A SCANNER DARKLY                                review

1st.EDITION: In the GSM CollectionDoubleday, hb, 01613-1, 1977, 220pp, $6.95, (The Quay Brothers) {Levack: "Bound in beige paper boards with black lettering on the spine. Date code 'G51' [51st week of 1976] appears on the lower right margin of page 216. '1977' on the title page. States 'First Edition' on the copyright page."}

UK 1st.: Gollancz, hb, 02381-3, Nov 1977, 220pp, L3.50 (?) {Levack: "Bound in blue paper boards with gold lettering on the spine. '1977' on the title page."}



{For the best bibliographic info in French goto: www.multimania.com/ggoullet/pkdick/frames.html Thanks for the cover pix, Gilles}

"If you saw me on the street," he said into the microphone, after the applause had died out, "you'd say, 'There goes a weirdo freak doper.' And you'd feel aversion and walk away."

Vote for your Fave PKD Story! "Second, I guess, is A SCANNER DARKLY, which I love primarily for its hilarious portrayal of the 'stoner's' lifestyle. The passages about the Mylar Microdot Corp., and the attempt to smuggle hash across the border as a mechanised dummy, never fail to get a laugh out of me. In addition, its anti-drug message is very important and moving, and the book also feeds my normal paranoia regarding police and surveillance." {Geoff Notkin}

Ken Lopez, Bookseller catalog

. DICK, Philip K. A Scanner Darkly. NY: Ballantine, (1977). First. Signed. First paperback edition of this drug novel that has been compared to the writings of William S. Burroughs, inscribed by the author: "To Tim: A great writer & friend." About fine in wrappers. $450 {This may still be for sale (Apr 1999)}

PKDS-1 2:

SCANNER... was written circa 1973-74.

PKDS-2 7:

After completing FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID, which he had begun before his previous wife had left him, he wrote A SCANNER DARKLY. This work had been several years in the making, but he typed it from page one to the end in less than three weeks... SCANNER kept coming back for more changes, and the work went on for two years before it was ready to be published. Phil then began a work called ZEBRA which became VALISSYSTEM A. {Letter to PKDS from Tessa Dick}

PKDS-4 8:

SCANNER film forthcoming? The Estate of PKD is in serious negotiation with a major French production company, Accent Films, that wants to make a feature film based on A SCANNER DARKLY... PKD's reputation and book sales in France are very impressive -- he is one of the most popular American science fiction writers, and considered a visionary for his insights into popular culture...

PKDS-5 7:

My books don't turn me on all that much. [Laughter] The only book I've ever written that I really like, that I think is any good, is A SCANNER DARKLY. Maybe that's just because its my most recent book.
{PKD-A & B 1977}

PKDS-5 11:

(K.W.Jeter:) Apparantly the French editions are very faithful, to the point where the French edition of A SCANNER DARKLY is so faithful that it has to have footnotes explaining some Americanisms. Like, what are M&Ms.

(A. Watson:) Idioms.

(KWJ:) And product or brand names that wouldn't be familiar to a French person. Instead of translating it into some kind of French equivalent to some kind of candy, they actually kept it. The footnotes are on just about every other page.
... The old WPA period post office was just a couple blocks away. So was the Trader Joe store on Main Street, which is referred to in SCANNER, where the character buys a bottle of wine before he's going to kill himself. Trader Joe's actually exists. It's a small chain of stores down in Southern California, which I really miss...

PKDS-5 13:

I think there were about three different periods. There was the period where he wrote very fast without revision, simply because of economic pressure, when he was up in the Bay area. That accounted for that period. Then there was a later period in the 70s which would include FLOW MY TEARS and A SCANNER DARKLY, books like that, where he was no longer under the economic pressure, and he did go through drafts and drafts of his books. {K.W.JETER}

PKDS-6 12:

I finally decided that I liked the last part of FLOW MY TEARS, but as a whole, I don't like it. I don't think it's totally satisfactory. My appreciation is directed now at A SCANNER DARKLY... {PKD}

PKDS-6 14:

This is why SCANNER is so important to me, I think. There more than any other book I was recording what actual people did and said which would have vanished into the ether otherwise. I was in a position that no one else was in. I was in a position to remember it and recapture it. These were, for the most part, iliterate people, so they'll never know. The one thing that really means something to me is litle braveries, little displays of strength and courage, and something more than competence. {PKD 1977}

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!    A SCANNER DARKLY. His best... The local settings add to my interest but SCANNER is simply his best novel in my opinion. Needs at least four readings to pick up on a lot of connections and symbols and whatnot. Much more complex than it first appears to be and is unusually coherent without sacrificing deep questioning/ambiguity about the nature of reality. -- David Keller, CA

PKDS-8 13:

AUCTION: A SCANNER DARKLY manuscript and correspondence package. Minimum bid $750. Paul Williams.


  1. Doubleday 1st .ed. A SCANNER DARKLY, signed and dated by PKD, book in mint condition, dw torn on spine.
  2. Original letter from PKD dated 3-7-77 describing all materials in this package except items 1 and 2. Typed; signed in pen. Letter concludes: "This collection of MSS is the only written evidence in existence of all the stages through which A SCANNER DARKLY went."
  3. Xerox of a letter from Judy-Lynn Del Rey at Ballantine, 2pp. detailing revisions she would like to see in ASD; PKD has made notes in pen on the xerox, indicating his initial reactions.
  4. PKD's carbon of his 4-page letter replying to Del Rey, responding in detail on every point. "Well maybe I've found my Maxwell Perkins at last." Signed in pen.
  5. Original letter from Del Rey, with copies of ms pages.
  6. 29 carbons of ms pages, described by PKD as the new pages writen at Judy Lynn's request.
  7. PKD's handwriten list of pages of ASD on which German words appear.
  8. PKD's personal carbon-copy of MS of SCANNER as submitted to Doubleday (prior to the 1976 correspondence with Del Rey). Very good condition. 297pp. Signed in pen on title page.
  9. Xerox copy of the original rough draft of ASD written in 1973 and never submitted to Doubleday. This xerox circulated to other publishers when Phil was trying to get out of the Doubleday contract. "This rough draft differs enormously from later versions" -- PKD. 298pp plus 6pp insertions. First page very ragged, others in good condition... The total package allows one to follow the path of the novel, from first completed draft to the fully revised draft submitted for publication, and then to the third state after Del Rey's editorial input.

{The following is from Ken Lopez, Bookseller, Online catalog May 1997. As far as I know this manuscript package is still for sale, Apr 1999}

2. A Scanner Darkly. (Published by Doubleday, 1977). Two complete manuscripts. The original ribbon copy typescript, with pages numbered 1-128 and 3 pages that appeared in the book as the "Author's Note." The text has been extensively reworked in ink by the author, with revisions on a majority of pages and at least two scenes that do not appear in the final book. Together with a second copy, this a complete re-typing consisting of 300 ribbon copy pages, with a few small ink notes and changes by the author, and a number of pencil copy editor's marks.

A Scanner Darkly is widely considered one of Dick's masterpieces. It is a haunting, chilling novel of the extremes of drug abuse, which won the grand prize at an annual science fiction festival held in Metz, France. The novel is based on Dick's own experience in the early '70s, and the people who drifted into and out of his life during that time. His experience clearly frightened him, and he wrote a frightening book, which he at one point offered to use to help the Department of Justice in its fight against drug abuse. While there are science fiction elements to the book, for the most part it is a mainstream, if extravagant, drug novel, akin to William S. Burroughs's The Soft Machine. Dick reportedly begged his publisher to market it as a mainstream novel, rather than SF, an appeal that fell on deaf ears. Still, it is one of the best novels to convey the dark side of the late-Sixties drug experience, infused with pervasive paranoia and relentlessly unflinching in its chronicling of "near total brain death" of the main character. $16,500

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!    A SCANNER DARKLY. Such an intense book. So funny and sad and bitterly truthful. I didn't see it as an anti-drug novel, as has sometimes been thought. It really had nothing to do with drugs except as example. Dick could have written the same novel using any of commodity-capitalism's snares. An indictment of the System so biting that it's no wonder that PKD's safe was blown open not much later... In my opinion there has not been a better novel than A SCANNER DARKLY written in English since George Orwell's 1984. -- Lord RC, IN

PKDS-11 6:

"The person who came along and saved the book was Judy-Lynn Del Rey... she had me completely revise the book. She showed me how to develop the characters, and when she got through working with me on that book... I'd written a great novel." {PKD}

PKDS-13 5:

(JBR) What were his writing habits like at that time?

(TD:) He would shut himself up in the spare room and type, 24 hours a day. He'd stop and rest for anywhere from ten minutes to a half hour, and then he'd be back typing again. He would not go near the kitchen, so I really think he would not have eaten if I had not have taken food in there for him. And that's where the "dogshit scene" in SCANNER comes from.

(JBR) Really?

(TD:)Mm-hmm. We used to eat these cookies called "fiddlesticks". They looked like "Flakey Flicks", er... chocolate covered wafers, rolled in cornflakes?


(TD:) While Phil was writing SCANNER I put a plate of the fiddlesticks in there with a glass of milk and, you now, he had his back to the table I set it on, so he just kept on typing. When he got up to see what I'd brought him, and he looked at the plate, it looked like a pile of dogshit. [laughter]
With SCANNER you know I wasn't married to him yet. And aside from every five minutes with him yelling, "How do you spell such and such?" I also did a lot of proofreading. He would type a few pages and then bring them out for me to proofread, and it got to where he was typing them faster than I could read them. Of course, he worked 24 hours a day and I didn't. I had to keep the apartment and cook dinner and stuff. And sleep. {Tessa Dick & J.B.Reynolds 1986}

PKDS-13 5:

(TD:) Even then I wanted to get a job, and Phil said, "No way." So he started more writing. While he was somewhere in between finishing FLOW MY TEARS for Doubleday and beginning SCANNER, Ed Ferman wrote from F&SF and said they were doing an anniversary issue and they would like a story. So Phil wrote the story of the Tempunauts." {Tessa Dick & J.B.Reynolds 1986}

PKDS-13 16:

Vaclav Kriz sent two items from Czechoslovakia... a copy of the 1986 hardcover Temny Obraz (A SCANNER DARKLY), translated by Jan Kamenisty and published by Smena Publishing in a first edition of 50,000 copies!

PKDS-16 4:

Then Phil, in a profound moment afterwards, said, "Roger, a strange thing happened to me." Which is not really unusual, because strange things always happen to Phil. I nodded. "I have this book, A SCANNER DARKLY. I have these characters who have been on hard drugs for a long time, and they're burnt-out cases. I wanted to choose a scene which exemplified the extent of their mental deterioration. I had then attempting to figure out the functioning of the gear-shift on a ten-speed bicycle." (Phil always chooses good examples for things)
So he had written this up and indicated that they were wrong, because this is how the gear-shift on a ten-speed bicycle really works. His editor called him: "Phil... A funny thing in this manuscript of yours. I happen to own a ten-speed bicycle. I went out and looked at the gear-shift, and -- um -- you've got it wrong yourself."
Phil said, "My God, you know what that means? Roger, how do you know when you're a burnt-out case?" {Roger Zelazny 1978}

"I plan to write a best-seller eventually," Barris said. "A text for the average person about how to manufacture safe dope in the kitchen without breaking the law."


But another thing happened then -- because your question had to do with working habits -- working all those years on FLOW MY TEARS, doing all those drafts, changed my work habits. I'd never done more than a rough draft and a final on a novel before. And there was eleven drafts. God, I was reshaping it word-by-word. Once in, never out; I couldn't go back to doing a rough draft and a final draft, just like that. So the next novel was A SCANNER DARKLY and it took years to write SCANNER; it just took years. The idea came to me in the early part of 1972, and it wasn't until 1976 that I sent the manuscript off to Doubleday. And I wasn't trying to say what was real; I was just no longer able to dash off the stuff at the rate that I had before... {PKD 1977}

TDC 77

I remember when Ballantine acquired the manuscript. Judy-Lynn Del Rey wanted me to revise it. She said, "Well, it's set in the future, and they're talking slang from the 60s. I want you to abolish" -- as if by a wave of the hand -- "all of the slang, throughout the entire book, and manufacture, from your own brain, an entirely new slang. I decree that you will do this.
And I wrote back and I says, "Judy, you know damn well the book is about the 60s. it says so in the author's Afterword." (laughter) "First of all, I'm not able to make up a whole new slang." And she says, "Well, they did it in Clockwork Orange. And if he can do it, why can't you do it.?" And I says, "The book is not about the future. The book is about the past, as a matter of fact. You know it because it says so." Not that I'm lazy... It's just that I'm trying to capture a milieu which is already perishing, and I'm setting it ahead, since this is a convention of my writing.


(PKD:) This happened with SCANNER; it was so funny. I sent off an outline of the first four chapters, and then I didn't come up with the final book for several years. Even my agent was saying to people privately, he doubted if there really was a complete manuscript.

(Apel:) The Maltese SCANNER.

(PKD:) But of course, I did have one. So my work habits now are: I work very slowly and I do a lot of research -- and then proceed at a snail's pace. {PKD-Apel & Briggs 1977}

Vote for your Fave PKD story! A SCANNER DARKLY. For me, probably the best example of Dick's black humour, and concerns with the reality/unreality of different "humans." As a pediatrician I have recommemded/given my copy of this book to several teenagers who are interested in sf. They appear to be deeply moved by it, and relate to it from their own (i.e. drug difficulties in modern society) perspective. -- ?

SF EYE #14 Spring, 1996 p46.

{...}worse things that I put in A SCANNER DARKLY. I saw people who were reduced to a point where they couldn't complete a sentence, they really couldn't state a sentence. And this was permanant, this was for the rest of their lives. Young people. These were people maybe 18 or 19, and I just saw, you know, it was like a vision of Hell. And I vowed to write a novel about it sometime, and I was just... I'm just... it's just... well, I was in love with a girl who was an addict and I didn't know she was an addict and it was just pathetic. So I wrote A SCANNER DARKLY.

{Uwe Anton and Werner Fuchs, interview at Metz, 1977. Tr. Frank C. Bertrand}


Doubleday went up to three thousand dollars advance for my new book, A SCANNER DARKLY. They said that that was the most they could go for a "science fiction" novel. So after they had acquired it for three thousand dollars, they turned it over to the trade department, which has no limit on what it can offer, and then they told me that the real limit was four thousand dollars. But I was too dumb to know the difference. They acquired it for three thousand dollars, which is just chicken feed, let's face it--three thousand bucks, and it took me like three years to write the book. Now that's a thousand dollars a year. Somebody sits down to write science fiction, and then the publisher markets it as a mainstream novel and gets to sit on both stools. They get to eat the porridge out of one pot, and then they get to eat the porridge out of the other pot, and I got no porridge in mine at all. They're going to make a bundle on it, but Ballantine deserves to make a bundle on it because Judy-Lynn Del Rey at Ballantine went over the manuscript page by page with me and told me what it needed in order to be a truly competent book. This is the first time that any editor has ever done that with me since THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.


Pete Israel, who was the editor for Putnam then, went over THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE page by page, and now Judy-Lynn has done that with A SCANNER DARKLY. So now I've got two good novels under my belt because I've had two good editors. Judy-Lynn Del Rey is probably the greatest editor since Maxwell Perkins: she showed me how to create a character. I've been selling novels for twenty-two years, and she showed me how to develop a character. My first reaction was, "Dear Judy-Lynn, how would you like to take a one-way walk off the Long Beach Pier?" But then I started thinking about what she was saying, and soon as my fuse had burned out--being very short, it didn't take long--I realized that she was teaching me how to write. It's too bad that nobody did that twenty-five years ago, because then maybe my books would have made more sense. But A SCANNER DARKLY? A master craftsman came into that book--Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Now I know what to do when I write a book. You don't just write whatever comes into your head while you're sitting there in front of the typewriter.


(Interviewer:) Does A SCANNER DARKLY have anything to do with Cordwainer Smith's Scanners?

(Dick:) I didn't know anybody used that title.

(Interviewer:) Cordwainer Smith's first sf story--Scanners Live in Vain.

(Dick:) Suffering succotash. Does that mean I have to change my title?

(Interviewer:) I don't think so. He's dead.

(Dick:) Well, I know he's dead. That wasn't even his real name. No, A SCANNER DARKLY is from Paul's "through a glass, darkly."

{for continuation see:The Mainstream That Through The Ghetto Flows}

GSM xerox collection:

Dear Mr. Bush:

    As to the article "Kant's 'Noumenal Self' and Doppleganger in P.K.Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY," in all honesty I couldn't get through it. This is really a terrible thing to say, but the article is so pretentious and pompous -- and, worse, so far off the mark -- that it bears no relationship to my novel. SCANNER deals not with schizophrenia and not with neurosis but with organic brain damage producing split-brain dysfunction and a tragic parody of bilateral hemispheric parity, inasmuch as damage to the normally dominant left hemisphere (Bob Arctor) allows a secondary personality to form in the right hemisphere (Fred), but the two brain hemispheres simply war on each other until at last they collapse into the deteriorated third personality Bruce. See, I said it all in a few sentences; there is no more to say. Here is an instance where that which we are as a species striving for -- bilateral hemispheric parity -- misfires; when at last a unitary self is formed it is not a metaself, but, and this is so terribly evident toward the conclusion of the novel, a mere reflex thing that only repeats back what it has heard; biological life continues, but the soul is dead.

    Criticism, to be valuable, must make sense and must relate in some way to that which it analyzes. This article does neither. I hate writing a negative letter like this, but everything bad about academic literary criticism is found in this article; it is dull; it is pointless, and its only purpose -- if indeed it has a purpose -- is to exhibit the education of its author, who, I feel, really should read fewer books and, instead, play frisbee in a park somewhere with some little kids (and I might take that advice myself, in view of my recent writing). Perhaps we are all spending too much time thinking and reading and writing when we should be out in the sun. Sorry, but this is how I feel.


Philip K. Dick

{PKD>Erwin Bush, Burning Bush Publications, 16 Sep 1981}

   Science Fiction Review2 #20    Feb 1977:

    Phil Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY, issued by Doubleday at $6.95, made more interesting because of what Phil had to say about the book in the SFR #19 interview. It's a well-written novel about drug addiction and the dealer/user/narc underground.

    And, it isn't science fiction, in a true sense; it's a translation. The 1986 time-frame, the Substance D drug, the advanced spy devices employed... these are not essential to the plot.

    But it is a terrifying novel, Geis, in the subtle destructiveness of the drugs, in the self-destruction, and the horrible ends-justifies-the-means plot of the Federal narcs.

    Better believe it. Phil Dick was a "hero" of sorts to the sf fans who were into drugs, but this book will cool that ardor; he has seen too many friends turn into mental basket cases, and this book is his warning. It has elements of Kafka and Orwell. Recommended.

{Reviewed by R.E.Geis}{GSM xerox collection}

        Vote for your Worst PKD Story!    I found SCANNER unreadable -- Cat Imril Ishikawa in FDO 6

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