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.
Funny, eccentric, sophisticated fantasies from SF’s most erudite and accomplished literary stylist.