of the rug; he undulated toward the phone.’ (p.4)

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Illustration by Dwight G. Morrow

Hope arises after a telephone call from George’s coin-operated psychoanalyst, Dr. Jones. It turns out George is not the only one suffering from this ‘condition’. Could ‘exceedingly attractive’ fellow sufferer Vivian Arrasmith be the answer to Munster’s problems?…

Oh, to Be a Blobel! is a light Dickian tale filled with black humour and some laugh-out-loud moments. Themes include the futility of war, the stigma of being different, the fear of the other, as well as Dick’s take on marriage and infidelity.

“I don’t respect my own wife; that’s the basis of it. I think of her as a thing.” (p.11)

In an interview in 1976, Dick described it as nailing ‘the ultimate meaningless irony of war.’ This makes it sound more serious than it is, in my opinion. Yes, there are serious topics in the story but the sardonic tone of the narrative and lack of depth in the writing left me wanting more.

There are some typically Dickian ideas in here, and it is pretty funny, but I wouldn’t rush to re-read it. It felt hurried and unpolished to me. What’s surprising is that this was written in the 1960s when Dick was in the middle of a creative streak producing stories such as ‘Doctor Bloodmoney’, ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’, and ‘Counter-Clock World.’

Recommended only for PKD fans.

Published in the following collections:

1902160

First published in 1969

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First published in 1974

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First published in 1990

 

1 thought on “Oh, to Be a Blobel! (1964) by Philip K. Dick

  1. Pingback: Retrospective for 2019 | Who's Dreaming Who

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