Radio Free Albemuth, in the context of the last great works of Philip K. Dick, can be read as an introduction and key to his magnificent Valis trilogy (Valis, The Divine Invasion, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer). But this book stands alone as an accomplishment in itself, a complete and structurally contained investigation of the themes that were to occupy Dick in the last years of his career. -- blurb


UK 1st.: Grafton, pb, 06936-4, May 1987, 286pp, L2.95 (Tony Roberts)



{For the best bibliographic info in French goto: Thanks for the cover pix, Gilles}

Ken Lopez Bookseller

6. Valisystem A. (Published in 1985 as Radio Free Albemuth). Written in 1976, prior to Valis, but not published until after Dick's death. This is a ribbon copy typescript, 292 pages, with many ink changes and additions in Dick's hand, many of which do not appear in the published book. Inscribed and signed by the author. Together with a six page fake manuscript excerpt, numbered "85" through "90" and beginning and ending in mid-sentence, which Dick wrote solely to photocopy and send to his publisher to prove that this book, not yet begun, was well underway. Although the scene does involve the book's characters, it does not appear in the final book.

This was the first of Dick's novels to struggle with the concept of "Valis" and to include "Phil Dick" as an explicit character. The existence of Valis was revealed to Dick in February and March, 1974, when Dick had an ongoing series of religious or mystical experiences or a series of seizures possibly attributable to temporal lobe epilepsy. These experiences convinced him that a vast interlocking intelligence lay behind all the visible phenomena of the universe, and he spent the next several years, the rest of his life, in fact, trying to make sense of the insights he received at that time. Although posthumously published, and by definition not edited in the final version by Dick himself, Valisystem A is a profoundly important work in his opus, as the first attempt to construct the metaphysical framework that held together the most profound experiences and insights of his life. For the novel and fake excerpt manuscripts: $12,500 {Ken Lopez, Bookseller, online catalog, May 1997. As far as I know this is still for sale}:

PKDS-6 3:

Arbor House... has purchased North American rights to PKD's unpublished Science Fiction novel VALSYSTEM A, and will be publishing it in hardcover in December of 1985 under the new title RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH.
VALISYSTEM A was written in the Summer of 1976, Mark Hurst, then an editor at Bantam Books, purchased the book on the understanding that it would be revised. Apparantly Hurst and Dick discussed these revisions, on the phone or in person, and Dick agreed in principle to rather extensive changes. There followed several years in which Dick wrote Hurst long letters suggesting totally new plots that he would layer over the existing novel. He never actually drafted any of this material. Dick did refer often to the research he was doing for his Bantam novel; this research, the thousands of pages of notes, formed part of what he later called his EXEGESIS.
My guess is that Phil gave up fairly quickly on the idea of revising VALISYSTEM A to satisfy what he and Mark had discussed, and turned instead to planning a new novel based on the earlier material. This in turn left him feeling blocked on the project, and so he did no novel writing until October/November of 1978, when he broke through and in a rush of creativity wrote VALIS.
The point is that VALISYSTEM A was the rough draft of VALIS only in a technical sense. The two novels are very different in plot, theme and style...
The name RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH was chosen because it was felt that the titles VALIS and VALISYSTEM A are too similar and would cause confusion. {...}
David Hartwell is the editor at Arbor House responsible for acquiring RFA...

A significant contribution to the publication of this major work by Philip K. Dick was made by Tim Powers, who provided the Estate with a copy of VALISYSEM A with extensive corrections written in by PKD; Dick had presented this to Powers for his private collection. {...}

PKDS-8 10:

PKD was very much in evidence at the annual American Booksellers Association convention, held in San Francisco this past June. Arbor House had a large blowup of the cover for RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH, and included it in a flyer containing their top books for promotion for the next six months (they claim a $25,000 advertising and promotion budget, which would certainly be a first for a PKD book)...

PKDS-11 5:

RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH has done well so far; with 8,000 copies shipped it's PKD's most successfull hardcover ever, assuming most of those coopies sell and aren't returned.

PKDS-11 6:

Meanwhile his press is terrific. The New York Times called him "one of the most important science fiction writers of the last 25 years," in Gerald Jonas' 1-12-86 revie of RFA, and goes on to say, "he claimed for himself a freedom from the pulp fiction formulas that had long hobbled the ambitions of the genre." Saturday Review (Feb '86) ran a prominant review of RFA and PUTTERING with a long biographical introduction. "Many of his finest novels," says SR, "have a subtle tinge of madfness, with nothing as it really seems, and reality often a vague, shifting construct that is apt to slide out from underfoot and send his characters scrambling..."

PKDS-12 8:

A mass-market paperback of RFA will be published by Avon Books in the US. ... probably late winter or Spring 1987. RFA was a Science Fiction Book Club selection earlier this year {1986}. Translations are forthcoming in Japan (Shoben Sha), France (Denoel) and Germany (Moewig)

   Valis's will was not fully realised on Earth. This was the adversary's realm, the Prince of this world. Valis could only work within this world, work with a small remnant of men; he was the minority party, here, speaking as a still small voice to one man or a handful, from a bush, in sleep, during an operation. Eventually he would win. But not now. These were not the end times after all. The end times were always coming but never here, always nearby and influencing us but never realised.
    Well, I decided, we would do the best we could. And know by faith that it was worth it.
-- RFA 166

PKDS-13 6:

(Chat between Tessa Dick, Christopher Dick and J.B.Reynolds}

(TD:) The thing about Sadass Ulna came from a different source. For a while there, we used to sleep with the radio on. One night the radio was playing, Helen Reddy singing "You're So Vain."...

(JB:) You mean Carly Simon.

(TD:) Carly Simon, yeah. Only Phil kept getting it mixed up in his mind with Linda Ronstadt: "You're No Good." But it was "You're So Vain" that was playing. I was a little more awake than Phil was; he was kind of half awake, and all of a sudden he jumped up and -- well, he yelled at me to turn the radio off, and I didn't do it fast enough so he turned it off himself. And he unplugged it and took it out to the kitchen. See, he thought he'd heard the radio saying his name, and telling him that he was no good, no good, and he should crawl into a corner and die.

(JB:) Huh. In RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH, the character Nicholas is sitting in the living room, and hears the radio saying, "Nick is a prick!", obscenities. Was that based on that incident?

(TD:) Well, yeah. It was saying "Phil is a pill", and stuff like that.

(CD:) Laughs.

(JB:) That was one of the items on my list, the "oscenities over the radio."

(TD:) Oh yeah, it was saying all kinds of horrible things to him. Well, the thing is, the radio stayed in the kitchen unplugged, for about a week, and we kept hearing the radio at night anyway. We did have one wall in common with the apartment next door. So we checked with the girls there to see if they were playing the radio at night, but the wall in our bedroom connected with their kitchen, and they didn't even have a radio in the kitchen. The thing about that was that we both heard the music, and it was always between 2 and 6 ayem, and the radio wasn't even pluged in.

(JB:) Was it the same kind of music that you'd had before?

(TD:) Yeah, sounded like the same station, so Phil even went out and un-tuned the unplugged radio to something else. But we still got easy-listening music, only Phil kept hearing it tell him that he was no good, that he should die. And I didn't hear that. We gave up and plugged the radio back in again, because it was easier to sleep with music on.

PKDS-17 12:

RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH received at least 19 nominations for the Science Fiction Writers of America Nebula Award this year, and almost made it onto the ballot.

PKDS-29    10

{... ...}And some of the correspondence  signals the existence of more unpublished materials. For instance, a letter to Philip Jose Farmer on April 15th (pp. 51-52) mentions a story Phil would be sending called "A Man For No Countries." A bracketed note states it was never completed or published, but does any of it still remain?

[No, not that I have seen. There was a handwritten note by PKD on a sheet of paper that included that story title and the phrase, "about 'our' world (not quite) & what happened to me 11/17/71." See Only Apparantly Real, p.147. The story idea seems to have been the germ of what became RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH. See OAR pp.75-84 -- PW]

{... ...}

{Patrick Clark > PKDS, Oct 1991}


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