the Avram Davidson electronic newsletter

Vol. VI No. 6

1 March 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 somewhat peripatetic Avram Davidson Website has a new permanent
home and an easily recognizable domain name :

The website is sponsored by the Avram Davidson Society and is
hosted by (

The decision to choose a "dot org" domain was simple and entirely consistent
with your editor's mission of providing useful bibliographic and biographical
information on Avram Davidson (and the occasional odd, interesting, or
humorous item), entirely free of charge. More bells and whistles and
cool pictures will be added as your editor learns how to make them work.

[I would like to thank Jeffry Dwight of for his assistance. I would
also like to acknowledge a profound debt to Jim Nicholson, who has hosted all
previous existences of the Avram Davidson Website. Indeed, one afternoon in
September 1995 (in the Dawn Age), he suggested converting my Davidson
checklist into an html file and so unleashed the website; and earned my
continued thanks for his support as it evolved. --Henry Wessells]

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Forthcoming from Wildside Press << >> :

MUTINY IN SPACE, by Avram Davidson
Introduction by Michael Swanwick
Cover art by Alexander Gabriel

First American hardcover edition (Limited to 2,000 copies)
List price: $35.00
ISBN: 1-58715-641-5
Pub date: July 15, 2002

The publisher notes that this is the first of what will be a matching series of
Avram Davidson hardcovers.

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"Young Vergil and the Wizard"

The Vergil Magus story, "Young Vergil and the Wizard," currently available at
the Infinite Matrix website, is an intriguing story composed by Davidson during
the middle 1980s. This self-contained episode concerns itself with the sights
and smells of the rural boyhood of Vergil Magus outside Brindisi. There are
many points of interest in the story : the way Davidson addresses the question
of Vergil's illegitimate birth ; the glimpses of powers innate and acquired ; and
the issue of time. The boy Vergil, whose father repeatedly urges him to seek
learning, develops a curious relation with the impoverished, decrepit Numa, a
relation that is defined in terms quite unlike the customary apprenticeship.
Numa and Vergil also appear to have a peculiarly fluid connection to Time, with
past and future largely (or at least, sometimes) indistinguishable.

The Scarlet Fig, the final Vergil novel, incorporates this story as its third
section. The question of Time is one of the preoccupations of the novel ; the
changes Davidson made when he integrated "Young Vergil" into the novel
manuscript accentuate this question of Time.

Where "Cornet Eszterhazy" leaves the reader with an image of young E.E.
poised on the threshold of learning in his dress whites (figuratively if not
literally), "Young Vergil and the Wizard" spans a broader period of time and
shows Vergil to be wise beyond his station as the son of an improvident
peasant ; its concluding image is all the more gruesome for being evoked
through a series of meanders and indirections.

The story URL is :
<< >>

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Gregory Feeley, in a science fiction and fantasy column in the Washington
Post Book World
for Sunday, 3 February 2002, reviews The Other
Nineteenth Century
in a column with three other books : Tom La Farge,
Zuntig (Green Integer) ; Patrick O'Leary, The Impossible Bird
(Tor) ; Élisabeth Vonarburg, Slow Engines of Time (Tesseract Books).

Feeley observes :

"the best thing in the volume is its inclusion of three late Davidson
stories, never reprinted, that are surprisingly dark and strong. His prose tended
toward the prolix after 1980 or thereabouts [. . .]. Yet in the last
half-dozen years of his life, Davidson published a number of stories, usually
quite short, that are concise and elliptical, and very good.

" 'The Engine of Samoset Erastus Hale, and One Other, Unknown' is a
very sharp tale of the invention and disappearance of an early radio transmitter
in the 1850s. Its brief scenes (including a scrap of court transcript) seem
fragmentary, but in fact they tell what story there is; the reader's desire to read
more is the desire for a different, more comforting story. [. . .] But 'El Vilvoy
de las Islas' is the real gem. A fantasia on the theme of the noble savage and a
meditation on mortality, it is rich and complex, full of local color (does it matter
that the locales are imaginary?), hidden puzzles, and yet more hidden solutions.
It is one of Davidson's very best stories, and worth the price of admission by
<< >>

Sarah Meador, in the Green Man Review, writes :
In stories, magic books have the decency to advertise themselves.
They come with disturbing skin bindings and huge forbidding clasps, and
faded gilt lettering warning the reader not to open this one. Sadly, this is
real life, and I have been captured by a magic book disguised as a
perfectly ordinary hardback: Avram Davidson's The Other Nineteenth
It's grabbed me and sunk itself into my brain [. . .]

There are only short stories, but they are living stories. They act like simple,
well written tales until the end, when every one of them leaps up to surprise
and snatch the reader. [. . .] Each one tells their story eloquently, and with
more shine than I can give them. And they all latch into the brain, leaving their
own reality after their pages have stopped. [. . .] If the stories are living
creatures, then the afterwords are trail guides, indicating where they live and
where more of them might be found. I intend to follow, and hope to be held
captive by such good company more often.
<< >>

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Bruce Byfield writes :

My thanks and congratulations on the publication of The Other Nineteenth
It is one of the first Christmas presents that I read this
year, partly because it included so many uncollected stories, and partly
because of the memories of Avram it brings back.

My wife Trish Williams and I can't read "The Odd Old Bird" (not a bad
description of Avram in his last decade, come to think of it) without a
small glimmer of pride in the passing mention of a book called In Pursuit
of Poundmaker.
As you may know, Avram was fascinated and amused
by Canada, and Trish and I were among his token Canadian correspondents;
he write something amusingly snooty about the whole place being
Terribly, Terribly British, and we'd do our best to respond with snide
comments about Damn Yankee Upstarts. For a while about 1990, Avram even
fantasized about returning to the Vancouver region, where the weak
Canadian dollar would stretch his income further. He thought that
somewhere in New Westminister would be "funky" enough for him -- meaning
that it was large enough to have a decent library, and was full of 19th
Century memorabilia and some interestingly raffish beer parlors.
However, I don't think that Avram ever got organized enough to
investigate immigration seriously, or really wanted to -- and, at any
rate, a poor writer in dubious health would have had trouble
immigrating, no matter how distinguished he was.

Anyway, Avram wrote to us once asking if Poundmaker had ever been
pursued. Poundmaker was a First Nations leader who resisted the attempts
of the Canadian government to move his people onto reservations, and,
since this was happening at the same time as the Riel Rebellion, the
whole affair became quite interesting and complicated. After some
research, I was able to tell him that, if you squinted a little, you
could indeed say that Poundmaker had been pursued. Since Avram was
reticient about exactly what he wanted to know, I included some
background on the subject, including a sketch map of the Northwest
Territories at the time.

Avram was passionate about history, but his only real concern was that
he could keep the alliteration of the title. I don't suppose that anybody
outside Canada (and very few inside) would care if the title wasn't
accurate, but it's typical of Avram that he would want to get such a
minor detail right -- and a source of pride that I could make even
a small contribution to Avram's work.
[. . .]
Trish and I met Avram about 1982, but we only really got to know him in
1984. At Norwescon in Seattle, we heard that Avram was ill. We also saw
a portrait of Avram by Ray-Paul Nielsen, a well-known local photographer
and painter. Talking with Paul Zimmer (Marion Zimmer Bradley's brother,
collaborator and fellow fantasist) and Nancy Geise, somehow the idea was
raised of buying the picture for Avram, and sending him a card with all
the contributors listed. With one exception (who shall remain
anonymous), no professional writers refused to contribute, and many fans
contributed, too. We not only bought the picture, but several packages of
typing paper and a large collection of stamps for Avram's correspondence.
Unfortunately, UPS broke the glass on the picture. After increasingly
hysterical efforts to get it replaced, we drove down from Vancouver,
Canada with new glass. Avram showed us around the Veteran's Home in
Bremerton, pointing out (among other things) that, although alcohol was
banned on the grounds, a tavern stood about ten metres outside the
fence. He used to see residents who could barely walk pulling themselves
along the fence to get to the tavern.

After that, we started writing and visiting. We were driving a rustbucket
then, and were often stopped when we crossed the border. However,
as you may know, customs is a GI preferred job in your country.
Whenever we said that we were visiting a friend in the Veteran's Home,
we were waved through without any trouble.

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Photograph of Avram Davidson by Emil Petaja
holding magazine and camera (circa middle/late 1960s) :

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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).

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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Next Issue Date : May 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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