Proposal by Claudia Krenz, Ph.D. (datafriend @ gmail-.-com)
Anyone who genuinely needs hot coffee to pick him up and keep him functioning when he has to function will get the hot coffee whether he happens to have a poscred readily available or no (Ubik, p. 82).
Splintered Shards |
Letter of Provenance to Purchasers of Paper Originals |
Hermeneutic Issues: Comparison of Paper Originals with Underwood-Miller Versions
" .... I've believed for some time that the snatches of Greek I hear at night are from the Pauline Texts, but couldn't prove it before .... We start a logical or math sequence and they complete it and return to us the missing integers. You can see that this is precisely what has been happening in my head ...." (Philip K. Dick, 11/26/74)
" .... this is what we experience as the passage of time .... Each living thing feels impelled to move (to develop or change or grow) but can't locate the source of that urge. From what I saw and understood from 3/74 on .... " (Philip K. Dick, 02/17/75)
Once posted online, completely accurate complete sets or copies of everything he wrote me would be free and easily accessed. Systematic posting of these letters online as a unit would conclude the project. This project is technologically possible: these letters could become a public online resource that won't become yet another tragedy of the commons. My browser recommended that the simple physical structure of these letters would be better formatted using CSS (www.w3.org/Style/CSS/): by far a more elegant solution than using HTML 3.2 tables, as I'd done throughout. Additionally, I have not addressed META tags: should they include julian dates and DOI numbers (www.doi.org/faq.html)?
Why would Philip K. Dick write letters to you? The letters
started--I wrote first--shortly after it had begun, when I was a U.S. grad
student writing a thesis about Ubik and Clans at a time,
1974, when few but the French accorded him critical respect and most of
his first-language editions were out-of-print. Although he addressed these
letters to me, I've always considered them a public resource.
As a computer user, I've often amazed myself seeing eerie parallels between what he
earlier wrote and what the digital world is now like (and I
think it likely he noticed he'd published a short story about time travel
the year he began writing me). Plus, he always numbered his pages--occasionally
writing about why he was writing me (once, somewhat
disingenuously IMHO, that he wrote w/o thought to any knowledge system,
present or future).
Where are all these letters from Philip K. Dick now? Their current reality situation is that the papers as entities are inside a filing cabinet off the Gulf of Alaska on a wooded incline devoid of real electric sheep but with sufficient altitude to escape the relentless tides. If not for moving here having placed me beyond the unfolding "economic recovery," you'd be reading these letters now: that was my intent, what I'd looked forward to and planned to do, still want to do--reread them by proofreading them on my monitor. What I have--besides the letters--is a plan for meeting distributional and hermeneutic goals. For others to read them in old and new browser windows, I need funding to take the first step.
2 Who might be interested in reading letters from Philip K. Dick? Perhaps those interested in what happened--variously referred to as his "mystical" or *wince* "pink-beam" experiences--what began early 1974, as related by him--his experiences in his words, his "long inner trip" (alternative sources of information about this period include several reputable biographies and the previously mentioned print volumes, numerous opinions and quite possibly a few urban legends, academic and otherwise--not to mention games, music, and movies). Perhaps those interested in the writing process would find reading these interesting, the example of him writing me letters about v.a.l.i.s. and VALIS while writing Valis--or quaint (composed on an electric typewriter). I certainly want to reread these letters on my monitor. Would anyone not want me--or you--to read these letters? There are always gatekeepers.
4 On one level, if the U.S. academic indices had covered him back then, I wouldn't have these letters I'd like others to have the opportunity to read:
There are also passing references to earlier days and external events: To take a turn of phrase from Heidegger--who took it from Kant--consider his paranoia in the context of paranoia-in-the-world: like many, he was glued to the tube during the watergate hearings. One day, thoroughly bummed by 2pm by the then unfolding constitutional crisis, he wrote that he was writing me rather than drinking the scotch-and-soda someone--must have been Aesculapius he wrote--had placed on his table. However, as the "???" letter shard in the compressed archive suggests, he played a lot in these letters, sometimes himself bemused as to whether he was or wasn't joking (see the 07/06/74 quotation in the excerpts file for context). I think others would agree with me after reading them, that he shows considerable authorial self-awareness--like the passage from him about what to do if subsequent letters from him started arriving at my mail box in the form of cow hides. The distribution of dates in the index is also informative (Nixon resigning the U.S. Presidency wasn't the only event of 8/74). When we talked on the telephone, it was, usually about his cats and my garden (the letters are so different).
After the intense period between Fall 74 through completion of my thesis in Spring 75, our correspondence was sporadic (initiated by me). We spoke of meeting corporeally but never did. I was not an important person in his life and learned of his death through a newspaper obit. These letters are personal 9 in having been written by one person addressed to another, but they about the life of the mind more than anything else. I think he had many other virtual conversations besides this one.
5 Providing for discriminant and convergent validity serves to authenticate these letters first distinguishing them from other text by him, as that in his polished published works: the difference is easily conveyed by the numerous strike-over characters and hand-corrected spellings in these letters, written even pre-whiteout (paste "white thached hair" into a search engine window to see what I mean). Here, convergent validity pertains to authentication, establishing that the characters on one's monitor constitute what he actually wrote (as opposed to cheap rip-offs, other tragedies of the commons, and accounting for mundane copy entropy). Once posted, this WWW site will have a unique digital signature (since it will have no need for being updated); the project errata sheet--showing "white thached hair" and other examples--could serve as a checklist. The possibility of falsification is enhanced by the upper limit on the possible number of accurate decentralized copies cutting across diverse geopolitical strata being very, very high: That theoretically anyone could falsify a claim like
6 The problem of substruction: Among the recently disappeared is the peer-reviewed academic journal Linguafranca. An issue in 2000 contained a scurrilous character assassination, saying Phil was the kind to rat on his friends to the FBI--based on that journal's bar for scholarship being low and that author's taking Phil's words literally--no surprise: the journal refused to print any rebuttal. Although I don't object to the removal of that irresponsible peer-reviewed article, the ease with which it has disappeared is troubling (paste www.linguafranca.com into a new browser window to go to www.chronicle.com, the U.S. Chronicle of Higher Education's web page). Being available on a subscription-only basis is another means to limit access--as is "condom" having disappeared from the CDC's HIV page, faith-based science being a contradiction in terms (e pur si muove). It may be that no one in the U.S. is interested in reading these letters (most of his published print works--more polished prose--are available for sale online, and there are a half dozen real movies projected).
7 It's inevitable that files will be copied and named willy-nilly, that mixed files containing what he wrote interspersed w/ whatever would be created. One example was a clone of my excerpts file linked at the top of this page--quotations from a few letters that I'd typed, proofed, and posted online, again using ellipses (....) to indicate omitted text: my feelings weren't hurt that, in the cloned file, my 2-sentence contextual remarks were deleted or that I wasn't credited for time typing and proofing. The file was cloned by pasting text--what I'd earlier keyboarded into a file, looking down at what he'd earlier typed on paper, using a mac shareware editor (Alpha)--into a microsoft-tm application, which also inserted code to delimit viewing in browsers other than IE--and inserted a tag stating that "Microsoft FrontPage 4.0" was the "AUTHOR" of these quotations. Like hell it was!
All project HTML files would be standards-compliant: Coding for viewing by all browsers increases the upper limit on the number of accurate copies--as does a complete copy being free as well as available in 3 convenient formats.
Does this mean you're against cloning? It's to the contrary encouraged (.hqx., .zip, .etc): There was nothing wrong with the cloned excerpts file (brand hegemony was probably unwittingly abetted). More importantly, since there would be no way to enforce any restrictions--for example: "read this in anything but a microsoft-tm application"--none would be imposed. The number of accurate copies being high, the WWW site having a unique digital signature, using an errata sheet to document mundane changes across formats--all combine to make falsification possible and so mitigate copy entropy, serving the hermeneutic goal of authentication.
8 Physical condition of the letters. Considerable variability: Phil really did use his ribbon longer than recommended and used different kinds of paper (pale ribbon on onionskin the most troubling). Some sheets are in excellent condition, typed using a new ribbon and not on onionskin. The last letter sustained water damage on the alcan (all irrevocably lost is part of one signature, [ph]il). Although the attack of the Form Destroyer is inexorable, the more imminent danger is from fascism. Under all funding scenarios, the letters will not remain with me after I scan, proof, and post them, because they now or soon enough will need more technical care than I can provide them.
9 Personal and not personal: This entire proposal is postulated on my belief that he wasn't writing to me alone. Nevertheless, my first virtual relationship was with Philip K. Dick--letters and telephone calls--and occurred when I was writing a thesis about Ubik and he was writing Valis and other novels ... it was an extremely intense personal experience: I once wrote a short piece about the experience from a rather philosophical perspective for an enthusiast site, but it didn't come close to conveying the intensity of the experience itself or its effect on my subsequent thinking. ... I arrived on the internet in the late 1980s, already knowing how real--how just like a conversation in the phenomenal world--the virtual could be; I naively thought of the internet as a totally egalitarian forum and didn't conceive it could ever be sullied ... in the 1990s I came to think of these letters in the context of the web, all of us linked together in the basement of the Beloved Brethren, waiting for Ubik and messages from Runciter ... But it came to pass that nearly everything I thought about the internet has not come to pass: ignoring governments' and industries' deliberate attempts to mis- and disinform, the content--text--of most web pages is, instead of a glorious tapestry, more like the garbage dump of our species; additionally, more and more text is hidden from ordinary view by subscription walls (instead of the equalizer I saw, it has become yet another means of widening divides): I had wanted the content of these letters to become something the world could hold in common (in present form, his words are frozen on paper in English). The list of ways I was wrong is verry long.
Another thing I didn't anticipate in the mid 1990s was the powers the aggregators would take on as hermeneutic tools of textual exegesis (I use the example of these letters, but the idea is universally applicable): you want to know what he said about time throughout this text and so paste time into a search window, hit the return key, and wait for the search engine results page to load. As expected, the engine faithfully returns links to pages mentioning time. What would you get if you pasted the URL of one letter into an engine's 'find related pages' window--or clicked on one of the 'related pages' links on its results page? I do not know. What I do know is that it is now possible to broach content, substance--what was and is being said--in entirely new ways.
In one of his last letters, Phil said I should do what I wanted to do with the letters. I wrote to the library where his papers were archived but not, for years, receiving a response--and, as a result feeling miffed (he'd been ignored by the literary criticism establishment when I wrote my thesis--and this seemed the same-old-same-old)--sent the library a copy of all the letters and his miscellaneous enclosures. I do remember laboriously photocopying everything (Phil often filled entire pages from margin to margin). I did finally receive a response from the library (but, by then, caught up in the grind, the squirrel cage of the academic quarter system, filed it away and forgot about it until years later):
The letter shards linked by hypertext index below shows it is technically possible to do what I'd proposed: this proposal was created with 20th century OCR; although proofreading is essential to ensure accuracy, the output stream from 21st century OCR would create the illusion of crisp black letters on immaculate white paper.
|Dates Phil typed on |
the tops of sheets of
now old white paper
|# pages per|
letter (he always
#ed his pages)
|April 4, 1974||1|
|April 18, 1974||3|
|April 31, 1974||1|
|May 9, 1974||2|
|June 29, 1974||2|
|July 2, 1974||2|
|July 5, 1974||2|
|July 13, 1974||1|
|July 13b, 1974 b||2|
|July 14, 1974||7|
|July 15, 1974||4|
|July 16, 1974||5|
|July 16b, 1974||2|
|July 17, 1974||2|
|July 19, 1974||3|
|July 20, 1974||2|
|July 22, 1974||2|
|July 23, 1974||3|
|July 24, 1974||1|
|July 24b, 1974||3|
|July 26, 1974||3|
|July 30, 1974||9|
|September 23, 1974||2|
|In another part of the forest. c||4|
|September 26, 1974||3|
|November 18, 1974||1|
|November 25, 1974||2|
|November 26, 1974||4|
|November 29, 1974 d||3|
|November 30, 1974||2|
|December 8, 1974||1|
|December 9, 1974||3|
|December 9b, 1974||1|
|December 14, 1974||1|
|December 18, 1974||2|
|December 21, 1974||1|
|January 3, 1975||2|
|January 7, 1975||3|
|January 15, 1975||1|
|January 25, 1975||2|
|January 30, 1975||2|
|February 12, 1975||2|
|February 13, 1975||3|
|February 14, 1975||2|
|February 15, 1975||3|
|February 16, 1975||3|
|February 16b, 1975||3|
|February 17, 1975||15|
|February 20, 1975||3|
|February 22, 1975||2|
|February 22b, 1975||2|
|February 24, 1975||1|
|February 24b, 1975||1|
|February 25, 1975||2|
|February 26, 1975||10|
|February 27, 1975||10|
|March 4, 1975||2|
|March 5, 1975||2|
|March 21, 1975||3|
|March 28, 1975||12|
|April 6, 1975||2|
|July 24, 1975||1|
|June 11, 1976||3|
|September 16, 1976||2|
|March 5, 1979||2|
|August 6, 1981||2|
a A citation like Philip K. Dick, dear claudia letter, date, page # suffices.
b I used a "b" in the MMDDYY filename to indicate the second letter of that date. Assigning a "b" to one letter rather than another was entirely arbitrary as I, typically, had no way of knowing which he wrote first.
c Assuming I received his letters in the order he wrote them, this letter was written between September 23 and 26, 1974.
d He typed in "Friday" and I used a calendar to determine which date Friday of that week was.
My "Philip K. Dick Words Project" did not happen: lawyers told me that, under the strict interpretation of U.S. copyright law, only the pieces of paper on which the letters were written were mine, that U.S. copyright law follows the old rules of primogeniture, that the created work flows--no matter what the author's intent--to his heirs--like the British monarchy (www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wci; www.nolo.com/lawstore/products/product.cfm/ObjectID/6F6528E2-0A62-45E1-9C8C05F14A0D63CA). In other words, the very essence of what I'd wanted to do--share everything with the world (in a hermeneutically sound manner that would preserve the integrity of the author's created works) was probably illegal.
I, personally, fell on hard times, mostly of my own making but some thrust upon me .... I first sold the dog-eared copy of Martian Time-Slip which I'd purchased for a dime--and sent it to Phil for autographing --during the period in which we were corresponding. I then started selling the letters. 1, 2
The Orange County Register's Mr. Peter Larson said Phil and I were "penpals," that I lived in Alaska and didn't return his emails. In a dignified quotation, he noted that a special-collections librarian lamented their lamentable funding status (that they really wanted the letters): I commiserate (fortunately, the library didn't have to part with what it currently had). Mr. Larson was correct that I was selling the letters (and had no way of knowing that mine was a fire sale since my emails to him bounced back to me).
Were Mr. Larson's online newspaper the only factual source of information--well, it's not: That I was then marooned in Alaska was much different than "living in Alaska" (living in alaska was/is impossible). It's a pity the librarian didn't contact me: if the library had been willing to take me along with the letters--reading by day and sleeping between the stacks at night would be an improvement--it would have been a deal.
Special collections librarians, if they hadn't already, must have either swooned or pissed their pants when Prince Arne, my Danish "business partner," started posting his own flaccid descriptions of the letters.
date (#pages) April 4, 1974 (1) April 18, 1974 (3) May 9, 1974 (2) June 29, 1974 (2) July 2, 1974 (2) July 5, 1974 (2) July 14, 1974 (7) July 16, 1974 (2) July 17, 1974 (2) July 19, 1974 (3) July 20, 1974 (2) July 22, 1974 (2) July 23, 1974 (3) July 24, 1974 (1) July 24b, 1974 (3) July 26, 1974 (3) September 23, 1974 (2) In another part of the forest. (4) September 26, 1974 (3) November 18, 1974 (1) November 26, 1974 (4) November 29, 1974 (3) November 30, 1974 (2) December 8, 1974 (1) December 9, 1974 (3) December 9b, 1974 (1) December 14, 1974 (1) January 3, 1975 (2) January 7, 1975 (3) January 15, 1975 (1) January 25, 1975 (2) February 13, 1975 (3) February 14, 1975 (2) February 15, 1975 (3) February 16, 1975 (3) February 16b, 1975 (3) February 20, 1975 (3) February 22, 1975 (2) February 24, 1975 (1) February 24b, 1975 (1) February 25, 1975 (2) February 26, 1975 (10) February 27, 1975 (10) March 4, 1975 (2) March 5, 1975 (2) March 21, 1975 (3) March 28, 1975 (12) April 6, 1975 (2) July 24, 1975 (1) June 11, 1976 (3) March 5, 1979 (2)
I thank all who purchased the preceding originals--whomever they directly purchased them from: it took every cent to make it through 2005 and, in 2006, finally exit alaska alive ... We all have to go sometime--but I didn't want to be found frozen at the bottom of a snow bank come spring (alaska, for those who aren't republicons and lack money, is a harsh mistress).
date (#pages) July 15, 1974 (4) July 16, 1974 (5) July 30, 1974 (9) February 17, 1975 (15) August 6, 1981 (2) April 31, 1974 (1) July 13, 1974 (1) July 13, 1974 (2) November 25, 1974 (2) December 18, 1974 (2) December 21, 1974 (1) February 12, 1975 (2) February 22, 1975 (2) January 30, 1975 (2) September 16, 1976 (2)
Although Arne had no right to set prices, he certainly deserved something for his hack, typographical-error besotted descriptions--and the several minutes it took to calculate all the ebay and paypal fees he passed on to me. But he didn't merit what he said he took (or burned--or mutilated in ways different than his descriptions had tainted the ones he'd described on ebay) ... I have the other two originals.
2 Hermeneutic Issues: Comparison of the Underwood-Miller versions to the originals. In the course of this charade, I learned that Underwood-Miller had, in the 1990s, published print versions of all but three of these letters (I'd known they'd published a few--and was pleased since I knew Phil wasn't writing to me alone and would have been more than happy to help with the facts). Others tell me that the published versions are different from the paper originals in their absence of handwritten marginalia, strike-over characters, and salutations. Also, Underwood-Miller made up "Claudia Bush"--I wrote my thesis as "Claudia Krenz Bush" and Phil almost always addressed me as just "Dear Claudia."
The letters Phil wrote me didn't have even margins and regular spacing; they had hand corrections, strike-over characters--that I would swear sometimes tailed off into Roman numerals--salutations, signatures--and handwritten marginalia like the albemuth cryptograph of February 16, 74. Or the handwritten wraparound p.s.--on page 1 of the November 29, 1974 letter--about the "the god-intoxicated man." Phil sometimes filled his pages margin to margin, scrunching up his characters to fit what he wanted to say into the available space (like in that wraparound p.s.). I don't know how Underwood-Miller handled letters whose first pages began with a p.p.p.s. filling the upper right corner.
I do not know why Underwood-Miller chose to type from Phil's original carbons rather than the copies I'd sent--thereby omitting 2 of the longest letters (for which there were, apparently, no carbons) and introducing one never sent (or, perhaps, addressed to another "claudia"). Perhaps Underwood-Miller thought the original carbons more authentic than photocopies of the originals. That the U-M volumes do not contain any of the occasionally extensive handwritten marginalia suggests Phil sometimes penned in comments after typing a letter (about 95% of all he wrote me was typed text). Rickman's 1992 review is a good place to begin for anyone interested in other hermeneutic issues.
It won't violate copyright law to say I found the folder where I'd saved the original unpublished manuscripts Phil sent me. Nor will it violate said law to say I found, to my surprise, a folder containing my letters to Phil (bfd). It probably won't violate copyright law to quote from one of his manuscripts, which he said he thought a lot of and planned to sell but instead gave it to me as a gift ... He titled it "July 8, 1974: The First Day of the Constitutional Crisis." It begins:
The language is deformed out of recognition by the Lie. Its gloom is everywhere, and we encounter nothing we recognize, only familiar things without the possibility of accurate identification. There are only shocks, until we grow numb, are paralyzed and die. When I suddenly stopped believing in the Lie I did not begin to think differently -- I saw differently, as if something was gone from the world or gone from between me and the world which had always been there. Like a scrambling device that had been reversed: deliberate scrambling. All, suddenly, was clear language ... Any lying language creates at once in a single stroke a pseudo-reality, contaminating reality, until the Lie is undone. As soon as one lies one becomes separated from reality ...."