So as part of research for my new book, The Simulation Hypothesis (see original article here), I interviewed Tessa B. Dick, the last wife of acclaimed science fiction author Philip K. Dick. Many of you will know of Philip K. Dick from the movie adaptations of his work including Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, and the recent TV show The Man in the High Castle, and others.
Although my original goal was to talk about reality being a simulation, she told lots of great stories about Phil and his beliefs and paranormal experience (including some interesting pre-cognitive dreams). I’ll be posting the audio as a podcast as soon as I get to editing it — but the l transcript (lightly edited, taking out stuff that was distracting from the interview) is here for those who can’t wait!
Tessa is the author of several books, including Blade Runner Creator Philip K. Dick, Conversations with Philip K. Dick, and Remembering Philip K. Dick: Firebright. If you are a fan of her late husband, I recommend getting the books — they’re a great read!
Riz: …Hi, Tessa…. . As I said, this was originally for my book, which is going to be about the simulation hypothesis, which is the idea that we are living inside a virtual reality, but we may go ahead and broadcast it as a podcast, as well.
Tessa: Well, that’ll be fine.
Riz: Okay. Great. Now, where are you located?
Tessa: I’m in Crestline. It’s a little mountain community just below Lake Arrowhead.
Riz: Okay. In California then?
Tessa: Yeah, southern California, San Bernardino County.
Riz: Got it. … When I got involved with Radio Free Albemuth, they took us on a Philip K. Dick walking tour in Berkeley and so we saw all these different places where he lived in Berkeley.
Tessa: Yeah, he really had an attachment to northern California. He spent much of his life there.
Riz: Now, you lived in southern California, right?
Riz: Where did you guys live when you were married?
Tessa: Well, always in Fullerton, first in apartments and then in a rented house. Then when he left, he moved to Santa Ana, which is basically a stone’s throw away from Fullerton.
Riz: Got it.
Tessa: He needed to be close to shops and banks and things like that because he didn’t like to drive.
Riz: He had a driver’s license, but he just didn’t like to drive?
Tessa: Right, so he wanted to be in walking distance. Sometimes he had trouble leaving his house at all. He had a phobia.
Riz: Right. I read about that, had sort of agoraphobia where he just didn’t want to be outside or around a lot of people.
Tessa: Well, both, but I don’t know. In a small group or one-on-one, he was okay, but he didn’t do well in crowds.
Right. Makes sense. Well, before we jump into the whole Matrix thing, I thought I’d tell you a story that I heard from another science fiction writer. I don’t know if you know her, Ursula K. Le Guin?
Tessa: Well, I never met her, but Phil knew her and they wrote letters back and forth.
Riz: Yeah, so I met her a few years ago because I was involved in adapting one of her books into a movie. She mentioned that she had gone to the same high school with Phil. She said that when she realized that originally, this must be before they had did letters to each other. She asked all her friends if they remembered him because they were only like one year apart in high school in Berkeley. She said that nobody could remember him and so they went back to the yearbook and looked for his picture and they couldn’t find it. She said it felt like a Philip K. Dick novel where somebody had gone back and removed him from the records or something.
Tessa: Yeah, even in high school he was very shy and probably just didn’t show up for the school picture.
Riz: Yeah. That makes sense. Great. Well, I heard you on Coast to Coast the other day with Jimmy Church … You mentioned during that time that his personal view about reality was closer to the movie The Matrix than perhaps even some of his own books. I thought I’d ask you a bit about that because that’s very much what my book is about.
Tessa: Yes. Well, have you heard at least clips from the speech he gave in Metz France in ‘77?
Riz: I think I heard one clip from it or a part of it, but not the whole thing.
Tessa: The whole thing used to be online in little 10-minute segments, but I can’t find that anymore. All I find is these clips that have been edited and sliced together.
Riz: That was at where in ‘77?
Tessa: Yeah. He was invited to be guest of honor at a science fiction convention in Metz and he actually went with his friend Joan and gave a speech. Right afterward, Joan dumped him because she thought he was nuts.
Tessa: After she heard that speech.
Riz: Was that the speech … I have one quote from a speech which I thought might’ve been that one where he said reality was like a computer simulation and you could go back and change a variable and it would change.
Tessa: We are living in a computer-programmed reality and the only clue we have to it is when something is changed. Sorry. My alarm is telling me to be ready for your call.
Riz: And we’re already started on it.
Tessa: The only clue we have to it is when some variable is changed and alternative reality branches off …
Riz: I know one of the stories you tell in your books, as I read recently, was that when he wrote the Adjustment Team, it was because he thought things were changing. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that.
Tessa: Sure. He told the story differently different times, but basically, he came home from the movies with his wife Kleo and reached for the light switch and it wasn’t there. It was actually a chain hanging down from a light in the ceiling, but he didn’t remember having that kind of light. He thought he had a switch on the wall. Rather than thinking he made a mistake, he concluded that someone had changed everything while they were gone. That’s what the Adjustment Team is about.
Riz: Yeah, so it was a different kind of light switch. I always thought the story was the light switch was in the wrong place, but it was a chain rather than a switch when he came back.
Riz: That would make it even more obvious that something is different.
Tessa: Yeah. Another version, too, would say he walked into the bathroom and tried to pull the chain, but he had a light switch on the wall, but something happened where the light switch wasn’t where he thought it was and not even the same kind of switch.
Riz: Wow. Now, did anything like that happen when you were with him?
Tessa: Well, not a light switch, but we would find things moved around when we came home, but Phil figured out that one of the girls we knew who used to live in that apartment had kept her key and she was just coming in and reading books and things like that while we were gone.
Riz: Right, so that one had a less esoteric explanation, I guess.
Tessa: Yeah, right, but eventually, our house was such a mess that we couldn’t tell if things had been moved or changed, but that’s because of Phil working at home and demanding my complete attention. The second time the galleys for Scanner Darkly came back I refused to look at them. I was sick of it.
Riz: Really? How long had he been working on Scanner Darkly?
Tessa: Well, he actually wrote the first draft in ’73, ’72 and ’73, end of year/beginning of the year. It was published in either ’76 or ‘77.
Riz: Okay, so a few years later, yeah.
Tessa: Yeah, well, he had to keep researching the split brain. He was always reading the lay person’s version of a science journal like Psychology Today and he had read about epileptics having when they’re very severe, they have the corpus callosum cut so the two sides of your brain, the left and the right, could not communicate with each other because in their seizures, something that’s started small in one part of the brain would cross over and affect the whole brain and the seizure would be really dangerous, life threatening even. He also read about how if they split your field of vision so that only your right brain sees an object, your left brain can’t come up with the word for what that object is because they’re not communicating.
Riz: Right, so you’re seeing it, your recognizing it, but you can’t verbalize it.
Tessa: Yeah, the word … Since then, they found that it isn’t quite that clearcut with the separation of ability to use brain from one side to the other, but basically, he thought that this drug that he called substance death could split your brain and make you actually two different people with different habits, mannerisms, and personalities.
Riz: Now, I saw the Scanner Darkly movie a while back, but I haven’t actually read that. Was that sort of the substance in that book?
Tessa: Pretty much.
Riz Well, one thing you mentioned in your books was that with The Man in the High Castle, Phil thought that he had actually remembered different realities, whether it was JFK not being assassinated or the Nazis actually winning the war and he felt like they went back.
Riz: No worries.
Tessa: Every morning I have to cough. I could mute my phone, but it’s decided to save energy by going black when I’m talking.
Riz: Yeah, no worries. I was just asking about if Philip, he said that he remembered different histories.
Tessa: He did, and apparently, if Kennedy had lived, then LBJ would’ve been out on his keister. We would not have had Nixon. We’d probably have Bobby Kennedy. For some reason, that timeline seemed to lead to a nuclear war, so getting back to the Adjustment Team, he thought maybe someone had changed it. One of his visions from people who claim to be from our future and he was awake, he wasn’t sleeping and dreaming.
Tessa: I could see shadows. I kind of saw them, but I kind of didn’t and maybe I was just influenced by Phil. These people who said they were from the future claimed that they had tried and tried to stop the JFK assassination, but every time they stopped one plot against him, some other plot succeeded, so they gave up because they figured it was kind of a hard event, one you couldn’t change.
Riz: Oh, wow, so this is what the people from the future … Did they look like humans?
Tessa: Well, Phil said they look human, but their heads were odd, kind of like that famous bust of Nefertiti with the large skull going back, kind of like what they call coneheads.
Riz: Yup, yup, I’ve seen those.
Tessa: And very small nose and mouth, but big eyes, but basically, normal humans, not any type of alien that we’ve heard described. They also told him that they were interfering with our time because their time, which is our future, was so awful. They drew war and just plain pollution. They wrecked the planet and they had this eugenics program to supposedly make the human race better and they ended up unable to procreate. They couldn’t bear children, so the human race was dying off.
Riz: Okay. Wow. That’s why they were going back, to try to change history?
Riz: Now, that sounds a lot like sometimes the people who talk about alien abductions have mentioned something like that where the aliens can’t reproduce and they were coming to get DNA that they needed for some reason. It’s a lot of speculation, but that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that was part of what they had told Phil, as well.
Tessa: Yeah. I have written about it at least in passing, but with everything that’s happening now, it’s kind of likely that we’ll go down that road.
Riz: Right, yeah, kind of scary, actually.
Tessa: My working hypothesis about aliens and UFOs is that our ancient ancestors colonized other planets and they’re coming back.
Riz: Right, so tying to almost the Ancient Alien.
Tessa: Well, I can’t watch Ancient Aliens. I watch that sort of thing, but that particular show just annoys me.
Riz: Really? Yeah, yeah, it’s got its fans and detractors, I guess. Yeah.
Tessa: Oh, I’m not going to detract from it because I haven’t watched enough to form an opinion, but as far as aliens go, I’ve never seen a gray or a green or a mantis. If any of the nonhuman ones are actually real, I would go with the reptilians.
Tessa: They’re real on Doctor Who.
Riz: That’s true. You have the Daleks and all the other guys in Doctor Who.
Tessa: Yeah, the Daleks turn out to be human mostly, but there’s this one amazing character who’s a lizard.
Riz: Right. Yeah, I think I saw that episode recently.
Tessa: He’s been on a few. I can’t watch the new episodes because I don’t live in the right country to watch and I can’t afford BBC TV.
Riz: Oh, you don’t have BBC America for the new season? Yeah, it’s a little different, pretty good, though. I like it. Jodie Whittaker is the first female doctor.
Tessa: Well, someday it’ll get on Netflix or YouTube. Anyway, this female reptilian alien is always helping Doctor Who.
Riz: Okay. I don’t know if I’ve seen that one. I’ll have to check that out. Cool. Now, getting back to the alternate history, would you say that Phil said he remembered that alternate history or was it just from the people from the future telling him?
Tessa: That was not what he remembered. What he remembered was before he ever saw these people something was there. I know I saw something, but you could see right through them, as if they were a hologram. I didn’t hear them say anything and Phil thought it was like mind reading. They were projecting their thoughts to him, not actually speaking.
Riz: Right. You said before he saw them, he had also remembered alternate history.
Tessa: Yeah. Even when I first met him and a lot of people from Cal State Fullerton would stop by for the coffee and conversation, he was always talking about how the Nazis really won World War II. Germany lost, but the Nazis won. They just picked up and moved because Germany didn’t have a lot of natural resources and guess who does? The United States.
Riz: Yup, we have plenty here.
Tessa: And a lot of them went to South America, too.
Tessa: Natural resources.
Riz: Was that when also with Operation Paperclip and the Nazi scientists coming here?
Tessa: That was a small part of it. There’s much more to it than that, but that’s the public face of it.
Riz: Okay. Oh, wow. Now, was this something that he remembered or was it from his research?
Tessa: Well, I think it was a combination, but he remembered a world in which the Nazis actually openly ruled the United States. He never wrote the sequel to The Man in the High Castle, which it focused on the Japanese occupation of the West Coast, but he had read enough of the actual documents in the library to know that he just couldn’t stomach describing the Nazis.
Riz: Right. Right.
Tessa: In actuality, the Japanese were at least as brutal, but he didn’t see it that way.
Riz: Interesting. Now, in the sequel, was there this element of like going between the worlds? I mean, it’s the sequel that wasn’t written on slipping back and forth between our reality and the one where the Nazis won or is that something they just came up with for the TV show?
Tessa: Well, he had … I always blank on the first name. Abendsen, I think it’s Hawthorne Abendsen.
Riz: Yeah. Yeah.
Tessa: The author of this book that was capable of breaking through the veil and showing people the real world where the Nazis lost and in a sense, that’s true. What’s the first thing a dictator does? Burns all the books and kills all the scholars. Kind of reminds me of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s book.
Riz: Sure. Now, did Phil ever start on a sequel or he sort of had it in his head and didn’t quite actually write it?
Tessa: I don’t think he ever wrote anything down, but he did talk about it a lot. He continued reading. There was no internet then and it was harder to get information, but he read what he could find and he was convinced that somehow these two realities were overlapping, one in which the Axis won and one in which the Allies won. For some reason, it wasn’t quite set in concrete.
Riz: He felt like they were overlapping even in our reality or today or, I guess, back then in the ‘70s.
Tessa: Right. What do we have? We have all of these intelligence agencies and crazy laws and Homeland Security and the NSA absolutely records all phone calls and they claim well, they don’t listen to them. They just have this computer decide if they should listen.
Riz: Right. Yup, probably listening right now.
Tessa: Now I have to get new ID or I can’t get on a plane.
Riz: Yeah, that’s coming up I think next year, right, in California and other places?
Tessa: Yeah. California kept getting more time extensions and there are no more extensions.
Riz: Yeah. I have a California driver’s license, as well, so I’m going to have to do the same thing. I think we have until next year, right, or 2020?
Tessa: Right. People are already lining up for hours at the DMV for their new license, their Real ID. I look into it and I think I’d be better off just getting a passport. It costs more, but the lines are shorter. You go to the post office.
Riz: Yeah. You can get the passport through the mail.
Tessa: Well, problem is I have to get a notarized statement of who I am because my name is not the same as on my birth certificate. That’s my maiden name. I have a copy of my birth certificate, but it’s so old that it’s falling apart, so what it is is I have to get a notarized statement in order to get my birth certificate because all of a sudden, you can’t just ask for a birth certificate. You have to prove who you are and why you need it.
Riz: Yeah. Yeah. It’s true.
Tessa: Yeah, and since I was born in Los Angeles County, it’s $75 if it hasn’t gone up this year.
Riz: Right. Well, I was born in Pakistan and so it’s even harder to come by birth certificates back in those days. That was back in ’69, although Philip, you said his birthday was December 16th, right?
Riz: Yeah, so my birthday was on December 17th and recently, I find out Arthur C. Clarke’s birthday was also on December 16th, on the same day, so it must be a auspicious day for science fiction writers.
Tessa: Yeah. Now I have a cat trying to get into my coffee. I gave you fresh water, Slappy, and I fed you food. Cats.
Riz: How many cats do you have?
Tessa: I’m down to one and a half.
Riz: One and a half?
Tessa: Well, one of them is feral, who does come inside when it’s cold and she eats in my house, but I can’t get near her.
Riz: Wow. Well, one thing I wanted to ask you about was that the Roman Empire, that was one aspect of his vision that I didn’t quite understand, that somehow we’re still in the Roman Empire days. Is that outside the simulation? Is that what his idea was or maybe you can explain that a little bit.
Tessa: Yeah. Basically, I would go back further in history, but Phil focused on the Roman Empire and as a metaphor, all the empires of history are the same empire, the Roman. Let’s see if I can put them in order timeline. Okay. We had the Persian and the Greeks and the Romans and then the Holy Roman Empire, which was basically German, although Charlemagne actually had his capital in France. The national boundaries were not really settled back then. In modern times, of course, you can look at the British Empire and now people are saying that the United States is an empire. We had a Russian Empire, which morphed into the Soviet Union and even though it fell apart, Russia is pretty much grabbing everything.
Tessa: Basically, he focused on Rome because he had some kind of connection to early Christian times. We would be walking down the alley between … Oh, someone’s calling me. Nobody calls me. It doesn’t say a number or a name, so I’m not answering.
Riz: Okay. Great.
Tessa: It seemed safer to walk down the alley than on the sidewalk by the street where there was a lot of traffic, so on both sides we’d see the back windows of apartments, two-story apartment buildings, and Phil would see them covered with iron bars to keep people in, kind of like security bars, but they didn’t actually have those. He was just seeing them and remarking that people actually pay for their own imprisonment in these little boxes. They get to go to work and school and so forth, but basically, they’re imprisoned in these apartments which keep people apart and that in a real sense, we are prisoners. Of course, Phil thought he actually had been an early Christian in Rome named Thomas and that he was somehow in a psychic connection with his past life, so he-
Riz: Is that where he got that connection to Rome was through that psychic connection or was it more of a metaphor or did he actually believe that the Roman Empire was still out there outside that virtual reality, if you will?
Tessa: Well, it depended on when you asked him.
Tessa: It’s kind of like I’ll believing the impossible on Tuesday, but not on Wednesday or Thursday.
Riz: Right. Oh, so there were times when he felt like it was a literal Roman Empire that was still in existence and other times, it was more of a metaphor-ish thing.
Tessa: Yes. Well, for a long time, he had focused on religion because of his friendship with Bishop Pike in the early ’60s. He went to church because his third wife Anne made him go and through the church, he met Bishop Pike. At the time, Pike’s secretary, Lauren Bergman?, was Nancy’s stepmother. That’s how he met Nancy, his fourth wife.
Riz: Oh, really? Okay. I didn’t realize that.
Tessa: Is it Bergman or Bergson? I think it’s Lauren Bergson. Anyway, she was Pike’s personal secretary for several years. There was a lot of bed hopping back then, I guess.
Riz: Was that in the ‘60s?
Tessa: Yeah, early ’60s, so it wasn’t really socially acceptable.
Riz: Right, but it was through Bishop Pike that he started to investigate the religious side? Was that where he sought the connection to his [crosstalk 00:36:29] self?
Tessa: Bishop Pike was a heretic, kind of an Arian after Arius, A-R-I-U-S, an early Christian figure who insisted that Jesus was not God and, of course, his view was not accepted at the Nicene Council. That’s how Pike died. He went to Israel to find evidence that Jesus didn’t die on the cross and died in the desert there under mysterious and rather suspicious circumstances.
Riz: Bishop Pike did, you’re saying?
Tessa: Yeah. It really hit so hard when he learned about it. He was certain that someone had murdered him, possibly his second wife, Diane Kennedy. I don’t know enough to form an opinion, but that’s what Phil thought.
Riz: Yeah. Yeah.
Tessa: Anyway, Phil was focused on the idea that there are two gods, a good God and a bad God, and that this world is ruled by the bad God, but the good God will take over someday. It sounds a lot like gnosticism, but there’s a basic difference. The gnostics believe that they can achieve salvation through knowledge, but Phil believed that you achieve salvation through the source of that knowledge, in other words, through God, in the form of a savior who walks on the Earth, which, of course, would be Jesus.
Riz: Right, so Phil was sounds like very much in the Christian, at least the tradition going back to where it came from and what it meant.
Tessa: Right. He saw the empire as a force that suppresses Christians. Hey, isn’t that happening today? Make a cake or go to jail. Well, personally, I would make the cake because of the church is supposed to accept everybody as they are. We’re all sinners, so you can’t say that someone else’s sin is any worse than yours. We’re all doomed.
Riz: Right. Makes sense. Coming back to this idea of this alternate history, you mentioned in your book about Billy the Kid and the website and how it was different. Could you maybe talk about that a little bit?
Tessa: Yeah. I’ve followed up on it here and there because there’s an official site apparently run by his descendants. I first heard about it on Art Bell. One of the callers said he was in a college course on American history and that his textbooks said that Billy the Kid was shot and killed during an attempt to break out of jail, but he distinctly remembered that Billy the Kid was shot in the back while riding on the trail. Same guy did it in both stories. I keep forgetting the …
Riz: Pat Garrett, right? Yeah.
Tessa: Yeah. Okay. I looked it up and the website said he was killed during an attempt to break out of jail. Well, a few years later, I mentioned that to my brother and he said no, he was shot on the trail in the back while riding away by Pat Garrett, so I checked the website again and this time it said that Billy the Kid was shot at a friend’s house by Pat Garrett, but he was at a friend’s house while running away from the law. Well, that isn’t Billy the Kid. That would be Jesse James. That’s how Jesse James died, but it said Billy the Kid died that way. Few years after that I looked again and the website didn’t say how he died.
Riz: What do you think is happening there?
Tessa: Well, either somebody’s changing the actual history or they’re just changing the written history.
Riz: Yeah, and so do you believe, as, perhaps, Phil did that we’re living in some kind of illusion reality and that people can change different parts of the past or loop back? What are your thoughts on that?
Tessa: I kind of think that time is not what we think it is. Yeah, now I just went to the website again and it says, “Late at night in Fort Sumner, the Kid is shot and killed by Sheriff Garrett at Pete Maxwell’s house.” Well, they’ve always told us he was shot in the back while riding the trail. I remember my education.
Riz: Right, so these could be either little like so it’s-
Tessa: Well, it could be they’re just changing the books or it could be someone’s changing the actual history. Who knows? It doesn’t seem important to me as to how and when and where he was killed. He was still dead.
Riz: Well, kind of like the JFK assassination, right? It seems like there may be different versions, but it seems like it happened in more than one timeline.
Tessa: Yeah. As far as JFK goes, I don’t know who actually pulled the trigger, but I do know that all the suspects were in on it. There was an attempt in Florida. There were two attempts in Chicago. There were probably more attempts that we don’t know about. We don’t know who succeeded. We don’t know who pulled the trigger. We do know that they all tried to kill him.
Riz: Well, and, perhaps, according to what you said the future people told Phil, in different timelines it was some other people who assassinated him.
Tessa: Right, so maybe they put a stop to the attempt in Florida by changing the route of the parade. Maybe they stopped the attempts in Chicago in other ways, but they succeeded in Dallas. Oh, I’m terrible at names. The former CIA guy who told his son on his deathbed that he did it.
Riz: Yeah, I don’t remember who that was offhand.
Tessa: Yeah. Yeah, in a deathbed confession, but deathbed confessions aren’t necessarily true.
Riz: Now you say in your book, I think at the end of the first chapter-
Tessa: Which book do you have, by the way?
Riz: I got the Blade Runner book and the Conversations with Phil. Those are the two I have.
Tessa: There’s another one called Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright. It’s an earlier book.
Riz: Okay. I haven’t read that one, but I will definitely get it and mention it to people, as well.
Tessa: I was once in a mode where I write things down so I don’t have to remember them.
Riz: Well, it’s good to get them down and you can share them with the rest of us, yeah.
Tessa: I came across my earliest memoir. I wrote it around 1990, so I wrote it on a typewriter.
Riz: That’s fine.
Tessa: I might type it into the computer and publish that one, too.
Riz: Yeah, so that was from 1990 probably had more recent memories of things, as well, so yeah, that would be great. If there’s anything I can do to help you on that front, I’d be happy to.
Tessa: Well, someday I’ll have a real publisher, but meanwhile, there’s Amazon.
Riz: Yeah, I know. I’ve done the same where I’ve published my books on Amazon initially and then some publishers picked up my more recent books, but it’s faster to do it on Amazon.
Tessa: Yeah, and I was able to publish things that had been rejected. I have some of the nicest rejection letters. They like my book, but they don’t think there’s a market for it.
Riz: Well, I think there is.
Riz: Nice. That’s great. That’s great. Well, speaking of books, I know you did a review of Blade Runner 2049…
Tessa: Howard Hunt. Oh, the magic of Google. Howard Hunt made the deathbed confession about assassinating JFK.
Tessa: He turned up in the Watergate investigation didn’t he?
Riz: I’ve heard that name, yeah. Kind of reminds me of that character from The X-Files. I don’t know if you watch The X-Files. They have the cancer man, cigarette smoking guy.
Tessa: Oh, yeah, Deep Throat.
Riz: Yeah, Deep Throat and then there’s cancer man. In the X-Files mythology, he was the one who shot JFK.
Tessa: Oh, okay. Well, anyway, then I think Trump is making the same mistake Nixon did. Nixon didn’t order the Watergate burglary, but he did try to cover it up.
Riz: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. Seems like Trump is definitely covering something up, but I don’t know what.
Tessa: Yeah, well, I think it’s obvious that he has connections. You don’t build hotels and casinos in New York and New Jersey unless you’re connected.
Riz: Yeah, makes sense. Well, staying off of politics, but going back to TV shows, what did you think of that new Man in the High Castle series? Have you watched it all, all the season?
Tessa: I watched the first episode. It was very good. Then I started to watch the second episode, but there’s so much brutality that I just can’t watch it. I don’t mean that it isn’t a good show. It’s just not for me. I watch murder mysteries. I even watched the first season of The Frankenstein Chronicles, but I couldn’t get through Man in the High Castle.
Riz: Wow. Okay. This is because the brutality of the Nazis or the Japanese?
Tessa: I think both, but mainly the Nazis. I don’t get the idea that, well, since I actually read the book, Julia, was it Juliana?
Riz: Juliana, yeah, Juliana Crain.
Tessa: Yeah, she’s hooked up with the wrong guy.
Riz: Right. Well, what did you think of the fact they used Phil in the show showing the alternate reality? I thought that was quite clever, yes?
Tessa: Yeah. I think that’s a good thing, kind of newsreels, basically, what it is. That’s much more convincing than a book.
Riz: Yes. Do you think Phil would’ve approved of that kind of a change?
Tessa: Oh, I think so. He liked to tell a story. He wasn’t impressed by special effects, but to use a documentary footage showing what the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy would describe, I think it’s brilliant. I think he would’ve thought so, too. You just can’t really show a film when you’re writing a book.
Riz: Right. Yeah, it would be a bit awkward the other way if you’re watching a TV show and there’s a book. At least with the newsreel, you can see the alternate reality.
Riz: Coming back to this idea of virtual reality, do you believe … It sounds like Phil believed we’re in a computer simulation of some kind that can be manipulated. Do you believe that, as well?
Tessa: Sometimes it appears to be so. I try not to make it about myself, but I’ve noticed things changing like Billy the Kid. It doesn’t affect my life, but it’s strange.
Riz: Yeah, definitely, and so who did Phil think was outside the simulation changing it? Is it people in the future? Is it aliens? Is it God and angels?
Tessa: I think he would’ve gone with God and angels is such an inadequate word to describe God’s entourage. Angels just means messenger and that’s a rather noble position in Heaven. There’s also seraphim, cherubim, sons of God and so forth, but some kind of spiritual being just might be meddling with God’s creation. I’m trying to make my computer behave. It’s an old, old laptop that has seen better days, but I got it for a hundred bucks.
Tessa: Well, I’m used to PC. Any other questions? We haven’t really delved into the matrix.
Riz: Yeah, so that’s really what I want to delve into now is so what are your thoughts or Phil’s thoughts on how the matrix worked and how did he come up with that idea. I guess he didn’t live to see the movie, but maybe you could comment a bit on that, as well.
Tessa: The brothers who wrote and produced The Matrix said they were inspired by Phil’s work. I think they were more than just inspired.
Riz: Yeah, because you talked about that literally, right, that he thought that was going on.
Tessa: Yeah. There’s the red pill and the blue pill. You can decide whether to escape the matrix. It’s very interesting that they’re hooked up to all these electrodes. It’s very much like several of Phil’s books in which people are colonizing other worlds and they have to do something to relieve the boredom.
Riz: Yeah, which books would you say of his are closest to that?
Tessa: Well, I’m not sure. I think it’s Martian Time-Slip, where they have the Ken and Barbie dolls, Perky Pat and what’s his name and they take a pill to enter that world and entertain themselves for a while. Then there’s, of course, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in which they have this Mercer box, this empathy box, and they join Mercer in walking up the hill, which is straight out of the New Testament, Jesus walking up the hill to be crucified. In most of his books there’s some kind of illusory world that people escape from just through some random event that knocks them out of their comfort zone. I have trouble remembering which book is which. In his Ubik where dead people are hooked up during half life and you can talk to them on the phone.
Riz: Right. Yeah. I haven’t read Ubik, but I’ve heard about it.
Tessa: Well, Ubik you never know for sure who died and who survived. It begins with an explosion and these psychic employees of Glen Runciter take Glen Runciter’s dead body back to Earth to be put in cold pack because he died and they survived, but as events unfold, they begin to suspect that it’s the other way around, that Runciter survived and they’re all dead. The book never resolves that question.
Riz: Wow. Now, did Phil think that he’d communicated with people that had died at any point?
Tessa: Well, of course, there’s Thomas.
Riz: Right, so he believed in past lives?
Tessa: Yeah. There’s more. Sometimes he thought he was being lectured by philosophers like Erasmus and why do I blank, the guy who wrote the New Atlantis. Oh, I can get that. I don’t know either.
Riz: Yeah, have to look it up.
Tessa: Computer’s frozen again. Anyway, he’s real famous, Elizabethan times, I think.
Riz: Was it the New Atlantis?
Riz: Let’s see. Right, Sir Francis Bacon.
Tessa: That’s it.
Riz: He felt like he was getting lectures from Sir Francis Bacon and Erasmus?
Tessa: Yeah, and Michel de Nostredame, Nostradamus. Of course, he spoke French. Actually, he was talking to Phil in French and Phil kept saying, “I don’t understand you.”
Riz: Oh, wow. Was this while you were with him?
Tessa: Well, yeah. I didn’t actually experience that myself, but Phil told me about it. It was the middle of the day. He was lying down and meditating, but not really asleep. He came to believe that these were all really one entity disguising itself as different personalities that would be familiar to Phil. Even though he dropped out of college, he continued to educate himself, just practically lived at the library reading books.
Tessa: Yup. It often shows up in the way he knows things, but he can’t pronounce them correctly because he never heard the words spoken.
Riz: Sure. How do you think he would’ve reacted to the movie The Matrix? You think he would’ve liked it?
Tessa: Oh, I think he would’ve loved it and would’ve sued them.
Riz: Really? That’s great.
Tessa: His agent didn’t think we could win and he stayed, but I still wonder.
Riz: Because it’s just so many little-
Tessa: I think a little nudge from the family trust might’ve caused them to come up with a payoff.
Riz: Right. Yeah. I was reading about the Adjustment Bureau. There was a lawsuit. I guess it settled eventually, about it.
Tessa: Yeah, I was out of the loop on that, but I do know that there’s part of the settlement is they can’t talk about it. Basically, Russ Galen failed to renew a number of copyrights, so that’s why you find so many of Phil’s books that are mostly short stories that you can read online for free because the copyrights have expired.
Tessa: Yeah, so it’s kind of like living in a matrix. When you get into the copyright law, it’s so many areas are just plain murky.
Riz: Yeah. Well, getting back to the idea of the matrix more than the movie, what would you think is Phil’s best argument that we’re living in some kind of a matrix?
Tessa: I think he would find it in the little things, not the major events. When something in your life doesn’t seem quite right, like maybe you get a carton of milk out of your refrigerator and you just bought it, but it’s already gone sour. Maybe the grocery store didn’t keep it cold enough or maybe there’s been some kind of glitch in time.
Riz: Yup. Like a glitch in the matrix.
Tessa: Right. I think the matrix is exactly what Phil was trying to describe.
Riz: His best description of it in that Metz speech, you think, or is it in his, how do you pronounce, the exegesis?
Tessa: His story was the Adjustment Team. The dog forgot to bark and it all went downhill from there.
Riz: Right. The main character ended up in the office when it was being adjusted, right?
Tessa: Right, and it’s just a matter of moving around the furniture and replacing the lights, but isn’t supposed to know about it.
Riz: So you said that’s his best representation of that idea is the Adjustment Team?
Tessa: Yeah. I think so, that something is rearranging our world when we’re not looking and … Sorry. I’m just going to shut down the computer.
Tessa: There. I have my desktop open. The desktop, I’m glad it still works because I cannot even watch YouTube or a Facebook clip on the laptop.
Riz: Oh, wow, it must be an old laptop then, yeah, if it’s-
Riz: Well, just finishing up on the matrix idea, so Phil, what you’re saying, would say something is rearranging our world when we’re not looking, usually in small ways, but it sounds like also he believed in big ways, too, such as trying to prevent the JFK assassination or the Nazis winning.
Tessa: Yeah, and that, of course, is the empire impinging on our world where the empire … Well, Rome just kind of fell apart. Nobody defeated them. They just reached out too far and couldn’t maintain things like supply lines and communication and, of course, they never conquered the Scots. That’s why they built a couple of walls was to keep the Scottish out.
Riz: Right, Hadrian’s Wall, right, in Britain.
Tessa: Yeah. I know it’s another wall, but I forget who built it. Anyway, yeah. The thing is, he did believe there was a savior, a walker on Earth, and that, of course, would be oh, what’s his name in The Matrix?
Tessa: Neo, that’s it, but of course in the movie he resorts to beating people up.
Riz: Right. Yeah, but did Phil believe that we could wake up from this matrix-like reality and see what was beyond it?
Tessa: At least in small parts. Not quite as dramatically as Neo broke through, but we could learn that we’re all sleeping and reality is going on all around us, but we don’t see it. All we see is the dream that we’re trapped in.
Riz: Yup. It sounds a lot like some of the Buddhist ideas about dreaming yoga where you learn to lucid dream to wake up in the dream so you can realize that the world around us is a dream.
Tessa: Yeah. He did for a time study Buddhism, so I’m sure he was aware of that.
Tessa: He used the I Ching and he was aware that the I Ching is a kind of computer. The hexagrams are like the on/off switches in a digital computer. Of course, back then, computers were not a big part of our lives. In fact, some of the major banks were just getting computerized so that instead of mailing back all your canceled checks after they put them through their machine … My brother had a job doing that. Overnight while the bank was closed they’d go through all the checks that had come in and enter them into a terminal and someone would physically take that terminal downtown and enter it into the central computer. Nowadays, every bank can just enter the amount and date and so forth of your check and send it over the internet to downtown.
Riz: Right, yeah, they can send digital images. Yeah, that’s my job as a computer programmer.
Tessa: Yeah. When I make my house payment, they don’t even send in the physical check to cash it. They just send a little computer message to the bank.
Riz: Right. It’s just moving bits around, right?
Riz: On I Ching, did he use that very much?
Tessa: A lot. He said that he used it to plot The Man in the High Castle. Whenever there was a choice, a decision to be made, he would ask the I Ching what would Juliana do now? Will she go with him or will she stay alone? Things like that he’d ask the I Ching.
Riz: Wow. That’s what in the books Abendsen was doing that, right, just write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?
Tessa: His Japanese translator was up in arms about that. The I Ching is Chinese. Japanese would never use a Chinese oracle. After that book was published in Japan, the Japanese started using the I Ching.
Riz: Oh, really? That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. Wow. Did you ever use the I Ching yourself?
Tessa: Oh, here and there. Not obsessively the way Phil did. He finally concluded that the I Ching was evil. He was asking it questions and it was giving him answers that made no sense so he finally asked it, “Are you the devil?” According to Phil, it said yes.
Riz: Oh, really? Oh, I didn’t know that story. Did he stop using it at that point?
Tessa: Well, he said he did. He kept the book. Anyway, thing is, he really didn’t like the idea of channeling or mediums. His favorite Aunt Marian was a trance channeler, a medium, and she died because when she had a stroke, her family didn’t know it. They thought she was just in one of her trances, so that delayed her getting to the hospital. She might’ve died anyway, but she might’ve lived if they’d gotten her there sooner.
Riz: Wow. Believed in trance channeling. He just didn’t like it.
Tessa: Right. Oh, it’s real, but you don’t know what you’re contacting. He and Nancy attended two that I know of of Bishop Pike’s attempts to contact his dead son through a medium. Phil said yes, the medium did contact something, but it was not Pike’s son. There is some nasty critters in that realm.
Riz: Yeah. Where did he believe that realm was? Was it an astral plane? Was it Heaven and Hell?
Tessa: I guess that would fit in with his theory of orthogonal time. Orthogonal is basically a fancy term for perpendicular, at a right angle, because that’s how God could see all of history. He’s above this huge filmstrip looking at all the frames. Not really in another dimension. You can’t be in one dimension unless you’re a point, but moving in a direction that we can’t see, a fifth dimension beyond height, width, depth, and time, that there’s another direction in which God can travel, but we can’t because we can’t see it any more than the little square in flatland can see the sphere except where it impinges on his flat plane, so he sees first a dot and then a circle and bigger and bigger circles, then smaller and smaller circles as the sphere drops down below his plane of vision until he sees just a dot and then poof, the sphere is gone. It isn’t really gone. It’s either right above him or right below him. We just can’t see or move in that direction, but the things that are moving in that direction still have four or five dimensions to them. They aren’t in that dimension. They’re just moving in a vector that we can’t comprehend.
Riz: Yup. Is that what he felt like he was doing when he perceived some of these other figures?
Tessa: Well, he thought maybe a spiritual being was showing him that and he wasn’t actually there, but he was being shown a great secret. I guess it isn’t all that secret that time and space are, in some sense, illusions, that my three-year-old self still exists, but I can’t see her, talk to her, or hold hands with her because I can’t move backwards in time. If I could go in this other direction and move above the filmstrip and drop myself down into that frame, then theoretically we could see each other and interact.
Tessa: Phil did experience that. I think he was about seven or eight years old. He was at a day camp with a group of children and some counselors, adult counselors, and he ran off into the woods and got lost. I’ll come back to why he ran off, but he was lost and couldn’t find his way back and an adult man took his hand and walked him back. When this little boy Phil turns to say thank you, poof, the man was gone. He thought maybe that was his adult self helping him. Now, the reason he ran off was that it was a sort of Halloween thing, but during the day. They had a bonfire going and one of the boy’s costumes caught on fire.
Riz: Oh, wow.
Tessa: Phil witnessed that and that’s why he ran away. He couldn’t watch.
Riz: I see. He thought it was his adult self?
Tessa: Yeah. Then there was the time when Phil and Nancy were asleep in bed and Phil woke up because Nancy was screaming. There was a man standing at the foot of their bed and when Phil woke up and saw him, that man disappeared. Phil thought that was another instance of himself just keeping an eye on himself.
Riz: Okay. He thought it was him from the future in that case?
Tessa: Yeah. Years later, Phil had a dream in which he was the man looking down at the two of them in bed.
Riz: Oh, really? There you go. That closes the loop. Right.
Tessa: Even weirder, my son, as a teenager, told me that he dreamed that he was with his father. They were talking and after a while, his father said, “Now go play,” and his father was gone. That was a dream, but years earlier, when Christopher was an infant, Phil said he dreamed that he met our son as a teenager.
Riz: Oh, wow. In a dream?
Riz: In a dream for Phil. Okay. He was getting pretty positive dreams.
Tessa: I never said a word about it to Christopher and yet, Christopher had that dream.
Riz: When Christopher was a teenager?
Riz: Yeah, so it’s like these two points in time being linked together through the dream statements?
Tessa: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Tessa: Yeah. Many philosophers wonder if our real life is when we’re dreaming and our waking life is actually the dream.
Riz: Yeah. A lot of Native American traditions believe that, as well. It kind of ties to this idea of that reality being like a simulation, if you can forward or jump to different points. It’s like playing a movie. If you’re outside of it, you can fast forward and connect with what’s going on, maybe tying back to his idea of orthogonal time.
Tessa: Yeah. He wasn’t alone in that description of time as orthogonal. More recently, I don’t know how new it is, but I just came across it is the idea that the Universe or time does have a beginning and that at the moment of the Big Bang, time began in both directions, so we can’t find the beginning because one timeline is going backwards relative to the other. Let’s see. Now it isn’t Now Wait for Last Year. It’s the other book. Phil’s book has people living backwards. They rise from the grave and they get younger and younger. Instead of eating, food comes out of their mouths. Phil had to be very delicate about how they eat and what they eat because it’s going backward. Don’t remember the title of that novel.
Riz: Was it a short story or a novel?
Tessa: Counter-Clock World.
Riz: Yeah. Okay. Great. Well, I think we’re out of the time that I had allocated, but this has been very helpful and I really appreciate you taking the time.
Tessa: Well, I hope it’s been helpful and look forward to seeing your book.
Riz: Bye for now.