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The Last Dangerous Visions


The Last Dangerous Visions might be the most famous science fiction book to never exist. 'TLDV' was the long-mooted and nearly-almost-published sequel to Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) - two vastly important and influential publication in modern speculative fiction.

This ambitious anthology, seemingly intended to be the final word in contemporary SF, was delayed for numerous reasons, documented elsewhere by both Ellison and many others. The anticipation, the delays, and the numerous authors it affected made for, to put it mildly, a great deal of drama. 

Ellison released a number of 'Tables of Content' for The Last Dangerous Visions over the years. The aggregated, and, I suppose, "final" TOC is available on Wikipedia

What follows below is interesting, to me at least, because it is the 'first' such TOC, released in November 1973 in the letters page of The Alien Critic: An informal science fiction and fantasy journal. At

The table of contents is presented in the form of an (open) 'letter to the editor', beginning with an apology for missing a deadline on a 'long essay' for a variety of reasons. 

Ellison shares:

Just to show I haven't been dogging it, here is a current (as of 13 September, 1973) table of contents for [The Last Dangerous Visions], with word-lengths appended. The manuscript for the anthology is now in a file box, ready to go to New York, with the manuscripts standing on end. The box is three feet long, and it is jammed. Please bear in mind, as you read this Table of Contents, that this is not the order the stories will appear in the book, that the book is closed and I DAMMIT TO HELL DON'T WANT TO SEE SUBMISSIONS FROM ANYONE EVER AGAIN IN THIS LIFE! and that I'm waiting on rewrites from Charles L. Harness, Wyman Guin, and Gardner Dozois, but beyond those three, the book is complete. Save for the 60,000 words of introductions that I have yet to write, or the 50,000 words of Afterwords that are written but haven't been included in the total wordage indicated on the list. The total also doesn't include the over 75 full-page illustrations done by Tim Kirk. Illustrations that are fucking unbelievable!

As the first airing of The Last Dangerous Visions, this TOC reveals two things:

First, Ellison's initial 'snapshot' of what would constitute the best of contemporary science fiction. If this is the ultimate word in the ultimate trilogy of science fiction, this is the closest we'll get to the anthologist's version of a first draft; the writers that Ellison went to (or accepted) first to achieve his vision.

Second, with the above in mind, it is especially interesting to see the changes over time. Despite Ellison's protests, there were many more authors to come, including Stephen King, John Varley and Ian Watson. Christopher Priest, for example, was not even involved in the project until June 1974. [This is a conversation he documents in The Last Deadloss Visionshis chapbook about the TLDV experience that went on to receive a Hugo nomination in 1995 (showing that, amongst other things, SF fandom enjoyed inside baseball long before the internet!)] Even stepping aside from the publishing repercussions of these changes, they revised TOCs are fascinating because they represent Ellison's 'vision' of science fiction as it changed over time.


Ellison had the entries 'Listed at random - not as they will appear finally in the anthology.'

For ease of reading, I have alphabetised by author's last name.

  • Russell Bates - "Search Cycle: Beginning and Ending 1. The Last Quest; 2. Fifth and Last Horseman" (5,000)
  • Alfred Bester - "Emerging Nation" (2,000)
  • Michael Bishop - "Dogs' Lives" (6,000)
  • Anthony Boucher - "Precis of the Rappacini Report" (850)
  • S. Kye Boult - "Cargo Run" (18,800)
  • Mildren Downey Broxon - "The Danaan Children Laugh" (5,300)
  • Edward Bryant - "War Stories" (9,500)
  • Frank Bryning -"The Accidents of Blood" (5,500)
  • Dortis Pitkin Buck - "Cocophony in Pink and Ochre" (5,500)
  • Octavia Estelle Butler - "Childfinder" (3,250)
  • Grant Carrington -"Doug, Where Are We? "I Don't Know. A Spaceship, Maybe." (3,800)
  • Delbert Casada - "The Bing Bang Blues" (2,000)
  • A. Bertram Chandler - "The True Believers" (7,000)
  • Graham Charnock - "The Burning Zone" (6,000)
  • John Christopher - "A Journey South" (21,500)
  • Gerard Conway - "Blackstop" (5,500)
  • Arthur Byron Cover - "Various Kinds of Conceits" (2,000)
  • Jack M. Dann - "The Carbon Dreamer" (9,500)
  • Chan Davis - "The Names of Yanila" (9,000)
  • Han David - "Copping Out" (1,000)
  • Avram Davidson - "The Stone Which the Builders Rejected" (2,000)
  • Gordon R. Dickson - "Love Song" (6,000)
  • Stan Dryer - "Halfway There" (3,000)
  • Gordon Ecklund - "The Chlidren of Bull Weed" (17,000)
  • Geo. Alec Effinger - "False Premises: 1. The Capitals Are Wrong; 2. Stage Fright; 3. Rocky Colavito Batted .268 in 1955" (5,500)
  • Howard Fast - "All Creatures Great and Small" (1,200)
  • Leslie A. Fielder - "What Used to be Called Dead" (2,800)
  • The Firesign Theatre - "The Giant Rat of Sumatra, or By the Light of the Silvery" (5,000)
  • Franklin Fisher - "Adversaries" (4,700)
  • Jacques Goudchaux - "A Day in the Life of A-420" (2,600)
  • Ron Goulart - "The Return of Agent Black" (3,800)
  • Joseph Green - "Play Sweetly, In Harmony" (6,300)
  • James E. Gunn - "Among the Beautiful Bright Children" (9,100)
  • Joe W. Haldeman - "Fantasy for Six Electrodes and One Adrenaline Drip (A Play in the Form of a Feelie Script)" (10,000)
  • Graham Hall - "Golgotha" - (3,200)
  • Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett - "Stark and the Star Kings" (10,000)
  • Frank Herbert - "The Accidental Ferosslk" (3,500)
  • Steve Herbst - "Leveled Best" (1,300)
  • Leonard Isaacs "√−1 Think, Therefore √−1 Am" (1,000)
  • Susan C. Lette - "Grandma, What's the Sky Made Of?" (1,500)
  • John Jakes - "Uncle Tom's Time Machine' (3,000)
  • Robert Lilly - "Return to Elf Hill" (00)
  • Anne McCaffrey - "The Bones Do Lie" (7,000)
  • Vonda N. McIntyre - "XYY" (1,600)
  • Michael Moorcock - "The Swastika Setup" (10,000)
  • Ward Moore - "Falling From Grace" (4,000)
  • John Morressy - "Rundown" (1,200)
  • Janet Nay - "Las Animas" (6,800)
  • Edgar Pangborn - "The Life and the Clay" (6,500)
  • Doris Piserchia - "The Residents of Wingston" (5,000)
  • Charles Platt - "The Red Dream" (9,800)
  • Jerry Pournelle - "Free Enterprise" (11,000)
  • Mack Reynolds - "Ponce de Leon's Pants" (1,800)
  • Fred Saberhagen - "The Senior Prom" (4,800)
  • Thomas N. Scortia - "The Isle of Sinbad" (10,000)
  • Robert Sheckley - "Primordial Follies" (4,000)
  • Clifford D. Simak - "I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up In the Air" (6,600)
  • James Sutherland -"The Amazonas Link" (5,500)
  • Robert Thom - "Son of Wild in the Streets" (15,800)
  • Robert Thurston - "The Ugly Duckling Gets the Treatment and Becomes Cinderella Except Her Foot's Too Big For the Prince's Slipper and is Webbed Besides" (3,500)
  • Lisa Tuttle - "Child of Mind" (6,800)
  • A.E. van Voght - "Skin" (7,000)
  • Daniel Walther - "The 100 Million Horses of Planet Dada" [nb. Entry includes (English Version) and (French Version) both at 4,200, as well as a cryptic note saying "1st translation, 25.00 2nd translation 50.00". Not sure this was meant to be included?]
  • Richard Wilson - At the Sign of the Boar's Head Nebula (47,000) [nb. Ellison had this novel-length entry in all caps, rather than in quotes like the others]
  • David Wise - "A Rousing Explanation of the Events Surrounding My Sister's Death" (1,800)
  • Robert Wissner - "A Night at the Opera" (3,000)
  • Laurence Yep - "The Seadragon" (17,000)

Plus "Waiting for rewrites from Wyman Guin, Charles L. Harness, Gardner Dozois."

The editors of The Alien Critic also noted that there's "one last solicited story from a writer who had a challenging letter in TAC #6" (the previous issue of this periodical). Which means that Ellison was, despite his protests, still growing the anthology further, and the very recipient of this (open) letter knew it.


Photo by Ran Berkovitch