Dr. Adder

Dr. Adder
Dr. Adder  
Author(s) K. W. Jeter
Illustrator Matt Howarth
Genre(s) dystopian science fiction
Publisher Bluejay Books
Publication date 1984
ISBN 0-312-94100-5
OCLC Number 10122645
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 19
LC Classification PS3560.E85 D7 1984

Dr. Adder is a dark science fiction novel by K. W. Jeter set in a future where the United States has largely broken down into reluctantly cooperating enclaves run by a wide variety of strongmen and warlords, with a veneer of government control that seems largely interested in controlling technology. Dr. Adder is an artist-surgeon, who modifies sexual organs of his patients to satisfy the weirdest of perversion; he is clearly depicted as a partly criminal, partly countercultural figure in a future Los Angeles which anticipates the cyberpunk idea of the Sprawl.

The novel was completed in 1972, and first published in 1984 by Bluejay Books, with illustrations by Matt Howarth.[citation needed]

According to Philip K. Dick, the publication of this book was delayed for a decade due to the extreme violence and graphic sex, and but for this delay it would have been recognized as the first cyberpunk novel.[citation needed]

Radio KCID

The novel also features an unconventional DJ, called Radio KCID, a science-fictional portrait of one of Jeter's friends, Philip K. Dick (the call sign is an anagram of DICK). KCID is an old man living in Rattown, a future L.A. slum; he has a small portable transmitter, which turns him into a mobile radio station. He mostly plays old records of German opera such as Alban Berg's Wozzeck, an important element of the novel, but he also broadcasts pieces of news which mainstream media do not want to broadcast.

The novel is heavily indebted with the counterculture of the 1960s. "[KCID] had some sort of process worked out, an oracle or something. It had to do with randomly generated numbers—he had a little box, a minicomputer that lit up with seven- or eight-digit figures, I think. He told me when he had enough data worked into the system he could predict any series of events connected to Adder, a few minutes before each event actually occurred..." (Jeter, 131). This is a hint at I Ching, the Chinese oracular book Dick used to compose his 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle, but also a popular reading in the countercultural Sixties.

In Dr Adder music does not only have an aesthetic value. KCID plays Wozzeck, then he begins to interpret the opera by applying it to the situation of his listeners. "Hohl, alles hohl! That's the way it is, all right. Isn't that what you were just thinking? Ein Schlund, a gulf, an abyss, yawns beneath us and what can we do, friends? Some of us wait all our lives for something..." (Jeter, 135-6). This rambling monologue closely resembles those of freeform commercial radio DJs.

Radio KCID has something else in common with countercultural radio: "All his broadcast equipment and tapes could fit into a suitcase--he could be anywhere in the slums with it now" (Jeter, 138). Such a mobile pirate radio is not science-fictional at all, since true underground radio existed in the Sixties in the form of illegal stations.

At the end of the novel KCID puts the microphone in front of the protagonist, Dr. Adder, so that he may speak to his "old fans, and everyone else, who never worshipped [him]" (Jeter, 246). It might be simply considered as a moment when a speaker is interviewing a celebrity--be it transgressive, underground, unconventional or not--but it can also be seen as a moment when a listener of Radio KCID (and Dr. Adder is also one of KCID's listeners) is given the opportunity to talk to "people clustered around the radios, waiting to hear [him]" (Jeter, 246). KCID probably expects that a political message will be delivered to the audience; while probably Adder's message will not be political at all, being the expression of a very personal and un-political rage (Jeter, 214).



  • Rossi, Umberto. “Acousmatic Presences: From DJs to Talk-Radio Hosts in American Fiction, Cinema, and Drama”, Mosaic, 42:1, March 2009, pp. 83-98.

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