Critic John Clute calls Dick "the first writer of genre science fiction to become an important literary figure" (Turan). As a young man, Dick suffered from many physical and emotional problems but was always a passionate, talented writer. He sold his first story in July 1952, when he was only 24 years old. He would go onto publish 36 novels in his lifetime, the most famous of which are his now-classic science fiction stories. Always an iconoclastic figure, he credited an addiction to amphetamines for his prolific career.
Philip K. Dick's work was unlike anything the world of American fiction had ever seen before. Though firmly classified within the science fiction genre, his work always had an underlying sociopolitical statement. He wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in the late 1960s, during the Vietnam war. The novel was one of his 3 favorites. Dick said, Sheep "'stemmed from my basic interest in the problem of differentiating the authentic human being from the reflexive machine, which I call an android. In my mind, android is a metaphor for people who are physiologically human but behaving in a nonhuman way'" (Sammon 16).
Eventually, Dick's drug use would lead to several mental breakdowns. After his fourth wife left him, Dick fell down a spiral of narcotic and alcohol abuse. He tried to commit suicide in 1974. A few months later, though, he experienced "a series of intense, mystical visions which he likened to 'divine invasion'" (Sammon 13). He eventually became sober - his 1977 book A Scanner Darkly was based on his experiences. Philip K. Dick died of a stroke in February 1982 - shortly after seeing an early cut of Blade Runner, which he loved. He was only 53 years old.
Dick's legacy lives on - his books and stories are still immensely popular and his work has been adapted into a total of 10 films - Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), Screamers (1996), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Next (2007), and The Adjustment Bureau (2011).