AN APPRECIATION

Avram Davidson was one of the most eloquent and individuals voices in science fiction and fantasy, and there were few writers in any literary genre who could match his wit, his erudition, or the stylish elegance of his prose. Typical of his range and eclecticism, he may be the only writer ever to win the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award (including the prestigious Life Achievement Award), and the Edgar Award. Avram was at his best at short story length, but it is a mistake to dismiss his novels; although they may not reach quite the level of accomplishment of the best of his short stories, still contain much that is brilliant, engrossing, and fascinating, especially the underrated Masters of the Maze, Rork!, Rogue Dragon, and The Phoenix and the Mirror. (Avram was also an accomplished essayist, one of the most interesting and flavorfully eccentric to work in the field since the late Willy Ley, and his typically eclectic series of non-fiction essays, exploring little known backwaters of folklore and natural history, have been collected in the book Adventures in Unhistory.) Unlike many Grandmasters at the end of their days, Avram's recent work was as strong or stronger than ever, and his series of stories about the bizarre exploits of Dr. Engelbert Eszterhazy (collected in the World Fantasy Award-winning The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy and the strange adventures of Jack Limekiller (as yet uncollected, alas) must rank among the best short fantasies written by anyone in the last ten or 15 years.

Avram was not always an easy man to work with, but I was one of the editors who thought that his stories were worth every bit of the aggravation you sometimes had to put up with in order to obtain them -- at his best, he may have been one of the great short story writers of our times, and he was certainly one of the Uniques, an absolutely individual voice and perspective and mind; nobody other than Avram could possibly have written any of Avram's stories, nor could you have possibly mistaken a line of Avram's prose for the prose of any other writer, and that's something rare and valuable in a day when some people are trying to force fiction to be as bland and interchangeable and „marketableš as possible. Avram fit no molds, and can not be replaced. He will be missed. The only comfort we can take from his death is that his work survives, and will be there to speak to us in that unique, instantly recognizable, quirky, intensely flavored voice every time we open the page and read.

-- Gardner Dozois

Originally published in Locus magazine, June 1993.

Reprinted with permission.

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