The city of Santa Ana and OC Film Fiesta paid tribute to famed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick this Saturday by officially declaring Sept. 14 as “Philip K. Dick Day.”
“He brought recognition to Santa Ana as a city, and also to our county of Orange,” said Santa Ana mayor Miguel A. Pulido during his proclamation.
As part of the fourth annual OC Film Fiesta, which showcases independent films from all over the world, there was a special screening of the award-winning independent film Radio Free Albemuth.
Dozens of “Dickheads”––an affectionate term used by die-hard Philip K. Dick fans––gathered at the Fiesta Twin Theatre in downtown Santa Ana to attend the screening.
Among them was Santa Ana resident and independent filmmaker Greg Beville. Beville was first introduced to Dick’s work through the 1982 film Blade Runner and first read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the book which the film is loosely based on, at the age of 12.
“There is something inherently magical about his writing,” Beville said.
John Alan Simon, the director of Radio Free Albemuth, said that while facing all the challenges of making the film, he felt Dick’s spirit was helping him make it.
The film is considered one of Dick’s most autobiographical works. It takes place in the 1980s, in a fascist alternate America, where the country’s Chief Executive calls for the annulment of civil liberties in order to combat a seemingly fictitious subversive group.
The story is based on visions and other phenomena Dick had during the infamous “2-3-74” incidents while living in Orange County. Dick injects himself into the plot as the character of Nicholas Brady, weaving real-life events into his narrative.
According to the Los Angeles Times, while staying in Vancouver, Canada, Dick had been in contact with Willis McNelly, a Cal State Fullerton professor of English, and tossed around the idea of moving down to Orange County.
After a failed suicide attempt, Dick made the move and lived out the final years of his life in Orange County.
Acclaimed science fiction author and CSUF alumnus Tim Powers picked up Dick, carrying only a Bible and a cardboard box, from LAX.
“Frankly, on that evening he looked cheerful but exhausted and desperate … he was now hoping that he could somehow find a life in this unknown southern end of California, among strangers,” Powers said.
Dick’s five marriages and divorces, along with drug abuse, creative dry spells and a suicide attempt, allowed him to write some of his most personal material during his time, including Radio Free Albemuth, A Scanner Darkly and what would become The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick––a million word collection of journal entries exploring the religious experiences of “2-3-74.”
However, Dick also found some stability in his new home in Orange County.
“I think he kind of found a little community of people that he liked … and just found a way to live quietly and go within,” Simon said. “Which is a lot of what the journey for Radio Free Albemuth is, an inward journey, which is really what all journeys worth taking are.”