Humanity’s Immanent Self-Destruction: Analyzing “Second Variety” by Philip K. Dick

Austin Gragg
4 min readJan 29, 2021

Alright super nerds, this is a short response to Philip K. Dick’s 1953 short story, “Second Variety.” I loved this story and thought English students, other writers or editors, and science fiction and fantasy fans might enjoy my thoughts on this classic piece. If you haven’t read it, you can read it for free here! It’s so very worth it, and if you’ve read it in the past or know the gist via wikipedia’s summary, you’ll be able to understand my comments.

In “Second Variety,” Philip K. Dick (PKD) asks us all to consider what is human, and if the very nature of humanity necessitates self-destruction. This is a central theme for many of Dick’s works, questioning humanity. And here, in “Second Variety,” we get to see some of Dick’s earliest and most raw thoughts on the matter of questioning our humanity.

Like a lot of great short stories, there’s twists and turns and big reveals in “Second Variety,” but, PKD delivers on theme so well in the piece, it doesn’t matter if you saw all the twists coming a mile away, because the big reveal is the theme, delivered with a gut punching last line.

At the start of the story we witness a horrid, gruesome death of a Russian. He’s ripped apart by one of the robots called “Claws” the UN devised to help them win the war —…

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Austin Gragg
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Austin Gragg is a writer who lives in Independence, Missouri. He is a Contributing Editor at Space & Time, one of genre’s oldest continuous publications.