Harlan Ellison

Again, Dangerous Visions 1, edited by Harlan Ellison®

Again, Dangerous Visions was split into two for its mass market paperback release in 1973. This first half contains a few knockout stories, some pretty good ones, and lots of mediocre ones. At twice the length of the original Dangerous Visions, I can’t help but think that maybe Harlan Ellison® (who registered his name as a trademark in 2002) should’ve trimmed the fat a little more. Personally, I would’ve suggested starting with his overly long introductions to each story, a carryover from the original Dangerous Visions, and something I’ve written about previously here. One small book full of great stories beats two large mediocre ones any day.

If I average my scores for each story, the collection as a whole ends up just slightly lower than 2.5 stars out of 5. I’m rounding this up to 3, because the handful of terrific stories contained within—plus the unique opportunity for cultural examination of early 70s western social movements and politics through an SF lens—makes this a wholeheartedly worthwhile read, even in 2019.

The stories that either missed the mark for me, or don’t hold up any longer, seem to be those that valued shock over storytelling. What was shocking in the western world of 1972, isn’t always so 40+ years later. Good storytelling however, remains good storytelling.

Standouts:
The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Funeral, by Kate Wilhelm
When it Changed, by Joanna Russ
Monitored Dreams and Strategic Cremations, by Bernard Wolfe

Bottom of the Barrel:
Ching Witch, by Ross Rocklynne
Time Travel for Pedestrians, by Ray Nelson
King of the Hill, by Chad Oliver
Harry the Hare, by James B. Hemesath

Individual Story Reviews:
The Counterpoint of View, by John Heidenry: 1/5
Q: Who really wrote this story/essay, was it me The Author or you The Reader?
A: It was you, The (pretentious) Author. Somebody read Don Quixote recently. *sigh*

Ching Witch, by Ross Rocklynne: 1/5
Earth blows up, and it’s last remaining human goes to another planet to teach them various dances and live in luxury. Pointless and meandering.

The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. Le Guin: 5/5
Terrific novella, obviously influential to James Cameron’s Avatar (which I now believe can be 100% constructed from elements of Old Man’s War & The Word for World is Forest). Also very influential to the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Read my full review of this novella here.

It’s a moralistic story, and it had some insightful things to say about dangerous ideas entering the public consciousness. Basically, there is no going back. Here, specifically in relation to the concept of murder.

For Value Received, by Andrew J. Offutt: 3/5
A short little bit of absurdism, entertaining enough, but not particularly great.

Mathoms From the Time Closet, by Gene Wolfe: 2/5
I usually like Gene Wolfe a lot, but this was just two little pointless stories filled with pretentious bullshit, sandwiching one that was sort of fun, almost a mermaid tale in the sky.

Time Travel for Pedestrians, by Ray Nelson: 1/5
Weird little hallucination of a story.

Christ, Old Student in a New School, by Ray Bradbury: 3/5
A poem, not sure the meaning exactly but it seemed to allude to mankind imprisoning itself through religion.

King of the Hill, by Chad Oliver: 1/5
This story tried way, way too hard and failed absolutely to be dangerous or remotely visionary.

The 10:00 Report is Brought to you by…, by Edward Bryant: 4/5
While it was overly obvious from the first couple pages what was going on, it was still a deeply disturbing vision of the possible future of journalism in a society like ours that fetishizes suffering as a spectator sport.

The Funeral, by Kate Wilhelm: 5/5
Another deeply disturbing story, but it had a genuine point to make, and it made it well.

Harry the Hare, by James B. Hemesath: 1/5
Totally pointless. Soapbox opinion bullshit about cartoons and copyrights. Literary equivalent of Old Man Yells at Cloud.

When it changed, by Joanna Russ: 5/5
Terrific. I need to track down more of her work. Very impressed with this one.

The Big Space Fuck, by Kurt Vonnegut: 3/5
Yep, it’s weird and Vonneguty all right.

Bounty, by T. L. Sherred: 2/5
Too self congratulatory. Not dangerous or visionary.

Still-life, by K. M. O’Donnell: 1/5
Terrible. Skip it.

Stoned Council, by H. H. Holis: 3/5
Lawyers do a ton of drugs and then battle their cases out with their minds. Sort of a proto-cyberpunk story. Original at least.

Monitored Dreams and Strategic Cremations, by Bernard Wolfe: 5/5
This is really two stories, 1. The Bisquit Position, 2. The Girl with Rapid Eye Movements. They’re both excellent, and exactly the kind of stories I was looking for in this collection. Vietnam social commentary, with some slight SF backings.

With a Finger in My I, by David Gerrold: 3/5
Very nearly a bedtime story; a comedy of errors and literal/figurative mix ups. Some social commentary about belief, and self fulfilling prophesy as well.

In The Barn, by Piers Anthony: 2/5
I get it, I do.. but it’s cliche even by 70s standards.