Title: The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories.
Author: Philip K. Dick.
Genre: Fiction, literature, short stories, science fiction, apocalyptic lit, post-apocalyptic lit, politics, artificial intelligence, alternate universe, futuristic lit, dystopian lit, time travel, political dissent.
Publication Date: 1954-1964 (this collection 1987).
Summary: A collection of 18 stories. In Autofac (1955), some years after an apocalyptic world war, only a network of no longer controllable robot "autofacs" that supply goods to the human survivors remains, leaving the future of the planet's quickly-dwindling resources uncertain. In Service Call (1955), a man named Courland is visited one day by a peculiar repairman looking to repair an appliance that will not be invented for another 9 years, and seems sinister in purpose. In Captive Market (1955), an old woman uses her ability to travel through time to exploit a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. The Mold of Yancy (1955) follows an investigation into an off-Earth colony where a seemingly benign totalitarian society has emerged using Yancy, an iconic public figure. In The Minority Report (1956), three mutants foresee all crime before it occurs, until the head of Precrime, John A. Anderton, is accused of eventually murdering a man he has never met, and becomes convinced of a great conspiracy. In Recall Mechanism (1959), a psychologist analyzes a patient's height phobia by using a machine that extracts buried memories, and realizes the patient's phobia is not triggered by the past. In The Unreconstructed M (1957), an independent researcher uncovers a plot to falsify evidence through A.I., in a world where the technology used to solve crimes is very advanced. In Explorers We (1959), aliens come to Earth repeatedly, appearing as perfect replicas of a group of astronauts who died during a mission to Mars. In War Game (1959), while The Ganymedeans are considering war with Earth, a group of Earth toy-safety inspectors examine three new toys from Ganymede to discover if they should be allowed to be imported. In If There Were No Benny Cemoli (1963), on the 10th anniversary of the devastating atomic war on Earth, more Proxima Centaurians arrive to continue the rebuilding of the planet while a war crimes tribunal is looking for war criminals, and a surviving newspaper, The New York Times, seems to provide an answer - Benny Cemoli. Novelty Act (1964) tells of two brothers in a society in which people live in huge communal apartment buildings where the main goal of the tenants is to produce entertainers who will entertain the First Lady. Waterspider (1964) features the science fiction author Poul Anderson, who is brought into the far future because he is a "pre-cog" - a writer who through his writings prophesied exact situations and happenings from the distant future, but escapes during his visit, changing the course of time. In What the Dead Men Say (1964), in a community where death is followed by a period of 'half-life' (a short amount of time which can be rationed out over long periods in which the dead can be revived), when attempts to bring back an immensely influential businessman, Louis Sarapis, fail, but he starts speaking from outer space, nobody can quite figure out - is it him? In Orpheus with Clay Feet (1964), Jesse Slade, a bored man living in 2040, visits an agency for that allows him to go back in time and inspire an artist of his choice for a vacation, but it doesn't go as planned. In The Days of Perky Pat (1963) centers on a society of survivors of a global thermonuclear war, who live in isolated enclave, where the older generation spends most of their time playing with the eponymous doll in an escapist role-playing game that recalls life before the apocalypse. In Stand-By (1963), when the homeostatic problem-solving machine Unicephalon 40-D, that fairly and disinterestedly runs the country, malfunctions, Max Fischer's job of first stand-by goes from purely symbolic to the most powerful in the world in a flash, though the highest ranking news clown Jim-Jam Briskin challenges Max's presidency and enters himself as the second candidate. In What'll We Do with Ragland Park? (1963), a direct sequel to Stand-By, Fischer, who has permanently seized power, now has to face his opposition's powerful, albeit volatile, weapon - a ballad singer with a magical ability. Oh, To Be a Blobel! (1964) deals with a veteran of Earth's war with Blobels - gelatinous one-celled alien organisms, who struggles to deal with the aftermath of his spying career being forced to involuntarily turn into a Blobel for half of each day.
My rating: 8/10.
♥ Now the store was old, and so was she. The big heavy-set, black-browed man who was her father had died long ago; her own children and grandchildren had been spawned, had crept out over the world, were everywhere. One by one they had appeared, lived in Walnut Creek, sweated through the dry, sun-baked summers, and then gone on, leaving one by one as they had come. She and the store sagged and settled a little more each year, became a little more frail and stern and grim. A little more themselves.
♥ "It would show up in hundreds of ways. Terrorist raids, political prisoners, extermination camps. We'd hear about political recanting, treason, disloyalty... all the basic props of a dictatorship."
"Don't confuse a totalitarian society with a dictatorship," Kellman said dryly. "A totalitarian state reaches into every sphere of its citizens' lives, forms their opinions on every subject. The government can be a dictatorship, or a parliament, or an elected president, or a council of priests. That doesn't matter."
♥ As he restored the tape, Taverner wondered just what the hell Yancy had said. What were his views on war? They took up a hundred separate reels of tape; Yancy as always ready to hold forth on such vital and grandiose subjects as War, the Planet, God, Taxation. But did he say anything?
A cold chill crawled up Taverner's spine. On specific - and trivial - items there were absolute opinions: dogs are better than cats, grapefruit is too sour without a dash of sugar, it's good to get up early in the morning, too much drinking is bad. Bit on big topics... an empty vacuum, filled with the vacant roll of high-sounding phrases. A public that agreed with Yancy on war and taxes and God and planet agreed with absolutely nothing. And with everything.
On topics of importance, they had no opinion at all. They only thought they had an opinion.
Rapidly, Taverner scanned tapes on various major subjects. It was the same all down the line. With one sentence Yancy gave; with the next he took away. The total effect was a neat cancellation, a skillful negation. But the viewer was left with the illusion of having consumed a rich and varied intellectual feast. It was amazing. ... Harmless and in its harmlessness, diabolical.
♥ "I know the project... I know how it can be pried apart. But somebody has to stand with a gun at the head of the authorities. In nine years I've come to see the essential key to the Yancy character... the key to the new type of person we're growing, here. It's simple. It's the element that makes that person malleable enough to be led around."
"I'll bite," Teverner said patiently, hoping the line to Washington was good and clear.
"All Yancy's beliefs are insipid. The key is thinness. Every part of his ideology is diluted: nothing excessive. We've come as close as possible to no beliefs... you've noticed that. Wherever possible we've cancelled attitudes out, left the person apolitical. Without a viewpoint."
"Sure," Taverner agreed. "But with the illusion of a viewpoint."
"All aspects of personality have to be controlled; we want the total person. So a specific attitude has to exist for each concrete question. In every respect, out rule is: Yancy believes the least troublesome possibility. The most shallow. The simple, effortless view, the view that fails to go deep enough to stir any real thought."
Taveret got the drift. "Good solid lulling views."
~~The Mold of Yancy.
♥ The existence of a majority logically implies
a corresponding minority.
♥ "You have to be taken in - if Precrime is to survive. You're thinking of your own safety. But think, for a moment, about the system." Leaning over, she stubbed out her cigarette and fumbled in her purse for another. "Which means more to you - your own personal safety or the existence of the system?"
"My safety," Anderton answered, without hesitation.
"If the system can survive only by imprisoning innocent people, then it deserves to be destroyed."
~~The Minority Report.
♥ "Get your leaflets here," Ackers parodied dryly. "And your slogans. Either or both. What would you suggest in place of the system?"
Garth's voice was proud with conviction. "Education."
~~The Unreconstructed M.
♥ "They don't know Monopoly," Hauck said to himself, "so this screwball game doesn't seem strange to them."
Anyhow, the important thing was that the kids enjoyed playing Syndrome; evidently it would sell, and that was what mattered. Already the two youngsters were learning the naturalness of surrendering their holdings. They gave up their stocks and money avidly, with a kind of trembling abandon.
Glancing up, her eyes bright, Lora said, "It's the best educational toy you ever brought home, Dad!"
♥ "You know, they have done the hard part for us. We ought to be grateful. It is not easy to come into a totally destroyed area, as they've done."
His man Fletcher observed, "They got back a good return."
Hood said, "Motive is not important. They have achieved results."
♥ In other words ask the newspaper to put me in touch with Cemoli. He had to admire Fletcher's idea. It was brilliant, in a crazy sort of way. It was as if Fletcher had been able to match the derangement of the newspaper by a deliberate shift from common sense on his own part. He would participate in the newspaper's delusion.
♥ Letters to the editor, he thought. Letters to a vast, complex, electronic organism buried deep in the ground, responsible to no one, guided solely by it own ruling circuits.
♥ Perhaps, he thought, the news of us, of CURB and its task of rebuilding Earth, will fade from the pages of the Times, will be given a steadily decreasing coverage each day, farther back in the paper. And at last only the exploits of Benny Cemoli will remain.
It was not a pleasant anticipation. It disturbed him deeply. As if, he thought, we are only real so long as the Times writes about us; as if we were dependent for our existence on it.
~~If There Were No Benny Cemoli.
♥ No wonder Duncan did so poorly on his political test, Stone said to himself. He was busy practicing on his jug; he has no time for the common-place realities which the rest of us have to cope with. It must be great to be an artist, Stone thought with bitterness. You're exempt from all the rules, you can do as you like.
♥ "Art can be found in the most mundane daily walks of life, like in these jugs for instance."
♥ On the screen Jim Briskin said, "I think very possibly I'm risking my life to speak to you, because this we must face: we have a President who would not mind employing murder to obtain his objectives. This is the political tactic of a tyranny, and that's what we're seeing, a tyranny coming into existence in our society, replacing the rational, disinterested rule of the homeostatic problem-solving Unicephalon 40-D which was designed, built and put into operation by some of the finest minds we have ever seen, minds dedicated to the preservation of all that's worthy in our tradition. And the transformation from this to a one-man tyranny is melancholy, to say the least."
Quietly, Max said, "Now I can't go ahead."
"Why not?" Leon said.
"Didn't you hear him? He's talking about me. I'm the tyrant he has reference to. Keerist." Max hung up the red phone. "I waited too long."
"It's hard for me to say it," Max said, "but - well, hell, it would prove he's right." I know he's right anyhow, Max thought. But do they know it? Does the public know it? I can't let them find out about me, he realized. They should look up to their President, respect him. Honor him. No wonder I show up so bad in the Telscan poll. No wonder Jim Briskin decided to run against me the moment he heard I was in office. They really do know about me; they sense it, sens that Jim-Jam is speaking the truth. I'm just not Presidential caliber.
I'm not fit," he thought, to hold this office.
♥ "Anyhow, I don't want to fight; I'm not a fighter, a street brawler; I'm a cultured man."
"You are biophysical organism with built-in responses; you are alive. All that lives strives to survive. You will fight if necessary, Hada."
~~What'll We Do with Ragland Park?
From the NOTES:
♥ But I was already beginning to suppose in my head the growing domination of machines over man, especially the machines we voluntarily around ourselves with, which should, by logic, be the most harmless. I never assumed that some huge clanking monster would stride down Fifth Avenue, devouring New York; I always feared that my own TV set or iron or toaster would, in the privacy of my apartment, when no one else was around to help me, announce to me that they had taken over, and here was a list of rules I was to obey. I never like the idea of doing what a machine says. I hate having to salute something built in a factory. (Do you suppose all those White Hose tapes cam be out of the back of the President's head? And programmed him as to what he was to say and do?)
♥ If the main theme throughout my writing is, "Can we consider the universe real, and if so, in what way?" my secondary theme would be, "Are we all humans?" ...Fakery is a topic which absolutely fascinates me; I am convinced that anything can be faked, or anyhow evidence pointing to any given thing. Spurious clues can lead us to believe anything they want us to believe. There is really no theoretical upper limit to this. Once you have mentally opened the door to the reception of the notion of fake, you are ready to think yourself into another kind of reality entirely. It's a trip from which you never return. And, I think, a healthy trip... unless you take it too seriously.
♥ I have always believed that as least half the famous people in history never exited. Perhaps even Karl Marx was invented, the product of some hack writer.
♥ As a child I felt a lot of anxiety listening to my father's war stories and looking at and playing with the gasmask and helmet; but what scared me the most was when my father would put on the gasmask. His face would disappear. This was not my father any longer. This was not a human being at all. I was only four years old. After that my mother and father got divorced and I did not see my father for years. But the sight of him wearing his gasmask, blending as it did with his accounts of men with their guts hanging from them, men destroyed by shrapnel - decades later, in 1963, as I walked alone day after day along that country road with no one to talk to, no one to be with, that metal, blind, inhuman visage appeared to me again, but now transcendent and vast, and absolutely evil.
...But I had seen the evil one himself, and I said then and say now, "The evil one wears a metal face." If you want to see this yourself, look at a picture of the war masks of the Attic Greeks. When men wish to inspire terror and kill they put on such metal face. The invading Christian knights that Alexander Nevsky fought wire such masks; if you saw Eisenstein's film you know what I am talking about.
♥ I wasn't thinking of the Viet Nam War but war in general; in particular, how a war forces you to become like your enemy. Hitler had once said that the true victory of the Nazis would be to force its enemies, the United States in particular, to become like the Third Reich - i.e. a totalitarian society - in order to win. Hitler, then, expected to win even in losing. As I watched the American military-industrial complex grow after World War Two I kept remembering Hitler's analysis, and I kept thinking how right the son of a bitch was. We had beaten Germany, but both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were getting more and more like the Nazis with their huge police systems every day. Well, it seemed to me there was a little wry humor in this (but not much). Maybe I could write about it without hitting too deep into polemics. But the issue presented in this story is real. Look what we had to become in Viet Nam just to lose, let alone to win; can you imagine what we'd have had to become to win? Hitler would have gotten a lot of laughs out of it, and the laughs would have been on us... and to a very great extent in fact were. And they were hollow and grim laughs, without humor of any kind.