I just learned via Mark Bould on Facebook that Paul Williams, author of the famous Rolling Stones article on Dick–available online here, the first literary executor of Philip K. Dick’s estate and recognized music critic, has passed away. An official announcement is on his wife Cindy Lee Berryhill’s blog here, the Philip K. Dick Fan Site has remarks and collected news links here, and the Total Dick-Head blog has a remembrance here.
Unfortunately, I never met Williams in person. However, I came to know him, like his friend Phil Dick, through his writing and interviews.
Last year, I was very fortunate to win a R. D. Mullen Fellowship to research in the University of California at Riverside’s Library and its Eaton Collection of Science Fiction. During my two weeks trip, I read through every PKD Society Newsletter–Paul William’s famous fanzine for the Philip K. Dick Society–and listened to his recorded interview with Dick on cassette tape (that the undergraduate archives helper attempted to put into a front loading VHS player before I stopped her and showed her how to put it in the Hi-Fi at the bottom of the media cart).
In William’s writing and interviews, I found him to have an easy-going confidence and the kind of enthusiasm that does not have to be ecstatic. He shared his views, but he recognized the multiplicity of Dickian readings and perspectives. Also, Williams was unafraid to include material that put Dick in the best or worst light. The PKD Society Newsletter was a space where all things Dick could be discussed and shared.
Like watching a TV series on DVD, sitting down to experience the PKD Newsletter in a sitting over several days was like experiencing his promotion of Phil Dick’s work and life in fast forward. My experience is one of the times that I wish that I were older and in the right place to have know about the Newsletter and subscribed at the beginning. What a difference it would have made to read the Newsletter and possibly write letters to Williams as the Dickian scene began to grow and connect many people together.
Nevertheless, I am happy for what I have–to have read and enjoyed the work Williams put into the PKDS Newsletter and his executorship of the Dick literary estate before Dick’s family asserted their control over the estate–something that Williams writes only briefly about in the Newsletter but in such a muted tone compared to his other writing.
I send my condolences to Williams’ family and friends. He did very good work in his life and that is, at least in my opinion, one of the best things that we can all strive to do. It is my sincerest hope to carry on Williams’ work and love of Dick’s fiction in my teaching and publications.