Manny asked at the end of his review of this: Has the I Ching written any more books? I don’t know about that. But now that I know what I Ching is, one thing is obvious. A book written by I Ching has to be reviewed by it too.
Go online and you get a virtual reading PLUS a discount for hamburgers in Geneva. Tasteful AND tasty. Sounds like something white people do. The parts in italics plus associated commentary are my I Ching reading and my thoughts on it.
The superior person weighs his words carefully. Once in this situation must be keenly aware of his influence on others. Maintain a healthy respect for the ripple effect of your words and deeds. To some you are a role model. Hangs head modestly.
I found a wonderful interview with Dick, some highlights make up this review.
Phil: Well, science fiction has changed a lot in the last few years. It’s coming out of the ghetto. But all that’s done is make it worse. I mean, the writing is worse, now that it is coming out of the ghetto. Instead of getting better it’s getting worse because it’s losing it’s identity, it’s losing it’s shape. It’s becoming like silly putty. I mean, you can now call anything you want science fiction or you can decide not to call it science fiction. I have a book coming out. The hardcover edition of it will be called mainstream and the paperback is going to be sold as science fiction. If you buy the hardcover you’re reading a mainstream novel. If you buy the Ballantine paperback you’re reading a science fiction novel. But the text is identical in the two. And they were bought simultaneously by Doubleday and Ballantine working in tandem. So if I were to talk to you about my novel, I’d have to ask you whether you’d read the Doubleday edition or the Ballantine paperback edition. Now, if you’d read the Ballantine paperback edition I’d say, yes, that was a great science fiction novel. And if you’d read the Doubleday edition I’d say, well, that was a great mainstream novel, wasn’t it Mike? You’d be hard put to figure out how to respond when it’s strictly a way of packaging it. We’re not talking about packaging and marketing. We’re not talking about content at all. Like Sharon Jarvis at Doubleday read its first eighty pages. She says, well, there’s no rocket ships in this book. It’s not science fiction. I’m going to throw it down the hall to the other editors, the trade editors and let them market it. And Ballantine looked at the manuscript and said, hot dog, this is wonderful science fiction. We’re going to make millions. And then I said, you guys better get together. So I really don’t know. I mean, it came out of the ghetto in the hardcover edition and it went right back into the ghetto in the paperback edition.
The King approaches his temple. It is wise to seek audience with him there. Okay, good, we are doing that.
Mike: Which do you hope sells more, the softcover with the SF tag or Doubleday mainstream?
Phil: I hope, oh boy, now you’ve really put me against the wall. That’s a very evil question to ask.
Mike: That’s right.
Phil: Because I can’t answer without offending somebody. That is, I have to sit on two stools at once. And I have to hype the science fiction one and then I have to turn around and hype the mainstream one. I can’t fault either one without immediately becoming victim of my own trap.
Mike: Okay. Well, let’s see if we can rephrase it so it may not offend quite as many people.
Phil: I don’t want to offend anybody. It’s an inoffensive novel. It will not offend any reader anywhere. No bad words. Now that’s another thing. It could not be published as science fiction by Doubleday because it had four letter words in it. And their science fiction list does not allow four letter words in a book. There were too many of them to remove them. If there only had been a few, like in Deus Irae, which they bought from me and Roger Zelazny. There were only a few four letter words so they inked them out and then marketed it as science fiction. And I had never known this before. I didn’t know the distinction between science fiction and mainstream was the number of four letter words. But on this new one of mine, Larry Ashmead, the editor-in-chief at Doubleday says, you can’t take them out. They’re necessary to the book. Therefore we can’t market it as science fiction. So we’re down to basics now. If you want it marketed as a mainstream novel you say bleep bleep all the way through the book. And if you get enough bleep bleeps in the book they can’t market it as science fiction because they figure most of the science fiction market is kids. This is their theory. This is not my theory. But their envisioning this audience with the hick glasses and the acne, parting the hair in the middle, and the overcoat the guy bought at the Salvation Army and the suitcase of old magazines. And he has a felt pen that he wants you to sign every copy of every Astounding that he’s got. That’s their idea of the science fiction market. That’s theirs, that’s not my idea.
Mike: This is Doubleday, the premier hardcover —
Phil: I’m not saying I mean Doubleday. I just mean them.
Mike: Oh, them. Oh yeah, the well known —
Phil: The well known them. The people who run things.
Mike: So that’s the distinction. If it’s got enough four letter words it’s not science fiction.
The superior person carefully weaves order out of confusion. Supreme success if you keep to your course. I hope you guys are following this. The way I read it, you have to give me some votes.
Mike: That’s a good cue to pick up, some biographical stuff. You started when?
Phil: In fifty-one.
Mike: Fifty-one. When you sold your first story. How long had you been writing before you sold your first story?
Phil: Ever since I could operate a typewriter, which was when I taught myself to type when I was twelve. And I wrote my first novel when I was fourteen. It was called Return To Lilliput. It was really a bomb. It was terrible. It was the worst novel. I’ll sell it some day. I’ll find a market for it. It had – it was really neat. They rediscovered Lilliput in the modern world. Like rediscovering Atlantis. These guys report they’ve discovered Lilliput. But it’s only accessible by submarine because it’s sunk under the water. You’d think a fourteen year old kid would have a more original idea than that. And I can even tell you the numbers on the submarines. I had, A-101, B-202, C-303 were the numbers and designations of the submarines.
Mike: Makes it a finite number of submarines, then.
Phil: Yeah, well, I realized that when I got halfway through. I wasn’t thinking ahead.
The Superior Person takes a 360 degree view of the situation and prepares for any contingency. Success in small matters if you stay on course. Early good fortune can end in disorder. Okay. So if I get too many votes too early, that could be a problem. Thinks. I’ll live with it.
Phil: Doubleday went up to 3,000 dollars advance for me on my new book, I forget the title – A Scanner Darkly. They offered me 3,000 dollars. They says that was the most they could go for a science fiction novel. And after they had acquired it for 3,000 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 4,000 dollars, that – and I thought at the time, well, ya know, it takes one to know one. They acquired it for 3,000 dollars, this new novel of mine, which is just chicken feed, Mike, let’s face it, it’s just chicken feed. Three thousand bucks. And it took me like three years to write the book. That’s a thousand dollars a year. Anybody that wants to write science fiction and then they’re going to market it as a mainstream novel. They get to sit on both stools. They can eat the porridge out of one pot and they eat the porridge out of the other pot. And I’ve got no porridge at all. And they’re going to make a bundle on it. And Ballantine is going to make a bundle on it. And Ballantine deserves to make a bundle on it because Judy-Lyn Del Rey at Ballantine went over the manuscript page by page with me, that’s A Scanner Darkly, and told me what it needed to make it into a really competent book. She’s able to show me point for point. This is the first time any editor has ever done that with me since The Man In The High Castle, the editor Pete Israel was the editor for Putnam then. And he went over The Man In The High Castle page by page and showed me how it should be changed. And then, now, Judy-Lyn has done that with A Scanner Darkly. And so I’ve got two good novels under my belt because I had a good editor. The rest of them, they let me flounder around and write whatever came into my head. So, it was all uneven, the good parts and the bad parts wouldn’t add up. Judy-Lyn del Rey, I’ve never had an editor like her before. She is probably the greatest editor since Maxwell Perkins. She showed me how to create a character and I’ve been selling novels for 22 years. And she showed me how to develop a character. Now that really – my first reaction was dear Judy-Lyn how would you like to take a one way walk off the Long Beach pier? But then I started looking at what she was saying there. And as 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. And it’s too bad nobody did that 25 years ago because then maybe my books would make more sense. But look for A Scanner Darkly because that’s – there’s a master craftsman came into that book, Judy-Lyn del Rey. Now I know what to do when I write a book. You don’t just write whatever comes into your head when you sit there in front of the typewriter. Like when I wrote Ubik, I got about 12 pages done then I didn’t have anything I could think of so I just wrote whatever came into my mind. And I wrote it from my unconscious is what I did. I turned it over to my right hemisphere of my brain which did all the thinking from then on. And I was as surprised as anybody as what came out. And in France, it’s considered a great novel because it doesn’t really make any sense. It’s an absurdist thing, a pate de zique in France. Ever since Jeury hit town in Paris they’ve loved stuff that didn’t make any sense. Maybe it makes sense when you translate it into French. Like Poe, was it Baudelaire who translated Poe and made him a great writer in France? Maybe I’m a great writer in France because I’ve got good translators.
The Superior Person fine tunes the image he presents to the world. Okay, I get it. Situation analysis: no matter what you do the fruits of your labours never seem to ripen. Shit. So I’m NOT going to get any votes? Not even from Manny for giving his review a plug?
Mike: What do they think of The Man In The High Castle in Germany?
Phil: Oh, that’s heavy, heavy. They didn’t know I could read German. They bought it, a publisher bought it in Germany and began to translate it. And I learned of it, the fact that they bought it. Oh no, you’re not going to print that in Germany without letting me see the German translation of this. You get that in the contract Scott, you insist. And Scott is Jewish. And I said, listen Scott, we’re not going to let them publish that book unless I read the galleys. It’s got to be a sequitur quo non, it’s got to be a condition. And he said, I agree with you completely. And they phoned Germany. And they asked for it immediately, the galleys. Well, they didn’t have galleys. They still just had the typescript, the manuscript. And they had to send it to us. We made it a condition in the contract. And I got a chance to read it, because I can read German, and I started reading that thing and they had destroyed that book. They left whole scenes out, whole basic scenes just – the action, they had just turned it into a travesty. And I wrote them a letter. They went out of business after they published it too. Like I was really, I actually burst into tears when I finished reading it. I actually cried at what they – see, there was my best novel, right? And they said we didn’t know you could read German. They actually said that in their letter. At least they gave me five days to read it. That’s how they thought, they had five days. They said he wasn’t German, he can’t be fluent enough so he can read the whole darn thing in five days. But my German got very fluent at that point. I just stayed up night and day with my Cassell’s German-English dictionary and I read every single word and I compared it line by line with the english. And I marked the parts they had cut out, the parts they had changed. They hadn’t changed any of the political parts. All the anti-Nazi stuff was still there. They had just cheapened it into a cheap adventure novel. Fast action. Fast paced adventure novel. I remember, at one part it says “unter Gomi nanntest seine scheisstergewehr wie Wyat Urp.” And I never mentioned Wyat Urp in my book anywhere. In Germany Mr. Tagomi he is like Wyat Urp. Isn’t that dreadful? The whole thing was that way.
Mike: What about Japan?
Phil: There is a Japanese edition. I can’t read it. I can read the titles of my english novels in the bio section in the back. And they have – I’m not putting you on. I don’t mean this as a slur against the Japanese. But they said the english title’s Gullible Man instead of Variable Man. That’s their problem. But I can’t read the Japanese edition. Oh, I got – I wrote the translator. Somebody suggested I write the translator, Japanese translator, and ask him specific questions about the book. And I could tell something about the Japanese edition that way. And he wrote back. And he was really – I thought the Japanese were suppose to be very polite because I was really wrong. In his first letter he said your book wasn’t any good to start with. And he says secondly you confuse Chinese culture and Japanese culture. Chinese are inferior people and the I Ching is Chinese and not Japanese. No Japanese would ever use such Confucian classics. Only foreigners use those. And he went on like that. I was really amazed how up front he was in his contempt for the book. But the book is still in print in Japan. It sold very well. I made almost $30 dollars, $35 dollars off it over a ten year period. I once got a check for 40 cents and Scott had taken 2 cents out. There were 42 cents. It was a book that sold in Tanganyika or someplace like that, really. No kidding. One copy. And my royalty is 42 cents and Scott took out 2 cents and sent me a check for 40 cents. And do you know that I was so broke I cashed it. I wrote dirty words on the back of it for a long time, you know, I wasn’t going to caXXXXX. Finally I went up to the 7-11 and bought a man handler meat pie or something, hand over a 40 cent check, royalty check. I’m tell ya –
Mike: And they took it?
Phil: Oh, they kind of laughed at me. But they always laughed at me at the 7-11 anyways because my checks always bounced. At least this check didn’t bounce, being how it was Scott’s check. One time four guys from the 7-11 showed up at the front door with $285 dollars worth of bad checks that I’d written to the 7-11. They said, you’ve got until 5 o’clock to make them good or you’re going to the D.A.’s office. They said, you’re going to get in the car now and we’re going to ride around till 5 o’clock. And we did. And I borrowed it from my insurance agent; State Farm insurance agent loaned me the money to pay them. That’s the life of the writer. Does that give you an insight – I’m laughing now. I wasn’t laughing that day.
The Superior Person is inexhaustible in his willingness to teach
Phil: Well, as Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, you said it, not me, Gesagts in Luther’s translation, Beis du der juder Konig. And then Jesus answers, Sie sagts, you said it, not me. If that’s what you say Pontius that’s up to you. You’re the emperata.
Mike: I’ve got to go wash my hands, excuse me.
Phil: That was, you know, he didn’t get off the hook by answering that way. Pilate got off the hook by – I can not answer about Ursula’s stuff. I really don’t understand it. Her whole body of writing seems to me to be like a sermonette. The television station use to sign off with a sermonette, a kind of political sermonette, all hopped up in gussy dove with a kind of literary style. But it’s all from the Poli Sci department of the University of California in Berkeley as far as I can make out when you strip the style away.
You have cleansed yourself; now stand ready to make your humble devout offering. I hope somebody is reading this. That’s you it’s speaking to. Your vote will be your humble offering.
Mike: Okay. I shan’t argue with you. What about your own working habits? How do you work? Or do you, or do you have a pattern indeed?
Phil: Well, I use to just write all the time. I use to just get up at noon and sit down at the typewriter and write until 2 AM. Just write from noon in the morning until 2 AM. You’ve got to do that when you start out. Or you’re going to die on the vine. I mean you’ve got to just – you’re going to live on two thousand dollars a year. You’re going to eat rocks and dirt and weeds from the back yard for the first ten years. And then after the first ten years, you get to eat instant breakfast. You work up till you’re rich enough to get a phone put in. And you get to buy an old automobile. And you get to drive around in an old automobile, which you crank-start every morning. And then after 25 years, you manage to get a used Dodge. It costs you $795.00, but, the radio doesn’t work in it. And there’s people that’re standing behind grocery counters are making more money. One time I was in Trader-Jones, a grocery store, and I was talking with the clerk and he made more money than I did. And I was really sore. I really took it bad. Because they had just hired him. He didn’t even have seniority as a grocery clerk. At least he could have been a senior clerk. I said, how much do you make? And he says, such and such. And I said, jeepers, that’s a lot of money.
Mike: So, you do like to write. You said, you use to work non-stop?
Mike: Have you changed that pattern?
Phil: Yes. Now I, here’s what happened to me. This novel that I spoke about earlier, Deus Irae, that Roger Zelazny and I wrote, it took us 12 years to write it. That’s really true. We figured it out. I signed a contract with Doubleday in 1964. This is 1976, right? Well, that’s how long it took the two of us. I couldn’t even write it alone. I mean, I got like a third of it done and I discovered I didn’t know anything about the subject matter, which is Christianity. I could sing a few hymns and I could cross myself and that was about all. And I had embarked on a theological novel without knowing anything about theology. So I ran across Zelazny in 1968. I had been working four years on the novel. And I said, Zelazny, do you know anything about theology? He says, you better believe it Jack. I said, how’d you like to collaborate with me? I’ve got one third of this thing done. It’s all about Christianity. So he took it. And then like 8 years later – and I didn’t hear from Roger. I got a postcard one time from the East Coast. I said, Roger’s over his head. He’s just like me, he’s doing research. Now I’ve learned. So at the end of 12 years we were able to complete it finally. We each got $400.00 a piece, or something like that. In other words, it was like the greatest disaster of our joint careers, was that novel. We’ll never be able to earn back what we put into it in the way of research and work. Now I spend my time doing research before I do the book. I’m not going to get burned like that again. I’m working on another theological novel called To Scare The Dead, but I’ve done 2 years of research. When I sit down to the typewriter I’m going to know what I’m talking about. Man In The High Castle, I did 7 years of research for Man In The High Castle. Seven years of research. I did other stuff too during that 7 years. But it took me 7 years to amass the material on the Nazis and the Japanese, especially on the Nazis, before I could sit down and write. That’s part of the reason why it’s a better novel than most of my novels, that I knew what I was talking about. There wasn’t anything I didn’t know. I had prime source material at the Berkeley Cal Library from the Gestapo that they had seized after WW II. It was marked, for the eyes of the higher police only. The higher police is their term for – I was forced to read Gestapo diaries, the Gestapo men in Warsaw, Gestapo agents. I had to read that stuff. I had to sit there because you couldn’t take it out of the library. You had to read it in the stacks. I had to read what those guys wrote in their private journals to write Man In The High Castle. And that’s why I’ve never written a sequel to it. Because it’s too horrible. It’s too awful. I started several times to write a sequel to it and I would had to go back and read about Nazis again. And I’d just like to off every one of them, it’s what I’d like to do. And so I could never do a sequel to it. Somebody would have to come in and help me do a sequel to it. Someone who had the stomach for the stamina to think along those lines, to get into the head; if you’re going to start writing about Reinhard Heydrich, for instance, you have to get into his face. Can you imagine getting into Reinhard Heydrich’s face? Now, Condon, Richard Condon, is that his name, he wrote a thing called An Infinity Of Mirrors about Reichfuhrer Himmler. Condon has the guts to do that. I could not do that again. That’s why the book, my book The Man In The High Castle is set in the Japanese part, you see, because then I could deal with people. But I have little glimpses of the Nazi part like when Mr. Tagomi hears this printout on personality traits of the Nazi contenders for Reichsfuhrer, Reichs Chancelor, I’m sorry. And he runs out and gets sick and falls down.
I wrote The Man In The High Castle with the I Ching.
Mike: You did?
Phil: Yeah, and I’ve been sorry ever since because when it came time to resolve the novel at the end, the I Ching didn’t know what to do. It got me through most of the book. Everytime they cast a hexagram I actually cast four of them and got something and assigned it to them and they proceeded on the basis of the advice given. Like when Juliana Frink decides to tell Abendsen that he’s about to be offed by an agent. I threw the coins and she got warning make known the truth to the court of the King great danger and so on. Someone comes up behind him and hits him with a club. That’s what she got. And so she did go warn Abendsen and if she’d got another hexagram I would not have had her go speak to Abendsen. But then when it came time to close down the novel the I Ching had no more to say. And so there’s no real ending on it. I like to regard it as an open ending. It will segue into a sequel sometime.
Mike: When you find somebody with the stomach to write one.
Phil: Yeah, or if the I Ching ever gets off its ass.
Mike: Do you go back from time to time and throw it to see if there is an ending to it or —
Phil: No, I don’t use the I Ching anymore. I’ll tell ya, the I Ching told me more lies than anybody else I’ve ever known. The I Ching has a personality and it’s very devious and very treacherous. And it feeds ya just what you want to hear. And it’s really spaced out and burned out more people than I would care to name. Like a friend is somebody who doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. A friend tells you what’s true. A toady is the old word for somebody who told you what you wanted to hear. The Kings all had their toadies around them who told them what they wanted to hear. The King said, am I the greatest King in the world? Yeah, you’re the greatest King in the world, yeah. Well, this is what the I Ching does. It tells you what you want to hear and it’s not a true friend. One time I really zapped it. I asked it if it was the devil. And it said yes. And then I asked it if it spoke for God, and it said no. It said I am a complete liar. I mean that was the interpretation. In other words I set it up. I set it up. I asked two questions simultaneously and it said I speak with forked tongue, is what it said. And then it said, oops, I didn’t mean to say that. But it had already –
Mike: Then you get a paradox.
Phil: Oh, I watched a girl do this to it once.
Mike: That’s the paradox. It’s lying when it says it’s lying.
Phil: It’s just full of, it’s a crock is what it is. Sladek, John Sladek said this in his debunking book. He covers everything from Scientology to the Mafia. He says none of them exist. And he says the I Ching – you know Sladek did a parody of my writing. It’s as much better than anything I’ve ever done. Have you read Sladek’s parody of my writing?
Phil: It’s so much better than anything that I can do. And I walked around and I was really off the ground. Walking on cloud nine, after I read the parody. And I wrote Ed Ferman, who is the editor of F&SF. This appeared originally in F&SF. And I said, I have talent, Sladek has genius. And Ed Ferman wrote back and said, fine, I’m going to buy a lot of stuff from Sladek. And he did. He commissioned eight more parodies. And they’re all marvelous; a parody of Asimov. Sladek said I was the hardest person to parody. I have his book in front of me. In England it’s called The Steam-Driven Boy and other Strangers. Sladek says the I Ching is a hoax. And Sladek is right. His parody of me is called “Solar Shoe Salesman.” And in it somebody consults the tiles and it gives him many small greatnesses deny. It does not further to discover several gifts only. The wise King avoids fried foods. And I says, ah, Sladek, you finished it off man. I can never consult the I Ching again. And all started laughing. I’m looking at this parody and I’m saying if I could write as well as Sladek. That’s another thing that brought me back into writing science fiction when I started to talk about being a mainstream writer. We’re using science fiction as a crash pad, rather than a legitimate dwelling. And I won’t do that. If science fiction is going to go down the tubes, I’ll go down the tubes with it, rather than abandon it. I think it’s unfair, if you start thinking you’re any good, you leave it. It’s unfair to the field. And also it’s so, like, Hubris. I’m a great writer, therefore, I am not a science fiction writer. Well, what about your first proposition. Maybe you’re not such a great writer after all. Maybe you’re wrong right there, before you’ve gotten to the second part of the proposition.
Any direction is better than where you stand. This is no time for fatal heroics. You are at Ground Point Zero. Remove yourself from this situation without delay. Find sanctuary. Fuck. This review is not going well. It’s going about as pearshaped as the book.
Mike: And Lupoff says, what is this. I’ve been working in the field for ten years. I’m a competent, good, established writer. He says, that’s science fiction. That’s not literature, his agent says.
Phil: How do you know? Who told you?
Phil: Don’t believe anything a writer tells you. I’m a writer, I would know.
Great book. Obviously Scanner is better, but it would be, wouldn’t it? It was written by a human being.
You will find this great interview in full here.
You will find the I Ching site with the hamburger discount here There are other online I Ching sites. I have no vested interest in this one. I don’t eat hamburgers or do I Ching.