The World Jones Made was published in 1956 and was part of his first batch of novels penned in the mid-1950s, including Vulcan’s Hammer (not published until 1960), Dr. Futurity, The Cosmic Puppets, and Solar Lottery. It is the first major study by Philip K. Dick of a pre-cog, but also introduces his early belief in the need for a frontier from human creative and social development, the role of the mutant in a post-human situation, and the banality of modern political ideologies.
The Pre-cog and the Post-human: The pre-cog—a type of posthuman in Dick’s universe—was explored at length in Dick’s stories, but was never given a full treatment until The World Jones Made. The pre-cog would come to be the symbol of the posthuman, although there were many more examples of posthumans in earlier works, reflecting a broad assortment of talents and abilities. (See my posts on the stories for more on these characters.) The posthuman is fully beyond humanity for Dick, not an extension or an improvement of humanity. While humans may often treat the posthuman with kindness, respect, and attempts to understanding, the posthuman is incapable of seeing humanity as anything other than tools or as the forgettable past. The exceptions to this are notable.
Floyd Jones is the most memorable of the mutant futurist in Dick’s early work. Jones is a precog who has a memory of everything that happens to him for about one year into the future. This ability allowed him to learn to speak at four. Once he overcame his initial disorientation and fear, he began to use his talents. First he used these abilities to secure a small income as a gambler. Later he becomes a fortune teller at a carnival, revealing his talent as the ability to know humanity’s destiny. Jones sees himself as a pioneer of humanity’s future due to his ability, but he also embraced a futurist philosophy. His political movement attacking Relativism was based on the need for humanity to visit the stars. When he takes political power, Jones calls for a grand “crusade” to the stars, sending out settlers and explorers.
But this complicates things with Dick’s vision of posthumanity. How can it be that an individual who is beyond human capacities and experiences could embrace a fundamentally progressive humanist vision? Is not the frontier the heart of American humanism, perhaps even the heart of the Enlightenment. What is meant to be shocking in this novel is that the humanist project has been killed due to the ideology of Relativism. In that situation only the mutant could salvage something of the humanist project. In the end, it is literally true that only mutants can settle on Venus.
Relativism: Dick created a wide variety of political systems and ideologies. Few are as memorable or as prescient as Relativism. Dick, writing from an age of intense political conflict between ideologies, imagined a political system that would be post-ideological. The cornerstone of Relativism was that no one should say something that cannot be backed with immediate facts. All opinions—whether political, artistic, or banal—should be left unspoken. This would ensure that there would be no more wars, because there would be nothing left to fight for. Dick may not have imagined a world where “reality has a liberal bias” and political fights over the interpretation of facts (such as those on climate change) would be so divisive. Relativism may not have worked in practice, but we are awash in political correctness as well. This is the closest we have to something like Relativism in our world. Whatever the virtues are of applying social pressure to prevent hate speech and sexist speech, the amount of self-censorship is troubling and it seems to me that while it may silence certain odious ideas, it does little to create social solidarity. Like the Relativism in The World Jones Made, political correctness responds to past injustices rather than being a creative movement. The question I have is how to we move to a society without war, without racism, without sexism, not how we can ensure that no one is offended in their everyday lives.
What we end up with in Relativism is an entirely banal political ideology. While ideological conflicts are horrible. The lesson of the 20th century is that ideology is dangerous when backed up by state power, but our dilemma now is too little ideological conflict, too little class conflict. If we cannot articulate our values into a political program, we have little foundation for resistance. I think this is the problem with many social movements around the world, which can oppose something (the Sunflowers in Taiwan, the Umbrella movement in Hong Kong) but fail to create a clear ideological vision for an alternative, beyond claims to be “pro-democracy.” Being pro-democracy means nothing without clarity about what a democratic society should look like. We are seeing the effects of Relativism, not only in political correctness, but also in the failure of the Left to challenge global capitalism.
One other theme that would become a classic Philip K. Dick motif is the strained marriage. The Cussick’s life in a world of Relativism, where any social excess—drug use, adultery included—is socially permissible. Nevertheless Nina Cussick is bored of her life and turns toward the Jones movement largely for excitement, to break free of the banality of her domestic life. In one dramatic moment, she dares Doug beat her, eager for anything to break the banality of her life. For Nina the frontier and the political movement becomes a form of family therapy. In the end, when they move together to Venus, their marriage is rebooted and revived through change. As with political systems, marriages thrive on change, revolution, and transformation.
In the early twenty-first century, mutants, unable to exist in the normal Earth atmosphere, live in The Refuge, a controlled environment that is suitable to their biological needs. It is compared to a womb due to it environment and the confinement the mutants feel. One of the mutants, Louis, tries to talk the others into an escape, believing that their confinement is a fraud. Frank, an older mutant, comments that they are superior entities and that previous escape attempted failed. Louis eventually convinces three other young mutants to attempt an escape with him: Vivian, Garry, and Dieter. Meanwhile, Dr. Rafferty, who runs the Refuge and Fedgov agent Doug Cussick watch the escape attempt. As the mutants succumb to the natural Earth environment and are picked up by a Van, they discuss the leadership of Floyd Jones and his fascist youth brigades. Cussick mentions how he met Jones before he rose to power.
Set seven years before the events of the first chapter, in 1995, this chapter describes the first meeting of Fedgov agent Doug Cussick and Floyd Jones. Doug Cussick is then a minor agent in the Security arm (Secpol) of the Interior Department. His major goal purpose is the enforcement of Relativism. Cussick observes some of the entertainment at the carnival, made up mostly of various types of mutants. After evading the solicitation of some prostitutes, Cussick notices Jones’ fortune telling booth. Jones advertises that he can predict the future of humanity but cannot give individual readings. Curious, Cussick pays for a reading. Jones is very irritable at Cussick’s inability to understand his type of fortune telling, but explains that he can read accurately the fate of humanity one year into the future. Within the two-minute reading, Jones made two predictions. The first prediction is that a Nationalist named Ernest T. Saunders will win the next election for Council chairman. The second is that drifters will become a major issue in the future and are beings from another planet. This second prediction piques Cussick who knows of the drifters already from internal Fedgov reports. Cussick leaves to report Jones as a possible dangerous violator of Relativism.
Doug Cussick returns to the Fedgov Secpol headquarters in Baltimore after his encounter with Floyd Jones, which exposed Jones’ pre-cognative abilities. While filing his report Cussick discusses Relativism with his colleague Max Kaminski and his supervisor Security Director Pearson, revealing it to be theoretically strict but loose in practice. Cussick’s report that Jones seems to have known high-level information about the true nature of the drifters shocks Pearson. If Jones is really a pre-cog, he is not violating Relativism by speaking the truth about future events.
After the report by Doug Cussick, Floyd Jones was placed under surveillance by Secpol. When Jones’ prophecy that the unknown Ernest T. Saunders of the Nationalist Party would win the 1995 election to chair the General Council, Jones was bought in for questioning. Doug Cussick is transferred to Denmark where he meets his future wife Nina Longstren, an artist and skeptic of Relativism. They are on their honeymoon and preparing their new house when Jones was brought in. This forces Cussick and Longstren to cut their honeymoon short and return to Baltimore. They decide to go to Baltimore together. Cussick informs his wife that Jones’ profile is rising since he became a minister in a new religious movement, providing prophecies about future encounters with aliens. While on the trip to Baltimore the couple discusses the morality of Relativism and state surveillance of opinions. Cussick argues that the ideologies of mid-twentieth century were much worse and caused more harm than Relativism, while also explaining how rare incarnation is even for people like Jones. Later, Cussick, Max Kaminski, and Security Director Pearson question Jones. Jones is confident that he will be released in three days. Jones exchanges a parable with Cussick about a run on a bank, exposing the dangers of unproven prophecy. Although Jones speaks the parable, it is Cusscisk made known to Jones due to his pre-cognative abilities. Jones reveals that he is fearful of his abilities and where it will lead him.
The interrogation of Floyd Jones in the Baltimore offices of the Fedgov secret service continue. Jones examples that the things he experiences are the past to him and cannot be changed. Security Director Pearson questions is his ability is like seeing a movie more than once and wants to understand why Jones does not appreciate his talents. The agents make a case for Floyd Jones to aid Fedgov in its Reconstruction project. Jones scoffs at this idea calling its short-sighted. He believes humans should be striving to the stars rather than clinging to an “over-populated” and “under-nourished” Earth. Jones is inspired by the drifters who are aggressively colonizing the cosmos. He says that the drifters are here to colonize Earth and are not random passing lifeforms. After the interview, Doug Cussick and Pearson discuss Cussick’s new wife and her feelings about his career. They then ponder if Adolf Hitler was a pre-cog with abilities likes Jones. They debate how one could kill someone like Jones. Finally, Pearson confesses that drifters have already landed on Earth, confirming again the truth of Jones’ statements making it impossible to arrest him as a violator of Relativism.
In an interrogation room, Floyd Jones awaits the release from police custody that he knew would come thanks to his pre-cognative abilities. While waiting he thinks back on his past and the development of his talents. Jones was born in 1977. Since a baby he could see one year into the future, affecting his development. He would not cry like ordinary children. He learned to speak at a young age. Sometime in his childhood, the first bombs struck the American West, not far from his hometown in Greely, Colorado. He experienced this one year early shocking his family and neighbors with his reports. But when he as ten, the bombs did hit Colorado. At fourteen Jones began a voyage across the war-devastated America, eventually being drafted into the military but he quickly deserts. He meets a man named Hyndshaw who sells magnetic belts as a travelling salesman. Jones convinces Hyndshaw to go into business with him gambling. Their partnership was apparently short-lived.
Back in the interrogation room, Jones is released. He calls an associate for a pick up. Jones thinks about his various allies in business and politics as well as the movement he is going to begin called Patriots United. Jones’ ride arriving, he sets off for his base of operations in Montana.
In 2002, a bulletin announcing Public Law 30d954A, forbidding any harm to the drifters landing on Earth, is torn down three hours after being posted. A red-headed man leads a mob in a rural area. The mob operation is well organized with communications and scout planes. Their target is a drifter that has recently landed. Using gasoline, the mob sets fire to the drifter. Police arrive and put out the fire, but the drifter is already dead. The red-headed man feels great satisfaction in killing the alien.
Doug and Nina Cussick are attending a performance of The Marriage of Figaro. Cussick is particularly eager to see a performance of Don Bartolo by Gaetano Tabelli. He suddenly leaves the performance early. Walking out he sees a discarded handbill for a Jones rally. As the crowd leaves, Doug explains to his wife that the scenery reminded him of something important. They meet Max Kaminsky outside of the theater. Nina discusses her newborn son Jackie with Kaminski. The situation with Jones and his movement is worsening. Drifters are being killed in spite of the laws against it and his movement is growing in power. Kaminski realizes that the drifters are just a device for Jones to gain support. They stop at the Cussick’s home to tend to Jackie. Doug and Kaminski discuss Nina’s hostility toward police. With the baby fed, they prepare to leave to pick up Kaminski’s date for the evening.
Nina Cussick, Doug Cussick, and Max Kaminski arrive at the Fedgov security annex. Kaminski enters and returns quickly with Tyler Flemming, a security office researcher. They later arrive in San Francisco at a club that was one a place of vice before Relativism made such locations legal. Drugs are ordered and consumed openly from robot waiters. The four of them discuss Relativism and Nina again expresses her hostility toward the philosophy and its applications. Kaminski comments that Relativism has tied the hands of the security apparatus in dealing with someone like Floyd Jones. A couple makes love as part of a floor show. The women leave for the bathroom, while the men continue with more discussions of Jones, his movement, and Relativism. Jones have been publishing a book, The Moral Struggle. Kaminski reiterates that Jones is using the drifters in order to rise to power. Flemming begins to tell her story. Her parents were Communists in China, but her father was killed for supporting Hoff’s philosophy of Relativism. Nina and Doug dance and discuss their marital problems rooted in their philosophical differences. Doug has doubts that the marriage can survive but pledges to work on it for the sake of Jackie, their newborn son.
Nina Cussick, Doug Cussick, Max Kaminski, and Tyler Flemming at on a double date at a libertine bar in San Francisco. It is getting late and the bar starts to empty, but floors shows involving copulating couples continue. Kaminski and Nina go to the dance floor. Later, Doug notices Kaminski alone and finds Nina with a hermaphrodite—mutants capable of changing sex at will—dancer. Doug follows Nina and the hermaphrodite, eventually telling her to get ready to go. Nina explodes in anger telling Doug that he will stay if she loves him. Doug fights with the hermaphrodite—now a man—but Nina escapes. Doug quickly finds her in a room that she has been renting. Nina confesses that she uses the room in the club to get away from her family life. The couple spends the night in the room. In the morning Doug finds that the corridor connecting to Nina’s secret room also adjoins a warehouse holding clandestine meetings of the Patriots United, the militant wing of Floyd Jones’ movement. Doug confronts Nina about her support for the movement. Doug is horrified to learn that she is a member, but Nina tries to convince her husband that participation in the movement is risky and exciting. Doug does not fully understand the juxtaposition of the decadent club and the anti-Relativist Jones movement. Nina and Doug hold each other knowing their relationship is doomed.
Doug Cussick had separated from his wife, who has taken on her maiden name of Nina Longstrem. As a result their child Jackie is placed under the custody of the state. He discusses this situation with Tyler Flemming, concluding that he “is alone.” The signs of the growth of Floyd Jones’ movement, called Patriots United, are growing, with mobs regularly seen on the streets. Their major ideology is the discovery of a Second Earth through a massive crusade of interstellar exploration. Their political demand is the dissolution of Fedgov and the placement of Jones as supreme commander to deal with the crisis. Cussick ponders that while they are idealists with a vision of the future, he is a mere realist and incapable of the dreams of the movement, including his ex-wife. When Cussick returns home he finds a recorded message by Security Director Pearson demanding Cussick return to the Secpol offices. After making a sandwich, Cussick follows Pearson’s orders. In the office, Cussick learns that his mention Max Kaminski stole a large amount of classified documents hoping to deliver them to the Jones movement. He was captured and send to a labor camp in Saskatchewan. Pearson regrets he is unable to shoot traitors such as Kaminski, noting that numerous other agents have been defecting. Cussick is promoted to Kaminski’s position and is told to take over security of Dr. Rafferty’s secret project, which is under the Department of Health.
Cussick arrives in San Francisco to learn about Rafferty’s project. Rafferty introduces him into the Refuge. Cussick is shown the mutants living in the Refuge and Rafferty explains that they are being genetically engineered to live on Venus. The eight living in the Refuge are the survivors from forty attempts. Not natural mutants caused by the war, like most mutants on Earth, these were carefully created using Rafferty’s own DNA. The Refuge is a replication of conditions on Venus.
At the Refuge, Doug Cussick and Dr. Rafferty discuss the Venus project. Rather than simply transplant the mutants on Venus, Rafferty wants to fully prepare them for settlement. He compares the Refuge to a school. Cussick realizes the Fedgov has long been planning for settlement on other planets, undermining the major argument of the Floyd Jones movement. Jones’ approach is military based, using ships to find a suitable Second Earth. Rafferty and Fedgov secretly pursued a scientific solution.
While completing his transfer to San Francisco, Cussick learns that Security Director Pearson struck at Jones’ Patriots United, declaring the movement illegal at attacking a rally. Jones himself was wounded in the attack. Cussick fatalistically pondered that Jones must have known all of this would happen a year ago and being wounded would likely fit into his plans.
In Frankfurt Germany, Floyd Jones is holding a rally with perhaps millions of followers and giving a speech calling for the expansion of humanity to other systems and condemning the “plutocracy” of Fedgov. A military assassin named Pratt is preparing for his mission. The police were trying to control the crowds and there is a heavy media presence as well. Pratt meets with Police Major McHaffie where they discussion the mission. McHaffie does not know it is an assassination attempt on Jones but is part of the police action to break up the rally. Pratt and McHaffie discuss matters with a curious reporter. Meanwhile the rally is marching toward the police barricades. The police attempt to arrest the marchers, which only sparks a riot. Pratt fires at Jones but missed. After a struggle with the crowd, Pratt manages another shot, which strikes Jones. Pratt is killed by the crowd.
Jones, wounded, feels a personal sense of victory as he watches his followers dismember the assassin.
Security Director Pearson is in his office and realizes that a defeat of Jones is impossible due to Jones’ pre-cognative abilities. It is the final hours of Fedgov. Power will soon be handed over to the wounded Jones. Doug Cussick and Pearson share a fifth of scotch and discuss their escape plans. Cussick and Pearson travel to San Francisco to meet with Dr. Rafferty. The mutants are prepared for relocation to Venus. The three of them get drunk during the last thirty minutes of Fedgov authority. During that time Pearson is arrested by four grey-uniformed men from Jones’ movement. The Crisis Government had begun.
The genetically engineered mutants are on two ships to Venus. Louis is attempting to repair the communications devices on one of the ships. On the other ship, Frank is listening to news from Earth on the handover of government to Floyd Jones. Frank, Garry, Irma, and Syd discuss the ideology of the movement, which seems to be based on action before thought. Syd worries that they are not prepared for life outside of the Refuge, because they had everything prepared from them. The Refuge was like a womb. The voyage to Venus takes around 12 days (148 hours, 45 minutes). As they approach Venus, men on the Venusian base asks for clarification of the mission. An automated system speaks (in Raffety’s voice) for the mutants, claiming that they are under the authority of Fedgov and are on an automated ship that land in a predetermined spot. The local officers are instructed to aid the residents of the ship. Coming off the ship, the mutants realize for the first time that the Refuge was a replica of Venus. They feel, for the first time, at home.
On Venus, sometime after the initial landing of the eight mutant colonists, the colony is thriving. They are preparing for a harvest of what they call corn. The mutants have built homes, farms, and have applied machines to making Venus’ environment vibrant. They have identified several local species, including the “dobbin,” a type of bird, which they use for muscle power. All the non-Venusians—those who were not genetically engineered for the environment—had died, leaving the planet in the hands of these posthuman mutants.
While exploring the surface, the colonists run into a dead drifter. They find another that not only survived but was growing into a zygote. They learn that the drifters were actually pollen of a plant-like creature.
At the same time, news reaches Floyd Jones that human scientists have made the same discovery The pollen uses the planet as a womb before breaking off into the interplanetary medium, where they live their adult lives. Their relationship to Earth is the same as the Venusian mutants’ relationship to the Refuge. It also proves that the drifters were not a threat in themselves, something Jones was not able to forsee initially. With this discovery Jones realizes his movement is failed, despite his immense popularity evidenced by a large crowd outside of his office even one year after taking power.
Jones visits former security director Pearson. Jones and Pearson agree that the “Crusade” is doomed. Jones explains that it is doomed because in reaction to the violence against the drifters, the plant-like organisms will close off Earth, preventing any further exploration, a simple natural containment of a threat. Jones offers Pearson his old job as security director. When he refuses, Jones threatens Pearson with the help of a Doctor Marion who is charged with experimenting on the impact of an alien parasite on humans. Jones, however, consistent in the end with his “provincial” ethic, destroys the specimen.
Jones thinks on the fact that he knows he will die soon.
Doug Cussick is talking with other members of the police resistance to Floyd Jones’ fascist and populist Crisis Government. Two members of the ruling United Patriots arrive in an official car. One of them is Cussick’s ex-wife Nina Longstrem. After twenty-eight months with Jones, she has rising high in the organization but is ready to defect. She informs Cussick that that the great Crusade is over.
At a coffee shop, Cussick and Longstrem explains the truth about the drifters, that they are pollen, and that in natural retribution for human acts against their gametes, they will limits humans to six star systems. She also tells Cussick how Jones has already predicted his defeat and death, despite holding onto all the political power. She also mentions that Pearson is being slowly poisoned by Jones. Nina also makes clear that no matter how bad things will get in the end, Jones is incapable of keeping track of very many people, providing hope for their survival. Cussick develops a plan to confront Jones by entering into his movement.
Doug Cussick, along with his ex-wife a prominent leader in the Floyd Jones regime Nina Longstrem, are in a car on the way to the Fedgov offices where Jones can be found. They bump into one of the rank-and-file supports, a young boy selling Crusade buttons to raise money for the interstellar explorations, unknowing that these have already turned back due to the interstellar plants preventing future human expansion.
After reaching the offices, Nine demands an audience with Jones saying that it is an emergency. They end up in a waiting room, after making the proper requests. While waiting, Cussick prepares a gun he had smuggled into the office. Before long, Cussick tells NInel to leave and he is escorted into Jones’ office.
Jones apologizes for not having cigarettes to offer his guests, but Cussik has brought his own. Jones then says that former security director Pearson has died in the morning. He then taunts Cussik more by comparing his ex-wife to one of the many “sex-starved society females” who have joined, implying that Cussick was a bad lover. Cussick then reflexively shoots at one of the bodyguards knowing he would need to kill them first. Jones jumps up between the two guards and is struck between the eyes.
Soon after Doug Cussick’s successful assassination of Jones, he returns to his apartment where Nina Longstrem is. Neither can believe that he was able to kill Jones and escape with his life. Cussick notices a package with a reel of audiotape. Listening to it, Cussick and Nina recognize the voice of Jones. Jones explains how Cussick should not take the credit for the assassination since Jones had willed his own death. He says he planned this to save his political reputation. By dying before the ships returned from the great Crusade, Jones ensured that he would not be blamed for the defeat. People will see Jones as a martyr and blame Relativism and Fedgov for his failures. He apologizes for insulting his wife and explains that former security director Pearson is not really dead. Cussick predicts that in a century Jones will be deified. They discuss where they should go to hide out until the political transition is complete. They decide to remarry, collect their son, Jackie, and find a new home off world.
On Venus, the mutant settlers celebrate the first native Venusian child born to Louis and Vivian. This birth proves the sustainability of the Venusian experiment. The mutants have continued to document the flora and fauna of Venus and domesticating species, including the wuzzle, the most intelligent indigenous species.
A Refuge has been build on Venus simulating an Earth environment for three newcomers to the planet. These three people are Doug Cussick, Nina Longstrem, and Jackie Cussick. Doug and the mutant settler Frank agree to celebrate the birth with a beer. They talk about how Doug brought mice with him to make the Earth-life Refuge more like home. As the novel ends, Doug talks about his plans to return to Earth someday when Jackie is ready.
Conclusion and Evaluation
Philip K. Dick’s perspective on the posthuman did not radically change after the publication of The World Jones Made. If anything, he would turn to making pre-cogs more human, as in the novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, which presents a pre-cog with a relatively uncomplicated relationship with humanity. Characters like Floyd Jones and “the Golden Man,” pass away and are replaced by the inhuman android or the mentally-ill schizoid. He has moved from questions of posthumanism to those of transhumanism. If we take the Venusian settlers as part of Dick’s closure of the argument, we are left with the troubling realization that the posthuman may be the last hope for the humanist project. One of them explains to the Cussick’s that a new born Venusian child is part of a new era. “Healthy as a wuzzle. In fact, it’s the new wuzzle. The replacement wuzzle, a better wuzzle to take the place of the old.” (198–199) The victory of the posthumans over humanity was not through conspiracy, conquest, or genocide. The humans had largely done themselves in through their own prejudice and violence (attacking the drifters and falling into the banality of Relativism). Is it possible that the posthuman has been transformed from a threat (symbolized by Floyd Jones) to an insurance policy (symbolized by the Venusian settlers)?