Christopher Priest

Reviews of THE BOOK ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER (1994)

 

[A meticulously researched essay into the facts behind the non-publication of an American sf anthology called The Last Dangerous Visions. A minor matter, one would think, in a world full of unfinished and unpublished books, but the editor, a science fiction writer called Harlan Ellison, has always denied that he is unable to finish. Instead, he has blustered and lied about his delays, and threatened anyone who dared challenge him. CP's book took an objective look at his claims.]

The Book on the Edge of Forever
please note: the following reviews were placed by readers on the amazon.com web-page, from which these extracts have been taken.

"A reader" (April 15, 1999):

It's a short book, 56 pages. You can read it in an hour. It's a strange, absurd tale. A simple anthology has somehow turned into a never-ending black hole, sucking in the work of a generation of science fiction writers. Christopher Priest delivers the story with drama and dry wit. I enjoyed it a lot. I'm glad I read it; it gives me some sense of closure.

"R. Plath" ("captainfurry" of Indiana, USA – July 13, 2000):

Christopher Priest's The Book on the Edge of Forever makes great strides forward in explaining what events have taken place concerning this volume of sf history. Is it an Atlantis that sank into a publisher's ocean, or a noose holding a weight around Ellison's editorial neck? While this slim volume cannot adequately explain why the book remains in purgatory, it does chart the small amount of progress made over the past two decades, proposes ways the book could be made available (should Ellison make the effort), and gives a better understanding of what happened to this once profound and influential series of books. The only thing missing is direct comment from Ellison himself, though Priest posts letters and comments from Ellison which are damning, to say the least. It's unlikely that The Last Dangerous Visions will ever see print. The Book on the Edge of Forever is your only chance to find out about this lost chapter of sf history.

"moderan" (of Chicago, Illinois – October 6, 2000):

Mr Priest collects enough evidence both of Ellison's mercurial personality and inconsistency regarding this volume to paint a pretty damning portrait.

"A reader" (March 31, 2001):

... a fascinating account of one of the most famous non-books ever not-published--indeed, Last Dangerous Visions is the science fiction genre's equivalent to Truman Capote's notoriously unwritten "masterpiece," Answered Prayers: the same kind of endless public promises from the author/editor; the same kind of total, unexplained non-delivery. (In his late-career megalomania, as well as his tendency to play fast and loose with facts, Ellison does uncannily resemble Capote – there is an MA thesis here for some enterprising graduate student.) Christopher Priest has put together his short (too short) essay masterfully, letting Ellison's words hoist him on his own petard; no one who reads this book objectively can be left in any doubt that Ellison has seriously mistreated any number of writers over this project, and that Last Dangerous Visions has become some sort of unscaleable Kilimanjaro for him, one that he will never climb but which it would be too humiliating to publicly abandon. (Priest’s book is) refreshingly honest and a needed corrective to the fawning versions of Ellison so often found in fanzines (and in his own self-congratulatory essays). In a strange way, Book on the Edge of Forever presents the most human Ellison ever seen in print. For those (few?) who can read it objectively, Priest's essay will be a revelation.

MEANSPIRITED JEALOUSY, "A reader" (October 28, 2002):

This isn't a book, it's a character assassination. It was written (as those who admire Ellison's work know) by a minor English writer whose submission to Ellison's anthology was rejected. Apparently, the rejection so enraged Priest that he became obsessed with defaming and humiliating Ellison. For years he self-published the screed and sold it hand-to-hand like a fishmonger at U.K. science fiction conventions. Then he joined up with a long-time adversary of Ellison's, Gary Groth, who was one of the founders of a hate group calling itself Enemies of Ellison. Now this bitter, meanspirited act of jealousy-on-paper puts money into the pockets of these two scandalmongers using Ellison's worldwide reputation as cachet. Anyone buying this chapbook should know it casts Harlan Ellison in a bad light, and every fact or truth included is recast to make Ellison look like a liar, hypocrite, or worse. If Ellison's reputation as an editor of significant achievements – Dangerous Visions, Medea, and Again, Dangerous Visions – has remained bright for thirty-five years, it explains the ferocity of the outcast Priest's attack on him. This is a miserable book. Save your money.

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