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The King Of The Elves by Philip K. Dick

1/04/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy The King Of The Elves (1947-1952): The Collected Stories Of Philip K. Dick Volume One in the USA - or Buy The King Of The Elves (1947-1952): The Collected Stories Of Philip K. Dick Volume One in the UK

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The King Of The Elves (1947-1952): The Collected Stories Of Philip K. Dick Volume One. pub: Subterranean Press. 485 page deluxe hardback. Price: $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-340-2.

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What more can be said about the genius of Phillip K. Dick? It’s not for me to say what books you should read but if you have not read his short stories, this is a perfectly good place to start. They are printed in chronological order and cover a wide variety of subjects. The stories are mostly fairly short and to the point. They were written between 1947 to 1952, post-war and with the threat of a third world war to end all wars. The Cold War threatened to get hot quite often and annihilation was a distinct possibility. Some of this was played out in Science Fiction which is never afraid to address the problems of politics, society and human nature. Dick’s short stories are a window on to that difficult period.

‘Stability’ is a chilling vision of a future where humanity has been stabilised with no progress allowed or any slippage. There is, of course, an individual who changes this. It’s a mash-up of interesting ideas inspired by many things possibly including ‘The Trial’ and ‘Metropolis’.

One of Dick’s famous stories is ‘Roog’. On the surface, a story about a dog and the garbage collectors, it is a snapshot of the nightmarish versions of reality that Dick was so fond of playing around with.

‘The Little Movement’ might make you think twice about your playthings. This is a twisted ‘Toy Story’ that Pixar won’t be making anytime soon.

Each story has a memorable point to it. There are several about time travel, namely ‘Meddler’, ‘The Variable Man’ and the story, ‘Paycheck’, which recently became a film with a few more bangs and flashes than the original, to no great effect. In the story, as in the film, all a man has to show for his two year contract is a few items in his pockets. He discovers very quickly that they are his Get Out Of Jail Free Card, as he works his way to the future he has already seen.

It’s not just about time-travel and intergalactic wars though. ‘Out In The Garden’ has a man discover his wife seems to love her duck more than him with surprising and amusing consequences. Consider ‘The Piper In The Woods’ as soldiers return from a planet thinking they are plants…and ‘Nanny’, she’s the one you want and you’ll need constant upgrades to keep her in fighting form. The kids will love her…

Finally, the eponymous title story ‘King Of The Elves’, chosen one presumes for Dick’s ability to reign supreme over the region of fantasy. A man who has a mundane existence finds out he is indeed King of the Elves. His life is changed as he does battle with the trolls.

Most of these stories have been published in other forms and many of them you may have read before. I challenge you not to be moved by re-visiting them and re-discovering why you fell in love with Science Fiction all those years ago.

Sue Davies

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