Dr. Futurity

Dick, Philip

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Brinker, Dustin
  • Date of entry: Jun-18-2020
  • Last revised: Jun-29-2020


Jim Parsons is a physician living in an alternate 2012, one equipped with technology mildly superior to our own. While on his way to work, his car is abducted from the road and thrown off the natural path of life as we know it, both physically and temporally. Parsons finds himself in the distant future, roughly three centuries from his own, in a monoethnic society of young beings that resulted after generations of war led by people of color against the white domination of the A.D. era. The true ideology of the society is revealed when Parsons saves the life of a political radical, a proponent of the re-outlawed women’s suffrage. As he is taken into custody and processed for the crime of preserving life, the leader of the society, Al Stenog, describes the societal fetishization of death resulting from government-controlled population limits. Natural birth has been outlawed, enforced via early sterilization of males and a strictly monitored, equivalent exchange of deaths and births. Genetic material is selected via a tribal selection process based upon quantifiable measures of beauty and intelligence, whereby the fertile matriarch of the dominant tribe becomes the Mother Superior from whom eggs are harvested. The eugenic ideology extends into one’s conception of self—those currently living believe themselves to be genetically inferior to the zygotes housed in the government’s central repository. As a result, the society is described as being an amalgamation of all races of color whose average age is 15.

Stenog exiles Parsons to Mars, but his transport is intercepted by the masterminds behind his time travel. This group, now the genetically dominant tribe, explains their motive—the revival of their ideological patriarch. He has been cryogenically preserved for 35 years following an arrow to the heart. Parsons manages to save his life, but the patriarch is shortly thereafter found dead, his heart once again pierced with an arrow. It is revealed that the tribe intends to systematically eradicate all European colonization efforts in history, intending to halt centuries of white oppression; the patriarch had been stabbed during his attempt to begin the tribe’s crusade with the elimination of Sir Francis Drake in 1579. Returning to that time, Parsons discovers two startling facts: Stenog had traveled back to replace Drake, implying that all colonizers were from the future, and Parsons was the true killer of the patriarch, albeit accidentally. Despite the ensuing fallout involving much time travel, Parsons is returned to his own time, spared from temporal exile by his future children spawned from the impregnation of the Mother Superior.


The late Philip K. Dick, a father of twentieth century science fiction, experimented greatly in all of his pieces with varying success. This work of time travel, racial politics, and morality deftly comments on the omnipresent topics of the mid-twentieth century. Published only five years after the integration of U.S. public schools and seven years after the English translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s influential Le deuxième sexe, Dick quickly solidified liberal ideology in science fiction. Although a sub-theme of this piece, the oppression of women is openly described as abhorrent via Parsons’ blatant disgust at the lack of voting and reproductive rights of women, an opinion emphasized by the society’s concubine outlook toward wives (termed puellas from the Latin etymology) and their eggs. Furthermore, concepts of historical and institutional racism are intermixed through the lens of white guilt, a concept that lacked weight until roughly 18 years after the publication of this work. The “radical” view of people of color reigning supreme after centuries of white oppression would make many white patriarchs and their disciples uncomfortable in our own time, let alone in the 1960’s. Parsons is aptly described as a fallible narrator, simultaneously culturally sensitive and bigoted by the views of his time. This is exemplified by his donning of redface in order to assist in curtailing white domination. Dick frames Parsons’ opinions, mirroring those of our own age, in a manner that reveals a startling thought experiment evolving from the theoretical pride and egoism inherent to the primary tenets of modern medicine: those of saving and preserving life. Thus, I believe it is fair to say that Dr. Futurity, despite its precarious foundation in time travel, acts as a clear intersection of race, gender, and medicine.


Mariner Books

Place Published

United States

Page Count