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"What you hold in your hands is more than a book. If we are lucky, it is a revolution."
—From "Introduction: Thirty-Two Soothsayers" (1967), Harlan Ellison
Harlan Ellison doesn't think small. The fact that the above page-quote--the first paragraph of his original introduction to the book--is, if anything, an understatement, says a helluva lot.
For those of you who came into the movie late, I'll bring you up to speed: in the 1960s, Harlan Ellison had the idea of putting together a science-fiction anthology. But not just any ordinary anthology--his mad scheme was to collect stories from the best writers in the field. And not just ANY stories--he wanted stories that were, well, too dangerous to get printed anywhere else.
To cite just one example, from Damon Knight's afterword to "Shall the Dust Praise Thee?":
It also features introductions to each story by Harlan, who talks about the writer, and an afterword by the writer about the story. This gives the reader an immense feeling of the community surrounding science-fiction, and was part of why the anthology was so well-received.
Dangerous Visions (1967) won a truckload of awards, and Harlan got a special citation at the 26th World SF Convention for editing "the most significant and controversial SF book published in 1967". And it's gone on to be perhaps the most influential science-fiction anthology of all time.
It had a sequel anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions (1971), and there were and sometimes apparently are plans for The Last Dangerous Visions, but... well, Harlan doesn't like to talk about it (though Christopher Priest is happy to).
Tropes Associated with the Anthology Itself:
- All-Star Cast: Harlan Ellison. Isaac Asimov (introductions). Philip Jose Farmer. Philip K. Dick. Robert Silverberg. Robert Bloch. Fritz Leiber. Larry Niven. Poul Anderson. Damon Knight. John Brunner....
- Doorstopper: Dangerous Visions has a nice bulk to it. Again, Dangerous Visions was released in two volumes (although it can also be found as one). And The Last Dangerous Visions would have had to be released in at least THREE volumes.
- Most Writers Are Male And White: Despite being a progressive, forward-looking, radical collection of stories, the gender and racial diversity among the writers in this anthology is only incrementally better than in SF anthologies of the golden age.
- Public Domain Story: Don't tell Harlan, but you can find most of these stories somewhere online, if you know where to look....
- Although, aside of the questionable legality of doing so, most of these stories don't have Harlan's intros or the writers' afterwords, which are such an integral part of the feeling of the book. Just buy it on Amazon or Abe Books.
- What Could Have Been
Tropes found in the Stories in Dangerous Visions:
The tropes found in each story (as well as in the introductions and afterwords) are listed under the story in question.
"But--" Words were useless, but the bitterness inside him forced the words to come from him. "But why? I am God!"
- "Flies" by Robert Silverberg.
- "Riders of the Purple Wage" by Philip Jose Farmer (Hugo Award for best novella)
- Awesome McCoolname: Having one of these is a requirement for being in the story.
- Freudian Excuse: Introduced, subverted, parodied to hell and back, all at the same time.
- Freudian Slip: See 'Freudian excuse'.
- Incredibly Lame Pun : This story is actually almost a stream-of-consciousness of amazing puns and literary references
- Literary Allusion Title: SO many of the section-titles are these. To name just a few: "Sing, O Mews, of Uncle Sam", "The Ancient Marinator", "Sexual Implications of The Charge Of The Light Brigade", "The Mad P Party"...
- Pungeon Master: Farmer himself, but also some of the characters in the story.
- Shout-Out: The number of literary allusions and puns in this story is simply staggering.
- Word Association Test: A lot of it, but "Sexual Implications of the Charge Of The Light Brigade" is pretty much straight-up pseudo-Freudian verbal diarrhea.
- "A Toy for Juliette" by Robert Bloch
- Anachronism Stew: (Harlan, on the idea for the story) "The image of a creature of Whitechapel fog and filth, the dark figure of Leather Apron, skulking through a sterile and automated city of the future, was an anachronism that fascinated me."
- Gallows Humor
- Historical In-Joke/Genius Bonus: Benjamin Bathurst, "that American aviatrix", and the crew of the Marie Celeste. To name just a few...
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Juliette
- Jack the Ripper: the Toy.
- Knife Nut: Juliette.
- Marquis de Sade: Juliette is named after the titular antiheroine of Justine
- Person of Mass Destruction: Juliette.
- Twist Ending
- "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World" by Harlan Ellison
Harlan's story is a sequel to "A Toy for Juliette". So Bloch writes the profile of Harlan preceding the story...
- "Faith of Our Fathers" by Philip K. Dick
- Dirty Communists: How Dick speculated the Cold War might turn out.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: Subverted
- God of Evil/Religion of Evil
- Religious Horror
- Scary Amoral Religion
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: In-story: GOD. Out-of-story, subverted--Ellison even writes that he wanted "a story to be written about, and under the influence of (if possible), LSD. What follows...is the result of such a hallucinogenic journey."
- "The Jigsaw Man" by Larry Niven
- "Gonna Roll the Bones" by Fritz Leiber (got both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for Best Novelette)
- "Lord Randy, My Son" by Joe L. Hensley
Harlan's introduction to Joe L. Hensley is one giant rollicking ride of undistilled hilarity.
- "Eutopia" by Poul Anderson
- A Pair of Bunch: "Incident in Moderan" and "The Escaping" by David R. Bunch
- "The Doll-House" by James Cross
- "Sex and/or Mr. Morrison" by Carol Emshwiller
- "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" by Theodore Sturgeon
- "Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird" by Sonya Dorman
- "Encounter with a Hick" by Jonathan Brand
"[Jonathan Brand] was lying there propped on his elbows, a blade of grass in his mouth, watching half a dozen of the older, more sophistocated giants of the science fiction field dousing each other with beer from quart bottles on the lawn of Damon Knight's home.
- "From the Government Printing Office" by Kris Neville
- "Land of the Great Horses" by R.A. Lafferty
- "The Recognition" by J.G. Ballard
- "Judas" by John Brunner
"We've been slaves to our tools since the first caveman made the first knife to help him get his supper. After that there was no going back, and we built till our machines were ten million times more powerful than ourselves. We gave ourselves cars when we might have learned to run; we made airplanes when we might have grown wings; and then the inevitable. We made a machine our God."
- "Carcinoma Angels" by Norman Spinrad
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Novocain; morphine; curare; vlut, a rare Central Asian poison which induced temporary blindness; olfactorcain, a top-secret smell-deadener used by skunk farmers; tympanoline, a drug which temporarily deadened the auditory nerves (used primarily by filibustering senators); a large dose of Benzedrinel lysergic acid; psilocybin; mescaline; peyote extract; seven other highly experimental and most illegal hallucinogens; Eye of Newt and toe of dog."
- Crazy Prepared: Harrison Wintergreen.
- Moment of Awesome: Harrison Wintergreen beating cancer.
- Shout-Out: In Transmetropolitan, the cigarettes Spider smokes are "Carcinoma Angels".
- To Hell and Back
- "Auto-da-Fé" by Roger Zelazny