“The Variable Man” is a 1953 science fiction novella by Philip K. Dick. It is about a man from the past whose presence throws off the war predictions of a future society.
There’s A Reason He’s Popular!
I am a big fan of Mr. Philip K. Dick, and have enjoyed nearly all of his works that I’ve read. It’s no mystery to me why many of his short stories get made into big time Hollywood films – because they are awesome! Here is another great story which although a bit longish, is still one which I enjoyed and highly recommend.
Security Commissioner Reinhart has been working hard for years to prepare for war with the Centaurans, but he has never dared attack because his all-powerful prediction computers have always given the odds of winning to his enemy. Now with the invention of a faster-than-light missile the odds have finally been tipped in his favor and the whole system has been mobilized for war. But there is a little problem because the historic researchers who brought their experiment back early accidentally snagged a very talented man. Now that he is in “the future” his mere presence is throwing off the odds of Reinhart winning! This proves to be supremely frustrating so what does the Commissioner do? He hunts down this visitor with a vengeance, that’s what! The only problem is that he and all others severely under-estimate The Variable Man’s talents, and that proves to change things more than anyone could ever imagine.
Some Interesting Tidbits
- Word count: 25,727 (47 pages)
- Was Philip K. Dick a Sci-Fi Philosopher? Maybe. Check out this article on the New York Times web site.
- Special thanks to Free SF Reader for pointing out this great story!
Where To Find The Variable Man
- This short story was first published in the September 1953 edition of Space Science Fiction.
- You can read “The Variable Man” for free online at Project Gutenberg.
- It is also included in the collection The Defenders and Others: The Classic Short Fiction of Philip K. Dick.
Craving More SF Stories Like This One?
If you liked “The Variable Man” then you might also enjoy “The Tunnel Under The World” by Frederik Pohl – about a man who keeps living the same advertising-laden day over and over again.