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January Books 4) Again, Dangerous Visions

4) Again, Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison

This is the famous follow-up volume to the even more famous Dangerous Visions, which I read almost exactly three years ago; an anthology of 41 stories, mainly by the leading lights of sf as it was in 1972, with vast amounts of prefatory material by editor Harlan Ellison and an afterword from each author, and nice art from Ed Emshwiller introducing each story.

But what is striking is how unmemorable and self-indulgent most of the stories are (also true of Ellison's long-winded prefaces). The three best are definitely Ursula Le Guin's "The Word for World is Forest", Joanna Russ's "When it Changed", and James Tiptree Jr's "The Milk of Paradise"; interestingly all three have the same basic plot, of an unspoilt planet being wrecked by us humans. Many of the others are just silly, Kurt Vonnegut being particularly proud of Using Rude Words To Be Grown-Up. In fact, the only other one I enjoyed was James Blish's erotic pastiche "Getting Along", which parodies numerous High Gothic writers - I particularly liked his riff on The Moon Pool.

But four memorable stories out of 41 is a very poor strike rate. I couldn't in all conscience recommend anyone to spend money on this collection, and I am wondering, heretically, if it is really such a shame that the third volume of the series never appeared.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 17th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
Agreed. ADV is about 1% of the book that DV was. I gave up waiting for TLDV in about... hm. A long time ago.
Jan. 17th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)
Some of the stories from TLDV have started to be published. John Varley's story "The Bellman" appeared in, I think, Asimov's a couple years back and was good. It has a scene with popcorn at the climax that sticks vividly with me, at any rate.

I see on wikipedia that 24 of the TLDV stories have been published now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Dangerous_Visions I've only read two of them so no guess if it would be any better.
Jan. 17th, 2008 06:58 am (UTC)
24 stories is enough for an anthology! Maybe someone should get them together and publish as The Last Dangerous Visions, Part One?
Jan. 17th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
The list for TLDV got so insanely bloated that it was plainly never going to come out in one volume anyway. Long before it became plain that it was never going to be published in any form.
Jan. 17th, 2008 10:34 am (UTC)
This is the basic problem with the whole New Wave "let's be grown ups" thang: although there are some wonderful stylistic plays, for far too many of the men it seems to have been an excuse to let everything hang out.
Jan. 18th, 2008 02:48 am (UTC)
I read the book in about 1976, and I recall liking it more than that -- though still finding it self-indulgent. I liked Richard Lupoff's story, for instance -- though on reflection sometimes for reasons that apply to me as a teenaged boy, and might not apply now.

The Tiptree story remains an all time classic. (Not sure it really is about an unspoiled planet being wrecked by humans, mind you.) The Le Guin is nicely done but it's "Bad Ursula", didactic lecturing Ursula. Russ's story is very good, though.

A couple more nice stories -- Tom Disch's "Things Lost" I recall as being very good, for one.

But yes, on the whole, a disappointment.

I am bothered by the non-publication of The Last Dangerous Visions because I worry that great stories remain unpublished. You point out that the example of Again, Dangerous Visions suggests that maybe not so many great stories have been lost ... but it only takes one! And we know of at least one truly brilliant story that was first intended for TLDV: Christopher Priest's "An Infinite Summer". So, it is possible!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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