The Chromium Fence Diana Harlan Stein


TTHC    390:   Ms received at SMLA Apr 9, 1954.                          

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 (1955 JUL): IMAGINATION    (1955 JUL): IMAGINATION
(1987): THE FATHER THING
(1991): SECOND VARIETY {Citadel Twilight edition only}

TTHC    263:   Dick's sub-agents at Scott Meredith felt free to comment on Dick's work as they received it. Some of the stories are rated: "G" for  "Good," "G plus" for better. Sometimes there are just comments, {...}
    "The Chromium Fence" is "a fine story that never quite attains any stature."
    {... ...}
    The agency, moreover, made more than one attempt to break their author through into the non-sf market.{...} Dick called "The Chromium Fence," according to its green card, "a New Yorker story set in the future," so the sub-agent advised trying it at the New Yorker just to see if it gets a bite. Then Esquire, then Pohl [Frederik Pohl, then editing an original anthology series], then Horace [Gold]...." It wound up at Imagination, for $50.

TTHC    275:   One of Dick's most obscure stories, never reprinted anywhere after its single appearance in the bottom-market Imagination (July 1955) -- at least until the advent of Dick's collected stories in 1987 -- is "The Chromium Fence." (This was the story Dick called "a New Yorker story," and that the agency tried at that magazine.)
It's certainly an unusual story, even for Philip Dick, rooted as it is in very personal issues of hygeine. In the mode of the Kornbluth - Pohl satires, popular at the time, a current trend is magnified to absurd proportions, and made to dominate society: Dick sets one social faction's obsession with cleanliness against another factions desire to sweat and smell as a proof of manhood. Dick's protagonist, who just wants to be left alone, is destroyed for his presumption. In effect, he commits suicide. Dick's psychology, in this story, at least, seems revealed in a fugue state of withdrawal.
   


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