the Avram Davidson electronic newsletter

Vol. III No. 6
32 March 1999
ISSN 1089-764X

Henry Wessells, Editor.
Cooper Wessells, Honorary Secretary.

All correspondence to:
Post Office Box 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043-0072


Use the electronic address for requests to be added to or dropped from the mailing list.


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THE BOSS IN THE WALL Nominated for Nebula Award

The Boss in the Wall by Avram Davidson and Grania Davis has been nominated for the Nebula Award in the Novella category. If you have not yet read the book, go buy a copy.

Available in bookstores or direct from the publisher:
Tachyon Publications
1459 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

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Henry: Each Nebula Nominee was asked to write a short essay for the SFWA Bulletin. Here's mine. Please reprint it in the March Nutmeg Point.

Avram Davidson (1923-1993) needs very little introduction. He was one of the great voices of imaginative fiction. Author of more than 200 short stories and many longer works, he won the Hugo, Edgar, and several World Fantasy Awards, including Grand Master. He was nominated for the Nebula in every category. His work was largely out of print at the time of his passing, but it's seeing an upsurge in popularity now.

I, Grania Davis, was Avram's former wife, lifelong friend, and sometime collaborator. I published a series of my own fantasy novels based on the Asian legends of the Monkey King, including The Rainbow Annals, set in Tibet; Moonbird, set in Bali; and Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty, set in China and written in collaboration with Avram Davidson.

Since Avram's passing, I have worked on getting his immortal work back into print -- with a little help from our beloved friends in the SF community. I co-edited (with Robert Silverberg) a big tribute collection, with story introductions by AD's friends, The Avram Davidson Treasury (Tor, 1998), and a collection of mystery stories, The Investigations of Avram Davidson (co-edited with Richard A. Lupoff, St. Martin's, 1999).

I live with my family, and a cat named Laptop, in Marin County, California, and North Shore O'ahu, Hawaii.

THE BOSS IN THE WALL: What a long, strange trip this story has been. Avram had a weird dream in the early 1980's. I don't remember exactly when. The dream became a rough, sprawling 600+ page novel manuscript, about a strange creature in American folklore. When I first read it, it blew me away.

After Avram's health declined, I set to work to complete the novel, as I had already done with Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty (Baen, 1988).

(Aside: In classical music, "Completed By" is a recognized byline. Different versions of Mozart's "Requiem" were posthumously Completed By different living composers. Perhaps we should consider this usage.)

There was interest in the BOSS novel, but editors changed positions, and somehow the book never got published. Avram began work on a novella-length version of the story, but that also slipped through the cracks of the publishing process. After his death, I really wanted to see BOSS in print.

I began the job of completing the novella, incorporating important segments from the novel, including material of my own. This version was supposed to be published in a fine magazine -- which promptly ceased publication. Was BOSS jinxed, or what?

Finally, Jacob Weisman, at Tachyon Publications in San Francisco, rose to the challenge. He published the completed novella, The Boss in the Wall, A Treatise on the House Devil, with thoughtful introductions by Peter S. Beagle and Michael Swanwick, and a truly creepy cover by Michael Dashow. BOSS was placed on the ballot by the Nebula Jury, which reaches out to smaller publishers like Tachyon. What a great surprise!

The Boss in the Wall is a powerful, strange, funny tale. This was Avram's last major work (aside from Vergil III, The Scarlet Fig). BOSS has been well-received, as I always hoped it would be. To quote from the story, "...The dreadful secret, so long concealed, has begun to escape from its dreadfully long concealment."

--Grania Davis

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Brian Stableford's review of The Boss in the Wall in The New York Review of Science Fiction, February 1999, describes the book as "an academic fantasy somewhat reminiscent of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum and the more recherch­ works of R.A. Lafferty and James Blaylock. It describes the manner in which various scholars compete with paranoid fervor and collaborate with uneasy reluctance in tracking the distribution and progress of a peculiar item of American folklore. ... [T]he fascination of the novella lies in its multilayered depiction of the communication, refraction, and embellishment of the folk tale."

        Boss was noted briefly in Gordon van Gelder's Editor's Recommendations in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 1998; and by Paul DiFilippo's in the Asimov's On Books column. Rich Horton's review of Boss is at the Tangent Online site:

        Gahan Wilson's review of The Boss in the Wall appears in the April 1999 issue of Realms of Fantasy; his review of the Treasury appeared in an earlier column.

        Andrew Tidmarsh reviewed the Treasury in Interzone, in a thoughtful essay entitled "How Good a Writer Was Avram Davidson?" Ruth Berman reviewed the Treasury in Mythprint : The Monthly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society, February 1999.

        Norman Spinrad discussed The Avram Davidson Treasury in Asimov's in a column entitled "On Books: The Pulp Tradition." He writes, "I read many of the Davidson stories as a teenager and young writer too. But unlike the sadly disillusioning experience of re-reading most of the stories in The Good Old Stuff from the same period, the Avram Davidson stories read better now than they did then, every damn one of them. Instead of deteriorating into vinegar after a while like badly bottled plonk, they improve with age like a noble vintage. ... Avram Davidson may have been published for decades primarily in pulp magazines demographically aimed at teenagers and callow youth, but Avram wrote for not merely adult sensibilities, but for sophisticated adult sensibilities, erudite adult sensibilities, even."

        In the March 1999 Ellery Queen, reviewer Jon L. Breen gave The Investigations of Avram Davidson five stars. A review also appeared in the Chicago Tribune for Sunday 7 February 1999.

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        A modest gathering is being planned for Friday, 23 April, 1999, the 76th anniversary of Avram's birth (and, incidentally, the centennial of Vladimir Nabokov's birth). The venue of the luncheon meeting (12:30 p.m. in lower Manhattan) has yet to be fixed. Readers interested in attending are advised to send a note to the Editor of the District Mail.

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The URL of the Avram Davidson Website is:

Submissions of additional material for the Website are welcome.

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Next issue will be published in May 1999.

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