When I made the claim that I had at least a circumstantial case for having been Philip K. Dick in a previous life, I realized something very crucial: If I was him, I had nothing to show for it in the pace I was able to write stories. Between 2003 and 2012 I had only finished three novels, and only published two of them because one was an attempt to break into mainstream fiction that never went anywhere. The only novels I had actually sold had taken years to complete (Seven years for the first and two for the second). By comparison to Phil, I moved at a glacial pace.
Three things happened in 2013, though. First, I had memories that were tentatively confirmed of personal details of Phil’s life and began noticing striking similarities in personality, taste, tendencies, and even appearance between us; this was when the idea that I might be him first entered my mind. Second, I had a backlog of unfinished or back-burnered projects that had potential to apply new ideas and styles to (I’m still working through that backlog). Third, I hit upon the realization that I already had a publisher who would work with me, and I didn’t need to make it in the mainstream necessarily if I could be a big fish in a little pond, because I had gotten attention from a broader base of fiction readers than the tiny LGBT subgenre I write in.
I had the motive, means, and opportunity to really push myself to become a great writer and live up to a claim that fantastic, without using that claim in connection to furthering my career (I decided early on that using past life claims to promote my work would kill my chances of being anything but a curiosity, like Barbro Karlen).
As I got to know Phil’s life and work and began to remember things that weren’t in the books I read or the documentaries I watched, I eventually found I really had no need to try to become him in some liminal act because I came to see myself as a continuation of the same mind, prone to my own individual differences and free to do whatever I wanted with these ideas. I developed my own idiom, focusing more on questions of competing narratives of identity rather than competing narratives of reality, inspired in no small part by the traumatic effects of gender dysphoria and its social and familial fallout that I learned firsthand.
But one thing I have not managed to do is to tap into some of the other things I have, like the severe physical anxiety symptoms I’ve experienced, or traits like misophonia and hyperacusis that make life difficult for me. I don’t really fit on the autistic spectrum because I don’t have any of the core traits (e.g. I’m not obsessed with fixed interests, patterns, and numbers and I don’t have the expected communication deficiencies), but I have some sensory integration issues that remain undiagnosed because the DSM has no category for sensory integration disorder and neurologists refuse to diagnose adults with it even though they acknowledge that some of us aren’t diagnosed properly as children. It is debilitating and it makes my life much more difficult than it has to be.
I tend to make my characters rather normal for the most part; I didn’t make them as neurotic as I am because I don’t know how to do it without making them hard to relate to, or seeming like an object of pity. The truth is, like Phil, I have a difficult time being entirely stable because dealing with the demands of a noisy, fast-moving world full of hostile people is more than I can deal with most of the time. I guess part of the reason I never write characters like me because I can’t think of any way to give them reason to hope for anything in a future setting, except maybe death by indifference or possibly becoming the most functional mental defective on an offworld colony full of mental defectives (however, Phil already wrote such a story based on his own fears of this happening to him). I could really give my writing some pathos if I could figure out how to do it without burdening the reader with a story too depressing to finish, but I get cold feet or feel like I’m going nowhere every time I try.
I have all the tools to write like the legend whose memories I claim while still being authentic, individual, and genuine; I just need to learn to use all of them. I feel like I’m learning but I still need to figure out how to confront some of the most uncomfortable parts of my experience in my writing before I can really say I feel like I’ve done my very best.