Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The At Last Dangerous Visions

So, forty-five years or so ago science fiction's enfant terrible, Harlan Ellison, announced as forthcoming the third and final book in his DANGEROUS VISION series (circa 1973), a follow up on DANGEROUS VISIONS (1967) and AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS (1972), which wd sum up and encapsulate the New Wave. And then the book didn't appear. Year after year Ellison wd report on progress of the book, listing stories and authors who wd be included, and announcing a publication date (or, as it turned out, dates, one after another). 

Time passed, authors died, others withdrew their contributions, new ones were added in. So notorious did the unreleased book become that one disgruntled former contributor, Christopher Priest, wrote a chapbook THE BOOK ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER chronicling the history of the project (1987, revised & expanded 1994). Ellison kept promising the book's imminent release and offered no explanation for a delay that stretched from years to decades and ultimately for the remainder of Ellison's life, and then some.

I always assumed that Ellison had given himself a bad case of writer's block by promising that he wd write definitive essays on the contributors and include these in the book, which wd be a comprehensive state-of-the-art presentation of Science Fiction as it ought to be (i.e. New Wave). My guess when I first learned of the interminable delay was that the book wd never be published in H.E.'s lifetime but wd appear, sans essays, some six months or so after his death.

Turns out I was partly right. This last week the Ellison estate (in the unlikely avatar of J. Michael Straczynski, of BABYLON FIVE fame) announced the book will be ready next April (i.e., April of 2021, about half a year from now), or about three years since H.E.'s death. Though note that this is a start-looking-for-a-publisher date, not an actual see-it-in-print publication.

Oddly enough Stracznski reveals plans that will complicate the task of trying to finish up the book. For one thing, a number of works by authors who died in the meantime will be returned to their estates. Some stories are being dropped as too dated. Some new stories are being solicited, presumably to make the collection seem more up to date. And one new story by a new, never before published author will be included, apparently as a publicity stunt. All these changes suggest it'll be a sort of hybrid: some old, some new, ultimately representing neither the New Wave of the 1970s nor the field as it is today. For a critique of difficulties inherent in the project, see David Bratman's comments in his blog:


And for information about the official announcement, see Mike Glyer's ever-trusty and ever-informative FILE 770:


On a personal note, I was glad to hear that Tim Kirk art, apparently commissioned circa 1973-74, wd be included: for those not aware of his work, Kirk illustrated one of the first Tolkien Calendars, setting a high bar that many who followed (e.g. the Hildebrant Brothers) failed to meet.

So, we'll see whether this iteration of this long-promised book sees the light of day.

--John R.

current reading: David Lindsay's THE WITCH (an unfinished book even longer in the tooth than anything by Ellison).


David Bratman said...

sorry, a few typos

Harlin --> Harlan
immanent --> imminent (it just feels immanent)
Brat --> Bratman (David Brat was that short-termed right-wing congressman from Virginia. Urgent desire on my part not to be associated with him)

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David.
Thanks for the correctives. I've now gone in and made the mixes.

John D. Rateliff said...

P. S. I understand about the 'David Brat'. I wdn't want to be confused with John Ratcliffe myself.