When science-fiction author Philip K. Dick died at 53 in 1982, just months shy of the premiere of Blade Runner, he left behind a legacy that included dozens of novels written over the course of three decades, as well as a number of short stories and film and TV adaptations of his work. But Dick’s illness and early death did not afford him time to complete his final book, a novel called The Owl In Daylight, a title said to have been inspired by a conversation between the Chicago-born author and a Southerner. Over at Atlas Obscura, writer Eric Grundhauser shares what is known about this thwarted volume in an article called “The Shifting Realities Of Philip K. Dick’s Final Unfinished Novel.” As the title of the article indicates, the evidence is contradictory and far from conclusive.
The plot of the proposed book supposedly revolves around an amusement park owner who creates a super-intelligent computer, only to find himself trapped by the machine and forced to solve its puzzles in order to escape. Dick’s widow, Tessa, described The Owl In Daylight as “a clear rip off of a movie called Tron,” but Grundhauser points out that Tron was not even released until several months after the author died. In a letter to his agent, Dick cited other, more highbrow influences: Dante’s Commedia and Goethe’s Faust. And just weeks before his death, in an interview with Gwen Lee and Doris Elaine Sauter, Dick sketched out another plot for The Owl In Daylight, this one about a struggling music composer who gets a “bio-chip” implanted in his brain. Tessa produced her own version of The Owl In Daylight, based on what she thinks Philip would have wanted, but this was forced off the market for legal reasons and is now a pricey collectible. As it is, the unfinished novel remains a major question mark in the author’s long and prolific career. Grundhauser concludes:
We’ll never know for sure exactly what The Owl In Daylight would have looked like had Philip lived to put the story to paper, but it sounds like it would have been a rare happy ending in the Dick canon. “He considered this a sort of capstone to his career,” Tessa says. “The first novel that ends on a note of hope and love.”