Why Wasn’t Philip K. Dick in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame Anthologies?

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Philip K. DickI’ve been listening to the new audiobook editions of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One and Volume 2A. Volume 2B is due out in April. Today, my friend Mike asked me why there were no stories by Philip K. Dick in these anthologies. I had not noticed that before, and now I’m wondering, “Why the hell not?” Mike and I are big PKD fans.

Read “SFWA and the ‘Science Fiction Hall of Fame’ Anthologies” by Andrew Liptak for a history of these books and a listing of the stories included. The first three volumes collected stories voted on by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) for works that were published before the Nebula Awards were created. The final two volumes collected stories that won the award. Since PKD never won a Nebula it’s understandable he wasn’t included in those volumes. So we’re really talking about missing in action from v. 1, 2A and 2B.

Was Philip K. Dick unpopular with SFWA members? 132 stories by 76 authors were nominated for the first volume which was limited to stories under 15,000 words published before 1965. PKD had dozens and dozens of stories that met that requirement, many of which were exceptional, and several of which have inspired movies and television shows. I would love to see that list of total nominated stories but I can’t find it on the web. I have to assume PKD had a few stories on it.

The Internet Science Fiction Database (ISFDB) has a listing “Most Viewed Stories Since 2005.” PKD has 5 in the Top 20, and many more in the overall list.

  • “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966)
  • “Adjustment Team” (1954)
  • “The Minority Report” (1956)
  • “Imposter” (1953)
  • “The Golden Man” (1954)

Of course, this list has been heavily influenced by fans of the television shows and movies looking up the stories. Strangely, there are no PKD stories in ISFDB’s older “Top 100 Short Stories – Balanced List.” Does this mean PKD has only recently gained popularity as a science fiction writer?

Dick only has two stories on the “Top 100 SF Short Stories” at Sci-Fi Lists (“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” and “Second Variety” (1953)). This list is based on internet voters, from recent years.

He does have two stories (“Faith of Our Fathers” (1967) and “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”) at the Anthology & Collect References list that tells which stories have been most anthologized in these anthologies. These are older works.

Evidently, Philip K. Dick’s most popular story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” which came out in 1966 didn’t qualify. Neither does “Faith in Our Fathers.”  But the others do. Mike and I wondered why “Survey Team” (1954) didn’t make it since we like it better than many of the stories that did get into the original Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One.

Dick’s stories were often published in less famous science fiction magazines of the day. Reading them in his five-volume collected stories, I’m often very impressed. I wonder if there were other writers who appeared in the lesser mags that also wrote good stories that need to be remembered.

This also makes me ask, “What other great SF authors and stories were left out of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame books?” The obvious next question is where are the women writers? And when I think about it, there were many popular writers from the 1930s and 1940s that would have been included twenty-five years earlier. Time is not kind to science fiction.

Update 3/17/18:

What about Robert Sheckley?



17 thoughts on “Why Wasn’t Philip K. Dick in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame Anthologies?”

  1. Philip K. Dick never had as much recognition in the USA as he did in Britain and Europe during his lifetime,as you obviously know,which might explain most of the reasons why he wasn’t in those anthologies.However,his “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” and “Dr. Bloodmoney” were nominated for Nebulas in 1965,so there was a hardcore of authors that must have thought something of him,but I suppose it isn’t surprising that both of them lost out to Frank Herbert’s more popular “Dune”! Three years later,”Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was also nominated for the same award,but this time he was beaten by somebody who as far as I know,had previously been unknown in SF.It seems Dick’s novel just wasn’t popular enough.

    If you add all the reasons I mentioned above together,it’s probably not surprising that he wasn’t in those anthologies.

    1. What we need to do now Richard is find the best short stories by PKD and promote them. When I listen to the 5-volume collected story set, I need to remember which stories impress me the most. What happens, I hear a story, think, “Wow, that was good” and then forget it when I start listening to the next story.

      1. I think “The Turning Wheel”,one of his earliest short stories,is excellent,and even most of those in wrote in the 1960s,aren’t better,if as good,as this one.Another written about the same time as that one,”Upon the Dull Earth”,is really good too.”Faith of Our Fathers” is great though.

  2. No Philip Jose Farmer stories in these anthologies, either. That’s a shame.

    It’s good to see PKD’s short fiction getting some renewed attention – I too read through the five collections and was very impressed on many occasions. Hopefully we’ll continue to see his stories being adapted (even with all of the problems of the TV series).

      1. My vote would be for “Mother” from his Strange Relations collection. He really pushed the field in new and strange directions in those years.

      2. Philip J. Farmer was an early favourite author of mine.I think his best short story was “The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod”.I read a lot of books by him,but he wrote too much,too often,to satisfy though,and my interest in him later started to wane.Much of his stuff was also too long and rambling,and he’s not anywhere close to as good as Philip K. Dick or several other authors I like.

        Still,he was a restless maverick who fused quite a few genres into his SF.He deserved to have one or two of his shorter pieces in those anthologies

  3. I read these anthologies long ago, but I seem to recall the stories were all award-winners. That limits the selection process and might explain why Philip K. Dick and Philip Jose Farmer are under-represented.

    1. The volumes of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame 1, 2A, and 2B were all voted on by the SFWA to recognize great stories that came before the Nebula awards. That’s why they to have been published before 1/1/65 because the Nebula awards started that year. If you follow that first link above it gives the history of these books. Volumes 3 and 4 were the winners after 1964.

      Basically, all the early members of SFWA voted on their favorite stories, so these are the stories the professional SF writers remembered. One rule for the first volume was a writer could only appear once. And it appears to have been true for the combined 2A and 2B volumes. Some writers had many stories nominated, and I quibble that the selected story is best. But I also quibble about why some writers, like Dick and Sheckley were missing in action.

      We also need to ask: With an additional 50 years of wisdom and perspective, are these really the best science fiction short stories before 1/1/65? I don’t think some of them hold up at all. And I think other stories were better.

      1. No Robert Sheckley!He had a sizeable reputation as a short story author in the 1950s.I’ll be surprised if they left Ray Bradbury out.It’s not that he doesn’t deserve to be there,but he was a very popular and famous author.It s seems unlikely he wouldn’t be included.

  4. I checked the link,he did have one,but he was a very popular author.Those left out,like Dick,Sheckley and Farmer weren’t so much.It seems they were rather conservative in their choices for winners.

  5. They must be,he was,and Michael Moorcock also won one for “Behold the Man”[I’ve read the book,but not the novella that won the award].It just seems that J.G. Ballard’s particular fiction didn’t appeal to those of the SFWA.

  6. Fantastic article. Love this blog. Could spend all day reading through the entries. It really gets my juices going and makes me wish I could live forever so that I could be able to read all this great SF!

  7. Good post. A little off topic, but was glad to see a Dick set in the Library of America collection.

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