JMS Issues New “The Last Dangerous Visions” Update

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J. Michael Straczynski has posted a new update to his Patreon site for those followers who signed up to learn more about his efforts to bring The Last Dangerous Visions anthology to publication.

Don’t know what rock you’ve been under if you aren’t familiar with this but, a brief recap in case you have been under said rock:  Harlan Ellison, man of letters, “enfant terrible” of both the SF field and Hollywood, author of Star Trek’s most storied episode – The City on the Edge of Forever – and editor of one of the most ground-breaking anthologies in the SF field’s history – Dangerous Visions – produced a sequel anthology (Again, Dangerous Visions) and then announced a third, to be titled The Last Dangerous Visions, which became an albatross around Ellison’s neck as he failed to bring that book out, and refused to surrender the rights to stories that had been submitted.  LDV as it was called came to become something that you never mentioned to Harlan (or did so from a safe distance as I did, said distance being approximately 2,500 miles) and the subject of much commentary, including a book The Last Deadloss Visions by Christopher Priest (who managed to get his story back, as did several others over the course of years).

Harlan left us without ever concluding that project and there was much speculation as to the fate of the stories in his files.  J. Michael Straczynski, long time friend and co-worker with Ellison (Babylon 5 as one project) has taken on the role of literary executor for the Harlan and Susan Ellison estate and recently announced that he intends to publish The Last Dangerous Visions; the plan is to keep existing stories that are appropriate (haven’t aged too much) and to seek out new rights agreements with those authors;  to return rights on those that will not be used and to solicit new stories.

JMS is releasing information on this project through his Patreon account (membership required).

In his second update, it was announced that a major author in the field has agreed to submit a story.

In this most recent update, an existing manuscript that will be included, is announced and the first page of the ms is displayed, including Harlan’s editorial markings.

But to see it and find out who wrote it and what Harlan edited, you’ll need to sign on with the Patreon account, which you can do here.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Steve,
    Okay: as they say here in Australia, let’s call a spade a shovel.
    I knew/know of the Priest writings — and I (pun intended) wrote them off because, well, there was animosity on BOTH sides of that divide.
    But: your quote from Michael Bishop certainly hits home. Ian Watson, too.
    So I stand (or, rather, sit), corrected: and I apologize for going off half-cocked, and writing a half-assed letter of complaint. Harlan definitely could be petty — he even realized it, very late in life — and it certainly seems as if he let the worst side of his self get the better of him as regards his treatment of more than a few writers who submitted to TLDV. Damn shame.
    All best,
    DTS

  2. From what I KNOW of the situation — Harlan and I were acquainted, professionally and otherwise — ANY contributor who wanted their story back could return any monies paid to them and get have their story returned. THAT is what Priest did. Your half-a$$ed article makes it sound as if a court battle would have been needed.

    • Dorman,

      I was acquainted with Harlan as well, both professionally and otherwise, and my understanding is that while stories were returned, it was not without the author’s paying a price that, apparently, many others who were so inclined were unwilling to pay.

      For more detail on this – if you have not yet read it, or have read it and dismissed it – there is the essay by the author you invoked, Christopher Priest, The Last Deadloss Visions. Here are a few quotes from that essay that paint a picture different from yours:

      “Any hint of disbelief in the project (e.g., when a writer tries to withdraw his story) is greeted with such a display of bad temper, wheedling, renewed promises, emotional blackmail, accusations, threats, and so on, that few will challenge him. Writers living both in the UK and in the USA have been on the receiving end of this kind of thing, but few will talk about it. (See Pre-Publication Letters.)
      One of the immediate consequences of crossing Mr Ellison is a broad and enduring distaste for the whole subject, part of which is clearly the wish not to renew the trouble. Fear of reprisal: this has been mentioned before, but it is surprisingly common. What should be a matter for free comment is rarely discussed, because people don’t like being vilified.” Christopher Priest

      “Only the reckless respond, try to get their stories back or point out that this is the umpteenth time the anthology has been promised … and the fury of a man who feels his integrity impugned is turned full upon their hapless heads.” Christopher Priest

      “But I don’t like his behaviour as editor of LAST, least of all his conduct when you eventually withdraw a story: the bluster, the arm-twisting (often by proxy), the sense that you’re on a shit-list. I escaped comparatively unscathed–but an author friend of mine was treated vilely.” Ian Watson

      “Ellison would probably construe my saying so as an attempt at self-justification, however, because after I withdrew ‘Dogs’ Lives’ (in the Fall of ’83), he accused me of just about every conceivable personal failing from paranoia (he may have been right about that one) to betrayal to money-grubbing to self-righteous hypocrisy and concluded this page-and-a-half attack by saying that he wished to have “no further congress” with me.” Michael Bishop

      All of which and more can be read here: https://web.archive.org/web/20000902203835/http://sf.www.lysator.liu.se/sf_archive/sf-texts/Ansible/Last_Deadloss_Visions,Chris_Priest

      So I don’t think my post was half-assed, but, rather, presented things pretty clearly.

      I liked Harlan. I admired him. Sharing a background that in some respects was similar to his I felt gave me some extra insight into his make-up. I feel that LDV became an impossibility for him: the consequences of completing it in equal balance with those of not doing so, and thus, the limbo. I’ve been there and so understand this as well. Not having the book is one thing, but the damage done to some authors is an entirely different one. Rights should have been returned – whether via return of the advances or not – without consequence to those requesting such.

      Fortunately, the estate is now in the hands of someone who I believe also well-understands Harlan – and then some – and looks to be handling things properly. If Straczynski’s plans as described (or substantially so) are realized, we’ll all be able to put this decades long story within a story behind us and offer up a fitting capstone to Harlan’s career as well.

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