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The Father-Thing by Philip K. Dick

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“The Father-Thing” is a 1954 science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick. It is about a boy who suspects that his father has been replaced by an alien.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

A rakeCharles Walton is a very observant eight year old boy who recently saw two versions of his father in the garage. His mother doesn’t believe him though, and when Ted Walton comes in for dinner Charles is sure it is the impostor rather than his real dad. He recruits a couple of neighborhood kids to help him and they discover not only proof that his real father is missing, but plans for something even more terrible!

Ted jerked. A strange expression flitted across his face. It vanished at once; but in the brief instant Ted Walton’s face lost all familiarity. Something alien and cold gleamed out, a twisting, wriggling mass. The eyes blurred and receded, as an archaic sheen filmed over them. The ordinary look of a tired, middle-aged husband was gone.

And then it was back — or nearly back. Ted grinned and began to wolf down his stew and frozen peas and creamed corn. He laughed, stirred his coffee, kidded and ate. But something terrible was wrong.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • “The Father-Thing” had a cool idea that was reminiscent of old sci-fi movies!
  • I got a kick out of who was really controlling the father-thing.

• The bad:

  • I thought that Charles sure was brave and smart and courageous for an eight year old boy – perhaps a bit too much.

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 10

Where you can find “The Father-Thing”:

  • This short story first appeared in the December 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
  • “The Father-Thing” is included in the excellent collection The Philip K. Dick Reader .
  • You can read a very nice free version of this story online at

Some Interesting Links:

  • You can learn more about Philip K. Dick at Wikipedia.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Copperhead, about a very powerful remote control held by the President of the United States, by Gene Wolfe.

4 thoughts to “The Father-Thing by Philip K. Dick”

  1. Wow, that was creepy. This is the kind of story I would have absolutely loved as a kid as it would have been just the right amount of terrifying to be fun. Heck, it was just the right amount of terrifying to read as an adult! There were a couple of clunky sentences here or there but overall the story was great. Certainly had my heart beating fast as I read it.

  2. Ha!

    “Deliciously creepy” describes this story perfectly!

    How did your daughter like it? I’ve been thinking of having my 9 year old son read it – I’ll bet he would enjoy it… as long as he doesn’t get any strange ideas about his dad!

  3. She enjoyed it quite a lot. She is 16, so even though she really did find it creepy I didn’t have to worry about her having nightmares about the old man when she went to sleep that night. I’d be really interested in a boy’s reaction to the story. I would have loved it at that age.

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