Posted at Heradas Something clicked in my head when I turned thirty; I started devouring older science fiction stories. I think I suddenly realized how many valuable novels and stories and how much interesting history and perspective I missed out on throughout my twenties. The Golden Age science fiction stories of the thirties, forties and fifties were a little less focused on stylistic prose or quality writing, and a little too culturally and scientifically removed from my era to interest me. Story-wise, New Wave was much more inwardly focused, and valued style and prose as much as the Golden Age valued grand ideas and outward exploration. It was a concerted effort spearheaded by Harlan Ellison (yes, his name actually has a in it) to bring Sci-Fi out of the pulps and show the world the literary value of speculation in fiction. Dangerous Visions is the defining Speculative Fiction anthology of the New Wave era. When assembling the anthology, Ellison had each author write a story that they thought explored a dangerous vision or concept. There are some excellent stories here, a few decent ones, and some real stinkers that are terribly trite and not at all dangerous or visionary. Then again, it's hard to read these within the context of the time in which they were written. Harlan Ellison writes an introduction to every story, and the author has a brief afterword. I eventually began skipping the introductions, only coming back to read them if I wanted more background about an author or story. Some of these stories may have been dangerous visions in the late sixties. Still a cool little story. This is Ellison's favorite story in the collection, which is uh... The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World, Harlan Ellison: 2/5 A sequel to the previous story. The Man who Went to the Moon Twice, Howard Rodman: 4/5 Not speculative fiction at all, but I really liked it. Like most old science fiction, it was too misogynistic for my liking, but the storytelling and prose eventually won me over. This could've been executed a lot better, but I liked the concept. If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?, Theodore Sturgeon: 5/5 So far, the only story that I would actually consider a 'Dangerous Vision'. A. Lafferty: 4/5 Cool little story about the origin of Gypsies.
If any anthology of short stories written by multiple authors qualifies as a classic, it is Harlan Ellison's 1967 Dangerous Visions, a collection of 33 previously unpublished, highly swingin' 60s original, high dangerous to the status quo tales from what has since become widely known as New Wave Science Fiction with such authors as Philip K. I so wish I could share a write-up on every single story within this collection but since I'm writing a book review not a book, I'll contain myself and offer a few words on four of my favorites: THE DAY AFTER THE DAY THE MARTIANS CAME by Frederik Pohl Mr. Mandala runs his Florida motel near Cape Kennedy and must deal with all those damn reporters and newshounds crowding his motel lobby prior to racing off to catch the latest scoop on the Martians brought back by American astronauts. Mr. Mandala judges all this Martian stuff as sheer nonsense and wonders why people are interested and even care about creatures who craw on long, weak limbs, gasp heavily in Earth gravity and stare out at TV cameras with their long, dull Martian eyes. Mr. Mandala admits it has been a rough night for both of them and tells Ernest that he thinks six months from now nobody will remember anything about those Martian and how their coming to our planet will not make a nickels worth of difference. But he does relay how he had a most revealing conversation with a Alabama minister in the weeks after he wrote the story, a minister who said he encourages his congregation to read science fiction for two reasons: 1) they might worry about green-skinned Martians instead of black-skinned Americans, and 2) that all men are brothers in a universe where there are probably other creatures out there who are not human. Then the sky split, and in the dazzle appeared a throne of white fire, in a rainbow that burned green." So begins this short parable-like tale where the Lord God Jehovah returns to Earth with his host of angels. by Larry Eisenberg As Harlan Ellison said, Larry Eisenberg should be put away for submitting such a story to him for inclusion in a collection of science fiction. Since I made it to the end of the story, even reading Eisenberg's Afterward, should I, in fact, be put away? CARCINOMA ANGELS by Norman Spinrad As a kid, Harrison Wintergreen made a potful of money by collecting baseball cards. As an absolute last resort, Harrison Wintergreen takes powerful drugs, including illegal hallucinogens to enter his own body and do battle with those death dealing cancer cells directly. Curiously, back in 1967 in high school, a teacher told the story of someone taking LSD and entering his own body. Norman Spinrad's linking Hell's Angels to cancer cells was a stroke of literary genius. Once the hallucinogens kick in and he is in his body, Harrison faces off against his deadly adversary: "Black the cycle.
It's fair to say that this collection has reached legendary status within the realm of speculative short fiction and certainly is a cornerstone in the mystique of Harlan Ellison as THE agent provocateur of the genre. THE STORIES Evensong by Lester Del Rey (6.0 stars): What a way to set the tone for a collection. The Day After the Day the Martians Came by Frederic Pohl (4.0 stars): This is a good, but not great, story which illustrates mans unfortunate ability to ridicule and hate any minority group (including those not from this planet). Riders of the Purple Wage by Philip Jose Farmer (2.0 stars): This is the story I mentioned above that is the only one that I really didnt like and I am more then willing to believe that it is because it just went over my head. On one hand, this is probably the most ORIGINAL story in the entire collection as far as the prose, the narrative style and even the subject matter. The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World by Harlan Ellison (6.0 stars): Written as a follow-up to "A Toy for Juliette" in which Jack the Ripper finds himself in a sterile futuristic metropolis where people are free to do WHATEVER they want and finds the experience less than pleasurable. The Man Who Went to the Moon Twice by Howard Rodman (5.0 stars): This is a great example of tone and prose being used to disguise the underlying power of the narrative. Dick (5.0 stars): Set in a dystopian future where Chinese style communism has taken over the world, this classic story is one in which Philip Dick pulls no punches in a scathing full frontal assault on faith, religion and God. Very disturbing, but among the best PKD pieces I have ever read.
so it's been 45 years since this book was first published. after i read this book, i read sf almost exclusively for quite a long time...maybe 15 years or so. just in the last year or so, i have been getting back into it, and really enjoying it for the most part, reading both classic sf from long ago, and finding out that there are some really great new sf authors that i was completely unfamiliar with. so then i decided i would go back to the book that started it all for me and re-read Dangerous Visions.keep in mind that this book is regarded by many (including me) as the finest sf anthology ever published. so, it's still the best sf anthology ever written, and if i was going to be marooned on an island and was only allowed one book, this would be it.
Campbell's desk on its way to a million pimply teenage SF fans. Well, those classical Greeks were like that, don't you know? I thought of this story several times this week while reading Marguerite Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien, a meticulously accurate reconstruction of the Emperor Hadrian's life which came out sixteen years before Dangerous Visions was published. She somehow pulls off the amazing feat of presenting his feelings for beautiful young boys in his own terms, without in any way judging him by twentieth century standards.
I don't like Harlan Ellison at all; I ended up skipping most of the story introductions (they were unnecessary anyway). And I'm only writing this in a public place because I feel safe doing so with the knowledge that he is now dead, and can't come after me personally, which is apparently not an uncommon feeling, especially for those people who got actual death threats and lawsuits from him. Then I actually read words that Harlan Ellison wrote for the first time in this anthology and immediately wanted him to shut up, get to the point, and let the writers do their thing without him inserting himself at every turn. But did I actually like anything in this enough to recommend it?
I bought this collection of 33 science fiction stories because it was recommended in A Reader's Guide to Science Fiction on its "5 Parsec Shelf" of the best books in the genre. Here's what it said about the book: Anthologies, no matter how excellent, have seldom had enough impact to be "classics." But the first Dangerous Visions, edited by Ellison, was not only a wonderful sampling of the writers working in the exciting late '60s, it revolutionized science fiction in the matter of attacking more controversial subject matter. It further claimed the book "revived the moribund science fiction short story as a form" by publishing "stories considered unpublishable by the American magazines." In his introduction, Harlan Ellison, said his purpose was to publish "taboo" stories, "all new stories, controversial, too fierce for magazines to buy... I looked at the night sky with fresh awe after reading Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall;" his "The Dead Past" made me see the very nature of time in a new way. About a good third of the stories I couldn't for the life of me see what could have ever been controversial. The next story is Philip Jose Farmer's "Riders of the Purple Wage." In his introduction to the story Ellison said this is not just the longest story in the anthology at over 30,000 words, but the "best" and the "finest." So, I started the first few paragraphs. I flipped towards the end of the story and saw its last chapter was titled "Winnegan's Fake." You know, I really hated James Joyce's Ulysses, but at least I could respect it as innovative, original, and erudite. Thus what Ellison pointed to as the best story in the book would be the first I left unfinished. Reading many of these I was struck that "censorship" or "taboo" is often just another word for good taste, and if some of these stories couldn't find homes in magazines, it's to their editors credit. Many of the stories were more horror than science fiction. It was more than a bit chilling in a horror story way. Samuel Delany, "Aye, and Gomorrah..." - Delany in the afterword called it essentially a horror story--but one I found rather poignant in a way I found rare in this anthology.
Both avid fans of this book (among them some of my Goodreads friends!) and its most hostile detractors agree that it's an epochal work in the history of the science-fiction genre; in particular, it served more than any other single book to launch the "New Wave" movement to dominance in the genre. The New Wave movement, then, is probably best understood as basically the attempt of a second generation of SF writers (who came of age in the postwar period) to adapt the genre conventions to meet these kinds of critical expectations. Not all the writers represented, nor all the stories included, are actually from the New Wave; Ellison included writers like Poul Anderson and Frederik Pohl here to give greater cachet to the anthology. :-) Though it was written before his religious awakening, and treats God in an unconventional fashion, Dick's "Faith of Our Fathers" actually takes the existence of God seriously and undercuts atheism; rightly interpreted, it has a different kind of message altogether than Lester del Rey's "Evensong" or Jonathan Brand's "Encounter With a Hick," two of the feeblest and most puerile selections, which anticipate the New Atheist movement. That raises interesting questions for hate-based atheism like that of del Rey or Pullman, whose fiction has to treat God as real so he can be dethroned or killed, since you can only do those things to someone who exists; one can't help but wonder what un-admitted fears and grudges fester at the root of this brand of "atheism.") Some of the other good stories here are the Pohl selection, "The Day After the Day the Martians Came;" R.
He wrote for the original series of both The Outer Limits and Star Trek as well as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; edited the multiple-award-winning short story anthology series Dangerous Visions; and served as creative consultant/writer to the science fiction TV series The New Twilight Zone and Babylon 5.