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Literature / Dangerous Visions

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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.

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."

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 didn't like to talk about it (though Christopher Priest (novelist) is happy to).


Tropes Associated with the Anthology Itself:

  • 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.

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.


Example of: