Philip K. Dick

After an extended mission to Mars, six astronauts re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Understandably, they’re overwhelmed with excitement for the celebrations that await their arrival and desperate to see their families after so long away from home.

“People. I want to see people again. Lots of them. Dumb, sweaty, noisy. Ice cream and water. The ocean. Beer bottles, milk cartons, paper napkins —

I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

But upon their return, they’re welcomed, not by ticker tape parades and thankful family members, but rather by a suspicious and angry population. After wandering around, looking for help, the astronauts become cornered by a group of FBI agents who, instead of assisting, attack them.

It turns out this isn’t the first time this group of astronauts has returned to Earth…

Explorers We, first published in Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine in 1959, was later collected in the book, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon. 

While it’s not one of Philip K. Dick’s most original or lengthy stories, Explorers We very clearly demonstrates the philosophy behind much of Dick’s work, as outlined in his essay How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.

So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufacturered by very sophisticated people useing very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power.

Philip K. Dick in 1986

The story explores what it means to be human, the futility of war, and the duality of multiple realities within a succinct and fast-paced short. There are few authors other than Dick who could build so much depth and texture into just twelve pages. More than that I don’t want to say for fear of spoiling the story, but do see if you can find a copy, it’s worth the fifteen minutes it’ll take to read.

“If it was up to me, Wilks asked himself, what would I do? Try to find out what they want? Anything that looks so human, behaves in such a human way, must feel human… and if they – whatever they are – feel human, might they not become human, in time?”

Explorers We, Philip K. Dick

Explorers We isn’t one of Dick’s best known stories, in fact it’s pretty obscure — I don’t think it’s currently even in publication — but it is, in my humble opinion, one of his best, and should be read by all fans of Philip K. Dick.

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