Martian Time-Slip, published in 1964, takes place on Mars in the late 1990s. The United Nations has begun colonizing the red planet, “reclaiming” desert to serve as farmland and establishing settlements along the great canals. Water is scarce, as are fine foods and luxury goods. Most people subsist on water rations and whatever meager crops they can raise. Jack Bohlen is a repairman flying from job to job in his Yee Company helicopter.
Published in 1969, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik takes place in a fictional future of 1992. The corporate world is plagued by spies from Ray Hollis' psionic agency. The psionics have various psychic powers including telepathy and precognition. They infiltrate organizations to steal their valuable secrets. Joe Chip is a tester for Runciter Associates, the world’s leading prudence organization. Prudence organizations find “inertials,” people whose psychic counter-talents can neutralize the talents of Hollis' psionics.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch opens in New York City in an unnamed year of the twenty-first century. Barney Mayerson, a pre-fash consultant for Perky Pat Layouts, drank too much the night before and slept with his new assistant, Rondinella “Roni” Fugate. Mayerson and Fugate are both precogs, blessed with a talent for seeing into the future. At P.P. Layouts, they evaluate common cultural objects for “minning” (miniaturizing), to be sent to the colonies on Mars, Venus, and a number of moons throughout the solar system.
Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle presents an alternate reality in which the Allies lost World War II and the Axis won. The book was written in, and takes place in, the early 1960’s. Unlike many of today’s dystopian alternate-history novels, which tend to be dark and somber, Dick’s story is darkly humorous. Instead of focusing merely on how the victors oppress the vanquished, Dick transposes the absurdities and petty quarrels of twentieth century life onto an America colonized by Japan, a world in which two cultures, fundamentally at odds, must coexist without being able to fully understand each other.
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