Shell Game (short story)
"Shell Game" is a science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick. "Shell Game" was submitted to the Scott Meredith Literary Agency and received by SMLA on December 12, 1953. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction Sept. 1954 "Shell Game" forms an interesting early examination of extreme paranoia and group attempts to empirically distinguish delusion from accurate perception of real events. A group of paranoid mental patients, long stranded on an alien planet by shipwreck of the robot controlled hospital spaceship transporting them to a mental hospital, believe themselves to be constantly under attack by aliens or Terrans. They discover the damaged ship in a bog, and from recorded tapes they learn their condition and the circumstances of the shipwreck. Even when they discover this evidence of the truth and attempt to verify or disprove the information on the ship's tapes, they construct sophisticated explanations to explain the "attacks" as a plot by the enemy who they now regard as definitely Terrans. After much internal dispute and sometimes violent conflict at the end of the story the survivors of the infighting are unsure if they are paranoid or victims of a plot. As one of them states they are like rulers who are all 12 inches long or 13 inches long so have no basis for comparison. How would people determine whether they suffer from paranoia when they agree they have evidence all or none of them are paranoid is a central question of the story.
This story was later expanded in the novel Clans of the Alphane Moon.
Shell Game" is still under United States copyright protection.
"Shell Game" appears in the following Philip K. Dick collections:
- The Book of Philip K. Dick (1973)
- The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3: The Father-Thing (1987)
- The Philip K. Dick Reader (1997)
- Rickman, Gregg (1989), To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1963, Long Beach, Ca.: Fragments West/The Valentine Press, p. 390 ISBN 0-916063-24-0
- Levack, Daniel (1981) PKD: A Philip K. Dick Bibliography, Underwood/Miller, p. 124, ISBN 0-934438-33-1
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