1967 - DANGEROUS VISIONS

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Thu May 01, 2008 3:37 pm

Thanks for the info. That doesn't exactly explain the title but it takes some weight off it. It's a strictly poetic title.

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Postby Jan » Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:39 am

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"Faith of Our Fathers" by Philip K. Dick is about a man named Chien who lives in Hanoi sometime after the East has conquered the West. A peddler sells him a substance supposed to enable him to turn himself off when the leader is giving his daily televised speeches that everybody is forced to watch. Chien tries the substance, and the leader disappears from the screen, replaced by a small apparatus.

The title is that of an old hymn. I think, with this story, I managed to offend everybody, which seemed at the time to be a good idea, but which I've regretted since. Communism, drugs, sex, God -- I put it all together, and it's been my impression since that when the roof fell in on me years later, this story was in some eerie way involved. - PKD

Dick handed in the story at the beginning of 1966 and later revised the ending. It has novelette length.

To readers familiar with Dick's work "Faith of Our Fathers" is certainly nothing out of the ordinary in terms of its concepts. However, the mix is just extraordinary, making this thoroughly exciting. The greatest strength of the story is the intelligence that holds it all together - both the intelligence of a storyteller and an intellectual. Dick is always ahead of you, but not so much that you can't follow. The story never fails to move along, and there isn't a moment that makes you go "wait a second." Why is that an accomplishment? Because this is not an easy story, and with the majority of genre writers it would be a pretty rough ride. A lot of them tend to oversell, overexplain, underexplain, what have you. Dick's writing is pretty stripped-down but it's rich inside. Many a writer would have turned this into a novel, which is, of course, the problem of novels. Dick has found the ideal length for this. As a result, it reminds us how important books like DANGEROUS VISIONS are, which collect fine works of less-than-novel-length.

The only complaint I have is that Dick's rewritten epilogue is a letdown and unimportant. It feels like 60s writing.

As for Harlan's foreword - I think that Harlan is overemphasizing Dick's "creative" use of drugs, which is unfair and misleading. Dick was a creative guy, full stop. Implying the story was a result of using LSD is almost like saying, hey, no wonder he has great ideas! Harlan also calls The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch the "result of such a hallucinogenic journey." Dick said in interviews the book was written before he tried LSD, which he took once and had a bad experience with. He did use amphetamines, as is well known, but he did so all the time to increase his production.

Anyway, this is the best story in the book of the ones I've read so far. It lost the Hugo to Leiber's story, which is also unfair. It was included in THE BEST OF PHILIP K. DICK in the 70s. :| :| :| :|

Official site: http://www.philipkdick.com

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Postby Jan » Thu Jun 19, 2008 3:11 am

"The Jigsaw Man" by Larry Niven is about a jailed man named Knowles who considers himself sentenced to death before the trial. There is a great medical demand for human body parts and the lawmakers aim to satisfy that demand.

This is a story from Niven's Known Space universe and a forerunner of novels such as The Patchwork Girl as well as the Ringworld books. "The Jigsaw Man" is not part of the hard core of Dangerous Visions since it's not dangerous. It's just a What If kind of story played for action, suspense, and surprise without much of a foundation in today's reality. If a story has nothing to do with us, it should at least be entertaining, and I'm glad to report that this one is. Niven carefully holds back vital information both for surprise and improved structure. The storytelling is economic and very good. While I can't get excited about works like this, Niven's ending packs a punch. This was a Hugo nominee in the short story category. :| :| :oops:

Introduction to Known Space: http://www.larryniven.org/knownspace.shtml
Last edited by Jan on Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Jan » Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:55 am

"The Jigsaw Man" by Larry Niven is about a jailed man named Knowles who considers himself sentenced to death before the trial. There is a great medical demand for human body parts and the lawmakers aim to satisfy that demand.

This is a story from Niven's Known Space universe and a forerunner of novels such as The Patchwork Girl as well as the Ringworld books. "The Jigsaw Man" is not part of the hard core of Dangerous Visions since it's not dangerous. It's just a What If kind of story played for action, suspense, and surprise without much of a foundation in today's reality. If a story has nothing to do with us, it should at least be entertaining, and I'm glad to report that this one is. Niven carefully holds back vital information both for surprise and improved structure. The storytelling is economic and very good. While I can't get excited about works like this, Niven's ending packs a punch. This was a Hugo nominee in the short story category. :| :| :oops:

Introduction to Known Space: http://www.larryniven.org/knownspace.shtml

A few short ones:

"Sex and/or Mr. Morrison" by Carol Emshwiller. The narrator lives in an old building, with a noisy, fat man living upstais from him or her that he or she has become strangely curious about, so much so that he or she hides in his apartment.

This is a story about strange people in a strange future society reminiscent of ours. Harlan seemed convinced of Emshwillers superior abilities, but this particular story is boring and silly, even if there is something valid about it. :| :oops:

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"Shall the Dust Praise Thee?" by Damon Knight. God, along with some angels, inspects a planet that looks like Earth after a major catastrophe.

It's interesting that stories about God counted as dangerous visions in the American sixties. There are certainly a lot of them in DV. What will be their equivalents in THE LAST DV? Just when I began to doubt the honesty of Harlan's introductions, here was one that did not praise the writer. Harlan wanted to publish a Kate Wilhelm story and got a Knight instead, but eventually he did get a Willhelm for AGAIN, DV, and Knight published an original Harlan or two, so it all ended well. Whatever else I may have read by Knight, what sticks out is "Four In One", a superior tale which Silverberg used in SCIENCE FICTION 101. What Harlan got from him was a "civilized entertainment", as Silverberg once called Knight's main output. It's silly and obvious but it has a great last line that reminds you that Knight also wrote "To Serve Man". This ending is as good in its own way, though Knight didn't quite do his idea justice. :| :| :oops:

"Encounter With a Hick" by Jonathan Brand. A soon-to-be married doctor, having been asked to give a lecture, tells the audience an anecdote about a now-deceased alien he encountered in the bar. The alien's people had the wrong ideas about their planet's creation.

This was written at or for Milford in 1966, while Harlan was attending, and he bought the story on the spot, asking only for minor changes, one of which I think I can identify (last sentence of paragraph four). If someone had put this story in front of me without the writer's name, I would have guessed that it's one of Harlan's own attempts at humor. It has the style, characters and themes reminiscent of his own humourous stories, or at least it's close. I also think that Douglas Adams would have *gladly* incorporated something like this into his books, and, come to think of it, he actually did, in THE RESTAURANT AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. The difficulty with Brand's story is that it's all direct speech, which is a tiring device and a stretch, and it's not hilarious in the way Adams' writing would later be, but it's still amusing in a somewhat profound way as you begin to realize what's happening. :| :| :|

Emshwiller's Official Page: http://www.sfwa.org/members/emshwiller/
Damon Knight lecture on early Science Fiction (Lucian, Poe, Verne): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ouYZVFBGUc

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Postby Duane » Wed Jan 07, 2009 4:08 pm

I first discovered DV as a teenager, and most of the stories were so beyond me that I will now need to reread the volume in its entirety; however, it will be like reading the volume again, for the very first time.

HOWEVER....

Riders of the Purple Wage. Even though I didn't get a lot of what was going on, that continues to be one of my all time favorite SF stories. I even own a small volume of Philip Jose Farmer's stories that deal with this particular universe.

I'll post about it after I've re-read it, but in the meantime, Jan, give it another chance. RotPW is a complicated, but beautiful puzzle that reveals itself only after several readings.

(The scene where the male protagonist superglues a small container of spermicide between the naked female protagonist's legs and slides her out of a bar is particularly unforgettable, and might I add, hilarious. Don't know if I should be ashamed of that, or what....)

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Postby Duane » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:25 pm

A QUICK NOTE: There is much more to say about this story, particularly one of the big inspirations for the society portrayed: The Triple Revolution document written in the 1960's and submitted to The White House. I would like others who have read this story, and either loved or hated it, to weigh in with their thoughts.

At a future time, I'd like to write a scholarly essay exploring the story and the world in which it takes place, but for now I'll leave what I've written below as a starting point. Enjoy!

About frakkin' time, eh Jan?

Riders of the Purple Wage

A young, struggling artist deals with vicious critics, an eclectic circle of friends who don't always have his best interests at heart, and his vastly overweight mother, all the while helping his 120 year old great great grandfather hide out from a tax agent who just KNOWS the old coot is around somewhere. Meanwhile, 20 billion dollars lie buried, awaiting discovery.

Seems like an ordinary story about some relatively ordinary people, until you consider the setting where the story takes place.

Imagine that the present day US government decides to spend every dollar, present and future, on creating the ultimate Utopia: everyone has guaranteed housing, free utilities, and a guaranteed "Purple Wage" to spend on food and other necessities. Working is optional, and only necessary if one wants to acquire luxuries. The rest of the world follows suit, and within a few generations, a world wide Utopian society is established.

It is, indeed, the ultimate Utopia, except for one problem.

The society described in this book can't possibly exist.

Utopias and their cultures have been rich SF fodder for nearly a century, and in nearly every one of them, the system breaks down, either in the story, or at some future point germinated by seeds planted in the story.

Not this one, and especially not Beverly Hills, Level 14, where this story takes place. However, we suspend our disbelief, and we are rewarded with a glimpse into a society where not only is everyone equal under the law, everyone is also equal in capacity: anyone who fancies him or herself an artist (or an art critic) can gain a PhD in either field by viewing video programming from home. In other words, the society created in "Riders...." is a living, breathing, physical example of the Internet.

That's what makes this story so magnificently funny, then tragic, then, at the very end, hilarious all over again.

The story opens with a pullquote from the journal of the 120 year great great great grandfather, known by his great(x2) grandson Chib (the story's main protagonist) as Grandpa Winnegan:

"If Jules Verne could really have looked into the future, say 1966 A.D., he would have crapped in his pants. And 2166, oh, my!" -- From Grandpa Winnegan's unpublished Ms. "How I Screwed Uncle Sam & Other Private Ejaculations."


This "quote" sets the tone for the entire story, for what we are led through is a society every bit as fanciful as Jules Verne ever imagined.

We begin by watching as the protagonist Chib begins to wake up. During this process, we see Chib experience a "wet dream" type waking vision that, rather crudely, combines the sexual act with his passion for his art. After finally waking up, he stumbles into the living room of the giant egg shaped home he and his mother live in, and finds her playing cards with her other horrifically overweight friends. We get a glimpse of the society in which he lives in the following passage:

"A gam of gamblers," he says aloud [to the group of mama's friends, all dressed, for some reason, in historical costuming], looking at the fat faces, the tremendous tits, the rampant rumps. They raise their eyebrows. What the hell's the mad genius talking about now?

"Is your kid really retarded?" says one of Mama's friends, and they laugh and drink some more beer. Angela Ninon, not wanting to miss out on this deal and figuring Mama will soon turn on the sprayers anyway, pisses down her leg. They laugh at this, and William Conqueror says, "I open."

"I'm always open," Mama says, and they shriek with laughter.

Chib would like to cry. He does not cry, although he has been encouraged from childhood to cry anytime he feels like it.


He reminds his mother of an art show later that day where his latest painting will be displayed, then stumbles into the next room, where his great(x2) grandfather has been hiding for over 25 years, ostensibly without Chib's mother's knowledge. The tax policeman, known as an IRB man (for Internal Revenue Bureau), has been hassling Chib, sensing that the old man, long thought dead, is still alive. If so, there's a 20 billion dollar account to settle.

Chib and Grandpa discuss this:

"Accipiter (the IRB man) is hovering outside our house. He smells something rotten in Beverly Hills, level 14. Could it be that Win-again Winnegan isn't dead? Uncle Sam is like a Diplodocus kicked in the ass. It takes twenty-five years for the message to reach its brain."

"...Oh God, Grandpa, I don't want anything to happen to you."

"What can happen to a 120-year old man besides failure of brain or kidneys?"


Chib and Grandpa are very close; he's as close to a father figure as Chib has ever had, and in return for keeping Grandpa well hidden in the home, Chib gets advice, education and friendship from a Zappa-esque old sage who has, literally, seen it all.

As the story progresses, Chib prepares his painting for the art show, meets up with his friends, has an encounter with an old girlfriend, Benedictine who is now pregnant, and gets to an art show in time to experience a riot caused by two competing critics of Chib's latest painting. The story comes to a climax when Grandpa is finally discovered.

Just about every aspect of the culture in which these characters live is pushed to the very limit of absurdity. Nothing is denied anyone, and consequently, nothing really has any lasting value, even art. Witness this scene where the critic Luscus attempts to explain Chib's artistic genius:

"It'll take me some time to explain why I use [the phrase "The Pellucidar Breakthrough"] to describe (Chib's) stroke of genius," Luscus continues. "First, let me seem to detour

FROM THE ARCTIC TO ILLINOIS

"Now, Confucius once said that a bear could not fart at the North Pole without causing a big wind in Chicago.

"By this he meant that all events, therefore, all men, are interconnected in an unbreakable web...."


This baffling analysis, brought to even more comedic effect by using some of the more absurd monologue as a section heading (a device used throughout the story), shows the true intellectual level of a society in which all things are, truly, equal.

However, although anyone and everyone can aspire to anything and everything, cream does, indeed, rise to the top. The true arc of this story is Chib's heroic search for the meaning of his life in this impossible culture. As the story points out, Chib is lucky because he was blessed with, not only talent, but a key adult figure who truly loves and understands him, and in the end, we sense that Chib will transcend the elements of his culture that enshrine mediocrity and truly make something special and unique of his life.

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Postby Jan » Sun Feb 08, 2009 6:18 am

Great posting. Gives one a good sense of the story and what it's about. It's interesting that you made a connection between Farmer's "impossible culture" and the internet, or let's say the internet culture. I'm not sure about cream rising to the top though and I wonder what the mechanism for that is in the story. Any society in which cream does rise to the top is no worse and perhaps better than ours, or not?
It seems to me (from your review) Farmer's society is also related to free speech in general and the field of professional writing. There's no law against anyone not writing and getting published.
If you post more on this, let us know what you thought of the writing and how you rate the story compared with others in the book or other Farmer stories you may have read. The story seems to be pleasing on an intellectual level and as humor but I still wonder about other aspects.

Addendum 2/09: Duane has sort of answered my last question in the Pavilion.

1) RotPW is my ***ALLL TIIMMMEEEE*** favorite SF story, by any author, and
2) NOTHING I have said, can say, or will say about the story will ever do it justice; all I can do is pay unworthy homage.
Last edited by Jan on Sun Feb 22, 2009 4:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Mary Midnight » Tue Feb 24, 2009 4:03 pm

Now that I've read this story...I'll add my own input...just bits and bobs for now.

I'll start with one of my favorite scenes...I laugh every time I read it. Then I sort of feel guilty. I mean, Chib is gluing the can to a rather sensitive part part of Benedictine's body, but when Benedictine and Bela start slipping and sliding on the foam, the imagery is almost too much. Add the "Blue Danube" waltz music to that scene and it's almost perfect.

The description of her clothes is priceless...she sounds like someone who should be performing in Vegas. And her dialogue...sounds like a lot of girls I meet and hear about today. "You said you were just going to use your finger!" "What the hell do I know what I said, you got me so excited!"

Oh yeah. Like it's all the guy's fault. Takes two to tango, baby.

I wish I had a grandpa like Winnegan. That letter at the end I think I'll copy and keep with me. I just like it. "Learn to paint with your heart. Only thus will you become great and true." Wisdom for the ages.

These are just observations. I'll get deeper later. I figured if I tried to get deep now, I'd be trying too hard.

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Postby Jan » Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:30 pm

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"Auto-Da-Fé" by Roger Zelazny - The mechador Dos Muertos, who has died twice, fights not bulls but cars.

This variation of the spectator-told bull-fighting story is set in a not-too-distant future in which apparently self-guided cars have taken the place of bulls in the Spanish arenas. Needless to say, the story is about the role of cars in our society, and about our society itself, but despite that it's meant to be enjoyable and a bit of a stylistic exercise. Zelazny has a wonderful handle on what the story can be and needs to be, and he has more than enough talent and skill to make it happen. (Harlan calls him the reincarnation of Chaucer.) He is only limited by the setup which hardly leaves much room for development and surprises. :| :| :|

Website
| Auto-Da-Fé: An Appreciation by Jason Stoddard | Power & Light Volume 2: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny

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Re: 1967 - DANGEROUS VISIONS

Postby Robert Nason » Mon Oct 07, 2013 6:05 pm

I was recently reading an essay in the 2012 book HARLAN ELLISON: CRITICAL INSIGHTS, and came across a reference to a review of DV by Ted White that was published in WARHOON in 1968. White wrote that the book was "ugly" and "a disaster" -- comments which frankly shocked me because I assumed that White would be highly enthusiastic about DV. After all, as editor of AMAZING and FANTASTIC from 1969-1979, White sought out and published many young, cutting-edge writers, and some of his own dark short stories from that period push the envelope in ways that would suggest he'd have been very sympathetic to DV's aims. So what gives? Has anybody here read the White piece ("Reflections on DANGEROUS VISIONS") and knows just why White disliked the book?
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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Re: 1967 - DANGEROUS VISIONS

Postby ATSayre » Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:02 pm

I was reading down the thread and had to pause because I did not remember at all that Philip K. Dick had a story in it. I searched through my stacks for my old copy and checked it, saw the dick story was indeed in it, and and then saw so many other stories by so many great writers that I hadn't read in years.
So I'm going through this book again now. Which is nice. My copy has the most wonderful old book smell.

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Re: 1967 - DANGEROUS VISIONS

Postby Ezra Lb. » Mon Sep 08, 2014 7:25 pm

In my opinion the story you are writing about, Faith of Our Fathers, is the best thing PKD ever did.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Re: 1967 - DANGEROUS VISIONS

Postby ATSayre » Wed Sep 10, 2014 12:53 pm

Ezra Lb. wrote:In my opinion the story you are writing about, Faith of Our Fathers, is the best thing PKD ever did.


I still lean towards Second Variety for that, at least in the short story section.
The foreward and afterword to the story are a little weird to read today, with all the talk of drug experimentation, knowing what happened to Dick in his life just a few years later.


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