June 6, 2010

Real names in Philip K. Dick’s Valis

Filed under: philip k. dick — ubikcan @ 10:24 am

Here’s a list of names of the real people who appear as characters in Dick’s novel Valis. Since they are often only lightly fictionalized it’s not too difficult to do and these have all appeared elsewhere before, but I thought I’d just compile them here. Sutin’s biography Divine Invasions is a major source, but you can guess a few oneself. Unfortunately the published Letters of PKD deletes people’s last names (a highly unusual act in publishing real letters), but they can be used to confirm an identification.

A disclaimer might be needed: This doesn’t mean that everything said about the character in the novel is the way to understand the real person, of course, especially as Dick altered or imputed characteristics for the sake of the work. Dick was an artist, after all, and the work must come first.

If there are any mistakes, please let me know.

“Horselover Fat,” “Philip K. Dick” — Philip K. Dick

“Beth” — Tessa Dick

“David” — Tim Powers / D. Scott Apel

“Kevin” — K.W. Jeter / Kevin C. Briggs

“Gloria Knudson” — “Donna” (Sutin, p. 178, who says she also inspired Angel Archer in Transmigration and Donna Hawthorne in Scanner). Although Sutin fictionalises her name as “Donna”, actually PKD identifies her himself in his essay “The Evolution of a Vital Love” (in The Dark Haired Girl): Kathy Demuelle (p. 172). He also tells us that the dedication in We Can Build You is her. In Valis Gloria commits suicide, but in Transmigration she’s the narrator. See PKD letter of July 14, 1974 to Claudia Bush (in Collected Letters, 1974, or the actual letter for sale here).

“Sherri Solvig” — Doris Sauter (eg., Sutin p. 239)

“Maurice” — Barry Spatz (website here). About 10 years ago Spatz kindly sent me his PKD case files, see previous blog entry.

“Father Larry” — Father Adams (see this amazing account by Adams’ son, Benjamin, who was 11 at the time! Scroll to “Nobly Wild, Not Mad: Memories of Phil Dick”).

Some real people are also mentioned in Valis, such as Bishop James (“Jim”)  Pike.


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