SF Writers Are Not Loners

Heliopoli_Full_EX54“I have a strong feeling, having met so many of my colleagues over the years, that there is almost universally among them a love of human beings and a concern for them, a desire for closeness that, in itself, might explain why the SF [science fiction] writer chose that field rather than one of the pure sciences. SF writers are not loners ….

“There are few if any cold schizoid SF writers; when you meet a Ray Bradbury or a Ted Sturgeon or a Norman Spinrad or an A.E. van Vogh you find a warm person longing to know you, too; you are part of a family that goes back decades and into which we perpetually welcome others: There are no sterile, aseptic white smocks, no cruel or detached interactions among us. Writing SF requires a humanization of the person, or put another way, I doubt if that person would want to write SF unless he had in him these empathic needs and qualities. Too timid to demonstrate, too warm to retreat to a sterile lab and experiment on objects or animals, too excited and impatient to allow all knowledge to be confined to the limits of absolute certitude — we live in a world of what a radio SF show once called ‘possible maybes,’ and this world attracts persons who are not loners but are lonely; and between those two distinctions there is a crucial difference.”

— Philip K. Dick, from his essay “Who Is an SF Writer?”, 1974, as reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings

6 thoughts on “SF Writers Are Not Loners

  1. Oh, it is beautiful! I read the quote three times and each time came away with something new and wonderful. And now I am curious to explore his “shifting realities” — especially if they are the underpinnings of Heliopoli.

  2. I’m so glad you liked it, Tai. What he said 35 years ago certainly holds true today.

    Philip K. Dick is one of the masters of science fiction, whose work has become more popular and revered as the years go by. Tessa Dick, who commented above, is his widow, so it’s an honor to have her acknowledge the quote in this way. His novels include Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (adapted into the movie Blade Runner), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Ubik.

    I like what Thomas M. Disch said of him, per the quote on the back of my copy of Ubik: “He writes it the way he sees it and it is the quality, the clarity of his vision that makes him great.”

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