“Jon’s World”/”Jon” 21 October 1952
A time ship is nearly complete, and two men––Kastner, a businessman and Caleb Ryan, a League representative––will make a journey to the past to get the papers of Schonerman, a researcher who pioneered an artificial brain, which led to the creation of the “claws,” robots used in the war, who then turned to fight one another. First the Soviets and the UN fought, then men fought robots, Terrans fled to Luna, the claws killed each other, and Terra was basically destroyed. This is a longer story with more characterization than is sometimes the case in Dick. From the beginning we see the aesthetic, historical, philosophical interests of Kastner juxtaposed with Ryan’s extreme rationalism. Ryan’s son Jon has been having attacks, which the son views as visions of a reality more potent than the one in which he lives. Ryan sees these visions as a “retrogression,” an atavistic manifestation of the metaphysical claptrap that the hyper-rationalists of this world have put behind them. Ryan has his son submit to a lobotomy, after which he seems little more than an empty shell, but at least he is “cured.” Ryan and Kastner return to the past, making stops along the way to witness the claws and different stages of the war. They find Schonerman and steal his papers, but accidentally kill him. They stop at intermediate points on their way back to their own time and see a world that never had Schonerman’s ideas, and thus never built the claws. Consequently the war has ended early with a UN victory. People are returning to Terra and planting crops. Kastner and Ryan return to their own time and see the vision Jon saw before he was lobotomized: parks and nature, lots of animals, houses but no large cities, people wandering about in robes, discussing “the problem of the universe.” Ryan wants to return to the past and give Schonerman’s papers to the government so the future can revert to the one he knows, but Kastner destroys the papers, and the vision of Jon’s world becomes the only reality. Kastner looks forward to discussing metaphysics in this new world, a world he obviously finds preferable to the rational one represented by Ryan.
- We Can Remember It for You Wholesale: And Other Classic Stories* by Philip K. Dick