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EYE IN THE SKY: A BRIEF HISTORY by Lord RC


    We can sense, from his comments, that Philip K. Dick was well-satisfied with EYE IN THE SKY: "I enjoyed writing all of them. But I think that if I could only choose a few, which, for example might escape World War III, I would choose, first, EYE IN THE SKY..." (PKDS 2-13). And, "I really like... EYE IN THE SKY." (PKDS 6-12 Apel & Briggs). Plus the feedback he was getting was positive: "Tony Boucher gave it the best novel of the year rating, and in another magazine Venture Ted Sturgeon called it, 'the kind of a small trickle of good sf which justifies reading all the worthless stuff.'" (PKDS 2-12) And a letter from Don Wolheim at ACE Books further testifies to everyone's satisfaction with EYE: "... Glad you liked the cover, and especially the presentation of EYE IN THE SKY. We can't keep a copy in the office; visiting fans keep carrying them off..." (PKDS 17-6 Wollheim > PKD, March 29, 1957). That cover of the first ACE edition, D-211, published in 1957, is of course one of the most memorable in the annals of science fiction cover art. The huge eyeball pinning the mortals in its penetrating glare. The painting is by Valigursky. As an extra filip to his satisfaction, EYE was published as a full-size ACE Double, the pages not shared with another writer turned upside-down. In a sense, then, this was PKD's first full published novel. SOLAR LOTTERY, THE WORLD JONES MADE and THE MAN WHO JAPED were all half of an ACE Double.

But, as might be expected with PKD, getting the novel on the newsstands was no simple thing. Apparantly he wrote the book quickly enough: "EYE IN THE SKY... I wrote in two weeks..." (PKDS 6-12 Apel & Briggs) and: "I don't know where I got the dialogue from, it just rolled out of me ... It took only two weeks to write the first draft. Ah, but could I do it now! I'm far too tired." (TTHC 295 PKD > Sandra Meisal, August 27, 1970) But one wonders if he told Ms. Meisal that he wrote it under the influence of amphetamines? PKD began using amphetamines in the 50s:

[Paul Williams]: When did you start taking them? {amphetamines}
[PKD]: Well, in the... Fifties.
[Williams] So really early on in your writing career?
[PKD] Yeah. Um, by the time I wrote EYE IN THE SKY. And I attributed my speed of writing, my rapidity, and my high productivity and my pushing myself, to the amphetamines. And then I find now I do exactly the same without."
(OAR 122)

But no matter how he wrote it he promptly sent the manuscript off, under the title WITH OPENED MIND, to the Scott Meredith Literary Agency in New York, where it was received on February 15, 1955. Two years before it would see publication in 1957 (indeed, THE MAN WHO JAPED, written shortly after EYE IN THE SKY, saw publication first in 1956). What took so long?

The manuscript was apparantly welcome at SMLA where the Agency reader thought it "'Very odd... Off trail but good of its kind.' He suggested trying Ballantine Books first, but they and several other publishing houses passed on it; it didn't sell until its eleventh go-round and second try at ACE -- after some extensive rewriting." (TTHC 295) We know that Don Wollheim at ACE liked it but, "'I was very reluctant to do it. I enjoyed it immensely. But paperbacks were in a young state, and we didn't want to offend anybody. Here was a book that would offend religious people -- God enters it, the Eye of God.' He feared that the American Legion might object, and other groups. 'Wyn read EYE before we published it, and we talked a lot about it. He'd been a Socialist in his youth so he took a chance -- if they argue, they argue. No one complained.'" (TTHC 295ff)

Nevertheless some changes had to be made. Wyn insisted on it: "What did A.A.Wyn object to in all this? Sylvester's fanatical universe, in which engineers work on the problem of 'maintaining a constant supply of untainted grace for all major population centers', was just the sort of thing that could piss off the American Legion and fundamentalist Christians. And so Wyn insisted that Sylvester's God be called "(Tetragrammaton)" and that his "Babiist" cult be designated Moslem in origin -- how many outraged Islamic sf readers could there be?" (DI 90)

"'Yes, it was safer that way,' says Wollheim. 'God is God, but we weren't going to step on somebody's toes.'" (TTHC 295ff)

Dick didn't seem to object to the rewritng chore: "... I had new ideas to put in, so I didn't mind; in fact, I think it came out better -- which is an anomaly..." (PKDS 22-13)

The happy result of all this was the publication of EYE IN THE SKY in 1957 as a full-size ACE novel which meant Dick was paid the full price of $1500. Not bad for two weeks work.

Then, Dick, with glowing reviews coming in and despite seeing EYE as a breakthrough novel, suddenly stopped writing science fiction and turned his attention to breaking into the Mainstream, writing PUTTERING ABOUT IN A SMALL LAND and MARY AND THE GIANT. And even though expansions of his novellas appeared over the next two years, it wasn't until 1959 and TIME OUT OF JOINT that he returned to science fiction (and they didn't market JOINT as sf anyway).

There is also some confusion, at least on my part, as to whether EYE IN THE SKY was written before THE MAN WHO JAPED. We have PKD's statement that , "I wrote THE WORLD JONES MADE and, later on, THE MAN WHO JAPED. And then a novel tht seemed to be a genuine breakthrough for me: EYE IN THE SKY..." (PKDS 2-12) And on the authority of Paul Williams and Gregg Rickman we have it that the manuscript for EYE was received on February 15, 1955. But that of THE MAN WHO JAPED didn't arrive at the Scott Meredith Literary Ageny until October 17, 1955. Add to this Rickman's statement that: "Two months after completing THE WORLD JONES MADE, Dick despatched the manuscript of his next novel, EYE IN THE SKY, to his agents in New York where it arrived on February 15, 1955" (TTHC 295) and we can safely decide that EYE IN THE SKY was written first, probably in January of 1955. THE MAN WHO JAPED would have been written in the Spring or Summer of that year, probably later rather than sooner as the receipts of the SMLA show also that MARY AND THE GIANT was received in 1955 but with no date. And the short story The Unreconstructed M arrived at the Agency on June 2, 1955. It's possible that JAPED was written immediately after EYE and before MARY AND THE GIANT or The Unreconstructed M or vice versa. And there is PUTTERING ABOUT IN A SMALL LAND to be considered. Lawrence Sutin has: "...PUTTERING ABOUT IN A SMALL LAND, which Phil was writing just as EYE hit the sf market in 1957..." (DI 90ff) If that's the case then the chronology becomes more difficult with PKD writing several stories simultaneously, perhaps, but the correct chronology appears to be:

(1954) -- THE WORLD JONES MADE
(February 15, 1955) -- EYE IN THE SKY
(June 2, 1955) -- The Unreconstructed M
(no date, 1955) -- MARY AND THE GIANT
(October 17, 1955) -- THE MAN WHO JAPED
(1957) -- PUTTERING ABOUT IN A SMALL LAND


Essay taken from FDO#6, written by Lord RC

 

 

 


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