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?":
"This story was written some years ago, and all I remember about it is that my then agent returned it with loathing, and told me I might possibly sell it to the Atheist Journal in Moscow, but nowhere else."
Door Stopper: 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.
New Wave Science Fiction: The collection helped crystalize the New Wave movement as an international thing, rather than a primarily British movement as it had been up till then.
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.
"Isaac...was too uncharacteristically and idiotically humble to write a story for the book, on the wholly bogus grounds that he was a geezer, couldn't write "the new thing," and didn't want to embarrass himself."
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.
Fantastic Anthropologist: A human space traveler crash-lands on the planet of a race who are able to save him with their advanced medicine. In return, they enable him to transmit the feelings of others so that they can study humans, but tragedy ensues when this enables him to inflict grievous suffering without experiencing any effects of remorse.
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."
Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Inverted. The main character, a loyal member of a People's Republic of Tyranny, takes a drug that makes him perceive his country's dictator as an evil, inhuman being. Except it turns out this isn't a metaphor; the dictator really is an inhuman monster, and everyone in the world is drugged so that they hallucinate he's a human being. The main character was actually given an anti-hallucinogen, and so, for a brief time, was the only non-drug addled person on the planet and able to see the dictator for what he really is.
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."
"[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.
"Kindness forbids my explaining why Jim Blish, Ted Thomas, Damon and Gordy Dickson were cavorting in such an unseemly manner..."
"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."
Higher Understanding Through Drugs: The story features someone trying to do this in an attempt to use the higher understanding of his own body functions and mental state to cure cancer. It works, but now he can't find his way out into the physical world again.
Journey to the Center of the Mind: The protagonist of the story goes on a journey into his own mind to attempt to cure his cancer. It works, but in a twist ending he can't find his way back out and spends the rest of his life in a coma.