Due to threat of legal action by the Harlan Ellison Estate, award-winning science fiction and horror writer Andrew Fox changed the title of his projected anthology of original science fiction stories addressing today’s taboos from THE NEW DANGEROUS VISIONS to HAZARDOUS IMAGININGS: THE MONDO BOOK OF POLITICALLY INCORRECT SCIENCE FICTION.

Four weeks prior to his launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $7,000 to buy original stories, Fox contacted the Ellison Estate to seek their input on his projected anthology and reference to the title of Harlan Ellison’s seminal 1967 anthology.  After responding immediately to Fox’s initial message, the Estate did not reply to a more detailed description by Fox of his intended project.  Fox was aware that titles do not fall under copyright law, but he wanted to be considerate of Susan Ellison’s, Harlan Ellison’s widow’s, feelings in the matter and also learn whether the title “Dangerous Visions” had been trademarked.

Not hearing any objections from the Estate, Fox launched his Kickstarter campaign on May 16, 2019.  On May 17, 2019, a representative of The Kilimanjaro Corporation, an arm of the Ellison Estate, contacted Fox and threatened to pursue legal action should Fox persist in using either of the Corporation’s trademarks, “Dangerous Visions” or “Harlan Ellison,” in the Kickstarter campaign.

In response to the Estate’s legal threat, Fox changed the title of his projected anthology to HAZARDOUS IMAGININGS: THE MONDO BOOK OF POLITICALLY INCORRECT SCIENCE FICTION.  Fox would have done so four weeks earlier, both out of respect of the trademark and of Susan Ellison’s wishes, had the Estate bothered to send a brief response claiming trademark.

A troubling aspect of the Estate’s legal threat against Fox is their assertion that Fox should not use the name Harlan Ellison in any fashion in his Kickstarter project description, since “Harlan Ellison” is also a trademark of The Kilimanjaro Corporation.  The planned anthology project will exist primarily as a responsa to Harlan Ellison’s most influential work, the pair of anthologies that changed the course of American science fiction by breaking down barriers to the depictions of homosexuality, incest, and aberrant sexuality in science fiction, as well as opening the field to engagement with the various social change movements of the 1960s. If the Estate succeeds in forbidding any mention of Harlan Ellison in either the fund-raising and publicity material for the planned anthology or within the anthology’s introductory materials, this will censor a necessary reconsideration of Ellison’s legacy and the ongoing influence of his work.  Such censorship does neither the culture nor the memory of Harlan Ellison any favors.

Fox’s Kickstarter campaign extends through June 30, 2019.  The project can be found here.  Additional information on Fox’s interactions with the Ellison Estate can be found here.

From the project description:

“Science fiction should always make room for contrarians, for heretics, for the unfashionable and unpopular, for dreamers at the fringe.  Without them, the centuries-long conversation at the heart of science fiction becomes a sterile echo chamber. Writers holding libertarian, classical liberal, traditional or progressive viewpoints must all feel welcome, including conservatives of all stripes.  In this era of accelerating technological change and resultant social change, we need a healthy, vigorous, daring and courageous science fiction, more than ever.  With no ideological handcuffs or defensive self-censoring.

HAZARDOUS IMAGININGS will seek to address these questions: what are TODAY’S taboos?  What kinds of science fiction stories are verboten in today’s commercial publishing market?  What just won’t fly, whether due to editors’ aversions, editors’ assumptions about readers’ aversions, or the commercial pressures of the corporate publishing world? How can these modern-day taboos be illuminated and explored using the unique extrapolative tools of science fiction?

“Speculation and extrapolation – asking what if? and why? or how? – is the life’s blood of science fiction.  Science fiction writers can’t wrap themselves in yellow CAUTION tape. They need to be free to follow their what ifs? wherever those speculative rabbit-holes may lead… even if they lead to unpleasant, disturbing, or frightening places.”