Roog

"Friday Morning"


Written Oct 1951.     Format

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Stability   Chronology Project: Earth

(1953 Feb): F & SF
(1969): THE PRESERVING MACHINE, Ace, pb, 67800
(1969): THE OTHERS {Ed.: Carr} Fawcett, pb, R2044, $0.60
(1972): INVADERS FROM SPACE {Ed.: Silverberg} Hawthorn, ?, $6.95
(1975): REFLECTIONS OF THE FUTURE {Ed.: Russell Hill} Ginn & Co., pb
(1977):  THE BEST OF PKD, Ballantine, pb, 25359
(1979 Winter): UNEARTH Vol.2 #4, ?
(1987): BEYOND LIES THE WUB/BROWN OXFORD
(1988): DOG TALES {Ed.: Dann, Dozois} Ace, pb,
(1993): INVADERS! {Ed.: Dann, Dozois} Ace, pb

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PKDS-22/23    12

We learn that by March 5, 1952, he'd sold five stories: "Roog," "The Little Movement" and "Expendable" to F&SF, "Beyond Lies The Wub" to Planet, and "The Skull" to If.


Levack    121

   My first sale! And to tony boucher at F & SF. He made me work this story over to its very bones before he accepted it. But ah, that day a letter arrived in the mail, instead of a manuscript with a rejection slip! I love this story, and I doubt if I write any better today than I did in 1951, when I wrote it; I just write longer. {PKD}


SL38 -71 19:

Dear Mr. McComas,                                                              29 Oct  1951

    Thank you for the words. I went over the story and cut down 19 pages to 9. I think it shines now instead of merely glowing faintly.
    And I believe I got the objections out of it, too.
    I hope it does. If not, I'm ready to get out the typewriter again.

Very truly yours, PKD


SL:38 19

Gentlemen,

    I'm glad  that "Roog" pleased you. Certainly the new title is alright.
    That's a lot of money for one story. I really feel a little embarassed....
    Writing is a major event for me, and I am beginning to find ways of arranging my life around it, rather than squeezing in a few hours after work or on Sunday. Oddly, most of my writing tends to be fantasy of a religious, drifting nature, ill-suited for worldly things or large publications. All I can say to defend it is that people who read it are disturbed, and go off brooding, very puzzled and unhappy.
    "Roog", as you slyly guessed, is my first acceptance. {...}

   Now, the story which is enclosed with this letter is long, about 6,700 words. Too long? I hope not. It is, I think, a strong story, and there is a lot in it. I will try it on you, and I hope that you will not be offended by receiving it so quickly.  I am very interested in your reaction.*
    Thank you very much for all your kindness and help. I appreciate it a very great deal.

Very truly yours,

PKD

{PKD> Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas,  8 Nov 1951}

*{Possibly "THE PRESERVING MACHINE" -- See Also: Expendable  --.Lord RC}{Later note: possibly not as in a letter to


CSVol1  401

{...} At the time I sold Roog to Anthony Boucher at Fantasy & Science Fiction I was managing a record store part time and writing part time. If anyone asked me what I did I always said "I'm a writer." This was in Berkeley, in 1951. Everybody was a writer. No one had ever sold anything. In fact most of the people I knew believed it to be crass and undignified to submit a story to a magazine; you wrote it, read it aloud to your friends, and finally it was forgotten. That was Berkeley in those days.
    Another problem for me in getting everyone to be awed was that my story was not a literary story in a little magazine, but an sf story. Sf was not read by people in Berkeley in those days (except for a small group of fans who were very strange; they looked like animated vegetables). "But what about your serious writing?" People said to me. I was under the impression that Roog was quite a serious story. It tells of fear; it tells of loyalty; it tells of obscure menace and a good creature who cannot convey knowledge of that menace to those he loves. What could be more serious a theme than this? What people really meant by "serious" was "important." Sf was, by definition, not important. I cringed over the weeks following my sale of Roog as I realised the serious Codes of Behaviour I had broken by selling my story, and an sf story at that.
    {...}
    The fact that Roog sold was due to Tony Boucher outlining to me how the original version should be changed. Without his help I'd still be in the record business. I mean that very seriously. At that time Tony ran a little writing class, working out of the living room in his home in Berkeley. He'd read our stories aloud and we'd see -- not just that they were awful -- but how they could be cured. {...} Tony Boucher is gone. But I am still a writer because of him. Whenever I sit down to start a novel or a story a bit of the memory of that man returns to me. I guess he taught me to write out of love, not out of ambition. It's a good lesson for all activities in this world.
    This little story, Roog, is about an actual dog -- like Tony, gone now. The dog's actual name was Snooper and he believed as much in his work as I did mine. His work (apparantly) was to see that no one stole the food from the owner's garbage can. Snooper was laboring under the delusion that that his owners considered the garbage valuable. Every day they'd carry out paper sacks of delicious food and carefuly deposit them in a strong metal container, placing the lid down firmly. At the end of the week the garbage can was full -- whereupon the worst assortment of evil entities in the Sol System drove up in a huge truck and stole the food. Snooper knew which day of the week this happened on; it was always on Friday. So about 5A.M. on Friday, Snooper would emit his first bark. My wife and I figured that was about the time the garbagemen's alarm clocks were going off. Snooper knew when they left their houses. He could hear them. He was the only one who knew; everybody else ignored what was afoot. Snooper must have thought that he inhabited a planet of lunatics. His owners, and everyone else in Berkeley, could hear the garbagemen coming, but no one did anything. His barking drove me out of my mind every week, but I was more fascinated by Snooper's logic than I was annoyed by his frantic efforts to rouse us. I asked myself, What must the world look like to that dog? Obviously he doesn't see as we see. He has developed a complete system of beliefs, a worldview totally different from ours, but logical given the evidence he is basing it on.
    {...}
    This notion about each creature viewing the world differently from all other creatures -- not everyone would agree with me. Tony Boucher was very anxious to have a particular major anthologer (whom we will call J.M.) read Roog to see if she might use it. Her reaction astounded me. "Garbagemen do not look like that," she wrote me, "They do not have pencil-thin necks and heads that wobble. They do not eat people." I think she listed something like twelve errors in the story all having to do with how I represented the garbagemen. I wrote back, explaining that, yes, she was right, but to a dog -- well, all right, the dog was wrong. Admittedly. The dog was a little crazy on the subject. We're not just dealing with a dog and a dog's view of garbagemen, but a crazy dog -- who has been driven crazy by these weekly raids on the garbage can. The dog has reached a point of desperation. I wanted to convey that. In fact that was the whole point of the story; the dog had run out of options and was demented by this weekly event. And the Roogs knew it. They enjoyed it. They taunted the dog. They pandered to his lunacy.
    Ms. J.M. rejected the story from her anthology, but Tony printed it, and it's still in print; in fact it's in a high-school text book, now. I spoke to a high-school class who had been assigned the story, and all of the kids understood it. Interestingly, it was a blind student who seemed to grasp the story best. He knew from the beginning what the word Roog meant. He felt the dog's despair, the dog's frustrated fury and the bitter sense of defeat over and over again. Maybe somewhere between 1951 and 1971 we all grew up to dangers and transformations of the ordinary which we had never recognized before, I don't know. But anyhow, Roog, my first sale, is biographical; I watched the dog suffer, and I understood a little (not much, maybe, but a little) of what was destroying him, and I wanted to speak for him. That's the whole of it right there. Snooper couldn't talk. I could. In fact I could write it down, and someone could publish it and many people could read it. Writing fiction has to do with this: becoming the voice for those without voices, if you see what I mean.It's not your own voice, you the author; it is all those other voices which normally go unheard.
    The dog Snooper is dead, but the dog in the story, Boris, is alive. Tony Boucher is dead, and one day I will be, and, alas, so will you. But when I was with that high-school class and we were discussing Roog, in 1971, exactly twenty years after I sold the story originally -- Snooper's barking and his anguish, his noble efforts, were still alive, which he deserved. My story is my gift to an animal, to a creature who neither sees nor hears, now, who no longer barks. But goddamn it, he was doing the right thing. Even if Ms. J.M. didn't understand (PKD>1978)


TTHC    254: Success was a long and hard struggle. Both Vince Lusby and Karen Anderson remember "Philip's remarkable collection of rejection slips." He mounted them on the wall of his "little office for writing back of the living room." "There were fifteen or twenty (short stories) out before we sold one," remembers Kleo. "One morning we went out, and seventeen of his manuscripts had been returned in one day. They were spilling out all over the front porch. I think it was one of the worst days of our lives, but we just went in and addressed new envelopes, and sent them out again."
    Dick would tell Mike Hodell in 1976 that his original version of "Roog" had been "eight or nine thousand words" but that he followed Tony Boucher's advice of rewriting it along certain lines and made the ale," cut down to about 2,000 words."13   "He made me work this over to its very bones before he accepted it," he wrote that same year. "But,ah, that day a letter arrived in the mail, instead of a manuscript with a rejection slip!"14

{fn13: Interview with Hodell, Missouri Review, 169
(fn14: Dick, "Afterthoughts By The Author."}


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