Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Wendy Nielsen

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg


“Don’t Turn That Dial: Advertising, Mass Media, and the God Character in the Novels of Philip K. Dick” seeks to explore the Science Fiction (SF) novels of Philip K. Dick through two themes: the parity of divinity and reality and the use of advertising and mass media as a divine tool. These themes are reflected through Dick’s god character, which appears throughout his works. This parallel of reality with divinity means that any character that claims to be able to generate reality is worshipped as a religious figure. In Dick’s novels from the 1960s, there are false god characters which generate an illusory reality using mass media and advertising that acts to occlude authentic reality for the other characters. The sixties novels that are examined are Do Androids Dream o f Electric Sheep?(\96S), The Three Stigmata o f Palmer Eldrich (1965), Lies, Inc. (1984, first published as The Unteleported Man in 1966), and The Simulacra (1964). In the theological novels of the eighties, Valis (1981) and The Divine Invasion (1981), a true god character arrives that possesses the power to impart the quality of realness onto objects. He uses advertising and mass media to communicate instructions to the other characters about how to access an authentic reality, which includes other human beings, and achieve divinity.

This examination of Dick’s treatment of the god character brings to light his unique take on a popular topic in the SF genre: the question of technology’s effects on the human psyche. His novels can be read as a warning against mass media and advertising’s oversaturation of everyday life. If mass media and advertising comprise too much of human perception, we are in danger of forgetting how to recognize authentic reality and experience empathy toward other human beings: a trait that Dick considers crucial to being human.

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