Saturday, 24 August 2013

How the experts do it - Philip K. Dick



Last week I was struggling to find something to read. Not a mean feat on the basis I own over two hundred books and have a kindle which gives me access to practically every book ever written. After many hours of perusing I finally settled on a collection of Philip K. Dick novels that had been bought as a birthday gift some years ago. I had read 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' some years ago and really enjoyed it. That was before I had started to write and I hadn't realised how brilliant it really was.

This time I started 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch' a book which I had never even heard of before. Within the first two pages I was hooked.

Barney Mayerson wakes up, next to a beautiful woman, with no idea how he got there. He doesn't know where he is or even if he is still in the United States. As he gets up he realises that he is still on earth, as the gravity is familiar. The mysterious woman goes for a shower and Barney puts on the coffee machine.

We have been told almost nothing in this scene but we know many things. There is still a United States and apartments that include showers and coffee machines. Therefore we know the setting is familiar, however the fact that we are told he recognises the gravity shows us that there must be some kind of space travel so we are not exactly in the world we recognise. This is Philip K. Dick so it should be sci-fi but even if you didn't know the name you have been shown it in the first page without talk of strange science and aliens.


This is a wonderful example of showing not telling and yet Philip K. Dick was not mentioned once during my recent creative writing course.


Is there anyone else out there who does this as well?

Do writing courses deliberating shy away from examples from genres that aren't considered literary?

2 comments:

  1. I've never had a writing course that I really participated in while in person. I took an online one, and really only got feedback from the teacher, but I can tell you that most of the examples were based from popular classics or literature at the time. She had an odd emphasis for short stories :)

    At any rate, I love an author that describes something without ever making a real reference to it. Or at least draws the mind somewhere that he never stated. I think you'll know what I mean, even if it doesn't make sense :)

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  2. Thanks for the tip, Philip K. Dick is one of those writers I'm looking forward to reading. Interesting comment about his genre not being used as examples in courses. It's a shame that sci-fi seems to be overlooked as examples of good writing.
    Still one of my favourite genres though!

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