Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Top 10 #4: Top 10 Least Respectable Titles Of Philip K. Dick Novels

I'm a big fan of Philip K. Dick, but his reputation has problems. Despite writing a lot of deeply intelligent and seriously "literary" fiction, most of his work was originally published as science fiction – and in the city of literature, SF is usually considered a contemptible ghetto. (To be fair, most books published as SF aren't very good; but on the other hand, most books aren't very good, either.)
This is all a shame, but Dick's reputation isn't helped by the frequently bizarre titles of his works. Even the great and memorable ones – Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, and Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said – are still kind of daft. And they're often unusually long, which puts a lot of people off; that's probably why those first two titles were renamed Blade Runner and Total Recall for the movie remakes*.

Many of Dick's books are great, but some people just can't get past the ridiculous, oh-so-science-fictiony titles – "I'm not reading that!" – and it really is a damn shame. So with that in mind, here's the latest of my Top 10 Top 10 Lists That Don't Really Deserve To Be Top 10 Lists.

*Both those movies are only loose adaptations of the original stories, it should be pointed out. Very, very loose.

The Top 10 Least Respectable Titles Of Philip K. Dick Novels!

This one almost works, actually – it's so plainly generic that it almost feels ironic (which it is). But it's still embarrassingly generic.

I assume this was bowdlerised for publication, and should really have been Confessions Of A Bullshit Artist (or is "bullshit artist" only an Australian idiom?). As it is, it doesn't seem to quite make sense – is "crap artist" even a real phrase? Either way, it's a misleading title for what is actually a very serious, sad and intelligent novel (and also, fwiw, not science-fictional at all).

The "our friends from" tag is an intriguing allusion, but you can't take any book seriously when it's about a place called Frolix 8.

Oh, come on. "Palmer Eldritch"? Seriously?

Anything with "galactic" in the title always sounds like a parody. And "pot-healer" sounds like a weird drug reference. (However: believe it or not, the book really is about a guy who "heals" ceramic pots. Yeah. A pot-healer. Honestly – who would guess that from the title?)

Hopelessly generic title: it sounds like an episode of Doctor Who. (Probably a very entertaining episode of Doctor Who, mind you – but it's still not respectable.)

Hopelessly generic title, and it allows for bum jokes.

Game-players from Titan are not a topic of respectable fiction. They're just not. (As far as titles go, it's also bereft of drama and very boring.)

It's not a parody of Dr Strangelove, yet the title is a direct reference. So it doesn't even make sense, except as the tackiest of marketing strategies; it's just odd. What were the publishers thinking?

Any fiction that uses the word "clan" (without also, at some point, using the word "kilt") is raising a red flag; to me, it's always going to look like some crappy fantasy novel. And if it also uses the word "moon", I'm going to go straight ahead and logically assume that it's all about caveman sex.

(You just clicked on that "caveman sex" link, didn't you? Yeah, I know what you like.)

And there you have it.
Gosh, I sure hope my new home internet connection is active by now . . .

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I did click on it. I was hoping for some hairy, naked frolicking by firelight.

    I like the sound of the 'Pot-Healer', but perhaps he should have considered 'Vessel Voodoo' - might also get some word nerds on board with that one.

    'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' reminded me of Stelarc's Prosthetic Head. I wish I could ask it if it dreams of electric sheep. If it's still around. Maybe it got bored of being a mock human head and went to live in a Telstra server.