Talk:A Scanner Darkly

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Jerzy/Billfish dialogue on several topics[edit]

One editor has said (2nd 'graph)

The book twists American society into a very surreal setting by inflating two problematic aspects of society that were of growing interest when he was writing in the 1960s: police surveillance and drug abuse.

My dictionary and i cannot assign a reasonable meaning to "inflating" in this context. I've assumed "conflating" was the intended idea and have changed it accordingly. Others may want to review this change.

The article also refers (1st 'graph) to Dick, in the '60s, writing of an "alternate future" in the '70s. SF writers usually write abt the future; some write about the past, or an alternate past. His future (perforce an imagined future, for those of us without time-travel or clairvoyance) is now a past to us, and inevitably it is not our actual past; we can regard it as an "alternate past" but in practice all specific (and thus imagined) futures eventually become alternate pasts rather than actual pasts.

IMO "alternate future" is makes a pointless and confusing distinction and should be used only in navel-gazing philosophy. I have replaced it here with an inflection of "his then near-future", but invite consideration by other editors. --Jerzy 16:08, 2003 Nov 13 (UTC)

Hello. This was my first attempt on the wikipedia; please excuse my not signing or summarizing.
Yes, the use of the word "inflating" is idiosyncratic to the original writer; I preserved it out of respect for that person. What is meant is that smaller things about real society were made to be very large in the story. I considered whether "conflated" was intended, but I decided it wasn't. I have re-edited your edit; please see what you think.
Your "his then near-future" is, as you say, more exact. "Alternate future" is a catch-phrase in science-fiction criticism, but your usage is clearer and better writing.Billfish 05:32, 14 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Thank you for cleaning up my formatting.
[The above line is still Billfish, Jerzy notes.]

My pleasure, Bf, literally, bcz i guess i find copyediting pleasant.

You'll notice i've taken the liberty (mostly in case others enter this discussion) of reformatting you even here, into a popular and fairly functional WP indented style. You can see it, for instance (if you look quickly, i.e., in the next couple days), used fairly vigorously on the Genesis item just above Wikipedia:Votes for deletion#November 12.

So welcome to the editing corps; "i'm a stranger myself here" (couple months now), but along with the welcomes that are initiated by those who notice a new reg'd user other than on a talk page, please accept mine. I may be less busy than some of those greeters, so feel free to try me w/ questions you have; since i'm finding my feet well enuf to pontificate abt navel-gazing, i may know something useful to you.

As to n-g'g, my, but i got POV abt AFs, didn't i? I assumed that was idiosyncratic, perhaps bcz the only SF crit i read anymore is in the monthly-or-so column in the New York TImes Sunday _Book Review_ magazine (and, now, i guess, here). I'll figure out who i insulted and offer an apology if they have a talk page.

I was abt to anticipate "out loud" that your courteous style in this note is a sign that your reaction will turn out to have been a fairly wise one. But i realized i was confused abt what you had previously edited in this article, and when you had failed to summarize and sign. (I still am, and working it out using the "Page history" link is somewhat onerous.) So i've now been away from this edit screen looking at what you did. And IMO you've indeed improved the language further, by dispensing with "conflate", which also pleases me.

Of course being well edited pleases me, or i wouldn't be editing here, where most (if not all) editing screens say "If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then don't submit it here." I make a point about that, bcz you spoke of "preserv[ing] [the idiosyncratic use of inflating] out of respect for" "the original writer" of that usage. I urge you to edit more boldly than that, out of respect for the various writers and their wish to be mercilessly edited. I'm thinking in terms of "respect the person, and work the words for every gram of communication potential". In the case you raised, i value the insight you've offered into the probable intent, and find the exaggeration aspect enormously valuable to the article, and/but i am glad you chose to go on from there to a wording that will make clear, to nearly every reader, what i missed and you (perhaps with less effort than you intimate in discussing it!) wisely caught.

BTW, your highlighting of exaggeration reminds me that i've read over and over that Verne is the father of SF, and at most once that Swift, that monstrous exaggerator, is an earlier example. I wonder if that's mentioned in our SF article.... --Jerzy 18:11, 2003 Nov 14 (UTC)

"It was midday, in June of 1994." Does this quote from the novel agree with the statement: The semi-autobiographical story was set in a dystopian Orange County, California in the future of 1992." in any way at all?

Use or abuse[edit]

'Use' is a statement of fact. 'Abuse' is a pov. Unless you can say who thought it was an abuse, let's stick to saying it was use. Guttlekraw 00:00, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The book is about the consequences of using Substance D, a lethal, addictive drug. The book is about drug abuse, not recreational drug use. Perhaps you should read the Authors note. The PKD estate had this to say about the film, A Scanner Darkly is one of our father's most personal stories because much of it is based on his own experiences. For this reason, it was especially important to us that it be done with all of the right intentions. His struggle with drug abuse is well documented, and he (and we) have witnessed many casualties. The novel is filled with his humor and his own tragedies. And we believe that Richard's screenplay manages to capture these key elements -- he has even included our father's poignant afterword in his adaptation. [1] Also see his letters about the dangers of drug abuse. [2]---Viriditas | Talk 00:17, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Yes, it's clearly a piece of advocacy about his opinions about drug use. He thinks it's abuse. I think we can attibute those beliefs without stating them as fact. Guttlekraw 00:20, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Actually, the author's note at the end of the book contradicts your assumption. Have you read the book? --Viriditas | Talk 00:30, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Actually it doesn't. The statements in the book are merely claims made by Dick, based on his own perception of what he thinks happened and in all likelihood personal bias. It is for instance easier to blame a suicide on LSD than to acknowledge that the person was deeply troubled, possibly well beyond salvation. I don't dispute that some people come to serious harm from their actions, but it can hardly be said that Dick would have been seeing a true representation of drug users, since we're talking about people so far gone that they wonder about staying in the homes of strangers, thus his perception would be skewed. And this is all assuming any of these things even happened, since let's not forget Dick appears to have been prone to paranoid delusions and hallucinations, a history of mental illness. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:10, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
The author's note states his point of view. How could it state anything other than his point of view? If I write a book saying that George Bush is a fascist, then write an authors note saying that the book is about George Bush being a fascist, it is still my point of view, not a fact. Guttlekraw 00:35, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)
So I take it no, you haven't read the book? You don't seem to be familiar with the NPOV policy, so take the time to read it. This article is about PKD's book, not what you think of it. --Viriditas | Talk 00:36, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

On the contrary - it is you who do not seem to understand NPOV. A 'neutral' point of view is not the author's point of view, as you seem to think. It is a view that states the facts, and then records others, including the author's opinions about them. You want to redefine NPOV as the author's point of view. That's just wrong. Guttlekraw 15:24, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Again, you don't seem to have read the NPOV policy, as this is a problem you are having on multiple articles. Your bias is evident, as you are going around the Wikipedia altering the context of quotes and content to reflect your opinion. Please read the policy. --Viriditas | Talk 19:36, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I'm going to say that use of a drug to the point where your personality splits to the point you don't know you're narcing on yourself, where you are reduced to the mental level of an 8 year old and end up working as a slave for an illegal drug producer is most definately abuse. Certainly Archer didn't intend to fry his brain to that extent, and he would not willingly have done so had he not been under the addictive influence of Substance D. I think it can be objectively stated that abuse of a drug is use to a point where an addictive desire pushes use to the point beyond which the person, if not under the drug's influence, would not go. PKD was a user, and an abuser; he suffered permanant pancreatic damage from his drug use, and it likely lead to his early death. scot 17:29, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

It's fine for you to says so, that's your opinion. It's fine to put opinions in the article, as long as we reference them and don't present them as facts. If someone was killed in a reckless hang-gliding acident we would not call them a hang-gliding abuser, would we? It's a value judgement. Guttlekraw 15:43, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
That's a slippery slope--go too far and everything can be considered opinion, because perception is always influenced by the preconceive notions of the perceiver. Is telling your child "no" abuse? How about spanking? Locking them in a closet for an hour? Keeping them locked in a room and without human contact for 13 years? People can be found that will take both sides of any of those, but at some point an overwhelming majority of society takes a stand and says, "this is abuse". It is true that "Drug abuse" is a statement of opinion; what matters is who's opinion. Dick was writing about drug abuse, because that's what he considered it--abuse. That is not an opinion, that is a fact--it's what the author was writing about. Whether you or anyone else considers the level of drug use to be "abuse" isn't an issue, the fact remains that Dick did consider it so, and his opinion is what counts here--especially as this is FICTION, and there are no "facts" involved... scot 16:11, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Sure - I agree - let's state that it was his opinion that this drug use was abuse. That's something that we all agree on. Where I part company with Viriditas is when he wants to make the general statement that drug use = drug abuse. As someone's opinion, referenced, that's fine. As a statement of fact it is nonsense. I read from the above that we all agree that the quote from the author that he considers certain drug use to be abuse is fine. I'll make those changes. Guttlekraw 06:38, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
As usual, the complete opposite of what you claim is true. What part of "the book can be considered Dick's master statement on drug abuse" are you having problems understanding? Your edit history is quite clear in this matter, and you are not editing in good faith. You don't have to make any "changes" because you already agree with the text as it is currently written. Your campaign to change the words "drug abuse" to "recreational drug use" doesn't appear to be very successful, but please, continue to blame me for your own errors. --Viriditas | Talk 08:04, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Let me explain to you, as I would have to for a young child. The book is about drug use. Dick's opinion is that this use is 'abuse'. We should state that this is his opinion. That's it. It's not a fact, it's an opinion. Guttlekraw 19:15, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Substance D or SD[edit]

Something bothers me about the way this is written... Should the drug/topic be mentioned once in full ("Substance D") and then in short there after ("SD"), or should the full name be constant throughout, or is a sprinkled mix (the way it is currently written) acceptable?--Htmlism 16:12, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

I noticed the same "oddness", if you will, and it bothers me as well. I don't recall any of the characters using the abbreviation "SD", and it seems, to me at least, that using it here is only a visible lack of dedication to the author's work. It should be either "Substance D" or the shortened "Death", or both, but certainly not "SD". -ExNoctem 23:44, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
There is at least one place in the book where it's stated that the police group assigned to track down the drug is called the S.D. Agency, but I think that's possibly the only place using the SD abbreviation. (Note: I callously indented ExNoctem's note above, to separate it clearly from Htmlism.) Idontcareanymore (talk) 22:57, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
In The Man in the High Castle PKD used SD to refer to German intelligence, maybe he didn't want to cross-over the term to cause any confusion. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:19, 27 May 2014 (UTC)

Question about section "Autobiographical Nature"[edit]

One section reads, "Another turning point in this timeframe for Dick, the alleged break-in to his home and papers, is detailed extensively elsewhere." Can you add a link to 'elsewhere'? A reader might well want to follow this up. ike9898 21:23, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, I'm not exactly certain, but it looks like it should link to Exegesis, which I think was the original source material for that claim, although I could be wrong as I recall reading about it in one of the later books in the VALIS trilogy. —Viriditas | Talk 21:44, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
I've linked it to Philip_K._Dick#Psychology, but that whole section reads like someone's thesis/paper/book. "Curious readers can gain considerable insight into the culture by reviewing the extended conversation on "microdots" in this book"??? Google search turned up no obvious copyright infringements, though. The entire section probably needs to be excised/rewritten... I notice it was largely rewritten by an anonymous user in November 2005, with no explanation for the "in this book"/"detailed extensively elsewhere" wording. -- nae'blis (talk) 23:58, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

Themes section[edit]

The section entitled 'Themes' needs referencing. It reads like someone's essay, and if a correct reference isn't provided, the entire section must be removed until a suitably referenced replacement is found. See WP:V and WP:NOR. Proto||type 09:51, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

I agree that there arent any citations or sources in that particular section, but the information provided seems to be taken directly from the novel itself. Therefore, in order for any citations to be made, someone needs to find a copy of the book online and cite to it which I personally find highly unlikely as it is copyrighted material. --subliminalis 14:47, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

I just saw this section. I'll take a look asap. —Viriditas | Talk 08:16, 23 July 2006 (UTC)


The blue flower phsycoactive used in the novel sounds similar to the blue flower physcoactive drug in Batman Begins, could be related?

In what way do you find they are similar? I traced the blue flower motif back to the Nymphaea caerulea of the Lotophagi, farther still, to the 18th Dynasty under the Egyptian New Kingdom. —Viriditas | Talk 14:33, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

Paul and Plato[edit]

I've removed the reference to the New Testament being directly inspired by Plato, I am not a biblical scholar but I would be surprised if that connection is generally accepted. I note that such a conneciton is not mentioned in the wiki entry on 1 Corinthians 13.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Iiago (talkcontribs) 02:25, 1 January 2007 (UTC).

I also find this connection implausible. More importantly, the article doesn't need to mention the Phaedo; the novel's title is a direct and obvious allusion to 1 Cor 13, and speculation about the biblical passage's antecedents is not needed in this article, unless it is somehow important for interpreting Scanner. --Akhilleus (talk) 16:44, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
The intersection between Plato's ideas and Christian mysticism are integral to PKD's 2-3-74 experience and subsequent musings. The original author of the text in question failed to add a source, and I have added a citation request. —Viriditas | Talk 19:23, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
According to wiki Neo-platonism was influential on the early christian church from Augustine onwards, but there is no mention of any influence of that school of thought on Paul himself. If PKD believed there to have been a connection between Plato and Paul then that should be made clear, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence that a connection is generally recognised to exist. If I recall the book quite explicitly references the biblical verse and not Plato, but I'll have to check the passage later. 03:55, 2 January 2007 (UTC) Iiago
The original author has had time to respond. I will remove the content from the article. You're right, I should not have informally referred to this early influence on the Christians as Neoplatonism but as Middle Platonism. According to Britannica, "The Platonism that the first Christian thinkers knew was of course Middle Platonism, not yet Neoplatonism. Its relatively straightforward theism and high moral tone suited their purposes excellently; and the influence of this older form of Platonism persisted through the 4th century and beyond, even after the works of Plotinus and Porphyry began to be read by Christians." As for PKD, he was greatly influenced by Platonism, and he has said as much: "In college I was given Plato to read and thereupon became aware of the possible existence of a metaphysical realm beyond or above the sensory world. I came to understand that the human mind could conceive of a realm of which the empirical world was epiphenominal. Finally, I came to believe that in a certain sense the empirical world was not truly real, at least not as real as the archetypal realm beyond it. At this point I despaired of the veracity of sense-data. Hence in novel after novel that I write I question the reality of the world that the characters' percept-systems report." —Viriditas | Talk 02:57, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

PKD relies not on Platonism, but the Gnostic Cult of Wisdom, or Sophia. That underlies many of his books, such as the Transmigration of Timothy Archer, where behold the Spirit of Christ is a magic-mushroom, or other books of his that depend on mind-bending chemicals used are "recreational drugs", like Galatic Pot Healer, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch's Can-D transmigration narcotic, etc. IINM platonic thought finds exression in the Stoics like the philosoher slave Epitetus, or battalion Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. All of these greeks and romans have a split experience between mind and body. User:bwildasi Wed Apr 16 02:42:13 UTC 2008 —Preceding comment was added at 05:57, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

Indeed, one cannot discuss PKD without Gnosticism. "Radio Free Abelmuth" is simply about knowing that you are right and in some cases dying for it. The connection with standard Christianity is tenuous, ironic or metaphorical. Jesus is not talking to you from a spacecraft. (talk) 19:45, 16 July 2016 (UTC)Eric

I don't think Britannica is referring to Paul when it talks about the "first Christian thinkers". As Paul's works are biblical cannon I'd draw a distinction between him, as someone who "created" Christianity, and "early thinkers" who wrote about the religion but didn't directly add to it. Jesus, for example, was not a "Christian thinker". If a connection between Plato and Paul existed, I would expect that link to be so noteworthy that there would be a specific reference to it somewhere. After all, there's a specific reference to the influence of Plato on Augustine, and Paul is much higher-profile than Augustine. It doesn't matter in the end, but it's been an interesting point. Cheers. 02:51, 4 January 2007 (UTC) iiago

The meaning of the title[edit]

I finally got to re-read the sections of the book that relate to the title, and have updated our explanation. My explanation of the title comes from pages 169-171 of the 2006 book published by Gollancz, in particular:

"Through a mirror," Fred said. A darkened mirror, he thought; a darkened scanner. And St. Paul meant, by a mirror, not a glass mirror - they didn't have those then - but a reflection of himself when he looked at the polished bottom of a metal pan...seeing his own face reflected back up at him, reversed - pulled through infinity...I have seen myself backward. (page 169)

Bob/Fred then muses on page 170-171 that true understanding comes after "death" (either the drug or death itself) has been conquered. This is a reference to 1 Chorinthians 15, which states:

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (verses 51-54, King James Version)

In the book, Fred hears a voice which states:

"Then shall it come to pass the saying that is written...death is swallowed up. In soon as the writing appears backward, then you know which is illusion and which is not. The confusion ends, and death, the last enemy, substance death, is swallowed not into the body but up - in victory. Behold, I tell you the sacred secret now: we shall not all sleep in death."

The mystery, he thought, the explanation, he means. Of a secret. A sacred secret. We shall not die. The reflections shall leave and it will happen fast. We shall all be changed, and by that he means reversed back, suddenly. In the twinkling of an eye!

To summarise - Bob/Fred is saying that, as St Paul said (and I assume this is what the passages from 1 Chronithians mean), people are incapable of perceiving true reality until "death" has been conquered. It is unclear whether he is referring to physical death or beating addiction to the drug. I think it's meant to be ambiguous, because he doesn't portray anyone else in the book (druggie or not) as having a unbiased perception of reality.

Incidentally I suspect that the fact that the "transition" from Bob/Fred occurs in Chapter 13 is supposed to be a reference to 1 Chorinthians 13. Speculation of course, though. Iiago 13:52, 10 January 2007 (UTC) iiago

Bergman film connection?[edit]

Is it known if Dick was making a conscious allusion to Ingmar Bergman's 1961 film Through a Glass Darkly, which explores the subject of schizophrenia? --Samuel Wantman 07:53, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

"effortlessly convincing program caseworkers that he was nursing a heroin addiction to do so." There is some underlying assumption being made here. What is it? Was Dick so messed up that it was "effortless" to realize he needed treatment? Was he faking his herion addiction? Was he, like the main character, pretending to be in need of help for a drug addiction in order to find out something? An intriguing statement ... left hanging. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 00:09, 27 January 2007.

Merge proposal for Substance D[edit]

Substance D should be merged here per WP:FICT, there's no real-world context or notability to warrant a separate article, and neither article is large. Unless anyone objects, I'll merge it here in a few days. Masaruemoto 04:34, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

  • As no one opposed this, I have now redirected Substance D here. I haven't merged any content as I don't know what is significant enough to be added here, so if anyone wants to add a section, the content is here. Masaruemoto 05:39, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

"mors ontologica" citation[edit]

The page asked for a citation, and so I gave it, but it's my first time doing so, so I'm sure it's likely that I screwed it up. I just copied the existing citation and changed the page number. BBrucker2 (talk) 23:03, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Good work. Take a look at WP:REFPUNC. Viriditas (talk) 02:20, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Dead link[edit]

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I edited the synopsis section, explaining what the scanners and scramble suit were and paragraphing it better. There's probably still some room for improvement. PKD, better than anyone, ever, was able to explain the confusion of not knowing who you are, even when you see yourself in a video, and project the horror of that to the reader. While it is rather trivial, I think the article might mention several hilarious madcap or slapstick episodes in the novel that have nothing to do with the ultimate plot but show how messed up the characters are, or at least quote the review that says, "This is a very funny book!" (talk) 19:55, 16 July 2016 (UTC)Eric

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Title inspiration[edit]

I am not a subject expert but did wonder when I came across Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's "In a Glass Darkly".[1]


  1. ^ "In a Glass Darkly : Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2017-11-28.