The SFFaudio Podcast #744 – The Skull by Philip K. Dick – read by Scott Miller for the Lost Sci-Fi Podcast. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (58 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Evan Lampe, and Scott Miller
Talked about on today’s show:
The Lost Sci-Fi Podcast, Vintage Sci-Fi on YouTube, look up The Skull, 50 episodes, multiple short stories in one episode, super-short sci-fi stories, rave reviews, SFFaudio.com was broken, mostly not broken, the PDF Page, a long list of things you should record, great recommendations, sci-fi guru, just over 10 years ago, to get into it, a couple of good attempts, worthwhile, insulting by not praising, Jesse from the past, Michael Moorcock’s Behold The Man, a religious revolutionary from 1960s, The Variable Man, this weird category, unsympathetic, a hunt, his most technically astounding like stories, more pure Philip K. Dick, Paycheck, boob action, a big sweaty hair guy, he’s not a hunter, he’s not a criminal, H.P. Lovecraft, Dunsany or Poe, his own feelings, trying to write an Astounding story, stories are better than novels (plot wise), a really awesome and interesting, themes and ideas wise, undercooked, fleshing this out, maybe he thought he nailed it, read the whole thing, from start to finish, fascinating, Karl Marx, bearded, communism!, fascinating, old enough to vaguely remember, commie madness, narrated, fell in love with it, Human Is, a lot different, kinda dark, kill somebody, a fascinating story every way you can possibly find, why is Conger’s first name Omar as opposed to John?, or James, John Connor, Jesus Christ, a Jesus story, oh man that story’s so good, guy goes back in a time machine looking for the historical Jesus, makes a stink about a shepherd who’s also a fisherman, nailed on a cross, Mary and Joseph, Jesus is intellectually disabled, he is the guy he goes looking for, really cool, trips over himself, the relgious aspect, the plot for The Terminator, trucks and explosion, James Cameron, Harlan Ellison, who he was ripping off, beat for beat and scene for scene, Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, Alien and Aliens, beats played against, why is The Skull the influence?, creating the guy he’s sent back by, the variation is God to Jesus vs. Jesus to Jesus, Paul didn’t see it, killing Mary to prevent Jesus, a thin read, Ellison’s Soldier, Demon With A Glass Hand, both are cited, Soldier (1998), to kill Jesus, the Roman Empire hires him to kill himself, this peace religion that’s screwing up, the savior of mankind, Cameron was wrong, general science fiction and a couple of stories by Harlan Ellison, part of the story of The Terminator, the time travel aspect, time vortex, back in time, Scott chose Paul’s side, Evan doesn’t care, they both exist, earlier than everybody else, pairs well with Prominent Author, religious ideas, earlier stories, naturalistic explanations, writing the Bible, dictating the bible from memory, really funny, the whole thing is for the joke, the context is this mundane, a commuter story, what Dick was trying to do, later Gnosticism, weird Valis nonsense, luddism, peace culture, where human progress comes from a lot on the frontier, stagnation, when the frontier dies, the bad guys, the empire, we’re in a cul de sac because of this religion, sympathy with the empire, fearful of stagnation, The Variable Man, Mr. Spaceship, Dr. Futurity, a weird death cult, based on violence vs. based on peace, restoring a culture of conflict, 200 years of peace is bad, they need to get rid of the dumb people, the survival of the fittest, a rejection of public life, apolitical people, a fascist idea, Conger’s reaction, you’re not a believe in this religion, fearful of some of its mysteries, those burning things on the wall, I don’t know, braziers, an unholy person, they’ve broken into this church and stolen Jesus’ bones, the ending, he’s the guy he’s waiting for, if I was this guy, I was confronted with my own skull, a comedy, the reason you keep a skull on your desk, there is no escaping death, thinking deeply, the religious teachings, why did Jesus act that way?, he’s got a piece of god in him, sacrificing himself, this fate, there’s peace in that, the evil AI plot, 1952, his fourth story, Roog, The Little Movement, Expendable, and Beyond Lies The Wub, a little alienating, stories about abortion, a technical achievement, the setup, the execution, the setting, the 1960/61, gives some lady a heart attack, science fiction explanation for resurrection, slem gun, a religious ecstasy, my lighter malfunctioned, swamp gas, the speech vs. what people remember from what he said, peace and non-violent action, the statement that gets remembered, those who killed will die, gallows humour, really ironic, Christ’s statements, if were were to read Jesus’ statements from a different point of view, unedited/unexpurgated, councils, tossed out, assuming a historical Jesus, the gospels, Omar Khayyam, Omar means long lived, Conger?, conquer?, too normal a name, Costa Rica, an exotic middle name, Jerome, a saint, raised Catholic, saints names, in hindsight, an animal, an eel, long lived eel, snakey shaped, an ouroboros or an infinity symbol, Karl Glogauer, a carpenter, the shining man, Joe, the communist element, interested in communism, he’s from Oregon, set in California, Colorado?, where the first church was founded, the jail where they kill him, arrested from being a communist, red scare, those reds, report anything strange or unusual, he’s not wearing a mask, he’s refusing a vaccination, how long?, the red scare is over in 1970, Nixon is going to China, movements, Black Panthers, the relationship is different, disentangling of the American left from Moscow, left movements, its gonna continue, reporting his fellow Californians he’s worried he’s a communist, the authorities and the people, waiting, a good fight, they had heard about the incident at the fountain, religious ecstasy, he’s gotta beard, police, closer and closer, one of the men tossed something at him, a rock, he smiled, don’t you have any bombs, throw a bomb, let em have it, toss a few a bombs, Colorado, 1960, burn him at the stake or we want change, the knife’s edge, kill the witch or embrace change, I have a gun he says, its a metaphor they think, my sword of truth, I bring not peace but an invisible sword, they want a leader, a subversive story, they’re interested in communism, he’s got a beard, a phenomenon, wearing beards is back in fashion, a mustache is strange, beards are in, beards are out, beards are back, beatnik beards, long pants will work for me, the only guy on TV with a mustache, copycats, clean shaven Space: 1999, the Klingons are, fashion has changed in the Federation, grapple with his religious beliefs, pioneering stuff, Behold The Man but better, more science fictional, Paul was convinced, monochromatic, The Age Of Faith by Will Durant, the furious number of sects, subdivisions, religions don’t remain unified, 200 years of Islam, get each other excommunicated, the first church, that’s not how religion works, Phil, he’s kind of like a Leigh Brackett hero, in prison for breaking the blockade, a trapper, grew up on Mars and the Mountains of the Moon, fur trapping stuff to Earth, this is not a well read man, defiant of Earth secular authority, resisting non-violently, mining that, in contrast to the people of 1960, anti their government, in favour of their government, their goading him, clever, the different social groups, 1961 and 1960s, underneath the surface, Small Town, Time Out Of Joint, paranoia, interested, why is she there?, why is this beautiful young woman at my door?, swami, a speech impediment, a future accent, not conforming, check his ID, First Blood (1982), a fantasy of we treated our veterans badly, what if there’s a reason people are acting this way, interesting and subtle, this joke element, anxiety about stagnation, hence the need for war, his ultimate answer, another solution, kill Sir Francis Drake, that weird collection of strange stories, author insert, when he grows a beard: I’m turning into Karl Marx, hitting on high school girls, the wife stuff, trial wife, his mistress, a product of that religion, how does that extract, Scott Danielson teaches new adherents, derived from the Bible, quite a stretch, he says a few words, very Heinleinian, Robert Silverberg, month wife, swapping wives, commodified, contractual, The Crack In Space, marriages around him, serial monogamy, four trial wives, the stuff about the universe, the newspaper, when he goes to the library, Cooper Creek, a flower in here, a set of symbols, flower, skull, an hourglass or an infinity symbol, the girl is supposed to be that, what the beef is about, the chocolate, older guy lusting after this young girl, comparatively lustless to his other stuff, teenage girls, the creeps, when you speak those words, he’s looking at her, the man looked him over critically, it was warm, the little kerosene heater, in her flowered dress, its a good room, Mrs. Appleton, another biblical thing, Chicago, the middle west, no foreigner, its part of the United States, he’s dumb, he’s ignorant, his words are profound, a riddle, an odd paradox, a funny joke, they laughed faintly nervously, they would puzzle over it, very neat, why Philip K. Dick is remembered, just really good, what happened to the skull he carried with him?, what happened to the slem gun, the time machine itself, something in his belt, the crystal cage, The Crystal Crypt, a pink beam style image, work it out, very biblical, per-ordained, he was the sacrificial lamb, exactly like Jesus, the major action of this is religious ecstasy for a second, car chases, false memories, at what point did you realize, pretty early, read so much science fiction, it is the obvious twist (now), Kyle Reese doesn’t know he’s the father of John Connor, but John Connor knows, sending his only dad, half way through the story, he didn’t notice the teeth?, he never studied the skull carefully before hand, Scott I’ve invented a time machine, go back and kill Hitler!, time travel stories are all over, repeat ideas, the original The Time Machine story, time travel paradoxes, Philip K. Dick is underrated, Valis this and Ubik that, Three Stigmata, Hugo or Nebula or whatever, other than Galactic Pot-Healer, everyone of his short stories is better than every novel, focused in on short sci-fi, outside of Isaac Asimov, the number one seller, Bradbury received more acclaim than Dick, people love Philip K. Dick, more comments and emails, only 130, commercially viable, its personal, Prominent Author, picture the guy near the end, with his shoulder thrust back, so proud of his work, what Dick does, I can see him in the church, a grotto, early Christian underground, catacombs, Beyond Lies The Wub, even if students don’t know what happened they still like it, consciousness transference, he’s eating himself, Jesus taking the eucharist, when the priest comes by eat the cracker and drink the grape juice, what does this mean?, Of Withered Apples, what a great story!, can I go play with my tree?, his brain was weird, pre-wired for weirdness, his earliest letters (to his mom), trying to get out of gym class, Mom, send my pills, CBD oil, sad to narrate, The Crawlers, it’s a hitter, it hits, take a break man, not something you want to hear, how dare you do this to me, The Pre-Persons, abortion trucks, Evan could handle it, Will, his girlfriend/wife wanted or got an abortion, get a bren gun and lay in wait at an abortion clinic,
Past the grove of cypress trees Walter — he had been playing king of the mountain — saw the white truck, and he knew it for what it was. He thought, That’s the abortion truck. Come to take some kid in for a postpartum down at the abortion place.
And he thought, Maybe my folks called it. For me.
He ran and hid among the blackberries, feeling the scratching of the thorns but thinking, It’s better than having the air sucked out of your lungs. That’s how they do it; they perform all the P.P.s on all the kids there at the same time. They have a big room for it. For the kids nobody wants.
Burrowing deeper into the blackberries, he listened to hear if the truck stopped; he heard its motor.
“I am invisible,” he said to himself, a line he had learned at the fifth-grade play of Midsummer Night’s Dream, a line Oberon, whom he had played, had said. And after that no one could see him. Maybe that was true now. Maybe the magic saying worked in real life; so he said it again to himself, “I am invisible.” But he knew he was not. He could still see his arms and legs and shoes, and he knew they — everyone, the abortion truck man especially, and his mom and dad — they could see him too. If they looked.
If it was him they were after this time.
He wished he was a king; he wished he had magic dust all over him and a shining crown that glistened, and ruled fairyland and had Puck to confide to. To ask for advice from, even. Advice even if he himself was a king and bickered with Titania, his wife.
I guess, he thought, saying something doesn’t make it true.
his parents, my god!, don’t do this to me!, Paul was at worldcon at the time, Joanna Russ, get Scott all depressed again, there’s nothing else like it in science fiction, That Only A Mother by Judith Merril, mutant babies, Richard Matheson, close to done, be depressed in future, The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sherriff, Hugo worthy, lady business, compile suggestions, the podcasting group who host that spreadsheet, funny jokes, Paul, sexist, puerile, potentially eligible, Become A Teapot, Ex Urb Ad Astra, Hugo Girl, when is Scott going to get his nomination?, the problem is you have to be active in promoting yourself, put on three medals and parade down the street, The Story-Teller by Saki, look at those cows, that story sucks!, obedient and neat and never asked for ice cream after dinner, sent to a garden, this story is not good, a wolf shows up, there were no pigs in the garden that day, hiding in a bush, the wolf eats her, the finest story ever told, about being good and what makes a good story, genuine and interesting and scary rather than good for you, Robert A. Heinlein book club, Octothorpe, content warning for this episode: capitalism, content warning every episodes, falling out of boats, are you kidding me, The Octopus by Frank Norris, clean vs. explicit, the students spread rumors, listening for the swearing, all informers, feet on the desk, what happened to Conger, operating in a communist country, mad because in Calgary, Alberta, his main thing, WithoutPapersPizza, Trudeau is a communist, grade 10 stuff, this is really wild, worse than I thought it would be, California common core, really right wing stuff, if they are both, anti-communist, Stalin-Hitler pact, they’re going to do communism, the holodomor, terror famine in Ukraine, use over time, why is this suddenly so exciting, gotta distract, Nazis in Ukraine, the Gulag, all countries have prisons, world history standards, the Chinese Civil War, political and economic upheavals, its a revolution, reducing this history, the last famines, and never again, famines in British India, a comic book artist who quit DC, Superman with a protest sign, Babylon Bee, a big talker, parents from Libya, join my anti-socialist social club, truth, justice, and the American way, until they killed Gaddafi, this woke agenda, trying to jazz him up with no cape, interesting to somebody, the reason his dad was not welcome in Libya, highest standard of living in Africa, upset Cubans in Florida, health outcomes, if you look at GDP in the Mao era, development outcomes, built hospitals, universities, analyze the causes of the cold war, so blatant, still occupied by the United States, talk about a client state, when we do it it is not bad, whoever wrote this is not seeing a big thing right in front of him, appeasement bad, trying to avoid a war, the lesson we learned is he shouldn’t have done that, more like Churchill, hard to understand, so out of date, read a book, a school textbook from the 1970s, not Zhukov, leaving a lot of stuff out, the human cost of war, write essays?, show they learned through assessment, the Yalta pact, economic recoveries, biased in every aspect, the “free world”, within the context of this you could do a lot of fun stuff, bring us into space, you have to defeat the Nazis so you can Operation Paperclip them, very noisy here, different space, dog barking, economic policies, absence of free press, Stalin targeted them on purpose, liquidating the kulaks, cultural revolution, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada took some immigrants, my parents…, we’re getting their story, victims tell their story, being cut-off from his family, a country controlled by a domestic government, improving public education and health outcomes, against an entrenched state bureaucracy, the Shanghai Commune, Democracy vs. Communism, what do we call a society we’re in right now?, the concept of totalitarianism, the Axis of Evil, they don’t like freedom, authoritarian, you can’t protest, you have your bank account seized, you have to have something injected into your body, to make cash, capitalism is authoritarianism, all you need is a job to know that, triggers a meeting, make it better for the kids, nothing is going to change, unprofessional behavior, they don’t want Evan, resigned for spite, minimize your expenses, head of the social studies, administrative stuff, nod and smile, making their lives miserable, interesting debates, can’t we all get along I need this job, this is all real stuff, who cares?, what does it matter if the kids learn propaganda, that autism thing coming out, they don’t care about this stuff, the education business, we wanna have standards based assessment, it shouldn’t take as long as the second world war, The Shining is a good show, that first Heinlein juvenile, a lot of stories, Beyond This Horizon, a good long run, novellas, Universe, Common Sense, mostly a novel guy, like Philip Dick that way, Requiem, If This Goes On, sometimes its just a cigar, an insurance story, Let There be Light, patents something or doesn’t patent something, a black box, I don’t need to patent it, inaccessible to them, more like the cotton gin, a copyright guy, in the business, legally married, Fredrich Engles [worked in a factory owned by his father], he’s a human being, Karl Marx did speculation, pretty poor, fuck you do what I say, slave, being a hypocrite is a big deal, trying to live in a society, cheap labour to exploit, hold their visas over, to keep body and soul together, Thomas Jefferson.