Philip K. Dick Words Project: through a scanner accurately
with modern OCR (optical character recognition software)

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).


Proposal Methods, hoped for Results, Discussion, Notes, and Technical Feasibility   
    Hypertext Index to scanned letter shards     |     Typed Excerpts in a single file

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)
ABSTRACT

I am someone--who I am is unimportant--with whom Philip K. Dick corresponded--someone who wonders if you, too, were part of his intended audience when he was writing me the 60-plus letters--about 200 pages, mostly single-spaced typed-- he did (a few have been published in selected portions of his quest (his Exegesis) and correspondence (the Underwood series)). These letters chronicle his "long inner trip" and were for the most part written while he was writing the real Valis (click here to see these letters in a temporal context).

To read, in new browser windows, more that he wrote me--beyond the two preceding passages--scroll down and click on any link in the project

  • i) hypertext index, which lists all the letters he wrote me; you can also click to read
  • ii) excerpts from a few letters that, years ago, I typed, proofed, and posted online.
The passages quoted above, the letter shards linked in the project hypertext index below and those in the excerpts file are all, while accurate, incomplete--and of poor quality since, except for my typing, generated w/ last century's OCR (the ellipses (....) indicate omitted text). You can check any of the enthusiast sites for more about him--or type his name into a search engine window for a more dynamic and overwhelming list of links.

I want to reread these letters in my browser window--as you are reading this file on the WWW in yours. Doing so would bring me full circle (Runciter has been right all along: we *really* are linked together in the basement of the Beloved Brethren). Also, I think that, when Phil was writing me, he may also have been writing you, collectively online, personally but not exclusively (the example of Mr. Chip suggests he'd not have addressed only those w/ the fastest connections and biggest drives), Making everything freely accessible across diverse bandwidth and HDD-size actual and virtual reality situations--besides being only reasonable--also serves the hermeneutic goal of authentication, as would all project files being standards compliant and free. This project is only about delivering this mail, these letters he composed on paper--using an electric typewriter--as digital files anyone can read in the privacy of their own browser behind the security they think they have (interpretation is an individual decision: while some like me interpret his sentence likening the difference between christians and atheists to that between holsteins and jerseys literally--how now mad cow--others would interpret it figuratively).

The methods section describes how I propose letting everyone read these letters (how to provide for universal access and avoid yet another tragedy of the commons). Results describes what would happen once I'd posted these letters (copies will be completely accurate when downloaded as directed; boolean bliss, too, is certain). The discussion section's focus is on funding, the lack thereof being the one and only obstacle between the current reality situation and full implementation of project mission.

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)?

PROPOSAL NOTES
METHODS

Project mission is as close to universal access as possible: what he wrote me 1 free to all online individuals and public libraries 2 in perpetuity. This content--the substance, what he wrote about, "his long inner trip"--has been preserved by and heretofore confined to what's now old white paper.

This century's OCR makes possible extracting this content off the old white paper and outputting his a) typed words in ASCII or text format (this is what's new). That over 95% of what he wrote me consisted of typed words makes the wait--between when OCR could output in only picture format and now--worthwhile:

You can paste his sentence from the passage beginning "We start a logical or math sequence," because it's in text format. You cannot paste the same phase from the 11/26/74 letter shard, because there it's in a picture format. Obviously, it is easy to quote him more accurately by pasting than by copying methods like hand typing (other advantages of this format are discussed below).

Modern OCR would also output his b) signatures and handwritten marginalia in better quality--smaller but higher resolution--GIF or picture format files than those of the letter shards (created w/ last century's software). 3

Scan and deliver. OCR text output would be checked by pasting it into a spell checker (modern software is not expected to have his vocabulary). I'd output in English since that was the language in which he wrote. I'd specify black text on a white background, because he always used a dark ribbon and dark ink on white paper. As suggested by the two full page scans (11/26/74 and 2/17/75), formatting the digital output in files posted online for viewing in your browser would require only basic HTML

I use W3C 3.2 throughout but, given that he composed these letters on an electric typewriter, wonder if that's an unnecessarily sophisticated standard: the project guarantees complete verisimilitude--everything but the paper--and strives for backwards compatibility to increase the theoretical upper limit on the number of possible accurate copies (Philip K. Dick's words need no imprimatur to speak for themselves).

That I am unsophisticated, older than the paper--he always wrote on new paper--behind the times, blundered North to Alaska, and am not arguing ex cathedra does not preclude my being correct: Exerting minimal control initially--over administrative details like creating user friendly standards compliant files named systematically--will facilitate meeting hermeneutic goals and increase present and future access (browsers aren't likely to stop reading simple HTML files any time soon).

The project's method for increasing the number of accurate digital copies is to reduce access barriers and employ routine prophylactic measures. 5 It is though browsers that make widespread reading--and modern file transfer & compression software, physical dissemination--of these letters possible.

Self evident is that the probability of copy entropy decreases as the number of accurate copies increases. As the number of accurate copies made to decentralized HDDs increases--each copy of each copy would, given the accuracy of modern software, be identical and also capable of self-replicating--the long term viability and self-sufficiency of project files also increases. Project files posted online as described functionally delivers mail he composed, wrote on paper and sent to me then, but perhaps also intended for us now, online.

To further increase the upper limit on the number of accurate copies--in addition to making complete copies free and routinely available--a single click for the complete set--the project would make all content available in archives w/ small, medium, and large MB footprints, the trivial differences between which would be outlined in a project errata sheet. His letters, this errata sheet, and the hypertext index would constitute the project web site: it wouldn't need updating--that's all, alas, he wrote-- and, unchanging, it would have a unique digital signature.

A single post of everything somewhere on the WWW--one mnemonically named HTML file per letter--would conclude the actual project. Anyone wanting to discuss these letters could do so on any of the numerous established message boards. 4

The actual URL would be as irrelevant as the GPS coordinates of the server that housed it (again, the search engines didn't need an announcement to find the letter shards). That these letters could become the object of future textual exegesis seems self-evident: the nature of subsequent translations and interpretations is though obviously way beyond the scope of the project.

RESULTS

A) Anyone could, w/ a single click, download all these letters in compressed archives that'd expand on their HDDs: All copies would be identical when opened in browser windows as directed (and all reading experiences, unique).

Here are links to archives of all the letter shards in two Mac formats of known caliber (.hqx, .sit, .tgz, .exe, .zip, .etc), each about 1.5 MB. Click to download and decompress these files and then

  • locate the folder "PKDWords_lettershards" in the download directory on your HDD;
  • open its file "PKDwords_index.html" in your browser.
Use the hypertext index as a guide to the same mnemonically named standards compliant files as online--now on your HDD. Think what it might be like to be able to read all of them in your browser.

B) Anyone could, possibly, access the content of these letters through a commercial search engine. The letter shards were crawled l o n g before I announced them. I wonder what someone searching for examples of his paranoia--fear of the reemergence of Imperial Rome, its reality superimposed upon our own--in the context of the watergate hearings would find.

Paste that passage "We start a logical or math sequence" into a search engine window: the only page returned will be this one, the one you're reading right now, although the identical phrase appears in the 11/26/74 letter shard file--in picture format (modern search engines do not--yet--index words or text trapped in picture or image format files).

Most content--what he wrote about--could be accessed through full-text boolean searching, because over 95% consisted of typed words--which can now be output as ASCII (nested in mnemonically named HTML files, one per letter).

C) Chaos. Write about reading him describing his experiences at the level of phenomena and how he interpreted them through time. Read letters like a serial novel or out of sequence ("Jettisoning kernel linker"). Laugh ("hits 33, misses 33, aged-out 32 [## ?]"). Copy and paste favorite quotations or excerpts into a file named who knows what and post it on the internet. Concatenate all the letters into a single file: /dear claudia/, /love phil/ >> file.mine. Someone might lackadaisically search for the different conclusions he proposed to the real Ubik--alternatives obviously of no threat to the thing-in-itself--and post their partial list on USENET (proclaiming it complete). Someone might decide he hadn't written me at all (s/claudia/myname/g). Someone might read that passage beginning "We start a logical or math sequence" and then complete the sentence by hallucinating "ErrorIllegalArgument : CGSSetWindowToReleaseBackingOnOrderOut: Invalid." Someone else might rationally delete letters least personally important to make space on their HDD--but, not thinking prior to resale to erase their personal information, not delete their unique set of fragments. One person may keep one dictionary open in another browser window; another, another. Some will read these letters in the best browsers money can buy; others will read them using freeware (travel LITE and know the flowers, to paraphrase the wilderness poet in an unintended context). Others may access these letters in applications quite different from browsers (a complete list of anticipated sources of disorder would be lengthy if not endless).

The project does not resist the relentless force of the tides, chaos and entropy, instead placing a theoretically limitless source of accurate complete copies in the digital public commons. And, since Phil always numbered his pages--once writing, IMHO disingenuously, about writing without thought to any knowledge system "present or future"--it's easy to cite sentences nested in paragraphs nested in pages in, by design, mnemonically named files (one per letter). People could literally get on the same page quickly if desired.

In summary, modern OCR makes text extraction possible; everyday applications--browsers, file transfer and decompression software--make widespread dissemination on the public internet possible. Setting the access bar to this mail from him as low as possible would--rather than ensuring anarchy--makes hermeneutic essentials like authentication possible: Ways the project increases the potential upper limit on the number of accurate copies include the real "true" copy--everything together--being free. The project also proactively addresses variability in HDD size and connection speeds--providing all content in different file formats--and implementing routine means of mitigating special and mundane copy entropy that facilitate hermeneutic goals. 7 Authentication is further served by the web site, once posted, not being updated and so having a unique digital signature. The letters are here with me; where I want them is perhaps where he intended, online. 8 Such is my plan for saving this conversation w/ him (which can I'm confident be improved).

Although of considerable interest to some, these letters are not of fundamental interest to all. I think though that those who will read them will agree that he wrote about metaphysical, epistemological, and ontological questions relevant to all: what the hell is happening and where is the abyss I so want to avoid? Asking a question about whether this digitized content--about 200 pages single-spaced, typed is a lot of words--could provide some haven for language is possible only after others read them (although monolingual myself, I know from personal e-conversations that others are not so limited). Making reading possible is project mission (hurry quickly: supplies will be unlimited).

DISCUSSION

In the U.S. value is typically quantified monetarily, the greater the value, the more something is worth--positing a positive linear relationship. Nature and history provide numerous counter examples.

  • 1) The price of blueberries: ceteris paribus, cheapest when at their best, which is also when they're most numerous (peak season). The blueberry is a concrete example illustrating how easily imagined are alternatives to normative paradigms.
  • 2) Thomas Paine is said to have to have one winter published pamphlets for free because he thought their content of fundamental importance to all free peoples: Fortunately for that American revolution, he could afford to do so--because it's also said that no troops would have made it through that first winter w/o his words (perhaps similarly for George Washington, also there at Valley Forge).
I use blueberries and an 18th century revolution as examples, because it's difficult to talk about intangibles in a positivist climate. My point is just that prevailing methods of valuation are not only not the only ones conceivable--they're not even necessarily rational: locking up everything that's valued isn't the only paradigm.

The present discussion is about how to (in the sense of finance) digitize and post these letters: once posted, numerous accurate copies would be made to individual decentralized HDDs, which IMHO would be enough to preserve this conversation w/ him: preservation is the goal. Call the cost in $ of doing that "X" (primarily equipment and grid time).

Quantifying the *value* of this conversation--including what's on the now old white paper that has heretofore served so well--call it market valuation, whatever--is not of real concern to the project. The only reason for discussing X is it's a barrier currently precluding completing project mission: preserving authenticity while simultaneously allowing for mass distribution and boolean bliss. I observe a pleasing symmetry thinking about files containing what he wrote me then--the files like the paper, vessels for conveying content--online now.

Perhaps no one in the U.S. is interested in reading this content: the letters are obviously dated--composed 30 years ago on an electric typewriter, 200 pages beginning w/ his "long inner trip"--and a disney movie can't be too far away. Plus anyone can link to a sound bite at the U.S. "Nationalist Public Radio" site (introduced by NPR as him talking about some bounced checks, aired as a 2003 commemoration). Others may object to his swearing (he did all the time, when he was writing me):

  • " Thanks for writing me, Claudia, and sorry I'm so fucked up today." (Nov 18, 1974)
  • " He or they would come back eventually, and they fucking have, Claudia, they fucking have!!!" (Nov 26 1974)
1 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.


3 Fully 95% of what he wrote consisted of typed words. The letters contain a half-dozen small simple drawings, the most complex of which is shown below:

 

Phil's 
model

That marginalia like impeach! could be output in text format is self-evident--as is what he was talking about--since he wrote it July 1974, a month before Nixon resigned, antiquarian watergate U.S.: having been written so long ago makes what he wrote a priori irrelevant to all contemporary real and imagined political and security concerns. Typed versions of his marginalia occur at the end of the letter shard files, under "marginal notes."


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:

I wrote first--"dear sir"--asking if he had a bibliography of everything he'd published (a v e r y basic question). He replied that he was going into the hospital to have his insides replaced with plastic philco radio parts and he'd write more later. He did. Perhaps--beyond the thesis--he wrote because he knew I wanted to understand, perhaps because of my first name--"I, Claudi[a]" in the context of paranoia about Imperial Rome--perhaps because of my location, the area between nations in Man in the High Castle. Once he wrote that he wrote because I was the only one who wrote back (a statement I didn't interpret literally).

Not all letters are of equal interest: his first letter of 2/24/75 is a formal reference letter--illustrating why I consider LRC one of his alters--and the 2nd one of that date about *glub* the effort of writing like that. Neither is prima facie as interesting as the one he dated "In Another Part of the Forest." What you'll read at one level is the product of a dialog, questions and answers. At another level, musings from master to student: I so wanted to understand what he was saying; I so wanted him to keep writing: I did my best--frantic and feeble--to synthesize what he was saying so as to ask questions that he'd deem merited response). At another level, these letters document his experiences beginning Spring 74 as he chose to relate them, a written history, what happened as it happened in his words.

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

On July 20, 1974 Philip K. Dick wrote, "Having written you giving complete explanation of everything that has happened in my head, I now have another new theory. Halliburton rocks!"

mitigates against cheap rip-offs, a special form of textual corruption or copy entropy. In the context of the ever-rising digital kipple tide, the project can afford to set the access barrier to this knowledge low (even though it's about events that happened a long, long time ago, knowledge it remains), because the outer limit of the total number of copies is high (higher yet because the "true" copy will be free once the first copy is posted). The project can simultaneously offer maximum individual flexibility--inevitably someone will read them w/ a dozen browser windows open at once--and serve the hermeneutic goal of authentication--everyone being able to easily distinguish between what someone said he wrote and what he actually wrote, getting on the same page at once on an as-desired basis--because it would be posted online as a unit, w/ a unique digital signature, constituting all he wrote me and so not needing to be updated or otherwise changed.

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):

csf library 
1984 letter


This excerpt from a special collections librarian's letter went on--brag, brag--to thank me for the organized condition of the paper--all the letters and the manuscripts that he'd sent with them--saying that librarians appreciated that sort of thing ... I recently read those copies described online as "unorganized materials in a box." Entropy is inevitable (Sic transit gloria mundi). The letter went on to state that the library was being sued by Phil's estate (which was why it had so long delayed responding to my asking if they wanted to add the letters and enclosures to their collection).

TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY

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.


INDEX. Date list of and hypertext index to fragments of Philip K. Dick's "dear claudia" letters. a Click on any links to open new browser windows containing the corresponding fragments. These letter shards are accurate but obviously incomplete--and of poor quality, being created w/ last century's OCR. Why these particular smatterings? Because I had to start somewhere--I use red ellipsis marks to indicate omitted text (....). The major differences between what you read here and the final project would be quantity (everything) and quality (modern). The boilerplate text at the top of each letter file is identical except for date and number of pages (the scarcely readable text at the bottom of each file lists file names). A text version of his handwritten marginalia is appended when appropriate, e.g., his conclusion to the first letter linked below: "I can often recall the future."

Dates Phil typed on
the tops of sheets of
now old white paper
# pages per
letter (he always
#ed his pages)
Manuscripts
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.

SPLINTERED SHARDS

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.

1 Provenance: I hope this web page serves as a letter of provenance for those who purchased the letters whose dates are listed below. I, Claudia Krenz, thank those who purchased the letters dated:

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).


In mid-December 2005, alas, Arne emailed me--in a letter addressed to "Dr. Claudia Krenz, itinerant psychometrician, greater Nikiski metropolitan area"-- that he'd sold the following 15 letters for $130 US each as his "commission:"

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.


From a strictly personal perspective, I want to conclude, wryly of course, that, in the context of these letters--I am an invented person: to U-M I was "claudia bush;" to the special collections library, I was "mrs. krenz:" I was never either. And to those who have asked, only Proquest has made money off my master's thesis.

2008

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:

"But the state of things here in the U.S. is so dreary -- they say the elderly and the poor are eating canned dogfood, now, to stay alive, and the McDonald hamburgers are made from cows' eyes .... what a dreadful surreal reality it is: foglike and dangerous, with the subtle and terrible manifestation of evil rising like the rocks in the gloom. I wish I was somewhere else. Disneyland, maybe? The last sane place here? Forever to take Mr. Toad's wild ride and never get off?

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 ...."

and continues for 3 pages: it is as if he were writing about the U.S.'s current Constitutional Crisis.