As yet another Phil K Dick book gets the Hollywood treatment A Scanner Darkly is out now , joining Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall and the rest, I have a piece in online magazine Nth Position looking at the great mans capability as a predictor of future military technology.The article pits his book The Zap Gun - set in the futuristic world of 2004 - against Robert Heinleins Starship Troopers. Heinlein was a Navy man and aeronautical engineer; Dick was a self-confessed flipped-out freak" with a long history of drug abuse and little knowledge of technical matters.The result might come as a surprise: the number of hits that PKD scores is impressive, even with ideas that much have seemed deliberately absurd at the time, while Heinleins serious projections from then-current technology fail spectacularly. You might not want to take it all too seriously, but there's some food for thought.Especially when The Zap Gun features an electronic publication called Wep Week, devoted to pictures and specs of new weapon systems and with its own devoted -- if occasionally obsessive -- readership.Did Dick really gets his information from a pink laser beam projected into his brain by an alien intelligence, as he apparently believed? Or is it just that having a seriously far-out imagination is a major asset? You dont have to be crazy to anticipate military technology, but it certainly seems to help.-- David Hambling
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