the Avram Davidson electronic newsletter

Vol. V No. 1
8 May 2000
ISSN 1089-764X

Published bimonthly by whim and fancy for the Avram Davidson
Society.  Contents copyright 2000 The Nutmeg Point District Mail
and assigned to individual contributors.  All rights reserved.

Henry Wessells, Editor.
Cooper Wessells, Honorary Secretary.

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


Use this electronym for requests to be added to or dropped
from the mailing list.  Back issues are archived at the
Avram Davidson Website, URL :

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The Nutmeg Point District Mail is pleased to announce that a limited
edition of "El Vilvoy de las Islas" by Avram Davidson is in press
and will be available in late June 2000.   As Joanna Russ notes in
her preface to this edition, the story "begins as irresistibly funny
. . . and ends truly tragic."
First published in 1988, El Vilvoy de las Islas features some of
Davidson's most inventive play with language in a tale that evokes
the mythic personalities and strange history of the country of
Ereguay in "Central Coastal South America, East."  It is one of the
significant, lesser-known works by Davidson that will appear in the
forthcoming collection of stories from Tor Books, The Other
Nineteenth Century, edited by Grania Davis and Henry Wessells.

The Nutmeg Point District Mail edition of El Vilvoy de las Islas
reprints the text of the story and includes a preface by Joanna Russ,
an introduction by Don Webb, and a critical afterword by Gregory

El Vilvoy de las Islas (6x9, viii + 32 pages) : trade edition limited
to 25 copies hand bound in hardcover ($50.00 plus $3.00 for
postage) and 100 copies in paper wrappers ($12.00, postpaid).
Libraries will be billed.

A special prepublication price is offered for paid orders received
before 15 June 2000 : hardcover, $40.00 (postpaid) ; wrappers,
$8.00 (postpaid).  Cheques must be payable to Henry Wessells, and
should be sent to : P.O. Box 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043.
(Orders may be placed by e-mail to and will be
held until payment is received.).

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The third luncheon meeting of the Avram Davidson Society was held
on Friday 28 April 2000 in New York City.  This celebration of
Avram's life and work attracted a convivial group of writers,
editors, and Davidsonians from other walks of life.  Conversation
ranged far and wide, and touched upon the posthumous literary
careers of several authors within and without the science fiction
genre, as well as biographical anecdotes and new sources of inquiry
about Avram's career.  An autumn luncheon in New York City is

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In a recent conversation, Carol Emshwiller recalled how she first
met Avram Davidson in the early years of the Milford Science
Fiction Writers' Conference.  "The first time I saw Avram he was
sitting in an armchair in the big room where we all met.  I had
three little kids and the youngest was very shy.  All of a sudden,
I looked over and they were all sitting on his lap.  He was chubby
and had a big black beard, and it was as if, here's Santa Claus.
That was the case with all the children.   Avram didn't tell the
kids stories ... that I ever knew of.   No, I'm sure he didn't.
That's the point.   He just sat there.  He didn't need to talk at all
as far as I could tell."  Every year Avram gave a children's party.
Mrs. Emshwiller notes that this was a side of Avram's personality
that those who knew him in later life may not have encountered.

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by Michael Swanwick
with Jack Dann, Avram Davidson, Gardner Dozois
Edited by Ann A. Broomhead and Timothy P. Szczesuil
409 pp., $25.00
NESFA Press (P.O. Box 809, Framingham, MA 01701)

Moon Dogs is a substantial book published on the occasion of
Boskone 2000, where Swanwick was guest of honor.  This volume
features newly published fiction and reprints some notable essays.
The title story, "Moon Dogs," is a chilly and brutal near-future
exploration of the myth of Diana the Huntress.  Of particular
interest to readers of the District Mail are the first publication
in book form of Swanwick's two posthumous collaborations with
Avram Davidson.

"Mickelrede, or, The Slayer and the Staff" is a "Ghost Novel" by
Avram Davidson edited, "with interpolations," by Swanwick. It a
curious and suggestive work concerning Mr. Casey Swift, gladiatorial
games in a parallel universes, and Mickelrede, a calculating device
programmed by Ada Byron.  The tale is based upon an unfinished
typescript that appears to date to the early 1960s (with a final
note dated 1976).  Swanwick's editorial interpolations are witty
reflections on the craft of fiction and speculations about what
Davidson's intentions might have been.

The tightly-plotted "Vergil Magus: King Without Country,"
originally published in Asimov's, sees Vergil embroiled somewhat
unwittingly in court intrigue and obliged somewhat unwillingly to
integrate new approaches to arcane knowledge from the Orient, as
proffered by the Chinese wizard Ma.  Elsewhere (in Vol. III, No. 2),
I have discussed the evidence of the Notebooks of Vergil Magus
concerning Davidson's manuscript (or at least an early form of the
story).  What struck me upon this rereading was the richness of
the Chinese material and the precision with which events unfold in
the final third of the story.  This latter quality seems readily to be
attributed to Swanwick ; how much the Chinese wizard's use of tea
leaves and advocacy of "fang-shwee" can be attributed to him
remains unclear.  "Vergil Magus : King without Country" is a major
addition to the Vergil canon.

A third piece, "The Death of the Magus : Two Myths," consists of
Swanwick's reflections on conflicting accounts that circulated
at the time of Davidson's death.

"In the Tradition" is an extended piece examining the major works
of what Swanwick calls "hard fantasy," influential works that
have helped define the genre.  In a sublime footnote to a sentence
discussing currents of influence between science fiction and
fantasy, Swanwick writes, "For a good example of exactly _how_
tangled, consider only Avram Davidson's The Phoenix and the Mirror,
which employs the tools of hard science fiction to describe the
creation of a virgin speculum (a mirror that has never known a
reflection) couched strictly in the technology of the Roman Empire as
it was later misunderstood by Dark Ages scholars."

Moon Dogs also contains "A User's Guide to the Postmoderns," the
novella Griffin's Egg, two collaborations with Gardner Dozois, and
"Ships" by Swanwick and Jack Dann.

Moon Dogs is a rich and enticing florilegium that demonstrates
Swanwick's unusual talents and broad reach.

                                                                    -- Henry Wessells

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(an occasional series)


In Avram Davidson's story "The Autogondola Invention," Washington
Parthenopius "Pard" Powell's frequent allusions to the military
campaigns of William Walker, the "last Conkwistadoree," provoke the
foul-tempered backwoods nobleman Baron Burgenblitz to ask Powell
a small and pointed question, "Were you ever in Honduras?"  To
which Powell makes a splendid, fiery retort:

     "Boss,"  he demanded, "say, was Dante ever in Hell ?"

Which is surely one of the finest literary responses upon being
challenged to produce evidence or mere factual documentation.  In the
story Powell recites several passages from his "Fifth Epic Poem" on
the subject of Walker.  These verses raise at least one of the
central historical issues concerning Walker, namely whether his
campaigns were intended to reintroduce slavery into Central America.

Walker (1824-1860), an American filibuster in Central America, was
a colorful, even notorious figure of the mid-nineteenth century who
briefly held the presidency of Nicaragua.  Born in Nashville,
Tennessee, Walker was a doctor, lawyer, and journalist who led a
failed invasion of Baja California and Sonora in 1853-1854.  Invited
to Nicaragua by one of the revolutionary factions, Walker captured
the city of Granada and brought an end to fighting.  In May 1856, he
obtained U.S. recognition of the new government and then declared
himself president.  He was unseated by an alliance of Central
American nations and by the hostility of Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of
whose firms controlled Walker's lines of supply.

In 1860, Walker played upon local resentments and mounted a second
attempt to conquer Central America.  The Bay Islands, off the
northern or Caribbean coast of Honduras, had long been settled by
English loggers, but in 1859 the British government relinquished their
claim.  Walker surrendered to the British navy and was turned over to
the Hondurans, who executed him in September 1860.  Walker was author
of a book, War in Nicaragua (1860).

                                                                   -- Henry Wessells

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The complete list of Davidson novels available in trade paperback
format from Wildside Press <<>> is given
below.  John Betancourt, publisher of Wildside Press, describes the
books as facsimiles (with new covers and front matter) printed on
good quality paper, and notes, "I will probably add hardcover
editions shortly for those titles which never had them."

Books by Avram Davidson
Clash of Star-Kings
 Joyleg (with Ward Moore)
Ursus of Ultima Thule
The Kar-Chee Reign / Rogue Dragon
The Island Under the Earth
Masters of the Maze
The Enemy of My Enemy
Peregrine: Primus
Peregrine: Secundus
Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty (with Grania Davis)

Price of the books is given as $15.00 for all titles, except the
double title, The Kar-Chee Reign / Rogue Dragon, which is
priced at $17.50.

Review copies were not made available at time of publication.

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The next issue will be published in July. The editor of The Nutmeg
Point District Mail invites contributions on any topic pertaining to
the life and work of Avram Davidson.   Davidsonians in other cities
might wish to inaugurate their own series of gatherings, news of
which can be reported in the District Mail.

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