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One night in October, 1968, we spent long hours talking theology, exploring what could be inferred about the nature of God from some fundamental assumptions of ontology and teleology. We were just shooting the shit, indulging in what Erik Davis (a panelist at the Festival) called, in a related context, "a cannabis-fueled late-night buddy rant." Except that cannabis wasn't involved. We were talking heads without reefer, just getting high on each other's ideas. A few months later Dick called me and said that he'd written a book based on our conversation. It was published in 1970 as A Maze of Death, a sci-fi religious mystery novel. I shared credit with Bishop James Pike for having inspired it.

Now I'm here at this year's festival to participate in the biographical panel. I attend all the other seminars as well and contribute whatever I can to the Q&A. Was he bipolar, or temporal-lobe epileptic? Did he use psychedelics as well as speed? Was he a Gnostic or simply a Christian? To me he was a friend named Phil, a man capable of immense generosity and warmth and equally irascible behavior, not yet deified as a legend and not yet a Hollywood brand name.

I chat with other participants, young and old, and ask them what brought them to Phil Dick in the first place. To some it's his writing; to others it's his spiritual quest; and to many it's the sense that he speaks to them personally, intimately, addressing their alienation and psychic wounds.

To me it's all three. Christ, I miss him.

William Sarill's byline appeared in the first-ever edition of Boston After Dark in 1965. Contact him at WILLIAM.SARILL@HOTMAIL.COM.

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