the Avram Davidson electronic newsletter

Vol. VI No. 5

28 January 2002

ISSN 1089-764X

Published bimonthly by whim and fancy for the Avram Davidson Society.
Contents copyright 2002 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,


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The Other Nineteenth Century: A Story Collection by Avram Davidson,
edited by Grania Davis and Henry Wessells. New York: Tor, 2001. 327 pp.,
$27.95 hardcover, ISBN 0-312-84874-9.
Reviewed by Fred Lerner
A faithful cataloguer would record The Other Nineteenth Century's subtitles
in their entirety. This is "A Story Collection by Avram Davidson, Containing
Startling Revelations of the Lives of Literary Persons; also, Truthful Accounts
of Living Fossils, Montavarde's Camera, The Irradiodiffusion Machine, and El
Vilvoy de las Islas; with Heinous Crimes, Noble Ladies in Adversity, Brilliant
Detections, Imperial Eunuchs, Political Machinations, etc., etc." But the first
phrase tells us what we really need to know. This is another collection of tales
to whet appetites stimulated by The Avram Davidson Treasury and
The Investigations of Avram Davidson.
The idea of this book is to collect stories with nineteenth-century settings. The
editors interpret this broadly. Avram Davidson's discursive style of storytelling
has an antiquarian air to it, so it seems natural to annex to the century those
neighboring decades that Davidson imbued with a nineteenth-century flavor.
These stories originally appeared over a thirty-year span, from 1958 to 1988.
("Mickelrede," a posthumous collaboration with Michael Swanwick, first saw
print in 2000.) Several of them will be familiar to longtime readers of the
leading science fiction magazines. Several are from Ellery Queen's Mystery
And there are some from less familiar sources: Kenyon
Review, Night Cry,
and Yankee Magazine. (The editors identify the
individual issues in which each story was first published -- as too many
collections and anthologies do not.)
The stories vary considerably in mood and meaning. Some take a light-hearted
approach to alternate history: "O Brave Old World!" turns the American
Revolution on its head, while "Pebble in Time" (written in collaboration with
Cynthia Goldstone) gives us a most unlikely San Francisco. Some are
substantial tales that effectively transport us both in time and space: "What
Strange Stars and Skies" to the vilest slums of London; "El Vilvoy de las Islas"
to a South American backwater so little visited that it appears on no published
map. There's a Sherlockian vignette ("The Singular Incident of the Dog on the
Beach") and a wisp of Oriental fantasy ("The Deed of the Deft-Footed
Dragon") and a tale from Bella ("The Odd Old Bird") that you won't find in the
Owlswick Press Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy.
A brief "Afterword" follows each story, either illuminating its literary origins and
publishing history, or providing background information that readers less
polymathic than Avram Davidson will find helpful. These (and three valedictory
pages from Grania Davis) provide the collection's only editorial apparatus.
Readers will not be disappointed by this minimalist approach, for the fine wine
that Davidson serves needs no bush. The twenty-three stories of The Other
Nineteenth Century
speak for themselves, in that avuncular voice and
leisurely diction that we will forever associate with one of science fiction's
greatest storytellers.

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'A LITERARY MIRACLE' : Press Clippings & Correspondence

Guy Davenport writes from Lexington, Kentucky :

"Bounden gratitude for The Other 19th Century (a Benjaminisch title). My
admiration for Avram long ago turned to awe, and this charmer ups my high
regard. He had a narrative genius little short of Homer. He had the whole world
in his head (and in fine detail).
"Is it Sam Gamgee in Tolkien who feels that life is fulfilled because he has 'seen the
elefant'? (Orolofans [oliphaunt]. Brewer, by the way, says that to have
seen the elephant is an Americanism, and refers to far travel (id est, Ohio
people who have been to San Francisco)."

Reviews of The Other Nineteenth Century

Nick Gevers of Cape Town, South Africa, praises the latest Avram Davidson book
in a perceptive essay on the Locus Online website (dated 22 January 2002):
"With The Other Nineteenth Century, Grania Davis and Henry Wessells
[. . .] have accomplished a literary miracle, of sorts (and an
exceptional sort at that.) Davidson was never more brilliant than when he
sortied into realms archaic, old-world, subtly or definitely outmoded
[. . .]. His most memorable book is probably The Adventures
of Doctor Eszterhazy
(1990) [. . .]. Now, at last, Doctor
Eszterhazy has a thematic companion volume; The Other Nineteenth
assembles DavidsonŐs many miscellaneous takes on the Victorian
era and times chronologically adjacent (there is even one miscellaneous
Eszterhazy episode), a host of atmospheric and argumentative tales, all oblique,
surprising, mesmerizing in their unique curiosity. And (the miracle
aforementioned), these superb stories seem even stronger in company,
magnifying each otherŐs arcane splendor, echoing and ricocheting into a great
and glorious book."

Paul Di Filippo in a review in the online SciFi Weekly, discusses the
nineteenth-century flavor that is the book's organizing principle and observes,
"The editors violate their own precepts several times, but quite justifiably and
with good results." Elsewhere, he remarks, "And what accomplishments Davidson did accrue! Just a
single story here -- "What Strange Stars and Skies," from 1963 -- contains
within it the entire master plan of the steampunk movement. Without Davidson,
no Blaylock or Powers, that's for sure. When you factor in such masterpieces
as "Dr. Bhumbo Singh," in which Davidson exhibits both a flair for prose
approaching poetry [. . .] you appreciate that many of these
compressed miracles are novels in miniature, which might explain why
Davidson's novels themselves suffered by comparison."

The January issue of Locus magazine also includes reviews of the book by
Jonathan Strahan and Faren Miller.
There were also short mentions of The Other Nineteenth Century in the book
trade publications Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

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The date of the Spring meeting of the Avram Davidson Society will be announced in
the next District Mail.

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The Last Wizard with A Letter of Explanation.
Publications of the Avram Davidson Society, number one.
Size: 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, xii pages. Second printing, May 1999.
Single copies, $10.00 (postpaid).

El Vilvoy de las Islas.
Publications of the Avram Davidson Society, number two.
Size: 6 x 9 inches, viii + 32 pages. June 2000.
Issue of 100 copies in paper wrappers : single copies, $13.00 (postpaid).

The Beasts of the Elysian Fields by Conrad Amber.
Publications of the Avram Davidson Society, number three.
Size: 6 x 9 inches, iv + 12 pages. June 2001.
Issue of 80 copies in paper wrappers : single copies, $26.00 (postpaid).
Less than a dozen copies remain.

Special offer : all three publications for $40.00 postpaid.

To order, send a cheque in U.S. funds, payable to Henry Wessells, to :
P.O. Box 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043-0072, USA
Orders by e-mail to will be held until payment is received.
For cheques drawn on overseas banks, please add $7.00 for bank fees.

Trade discount available.

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The Avram Davidson Website is currently unavailable for consultation because of
server problems. When these are resolved a special announcement will be
made to District Mail subscribers. The website should be back online in mid-
to late February.

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Next Issue Date : March 2002

The editor of The Nutmeg Point District Mail invites contributions on any
topic pertaining to the life and work of Avram Davidson.

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