Categories
lit tip

Lit / Philip K Dick on building universes

In 1978, Philip K Dick pub­lished an essay called "How to Build a Uni­verse That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Lat­er." The title sort of says it all; it's about how to envi­sion the world of a sto­ry in a way that lasts. He cuts right to chase, too, con­fronting the hard ques­tion that most writ­ing how-to's like to gloss over: What is worth writ­ing about? Where to start? How to make a state­ment that doesn't age bad­ly?

… I ask, in my writ­ing, What is real? Because unceas­ing­ly we are bom­bard­ed with pseu­do-real­i­ties man­u­fac­tured by very sophis­ti­cat­ed peo­ple using very sophis­ti­cat­ed elec­tron­ic mech­a­nisms. I do not dis­trust their motives; I dis­trust their pow­er. They have a lot of it. And it is an aston­ish­ing pow­er: that of cre­at­ing whole uni­vers­es, uni­vers­es of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to cre­ate uni­vers­es, as the basis of one nov­el after anoth­er. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days lat­er. Or at least that is what my edi­tors hope. How­ev­er, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build uni­vers­es which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the char­ac­ters in the nov­els cope with this prob­lem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it.

It just gets bet­ter from there, real­ly.