The magnificent “Letters of Note” blog came up with this small piece of science fiction history recently: Letters from Philip K. Dick to the FBI in 1972, detailing what he believed was a secret plot by neo-Nazis to insert secret messages into science fiction novels. Some choice excerpts:
[S]everal months ago I was approached by an individual who I have reason to believe belonged to a covert organization involving politics, illegal weapons, etc., who put great pressure on me to place coded information in future novels “to be read by the right people here and there,” as he phrased it. I refused to do this.
The reason why I am contacting you about this now is that it now appears that other science fiction writers may have been so approached by other members of this obviously anti-American organization and may have yielded to the threats and deceitful statements such as were used on me. Therefore I would like to give you any and all information and help I can regarding this, and I ask that your nearest office contact me as soon as possible. I stress the urgency of this because within the last three days I have come across a well-distributed science fiction novel which contains in essence the vital material which this individual confronted me with as the basis for encoding.
The coded information which Kinchen wished placed in my novels (I of course refused, and fled to Canada) had to do with an alleged new strain of syphilis sweeping the U.S., kept topsecret by the U.S. authorities; it can’t be cured, destroys the brain, and is swift-acting. The disease, Kinchen claimed, is being brought in deliberately from Asia by agents of the enemy (unspecified), and is in fact a weapon of World War Three, which has begun, being used against us.
Dick’s problems with visions and paranoia have been well-documented, and take these letters beyond ha-ha-look-at-the-weirdo cheap humor; instead, we’re left with what was either the beginnings of Dick’s increasingly-confused relationship with reality, or more unexpectedly, evidence of a real attempt to insert messages into famous SF novels. I’m not sure which is more comforting an option.
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