EN 4241  Utopias and Dystopias

2011-12, Semester 2

Rajeev S. Patke 



Philip K. Dick: Dr Bloodmoney (1965)

SF STUDIES: Special issue on Philip K. Dick 1975
  • Cast of characters
Darko Suvin (Positions & Presuppositions in Science Fiction, 1988, 118) proposes an interesting grouping of the cast of characters:
The anti-utopians                                                      The utopians
Bruno Bluthegeld (also Mr Tree, also Dr Bloodmoney [271])                    Dr. Stockstill        Stuart McConchie
Hoppy Harrington                                                                                  Edie & Bill Keller  & Bonny Keller their mother
                 Walt & Lydia Dangerfield
  Others: Jim Fergesson (employer); Bonny & George Keller (Edie's parents) & Andrew Gill (Edie's natural father); Eldon Blaine (sells glasses); Dean & Ela Hardy (he invents the rat-trap)
  • Narrative style & technique
Dick's handling of the temporal sequence in his narrative: esp. the jump of 7 years from chp. 3 to chp. 4 (51)
  • Scenes, situations and plot
Tree's paranoia sensitiva (12-3)
Hoppy's trance (39-45)
  • A few questions to consider
1. How might one apply some of Freud's ideas about "the uncanny" [unheimlich] to aspects of the novel (especially to what is implied in Hoppy's trances, his special abilities and in Bill's various powers?) (24, 26). Link: Freud: The Uncanny
2. Compare Dick's anticipation of the aftermath on human society of a nuclear war with what we know actually happened in Japan, and identify those features in reality that more or less coincide with how Dick imagines them, and also those features which differ from his vision.
3. Do you think the measure of optimism with which Dick assesses the human potential for survival and recovery, both in the novel, and his refraction of it in the 'Afterword' (1980) is plausible, convincing or justified?
4. Comment on the several ironies of the role given to Walt Dangerfield in the novel, and on the significance of his wife's suicide.
5. What do you make of Dick's representation of Hoppy's and Bill's access to people once alive and now dead? How does it affect our sense of an answer to a question posed in the novel: "how in this case could reality be sorted out from fantasy?" [14]
6. Towards the end of the novel, Dick play's with the possibility that Dr Bloodmoney does actually activate the explosions that he says he can. What does that do to our and the novel's sense of him as paranoid?   
7. What is the role of technology in the novel?
8. How far do you find the schema devised by Fredric Jameson in his 1975 article plausible and helpful in dealing with the complexity of the novel?
  • Topics for seminar discussion
1. Society &technology: Nuclear war & its possible aftermaths
2. Individual psychology: Neurosis, paranoia (12-3, 15), stigmata (11) and psychosis
3. Psychology and biology: mutations caused by radiation
4. Paranormal phenomena: reincarnation, metempsychosis, and communicating with entities on ":the other side" of death
5. Residual racism in society (as alluded to by the novel) (17, 20)
  •  Lines and phrases for comment
1. Richard Nixon (14)
2. Thalidomide babies (22), and the phocomelus (or phoce) (17)
3. "being colored was a sort of early form of radiation burn" (20)
4. "unconscious drives and paratactic systematic distortions of the reality situation" (27)
5.  "There was really no such thing as being cured. There was really no such thing as being cured; the 'illness' was life itself" (27)
Fredric Jameson on Philip K. Dick's Dr Bloodmoney: Link




Last Updated  1 February 2010