?One of the cornerstones of the science-fiction and fantastic literature of Philip K. Dick is the way his characters’ psyches are consistently broken down. Protagonists’ minds are split in half, as in his definitive novel A Scanner Darkly, or fractured to the point where they can see things that were not otherwise there. This disruption in their identity makes them dangerous in the eyes of anyone that upholds the status quo. They know something now that they didn’t before and usually, that something involves knowing whether or not God, or anybody else in charge, exists. A perfect example of this is “Faith of Our Fathers,” a ground-breaking short story that reveals that the universe is lorded over by a slug thing that uses human beings and everything else as play-things to feed his vanity and his body (anybody that dies is food for Dick’s slug deity).
And yet, if you were to pore over the covers of Dick’s novels and short story collections and I mean really pore over the hundreds, certainly a thousand plus, covers you too would probably see a pattern. A certain face pops up every so often. This face looks like Orson Welles by way of a Keebler elf and he’s got a way about him, like he knows everything you don’t know. That’s ’cause it’s Philip K. Dick. For one reason or another, the author’s own noggin pops up on a large percentage of the covers of his novels and short stories. Thanks to philipkdick.com for putting us on the right path and to Google for providing the rest of the clues.
20) Zap Gun (Spanish Ed.)
?This Spanish edition of Zap Gun is notable for two things. First, on the upper right corner of this Spanish Inquisition-type dungeon is an inscription in what looks like Chinese characters. Does it even mean anything or is more paranoiac scribbligns from a guy that often used China and the Chinese as figures for exotic but deadly aliens? I’m guessing the second option. Secondly, Dick is firing a laser gun that looks like an enormous hair-dryer. It is bigger than his head. Dude must be ripped to even be able to lift that sucker. When he’s done blowing the badmen away, he can blow-dry his stubble.
19) Clans of the Alphane Moon
?Notice the way that the way this US edition features Dick prominently in the foreground and an insect-like robot and the shift P.I. that looks like a refugee from Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? in the background. Judging by the way that nobody on the cover seems to notice him, how he’s breaking the fourth wall and his barbershop pole candry-stripe tie, one conclusion must be reached: this man is either the anti-hero protagonist of a rejected ’80s cop drama or he’s a deity slumming it in outer space. I’ll let you decide which option makes more sense.
18) Vintage PKD
?This recent sampler of Dick’s fiction features a pixelated photo of Dick on its cover and that’s precisely why it’s suspicious. Can you identify what that blurry image is underneath his face? It could be the hidden face of God from Dick’s own “A Terran Odyssey” or scrambled porn, or both, maybe. Scrambled Porn God is watching you masturbate — and a new meme is born.
17) The Penultimate Truth
?This U.S. edition of The Penultimate Truth shows Dick as a half-robot, half-giant-floating head. The half with a human face has a happy, sunshine background of a white picket fence, blue skies and green grass while on the half with the robot head, trees have withered and there’s some kind of mist engulfing a city landscape. No doubt real estate on that half of Dick is cheap.
16) In Milton Lumky Territory
?The message of this picture could not be more clear: the West Coast of the US is shaped to look like Philip K. Dick’s profile. The juxtaposition is so simple and yet so direct that you can’t help but wonder why no one has thought of it before. Sure, you have to flip his head upside down and shave off his nose a bit and make his chin a bit more prominent but otherwise, it’s his spitting image.
15) Zap Gun (U.S. Ed.)
?This U.S. edition of Zap Gun features Dick’s avatar materializing a gun right before our eyes, recalling Dick’s short story “The Electric Ant,” in which a robot finds out that his perception of reality is affected directly by changes he makes to a micro-cassette tape in his chest. Dick was no doubt great to have at parties. “If I cut myself, will you disappear from this plane of existence?!” “Can…can you just pass the bread, please?”
14) Hazel Pierce
?A triangular pattern with an eyeball in the center, just like the back of the one dollar bill. And who is it in which we trust? If you’ve read any of Dick’s novels, you know the answer is: nobody. You trust nobody and the bugs in your hair will eventually go away.
13) Cosmogyny and Cosmology
?See? You see that? It’s space sperm. All over Dick’s face. Cosmic space sperm and the man’s last name is Dick. This is the point from which there’s no return. You have now entered the Danger Zone. Buckle up.
12) Deus Irae
?Dick/God stares into your soul in the French of Deus Irae, or “God of Wrath” in Latin, and he does not look happy. Kind of makes you think: if the French are so dead-on here, maybe they’re right about Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen’s later comedies.
11) Dr. Bloodmoney
?He’s got the whole world. In his hands. He’s go the whole world. In his hands. He’s got the whole world. In his hands. AND IT’S BLOWING UP.
10) I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon
?This cover is especially funny if you’ve read “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon:” in that story, a man on a long space journey has his cryo-sleep capsule malfunction and has to keep his mind occupied or else go insane. He does this by recreating memories so vivid that even he can’t tell if he’s imagining what he’s seeing or if it’s real. A young Philip K. Dick stares up at the title while standing on, or at least we assume he’s standing on the moon. It’s as if he doesn’t trust his own eyes. Would you if you found yourself on the moon without a space-suit and the title of a short story floating precariously above your head? Didn’t think so.
9) A Maze of Death
?A rare Socratic pose from a floating Dick-head. Ponder the implications of that truly tasteless pun a moment longer on the Tree of Woe.
8) Valis (U.S. Ed.)
?Dick’s plaid shirt and his knuckle-cracking make him look like a lumberjack, like a very angry and very surly lumberjack that frequents the Roadhouse bar and is always spooling for a fight. Dick can surely take Patrick Swayze in a fight. He’s got the crazy eyes!
7) Radio Free Albemuth
?This French cover likewise has got all kinds of mystical significance. Think about it: floating eye, Dick’s face in a crystal ball-type marble and an expression of gastric distress on his face. There is much Pepto in his future.
6) Valis (German Ed.)
?In this German edition of Valis, Dick uses people’s heads as the fabric for his amazing mono-color brown blazer. And there’s a baby in his forehead. I’d like to imagine that this is an accurate depiction of the ’70s counter-culture — all of it, all on one cover.
5) The Man Who Japed
?Dick absconds with the severed head of a statue on this French cover, the statue head covered in blood. God is dead. Long live Dick.
4) The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
?By the looks of this German edition of The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, there is a midget priest dressed all in purple with a Philip K. Dick head in his chest roaming around in outer space. He looks like a cross between Mr. Rogers’ Purple Panda, Quato and the Pope. Wasn’t this an Alejandro Jodorowsky music video concept at one point?
3) Time Out of Joint
?This Italian drawing of Dick imagines him as an otherworldly being that’s part-Orson Welles, part Egghead ala the Adam West Batman show and all fan of Chutes and Ladders. Except this is no ordinary game of Chutes and Ladders: it’s like the Rosetta Stone if it were a board game. That game probably sucks.
2) The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume 1: Beyond Lies the Wub
?At first glance, the Spanish cover of this short story collection recalls the Architect from the two Matrix movies we no longer speak of. Then you notice what’s really important about this picture: Philip K. Dick had guns. Big’ns.
1) Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick
?Wouldn’t you like to imagine that if Dick constantly had weird Lovecraftian monsters sneaking in through his windows all the time, just like on the cover of Paul Williams’s (no, he has nothing to do with Tekken) biography of Dick? Here, the Old Gods and the New God meet and grapple for control of…a filing cabinet? Huh. Ok then. Also: is anybody else distracted by Dick’s huge, Ronald McDonald-sized feet in this pic? Sure, he’s drinking milk and is pretty much topless while taking some unidentified white pills and reading peacefully while a squid monster is breaking into his apartment. But damn it, the man has got huge feet. Wonder where he gets his shoes from.