PHILIP K. DICK (1928-1982) is an American author whose world-wide reputation grows year by year. The themes he wrote about obsessively are reflected in the two best movies made from his work, Blade Runner ("What is human?") and Total Recall ("How much of what we perceive is real?"). Like Faulkner and Joyce, Dick specialized in juggling points of view, each point of view constituting a separate reality. He wrote many classic SF novels during the '50s, '60s, and '70s, - The Man in the High Castle, Martian Time Slip, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik, Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, A Scanner Darkly - and more than a half-dozen "mainstream" novels that did not see print until after his death. VALIS, his 1981 masterpiece, deals in semi-autobiographical fashion with an event that actually occurred, a nervous breakdown/mystical experience during which Dick "saw God." Never one to take things at face value, Dick spent the rest of his life trying to explain the incident. He is one of the funniest writers who ever wrote and one of the most metaphysically profound.
THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER (Timescape 1982) is the third book in what is now known as Dick's "VALIS Trilogy", and the first of his completely mainstream works to be purchased by a major publisher during his lifetime. Like VALIS, it is about a real person, James A. Pike (fictionalized as Timothy Archer), the radical Episcopalian bishop from the San Francisco Bay Area who died under mysterious circumstances in the North African desert. Bishop Archer, like Dick himself, is a brilliant man whose obsessive metaphysical concerns blind him to everyday realities. The story is told in the first person by the Bishop's daughter-in-law, Angel Archer. Her voice - sad, funny, eminently practical, sardonically witty - is what we remember best from this book.
Richard Powers was a logical choice to design the cover for Timothy Archer, having already painted covers for two of Dick's finest SF novels, A Maze Of Death (Paperback Library 1971) and The Man in the High Castle (Berkley 1974). The parallels between Dick and Powers are obvious. Dick was not taken seriously by the literary establishment during his lifetime because he wrote "sci-fi." Powers' cover paintings were dismissed as "commercial." Yet within these culturally despised genres, each man produced great art. Powers' cover for Timothy Archer illustrates in deceptively simple cruciform design its themes of Death - the Bishop's face fading into a skull - and Resurrection - the figure of a woman shining within the cross-sectioned bone marrow, a figure which readers of Dick will immediately associate with the Gnostic goddess, Sophia. Powers would paint covers for two more of Dick's posthumously released mainstream novels, Mary and the Giant and The Broken Bubble, both published in hardcover by Arbor House, in 1987 and 1988, respectively.