Nicholas and the Higs
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|Author||Philip K. Dick|
|Written c. 1957|
|Media type||Manuscript (lost)|
Nicholas and the Higs was one of several early, unpublished novels by noted science fiction author Philip K. Dick. It was written somewhere around 1957 during the waning days of his second marriage, was re-written at the behest of his publisher in 1958, and was then ultimately rejected for publication. The original manuscripts have been lost, and no copies are known to be extant.
Among Dick's numerous lost novels, this one was unique because it represented his earliest full-length literary attempt to blend mainstream literary fiction with science fiction. Up until this time, Dick had written numerous "straight" (non-SF) novels, all rejected for publication, and had published several science fiction novels and numerous short stories, but he regarded his science fiction as "merely something to pay the bills," and kept his genre career separate from his "grown-up" literary aspiration. In this novel, he allegedly attempted to blend the two for the first time.
As with several lost Philip K. Dick novels of this period, all we know about it is an index card synopsis in the files of a publisher who rejected the book. According to Lawrence Sutin's book, Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, (Published 1989) this card was dated 1/3/58 and said:
- "Very long, complex story, usual Dick genius for setting. Future society wherein trading stamps have replaced currency and people live hundreds of miles from work (drive at 190 mph), have set up living tracts. Cars often break down, so they have tract mechanic on full-time basis. Mechanic old, has bad liver, seems to be dying. People of tract use general fund to buy pseudo-organ but man is dead for a few days and 'comes back' a bit touched. Sub plot concerns man from whom tract got organ (which is illegal), and how his presence causes moral breakdown of people in tract."
In a letter dated 1960, Dick himself commented on the theme of the novel:
- "This is an odd one, half 'straight' and half science fiction. An inferior man can destroy a superior one; a Robert Hig can move in and oust Nicholas because he, Hig, has no morals...Only by relying on base techniques can Nicholas survive;...Awareness of this is enough to drive Nicholas out; he must give up because to win is to lose; he is involved in a terrible paradox as soon as Hig puts in his appearance. In other words, you can't really beat the Adolph [sic] Hitlers; you can only limit their success." (Compare this pessimistic "Bad guys always win" sentiment to Phil's own comments on how "God, or at least … Virtue" will always protect the good from evil in his lost novel, A Time for George Stavros.)
In later work
As with many of the characters in Dick's unpublished non-SF novels, several of the characters from this book reappeared in several later novels. As usual, these are not actual sequels, but rather are an example of Dick's penchant for re-using unpublished characters in a "same character, different lives" kind of way. For instance, the old, dying mechanic turns up again in The Penultimate Truth (1964), as do both Robert Hig and Nicholas.
- Sutin, Lawrence. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. 1989