Last Dangerous Visions Progress Report

J. Michael Straczynski has partially pulled back the curtain on the The Last Dangerous Visions contributors’ list, and responded to critics of its gender balance. He has also announced the agents who will be taking not just LDV but all three Dangerous Visions anthologies to publishers as a package. (The Twitter thread starts here.)

Big News: The Last Dangerous Visions is now going to publishers via the Janklow & Nesbit Agency (Emma Parry, NY, domestic; Nathaniel Alcaraz-Stapleton, London, foreign), with Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions included in the purchase price to create a unified edition.

Contributors to The Last Dangerous Visions include Edward Bryant, Stephen Robinette, Max Brooks, DM Rowles, Dan Simmons, Cecil Castelluci, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Dedman, Patton Oswalt, Jonathan Fast, Howard Fast, Robert Sheckley, Adrian Tchaikovsky and James S.A. Corey.

It is very much the living document Harlan had always intended for it to be, bringing together new and established voices to address the profoundly human issues that can only be addressed through speculative stories that take us over the horizon and back.

The wonder has been seeing firsthand the many ways in which the themes, concerns of all these stories are profoundly relevant and important across the span of their creation. The first two Dangerous Visions books changed the genre; I have hopes this will continue that tradition.

So to any publishers out there who would like to get in on this process, see the names appended at the top of this thread. (Janklow & Nesbit is one of the largest and most prestigious agencies in the world, and their belief in and support of this book has been most rewarding.)

The plan is the three books would be released individually as well as together and at standard book prices.

Some immediate responses focused criticism on the contributors list —

Straczynski replied, “The lion’s share of the writers in TLDV were and had to be the ones Harlan selected, from the 70s-90s, or it’s not his vision anymore, with a very few slots set aside for current writers who wanted to show support for the book.”

He also tweeted specifically about two stories by women that had been held back by the author or her estate, and his efforts to increase representation:

On Facebook, he phrased his response to a similar concern this way:

It should also be remembered that the book had to be in line with the stories Harlan bought from the 70s-90s, or it wouldn’t be his vision or his book anymore. I could play at the edges, but that’s all. And had the Willis and McIntyre stories not been withdrawn, along with a couple of others that fell away in the intervening years, the current version would have a much stronger female presence from those original stories.

Also, Stracyznski had a further exchange on Facebook with someone about a story that did not make the cut.

Harlan had over a hundred stories slated for TLDV, which would never ever be sold in a modern market, and likely could not have been done then either, which was part of the problem. Since I had no direct connection to any of the writers other than to be in awe of their work was to pare down to the best of the best, the stories that were the most relevant and timeless and powerful. No, as I think I conveyed to you previously, James [Sutherland’s] story did not make the cut, but his estate is free to sell it elsewhere, as with any and all of the other stories.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley for the story.]

35 thoughts on “Last Dangerous Visions Progress Report

  1. I made a decision out of the gate that I was going to cover this story because (1) the completion of The Last Dangerous Visions is like the end of science fiction’s biggest white whale story, and (2) I admire Straczynski’s efforts to see it through. And I’m not going to be deterred by trolling.

  2. Which is to say, if all you had wanted was information, you’d have emailed the question to me, and skipped the “sat on for up to half a century” stinger.

  3. This series had been upsetting people for over half a century now, and continues to upset people. You can’t bring it up even parenthetically, in an ironic hypothetical without stirring trouble. The book you dare not speak its name unless you’re wearing your rhetorical flak jacket. Talk about a dangerous vision. Performance anthology. How perfectly Harlan.

  4. So the two previous editions are being merged into this edition to fatten it up? Well that’s one way to make up for the thinness of this offering. I’m still not convinced he is going to get a Major Publisher to bite.

  5. I don’t think that’s it, Cat–more like an omnibus and three separate volumes. I think. It’s not a super clear passage, is it? “The plan is the three books would be released individually as well as together and at standard book prices.” I’m not at all sure what “together” means in that context.

  6. John A Arkansawyer says I don’t think that’s it, Cat–more like an omnibus and three separate volumes. I think. It’s not a super clear passage, is it? “The plan is the three books would be released individually as well as together and at standard book prices.” I’m not at all sure what “together” means in that context.

    Nor am I. It can be interpreted either way.

    I’ll stand by my contention that I really there’s not a lot of interest at the major publishers in this project given how little original content there is in it and how long ago Ellison was a major editor and writer. This decision to have his agents offer it up with the original two anthologies only confirms that to me,

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  8. The lion’s share of the writers in TLDV were and had to be the ones Harlan selected, from the 70s-90s, or it’s not his vision anymore, with a very few slots set aside for current writers who wanted to show support for the book.

    Since the goal of the book is to be as true to Harlan Ellison’s vision as possible and to include the introductions he had already written, TLDV was always going to be more of a historical artifact than a modern anthology representative of current SFF.

    Personally I’m fine with that. If a bunch of Ellison and his selections was chopped to make room for new works and authors, it wouldn’t be the TLDV we’ve been pondering for decades. It would be a new anthology borrowing the name.

  9. From what I’ve read earlier on JMS’ Facebook and Twitter, the “thinness of the offering” is actually the point – he says that no major publisher would dream of publishing an anthology many hundreds of thousands of words in length, so he rejected a lot of the previously-accepted stories in order that – even with the new stories he commissioned after Ellison’s death – it would only come to 112,000 words. If TLDV is published, it will look very thin compared to the first two volumes.

    It will be interesting to see how many of the stories were accepted by Ellison and how many by JMS. The following authors appear both in JMS’ partial list of authors whose stories will be included, and in Wikipedia’s list of authors whose work was accepted by Ellison:

    Edward Bryant
    D.M. Rowles
    Stephen Dedman
    Howard Fast
    Jonathan Fast
    Robert Sheckley

    JMS also lists Stephen Robinett. He died in 2004, so he must have been one of the Ellison-accepted as well, even though Wikipedia does not mention him as being one. Dan Simmons is also a good bet. There are others, like Cory Doctorow or Adrian Tchaikovsky, where it could have been either Ellison or JMS who bought the story.

  10. Rusty says From what I’ve read earlier on JMS’ Facebook and Twitter, the “thinness of the offering” is actually the point – he says that no major publisher would dream of publishing an anthology many hundreds of thousands of words in length, so he rejected a lot of the previously-accepted stories in order that – even with the new stories he commissioned after Ellison’s death – it would only come to 112,000 words. If TLDV is published, it will look very thin compared to the first two volumes.

    Seriously? That doesn’t make any sense,

    Modern anthologies of much longer length are published all the time. I’ll single out one of Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of The Year anthologies which run around five hundred pages which makes them three hundred and eighty pages longer than the two hundred and twenty pages that this is more or less. I don’t think that I’ve seen an anthology that slim ever.

  11. Cat Eldridge: I know, right? I would gladly buy a big TLDV made up of all the Ellison-accepted stories that were still available plus the ones JMS bought, but JMS is very firm in his position that there aren’t enough people like me to make such a project feasible, at least not with a major publisher. Here’s a link to where he sets it out:

    http://file770.com/frequently-answered-questions-the-last-dangerous-visions/

    “Do you want to see 112K words by some of the best writers in the field finally being published? Or do you not want any of them to be seen in anything resembling a proper publication? Because that’s the choice. Pick one.”

    “The first DV was published in 1967, the second in ’71… when it was not that difficult to get large anthologies in the SF genre out there. In 2021, the field has contracted, and it’s very difficult to go for much more of a word-count than we have here for an anthology, especially since the market for anthos is generally considered very weak. We’ve been quietly discussing this with several publishers and that number is actually slightly beyond the hard ceiling they suggested.”

  12. In an early public post, JMS noted that he had bought new stories from Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow, and repurchased “Rundown” by John Morressy from the original TLDV. (Rusty, you can move the Doctorow into the JMS list) I agree with JMS that reprinting the 100+ stories that Harlan purchased would be a non-starter, but along with the new material 112K words seems pretty skimpy (If the Edward Bryant story is “War Stories” that’s 10K words right there per Harlan’s TLDV TOC) I am still hoping for the Tom Reamy story, but 17K words seems like a tight fit. Would also love to see the Avram Davidson, the Edgar Pangborn, the Daniel Keyes, the Bruce Sterling…

  13. Thanks, Roger. Using the word counts in the Wikipedia article, the wordage of the stories by Bryant, Rowles, the two Fasts and Sheckley, plus the Morressy, comes to about 20,000 – it doesn’t give a count for the Dedman story and has no info on the Robinette. So there still appears to be room for some of the other Ellison purchases.

  14. When our local s-f group, the Nelson Bond Society, heard about LDV in 1974, one of the younger members wrote to Harlan and said he needed a story from Nelson in the anthology. Harlan wrote back, saying he was delighted to hear Nelson was still alive and asked about getting a contribution from him. Nelson wrote a short called “Pipeline to Paradise,” one of the few new pieces he’d done since retiring as a professional author in the ’60s,
    and Harlan accepted it.

    Time dragged on and the anthology came to be jokingly called “Lost” Dangerous Visions. The last time Nelson inquired, Ellison had a slew of authors contributing works and was talking about issuing the book in two volumes. Nelson calculated likely sales divided by the number of probable contributors and decided it wasn’t really worthwhile. He withdrew the story, which finally appeared in a 1995 collection, WHEEL OF FORTUNE, edited by Roger Zelazny. Nelson was in his late 80’s by that time. Three years later he was named a Nebula Author Emeritus for lifetime achievement in the field.

  15. Steve Stanley, thank you for that Nelson Bond anecdote. I’ve followed the LDV saga through the years, but I never really thought that the more stories in the book, the smaller the slice of the pie each author would get. Of course, to some extent more authors would mean more sales, but after a certain point I bet that would flatten out.

    I also failed to anticipate that the day might come when an anthology on the scale of A,DV or bigger would simply be commercially untouchable, but here we apparently are. It makes me sorrier than ever that TLDV didn’t come out 18 months after A,DV as originally planned.

  16. Roger I can tell you that Avram Davidson’s story will be published in “AD 100” in 2023 which will include 100 of Avram’s unpublished or uncollected stories for his 100th birthday. If you want updates join the fan club at http://www.avramdavidson.com. “Beer! Beer! Beer!” one of my favorites (up there with Eszterhazy) is coming out on December 14. Please feel free to spread the word. I will be sending out an ARC request shortly.

  17. Harlan, Once Upon A Time, claimed that the TLDV contents included two full-length novels, including the only-ever collaboration between Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton (for those few reading this site who don’t know, husband and wife). I’d love to know whatever became of that one!

  18. Dan’l,
    The Brackett/Hamilton TLDV collaboration “Stark and the Star Kings” has shown up in multiple places (ISFDB will guide you). If you go to the Baen web site, you can read the complete story for free as the sample of their Stark and the Star Kings ebook collection (which is NOT the same as the Haffner Press collection of the same title.)
    Ellison listed this story at 10K words, it’s not a novel.

  19. Ellison’s introduction to A,DV said the two novels that would be in TLDV were by John Christopher and Richard Wilson. Wikipedia says the Christopher story, “A Journey South”, was 21,500 words long, which would make it a novella by SFWA’s definition, while Wilson’s “At the Sign of the Boar’s Head Nebula” came in at 47,000, which would qualify it as a novel (if a short one). “Journey” is available online at the Infinity Plus website, while “Boar’s Head” was published in the posthumous Wilson collection The Story Writer and Other Stories.

  20. JMS is making the proposition that the market for genre anthologies is weak. Does anyone have the numbers on that? My wholly subjective take on that conjecture by him is that market is not weak and there is quite a few ongoing anthologies of considerable length of varying subject matter being published every year.

    Now admittedly I’m talking about anthologies that have established contract with a Great House like Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror whereas the project JMS is doing is very much a solo project project with no track record.

  21. If JWS has the professional representation he claims, then I see no reason to doubt what he’s been told about the market for anthologies.

  22. Cat Eldridge: My wholly subjective take on that conjecture by him is that market is not weak and there is quite a few ongoing anthologies of considerable length of varying subject matter being published every year.

    My perception is that anthologies by Datlow, Strahan, Horton, Adams, Guran, and Clarke are decent sellers for mainstream publishers, but that most other SFF anthologies that come out have either been self-published or Kickstarted. JMS is a big name in TV, but he’s not a known seller for publishers, and given Ellison’s reputation for this anthology series, as well as his personal reputation, I can see why most publishers would not be interested. As rcade said, this is more of a historical artifact. A lot of the people who would have been interested in buying it are no longer living.

  23. JJ: …A lot of the people who would have been interested in buying it are no longer living.

    If they get it out soon enough we might be! 🙂

  24. JJ says My perception is that anthologies by Datlow, Strahan, Horton, Adams, Guran, and Clarke are decent sellers for mainstream publishers, but that most other SFF anthologies that come out have either been self-published or Kickstarted. JMS is a big name in TV, but he’s not a known seller for publishers, and given Ellison’s reputation for this anthology series, as well as his personal reputation, I can see why most publishers would not be interested. As rcade said, this is more of a historical artifact. A lot of the people who would have been interested in buying it are no longer living.

    You’re absolutely right. And none of this has to do with the length of the proposed anthology which is why I’m annoyed by his repeated claim that anthologies of that length aren’t produced anymore when frankly they’re pretty much the standard length. Very few genre anthologies are less than eight hundred pages these days.

    He’s trying to schelp a product of very limited appeal to what I call the Great Houses who really don’t do this sort of thing. It might fly as something that Subterranean would do but even Bill would have to decide if would sell enough copies to warrant production. Maybe there’s several hundred buyers out there, maybe there isn’t.

  25. Cat Eldridge: He’s trying to schelp a product of very limited appeal…

    Citation needed. Where’s your support for that opinion?

    On Facebook JMS’ last two updates to the project got over a thousand likes each. File 770’s news item that it is being submitted to publishers is one of the fifty most-read posts of the past year. You can belittle that if you like, but at least I can point to some evidence.

  26. Dan’l,
    The Brackett/Hamilton TLDV collaboration “Stark and the Star Kings” has shown up in multiple places (ISFDB will guide you). If you go to the Baen web site, you can read the complete story for free as the sample of their Stark and the Star Kings ebook collection (which is NOT the same as the Haffner Press collection of the same title.)
    Ellison listed this story at 10K words, it’s not a novel.

    Thanks for the tip. This was the one story from The Last Dangerous Visions I actually wanted to read, so I’m glad to hear that I can.

  27. Until or unless a regular anthology editor or publisher enters the discussion we’re all just speculating wildly about the market.

    But we do know that a lot of people are very interested in this anthology, specifically, because most anthologies don’t generate this amount of curiosity and chatter or their very own critical essays before they’ve even been published.

    It’ll be interesting if we ever find out whether that translates to sales.

  28. Mike Glyer says On Facebook JMS’ last two updates to the project got over a thousand likes each. File 770’s news item that it is being submitted to publishers is one of the fifty most-read posts of the past year. You can belittle that if you like, but at least I can point to some evidence.

    Facebook likes don’t mean anything. And we’re the equivalent of those who read baseball statistics so I’m not surprised it was a popular subject here. Publishers need to think a publication will sell a certain number of copies, say a thousand or so, though probably more than that to be profitable.

    I’m playing a hunch. The fact that he’s now pitching it with the first two anthologies included as part of the package strongly suggests that he knows that it’s not that a desirable a product. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he gets a contract.

  29. I think the 48-year marketing campaign will make The Last Dangerous Visions the best-selling anthology of the year. Packaging it together with the first two volumes increases its appeal to fans who know TLDV as SF’s most famous unpublished book, not because we read the first one in 1967 and the second in 1972.

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