If there ever was a cult, in 1984 I managed to sign up as its lieutenant. All through my high-school years I'd planned to visit California and plant myself at the feet of my hero, but before I'd managed it, he died. So I clipped obituaries and went to college instead. When one of the clippings announced the formation of a "Philip K. Dick Society" dedicated to propagating his works and furthering his posthumous career, my flame of pilgrimage was relit. I dropped out and hitchhiked west, and in Berkeley I looked up Paul Williams, not the short blond songwriter, but the Crawdaddy!-founding rock critic who had interviewed Dick for Rolling Stone in 1974 and become the estate's literary executor. He was wearing a Meat Puppets T-shirt the day I found him. Paul made immediate good use of me, mostly for licking stamps. I hosted the PKD Society's envelope-stuffing parties in my Berkeley apartment, two blocks from the tiny woodframe house where Dick had lived during the writing of his first ten or so novels. And, a great thrill, I later sold the Dick estate a few dozen of the hundreds of spare copies of paperbacks I'd assembledˇmy book hunting had become obsessive, and by then I owned three, four, and even five copies of most of the more than three dozen out-of-print titles. The estate didn't. In order to "further his posthumous career," Paul needed copies of the rarest books to send to prospective publishers. Vulcan's Hammer, in other words, is sort of my fault.
In my role as Paul's sidekick I got a chance to sort through acres of letters, outlines for novels never written, and personal ephemera, like Dick's lease for an apartment in Fullerton, California ("two neutered cats okay"), which for some reason I photocopied and have kept to this day. I once handled Dick's personal copy of the I Ching (any reader of The Man in the High Castle knows the talismanic importance of that text), its hardcovers softened and swollen from use, like Ahab's Bible retrieved from the Pequod. The book was full of paper slips in Dick's handwriting, desperate inquiries into everyday subjects on which Dick had turned to the oracle for consultation: Will [editor X] accept the new draft of Policeman? Should I lend [Y] money for Seconal? Will [Z] sleep with me? I also once owned a single gold earring made by Dick's jeweler wife, another Man in the High Castle˝related fetish. The earring was stolen by an ex-girlfriend of mine who didn't understand its importanceˇwho found my obsession with Dick embarrassing.
When Vintage completes the cycle in another couple of years, it will have made available all of the '50s and '60s SF novelsˇthe ten or fifteen books that originally made Dick's underground reputation and the twenty-some weaker titles that always kept that reputation hobbled. In the mid-'80s, the only one of those books that was at all easy to find was Del Rey's Blade Runner˝tied-in reprint of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But for the collectors and cognoscenti who were tuned in to Paul's PKD Society newsletters, the market was flooded with outrÚ material just reaching first light in expensive small-press hardcoversˇUbik: The Screenplay, The Dark Haired Girl (essays), Nick and the Glimmung (a children's book), five volumes of Selected Letters, and enough previously unpublished realist novels from Dick's thwarted "mainstream" efforts of the '50s to make up another writer's whole career: Mary and the Giant, The Broken Bubble, Gather Yourselves Together, In Milton Lumky Territory, The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike, Humpty Dumpty in Oakland, and Puttering About in a Small Land. Now the situation is exactly reversed, and that list I've just typed out might serve to fuel another fifteen-year-old's obsessive quest. In a sense, the "lost" and the "found" Dick have swapped places, twice.