Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison (1967) 598 p.
I would estimate that maybe 40-60% of this renowned and admired anthology of science fiction stories consists of introductions, forewords, afterwords. Every story has an introduction by Ellison, and I started skipping these after the first one, because they are – bar none – interminable chummy ramblings that reminded me of nothing so much as Grampa Simpson talking about tying an onion to his belt. In more than once case, the introduction is actually longer than the story. Not since Michael Moorcock have I encountered a writer so obsessed with the collective memoirs of his own clique. Why do SFF writers end up like this? The conventions – it must be all those goddamn conventions.
The stories aren’t much better. They almost all have that stain of early/mid-century Old White Man scifi writer on them: lecturing, condescending, sexist, not nearly as groundbreaking as they think they are, and something else I can’t put my finger on. A lack of finesse; a boyish immaturity. Nowadays the best science fiction is written by people like Kim Stanley Robinson and Margaret Atwood and Chris Beckett, people who cut their teeth in the literary world, but this is a collection of writers who learned the craft by writing for magazines with rocket ships on the cover. Some of them (Niven and Sturgeon in particular) verge into being laughable, even as they clearly think they’re writing serious Big Idea fiction.
The only story in here which I thought was worth reading was Philip K. Dick’s extremely disturbing “Faith of Our Fathers” – which is saying something, since I’m not normally a fan of Dick’s. Most of the rest of it is dated and puerile rubbish which I had to force myself through. The only story in it which I skipped entirely was Philip Jose Farmer’s “Riders of the Purple Wage,” because I’ve already wasted too much of my reading life on that talentless hack.
Ground-breaking in its time, maybe, but the world of science fiction has long since moved on to brighter and better days. Dangerous Visions can be safely consigned to the dustbin of history.