Books by Avram Davidson

Released: Jan. 1, 2001

"Funny, eccentric, sophisticated fantasies from SF's most erudite and accomplished literary stylist."
Another posthumous collection following The Avram Davidson Treasury (1998) gathers Davidson's more obscure but delightful alternate histories, literary pastiches, and comic meditations on a past that never existed. In addition to his prodigious ability to write formula mysteries and "straight" science fiction (i.e., about space ships and planets), Davidson (d. 1993) adored the arcane furbelows of the many historical periods, finding particular enjoyment in the Victorian era. Though not all the 23 tales here are set in the 19th century ("O Brave Old World!" imagines that George II's eldest son Frederick lived long enough to emigrate to the American colonies and incite rebellion—in Britain!), but they crackle with Davidson's wit (in "One Morning with Samuel, Dorothy and William," Coleridge, before penning Kublai Khan, downs a "dreadful substance in the vile vial" and responds with "a glottal sound of gratification" until he is, alas, interrupted) and with his love of Victorian melodrama, as in the hilarious "Dr. Bumbo Singh," in which the very bad doctor agrees to concoct, for a fee, "a smell disgusting beyond disgust . . . a smell which will drive men mad!" The collection includes "Mickelrede; or, The Slayer and the Staff," Michael Swanwick's marvelous completion of a Davidson's unfinished "ghost novel" about a magical slide rule and a portion of 20th-century northern California that can't stop help itself from slipping into a mythic past. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 5, 1999

Much-honored sf/fantasy writer Davidson (1923—93) was also a master of the mystery short story, argues his friend Richard Lupoff in his warmly appreciative introduction, and adduces in evidence 13 stories ranging in their settings from China to Olde New York, and running from a new twist on the old tale of the vanished bride to a grimly satisfying anecdote of slavery and the law. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 14, 1998

All agree that Davidson (1923—93) was a gifted and technically accomplished writer with a good ear for dialogue. He won awards in several categories and genres: a Hugo, an Ellery Queen, an Edgar, and a Howard (world fantasy), and he also edited The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, 1962—64. These 37 tales, arranged in four sections by decade (beginning in the 1950s, ending with the 1980s/—90s), with each introduced by a more or less famous writer or luminary (such as Gregory Benford, Damon Knight, John Clute, and Ursula K. LeGuin), offer an excellent overview of his output. Many, indeed, are famous, often reprinted, and have appeared in previous anthologies or single-author collections. If some of Davidson's ideas seem familiar today, that's because he invented or reinvented many of them, or adopted an independent and unexpected approach. Some of his most cherished tales, reprinted here: "The Golem," offering Davidson's own slant on the traditional Jewish legend; "Now Let Us Sleep," a devastating commentary on racism; and his most famous yarn, "Or All the Seas with Oysters,"explaining why safety pins and coat hangers disappear. Other immediately recognizable titles include "The Goobers," "Goslin Day," "The Tail-tied Kings," "Take Wooden Indians," "Author, Author," and "Dagon." There are two afterwords that really aren't: Ray Bradbury's is a recycled introduction to a Davidson collection that appeared 25 years ago; and Harlan Ellison's, penned in 1993 after receiving news of Davidson's death, is more revealing of Ellison than of Davidson. Dense, erudite, and literary, these stories seem destined to find a small but highly appreciative audience. Read full book review >