Biography of Philip K. Dick

Philip Kindred Dick was one of the most important writers of genre fiction in the 20th century. Though he and his writing were largely unrecognized by the general public, his popularity as an author and commentator on twentieth-century America increased greatly after the adaptation of several of his stories and novels into popular films, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report.

Philip Dick was born to Dorothy and Joseph Dick in Chicago. Philip was born a twin, though his sister Jane died just a few weeks after their birth. The Dicks moved often during Philip’s early life before he and his mother settled in Berkeley, California, where Philip attended high school. Philip briefly attended the University of California, Berkeley, before dropping out rather than participate in mandatory ROTC training.

Dick’s first published writing appeared in the early 1950s, when he sold several of his short stories to science fiction and genre magazines. He spent much of his early career–and, in fact, much of his later life as well–in poverty, able to live only off the meager earnings that his stories would fetch from serial magazines and publications. In 1963, his novel The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award for outstanding science fiction. This did not translate into mainstream success, however, and Dick was never able to persuade large publishing houses to publish his fiction. Dick married five times, each time ending in divorce.

Later in his life, Dick struggled with deteriorating mental health and excessive drug use. He had several lucid visions that he referred to as religious experiences. Many of these visions would make it into his stories and fiction. A Scanner Darkly, one of his most famous short stories, was an expression of the paranoia and borderline-insanity that he experienced in these years.

Dick died from a massive stroke in Santa Ana, California just weeks before Blade Runner, a film adapted from his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, was released. Many of his stories and several novels from lost manuscripts have appeared since his death. Currently, 44 novels and over 120 of his short stories have been published.


Study Guides on Works by Philip K. Dick

What if the Allies hadn't won the Second World War? What if the conquering Japanese and German armies divided up the United States?

In The Man in the High Castle, Dick explores the chain of events that would cause such a state of affairs, and what...