1972 - AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS

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1972 - AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS

Postby Jan » Wed Apr 11, 2007 11:36 pm

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AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS

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As the original cover said, the sequel to DANGEROUS VISIONS contains 46 original stories, all of them by writers not already in the first volume. As usual, it also contains Harlan's personal introductions to every writer as well as afterwords by the writers. Cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon and illustrations by Ed Emshwiller (CalArts obituary). About 840 pages and more than 250,000 words. It was split into two parts for the paperback but first was the winner of the Locus Award for Best Original Anthology and Harlan received a special Hugo for his editorship. - A projected third volume, THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS has been delayed, not cancelled. In 1995 David Langford wrote a short piece on the delays for SFX magazine.

This book is out of print and currently not available as an e-book. | Info and table of contents (Langerhans)

I can't find any serious reviews of the book on the internet. Let me know if you see something. In the meantime, a rather negative discussion at LiveJournal.

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Feel free to post your thoughts about the book and the stories in it. This thread started with a brief discussion of Kurt Vonnegut which is coming up first.
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Harlan's friend Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. died today, so this is going to be our thread in his memory. I will post a few comments about THE BIG SPACE FUCK from Harlan's AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS shortly, but any Vonnegut related comments are appreciated. I'm not very familiar with his books. Harlan has written about Vonnegut in the same volume, fearing that BIG SPACE FUCK might be his last story. Perhaps someone knows if that turned out to be the case.

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K.V.
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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:46 am

Vonnegut was not one of my very favorites, but he was a dependably engaging and liberal man -- both on the page and in person.

I liked a few of his best -- SL5, BofCh, PP, CC -- but did not read everything . . . hardly anything after Breakfast, actually. I liked his essays (Wampeters, Palm Sunday) more than almost any of his fiction but the very best.

Saw him speak once, "on the Dignity of Human Nature" at the Unitarian Church on Harvard Square 'round about 1980. It was a wonderful lecture -- wise, funny, and charming. I have a cassette of the occasion somewhere.

I'll never forget a Time or Newsweek review that said something like his writings tended to put a bitter coating around a sweet pill.

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Postby Jan » Fri Apr 13, 2007 12:04 pm

THE BIG SPACE FUCK by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

This is actually the first thing of his I read, though I've caught bits of the SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 movie. That proves again how valuable Harlan's anthologies are - they're all in there somewhere along with a proper introduction. I was never particularly attracted to the way Vonnegut was marketed or how his work was superficially characterized, but I think I can begin to look beyond that, especially given the number of people in the Pavilion that mention him in one breath with Ellison and Bradbury. This is a pretty wild story, there are so many elements here being played off each other. Some of those elements are obvious satire, others are still satire, I suppose, but less obvious. The humor has a lightness to it that serves as a counterpoint to the pessimism that's underneath it all. The story is about the general state of the world exemplified by aspects of it that are of recent origin, like industrial pollution, 2001 and the space age, youth culture, sexual liberation, overpopulation, television, legal battles and political correctness. Vonnegut lets it all happen at the same time to create a single effect. It's certainly not a celebration, nor a total condemnation of modern times, it's more of a question mark. :| :| :|
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Postby Jan » Thu May 03, 2007 6:09 pm

I've seen the SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 movie by now and was fairly impressed by it. I knew George Roy Hill's work - I've seen his GARP movie, BUTCH CASSIDY, and the heartwarming A LITTLE ROMANCE, so I've always been very aware of him. Vonnegut said the film is even better than the book, which could be right. On the other hand, films age faster, and you can see it's from the 70's; the print I saw looked washed out and small parts of the film don't quite hold up. I had once gotten into an argument in the Pavilion with some people who said it was a great idea to bomb Dresden etc., which bothered me a great deal. The world still seems to be divided on this. I had no idea Vonnegut dealt with this decades ago. One of the best scenes in the film was the brief one in the hospital where the protagonist (I forgot his name) overhears a conversation about the bombing and, with a lot of effort, manages to say "I was there!" What else can you say? You can tell there's a lot of honest autobiography in the film, as well as a lot of fantasy on top, but obvious fantasy. The film leaves a few questions open that the book may have answered, but I think I can make some of the connections myself, regarding, for example, how the protagonist's lifestyle is determined by his traumatic past. How he ends up on another planet, I don't know, but perhaps it's heaven or part of his dreams.

An interesting thing about Vonnegut is that he seems to think life on Earth will end pretty soon, and one of his points is that we will run out of oil, which our civilization is based on. The last major article on oil I read (some years ago) said that most likely we have a lot more oil than we currently know of, and I'm not sure we're even going to need it all. I think the real problems will be climate-related.

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Postby Jan » Thu Jul 10, 2008 5:43 am

THINGS LOST by Thomas M. Disch

Disch committed suicide a few days ago, as we all heard from ATC in the Pavilion. This was quite a shock to all of us. Harlan reported he had tried to call Disch and no one had picked up.

"Things Lost" is about the crew of a spaceship which is picking up speed as it leaves the solar system. Regan, an aspiring novelist, is keeping a diary. The crew is like a complete society as few of its members are astronauts in the traditional sense. There is one major thing that distinguishes them from us, though - they're all immortal.

Disch was one of the more experimental writers of those days. The epistolary format works great here and he manages to create a certain sense of excitement. I was very pleased with the world he created and the character relationships that emerged. His spaceship is quite something. The mystery presented on the first page was an interesting one. The only odd thing about it was how much time Disch seemed to be taking with establishing the characters and the setting. I was all the more disappointed when the ending just seemed to happen arbitrarily when things were starting to come together. The very strong premise, revealed in the final paragraph, had not had time to breathe and had not been adequately reflected, while the mysteries were hardly explained at all, a major one even ignored. Furthermore, this is not a dangerous vision.

How come Disch was able to entertain and enthrall us but failed to present a satisfying whole? I found out when I read the introduction and the afterword. This was the beginning of an abandoned novel from 1966, not a story. By putting it out there, he was, in essence, saying goodbye to science fiction. I don't know what changes Disch made to turn this into a story, but it doesn't work. I don't know - couldn't Harlan pay Disch enough to write something new? Did he get a discount for this? On a more positive note, the novel would have been interesting. Disch reports having published another section of the novel as "The Pressure of Time" in Orbit 7. Unfortunately, the two stories seem to be connected only thematically. :| :| :oops:

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T.D.

WHEN IT CHANGED by Joanna Russ

A society of female farmers lives on what is revealed to be a colony where all men have died centuries ago. They are visited by men who want them to "return" home.

This story won the Nebula Award, which Russ had also won for her novel AND CHOAS DIED, beating "On the Downhill Side" by Harlan Ellison, among others. This indicates that the story must have looked a lot better in 1972 than it does now, apart from the fact that the nomination and voting system was obviously imperfect. I would say that "When it Changed" is an intelligent female emancipation story, meaning that it takes a look at what an all-female society could look like without making the same assumptions and falling into the same traps that male writers did. As we know, there was a lot of debate about emancipation and the role of female characters and writers in science fiction at the time. The story itself is hardly noteworthy as far as storytelling is concerned. It's a so-so tale told with conviction but also without much depth and one that's barely long enough to give you a sense of what you've just witnessed. I didn't care for the way the characters, concepts, and the backstory were revealed portion by portion, regardless of whether they were genuine surprises or just random missing pieces that might have been delievered earlier. As was the case with Disch, a passing remark in the afterword explains this mysteriousness. (The story was begun without a plot in mind.)

Harlan contributed a wordy introduction in which he basically speaks out for women's liberation and drums up excitement for the story. To the converted this is painful to read due to its long-winded obviousness, but I guess that at the time it may have reached someone, like the story (or rather its message) obviously did. :| :|

Completely different views on the story and some discussion of the larger issues:
When It Changed: A Personal Look at Women and Science Fiction by Laurie D. T. Mann
"When It Changed" by Joanna Russ: An Appreciation by Kameron Hurley
Feminism and Science Fiction: “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ and “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” by James Tiptree

An overview of Russ' work at feministsf.org

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Postby Jan » Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:30 pm

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Heidenry

THE COUNTERPOINT OF VIEW by John Heidenry. What Harlan designated as a "keynote entry" is a fun Borges pastiche that benefits from the writers love of books, codes, and philosophy. It's a short essay of invention, not a story. So far, so good. However, in my opinion, the book starts off all wrong with an introduction, another introduction, a keynote entry, followed by an afterword and another introduction. You don't want to do that. In addition, using Heidenry's text as a mood-setter takes the bite out of the dangerousness of the book. While I don't think the stories in either volume were dangerous, we like to expect something a little dangerous and Harlan failed to keep up the pretense here.

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Wolfe

MATHOMS FROM THE TIME CLOSET by Gene Wolfe. A trio of very short stories that, to my disappointment, are connected in no way. Robot's Story is about a robot telling his new companions a space-age fairy tale. It's a splendid, understated piece of brilliance - funny, poignant and well-written. Against the Lafayette Escadrille is about a hobby pilot who has reproduced an old Fokker airplane. Exciting but finally a bit pointless. Loco Parentis is a dialogue-only attempt at funny audience confusion, dealing with confused future parents, foster parents, and kids. This was written earlier thant the other two and seems to represent a less experienced Wolfe. Needless to say, he went on to have a great career (fan page), and judging from these texts it's not surprising. :| :|

KING OF THE HILL by Chad Oliver is about a rich man on a future Earth that has become uninhabitable. He lives in a large protected area with a clean environment where he dedicates himself to an expensive hobby. Oliver seems to be the thinking-type SF writer and he presents his mystery in the form of hints toward a solution. His prose has things in common with Harlan's and is very readable. His only problem is that he doesn't have a plot, so it's all expository. On the positive side, the story deals with our ecology, which gives it a lasting relevance. Two large retrospective volumes of Oliver's short fiction have been issued in 2003. :| :| :oops:


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