Why Philip K. Dick Defected to Orange County

Scott Timberg has been working his way through the firmament of great SF writers in a series of articles for the Los Angeles Times. His latest contribution is an especially engaging profile of Philip K. Dick that draws on interviews with Tim Powers, Dick’s ex-wife Tessa, and his daughter Isa.

One thing he tries to make sense of is why a man of Dick’s sensibilities moved to Orange County:

Dick was a Bay Area fixture until November 1971, when he returned to his house in San Rafael to discover his doors and windows blown out, water and asbestos shards on the floor and his stereo and papers gone.

He would blame the Black Panthers, the KGB, neo-Nazis. But regardless of the perpetrators, he wanted out. When an offer came to appear at a sci-fi convention in Vancouver, Canada, Dick set out for British Columbia, and a month later had not returned. Eventually, he wrote to Willis McNelly, a professor at Cal State Fullerton, to ask whether that community might suit him.

“You must realize of course,” McNelly wrote back, “that Fullerton is in the heart of darkest Orange County. . . . O.C. is also the place where Nixon’s representative in Congress is a card-carrying member of the Birch Society.”

One thought on “Why Philip K. Dick Defected to Orange County

  1. Nice post, never knew that McNelly had a connection to Dick

    I started working on a post for my blog last week called “Mapping the PKD-Google nexus,” but never finished. I was plotting a bunch of points on Google Maps. I had Berkeley High School, UC Berkeley, a couple of Dick’s apartments in Berkeley, Stanford University, Isa’s house in Redwood City, Laura’s house in Pleasanton, the garage in Menlo Park where Larry and Sergey started Google, Google’s hq in Mountain View, Larry Page’s house in Old Palo Alto, Eric Schmidt’s house in Atherton, and a few others. Small world!

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