A discussion I was reading about consensus reality made me think of a story that I probably read in some Philip K. Dick anthology years ago.

The story began from the viewpoint of a man who was growing a space ship in his back yard, which he was going to show to his friends once it was fully grow. Eventually, IIRC, he indeed does so, at which point his friend, realizing the absurdity of growing a space ship as if it were a vegetable, attacks and kills him (or possibly just knocks him out?), causing the space ship to wither.

In the mean time, it has been revealed that society in the story's setting is concerned with the preservation of reality against distortions caused by mutant people, like the initial viewpoint character, who can cause their delusions to become physically real and to seem natural to people around them. The main, and so far only, defense against them is an all-female organization of "immunes", who can see through the distortions, and who therefore wield considerable authority in the society.

The second viewpoint character, who ends up killing his friend, resents this; the episode with the space ship is a revelation to him, as he comes to realize that the consensus of normal people can be used to determine what is real without recourse to the immunes.

Also, the story has a twist ending (almost a punchline), which I'm not going to spoil for those who haven't read it, especially as my delivery of it is surely much worse than Dick's:

The second protagonist, who has been described throughout the story as flying to and from work, turns out to do so by flapping his arms.

Unfortunately, I don't recall the name of this story, nor any specific names or made-up words that could be easily searched for. Also, trying to Google for the elements I do remember being present in the story hasn't been fruitful: all of them appear too frequently in other stories or essays by Philip K. Dick.

So, can anyone identify the name of this story?

  • 1
    I am not aware of this one, however this guy seems to have the answer. I've asked him to come share, hopefully he does.
    – DampeS8N
    Jul 28, 2011 at 23:49
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    @DampeS8N Or I can reach into my bookshelf.
    – user56
    Jul 29, 2011 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


“Misadjustment”. Collected only in The Father-Thing, volume 3 of the Collected Stories.

  • Thank you. However, ISFDB seems to have missed the fact that it also appears in Second Variety (1991) (which apparently contains the same stories as The Father-Thing, plus the eponymous "Second Variety"). Now I just need get my hands on either of them so I can re-read it... Jul 29, 2011 at 10:35

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