the Avram Davidson electronic newsletter

Vol. XIII No. 1

8 May 2010

ISSN 1089-764X

Published irregularly by whim and fancy for the Avram Davidson Society.
Contents copyright 2010 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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New Avram Davidson Collection from PS Publishing

The Curiosities of Avram Davidson , edited by Grania Davis and
Henry Wessells, is currently in production with British specialist
publishers PS Publishing, with an expected publication date in mid-2011.
The collection will include previously unpublished fiction, uncollected
stories, selected non-fiction, and a few choice fragments from the Avram
Davidson Archives.
Further details, including the table of contents will be reported promptly by
the District Mail.

PS Publishing is based in Hornsea, north of the Humber River, in the
East Riding of Yorkshire. The PS Publishing website is:

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Avram Davidson Tribute Reading and Colloquium 6 November 2007

A well-attended Avram Davidson Tribute was held at the Melville Gallery,
South Street Seaport, in New York City, on 6 November 2007 as part of the
The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series curated by
Jim Freund. The Davidson tribute was orchestrated from an internet café
in northeast Kathmandu by Davidson bibliographer and editor Henry Wessells,
author of Another green world (2003), who managed to return from Nepal in time
to lead the program in person. He gave a biographical overview and discussed
some of the reasons for his enduring interest in Davidson’s work.

David G. Hartwell, publisher of The New York Review of Science Fiction  and
one of Davidson’s editors, sent the following message:

Avram Davidson is a writer of clever and entertaining short fiction. Avram
Davidson produced a body of work that is deeply intelligent and satirically
resonant, steeped in researches that range far beyond the ordinary lives of
ordinary people into the alien lives of foreign cultures, present and historical.
Avram Davidson wrote novels of varying quality and impact that nevertheless
invariably reward the experienced reader with many pleasures page by page,
and very often sparkle with wit. Avram Davidson was a difficult man in life,
and a difficult writer to champion after death. His virtues do not sound
appealing to the casual reader of novels, and his virtues are daunting to consider
even for most readers in the academy. In life he was sometimes best liked and
admired from a distance. His works, nevertheless, put him in the company of
the best writers of prose fiction of his century. So we celebrate him here,
now. — David G. Hartwell

Michael Dirda sent the following note:

Today is my brithday (and the publication date for my new book, Classics
for Pleasure
 ), and I am here in Washington, though I would rather be part
of the tribute to Avram Davidson. To my mind, Davidson, like the similarly
gifted and underappreciated John Sladek, is simply one of the finest writers
of his generation. Period. There’s no need to limit him by assigning a genre
adjective. Davidson was a magician, he could transform the ordinary into
the marvelous, and just take your breath away. I wish more people read
his work. — Michael Dirda

Three authors read stories by Davidson. Tom La Farge, author of The Crimson
and Zuntig, read “ Dr. Bhumbo Singh ”. Wendy Walker, author of the
The Secret Service
and Blue Fire, read “ And Don’t Forget the One Red Rose ”.
Michael Swanwick, novelist and author of The Dog Said Bow-Wow, a collection
of short stories published by Tachyon, read “ My Boy Friend’s Name is Jello ”,
Davidson’s first published story in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,
and spoke about how the story, at the beginning of Davidson’s career, contained —
fully formed, all of the major concerns that would occupy him during his writing life.

The second portion of the program was a panel discussion with Swanwick, Wessells,
Jacob Weisman, publisher of Tachyon Publications, and Thomas M. Disch, author
of classic novels 334, On Wings of Song, and Camp Concentration, whose short
fiction and criticism have defined the science fiction genre. Weisman spoke briefly
about publishing the first of the posthumous books by Davidson, The Boss in the
 . Disch reflected on his connections with Avram Davidson from the early 1960s
through the late 1980s when Davidson made his final visit to New York City.

A good-sized crowd attended the tribute and in questions afterward elicited some
interesting responses from the panel. One person snapped a portrait of the
participants before the gathering adjoined to a nearby watering house as customary.

Michael Swanwick’s account on his Flogging Babel blog captures some of the
wit and spontaneity of the event :
“ Disch talking about how he inherited Davidson’s rental place in Mexico, and one
hideous afternoon in Avram Davidson’s final decline, pushing the great man about
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a wheelchair with Davidson sternly disapproving
of everything he saw. ‘ It’s rather like being able to say, Yes I knew King Lear —
in his later years.’ 
“ But, oh, the happy sound of Tom Disch snorting with laughter at the price of each
book, when Wendy Walker read from ‘ And Don’t Forget the One Red Rose ’ !
A fine and lovely evening. ”

Swanwick’s report will be found here.

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Henry Wessells has published monographs by Michael Swanwick on
James Branch Cabell, What Can Be Saved from the Wreckage  (2007) and
on Hope Mirrlees, the Hugo nominee Hope-in-the-Mist  (2009). He also
produced an artist book, Forever Peace. To Stop War , a poem by Joe
Haldeman with original etchings by Judith Clute (2008), and, earlier this
week, published The Man with the Knives  by Ellen Kushner, with art
by Thomas Canty.
Details at

Another of his continuing preoccupations is the whimsical and eccentric website,
the Endless Bookshelf. simply messing about in books at

He reports that his potted Mandrake (Mandragora turkmenica sp. ) is doing
well in partial sunlight.

Someday he will return to writing his own books. Announcements will be made.

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It is very hard to imagine a world without George Scithers.

George marched to the beat of a different drummer. He had the bearing of a
career military man (which he was for a time), the fashion sense of an engineer
(he almost always wore plaid jackets), and the passion of a trufan. He was a
great appreciator of trolley cars. He liked adventure fiction a lot, but equally
admired the work of Gene Wolfe. He had enormous energy and boundless
enthusiasm. He had no tolerance for fools, but to everyone else he was
extraordinarily generous. He encouraged young fans who wanted to get into
publishing and were willing to work hard by giving them jobs as slush pile
readers and then moving them up as fast and as far as their talents would take
them. As an editor, he encouraged unpublished writers with detailed critiques
of their stories and promoted writers he thought talented with tremendous
vigor. Instead of saying “Goodbye,” he said “Woof.”

George was a man of many accomplishments. His Hugo Award-winning fanzine
Amra  introduced the term “ sword and sorcery ” (reprinted from an obscure
fanzine with almost no circulation) to the world. He edited three major
magazines — Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine , Amazing , and
Weird Tales — from his home in West Philadelphia. His Owlswick Press
published literary jokes like the Necronomicon (in untranslated form; the
Arabic-looking text gets larger and more rushed as it moves toward its abrupt
end) and To Serve Man , a anthropophagic cookbook (which he wrote himself
under a pseudonym). It also published some beautiful and even essential
books by writers like Avram Davidson and Lord Dunsany. He chaired a
Worldcon. He won a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. Robert
Heinlein’s Glory Road  was written in response to a postcard George sent him,
saying in essence, “ Okay, the hero has slain the dragon, won the princess, and
saved the kingdom — NOW what? ”
I don’t think there will ever be a true accounting of everything George Scithers
did. For decades, he was everywhere and did everything and claimed very little
credit for it. You never knew where he was going to pop up — at a party, at
the Joyce Kilmer Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, at an obscure
convention in the middle of nowhere. I remember vividly opening the paper one
morning and seeing a cartoon with the byline, “ A tip of the Hatlo hat to George
Scithers. ”
And now he’s gone.
Rest in peace, George. Woof.

— Michael Swanwick

first published in slightly different form on Flogging Babel :

ADDENDUM : Darrell Schweitzer reports that George Scithers stated, in an
interview at the time of his World Fantasy Award, that his greatest
achievement was the Owlswick Press edition of Davidson’s The
Adventures of Dr. Eszterhazy
that he edited, designed, and published in

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Bruce Byfield published his account of visiting Avram Davidson at the
Veteran’s Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, on Memorial Day, 1992 :

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Davidsonian Readings

Your correspondent has been remedying gaps in his literary education
as well as re-reading books not looked into for decades, with interesting
and surprising results. The more one reads, the greater appreciation
one gains of the depth and variety of Davidson’s own reading — and
the more greater one’s understanding of the playfulness of Davidson’s
writings. Two examples :

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman , 1760-7 by
Laurence Sterne: how I had never read this masterpiece escapes me, and
to do so is to see the original model for digression in narrative, the bogus
learnèd aside, and various interjections that recur in Davidson’s tales.
“ Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;——they are the life, the
soul of reading” (vol. I:163).

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins : while re-reading this classic novel, I
suddenly remembered the narrative voice of “ What Strange Stars and
Skies ” , that tale of prim charity, nefarious deeds in the east London
underworld, the missing Dame Philippa Garrick — and extraterrestrials —
echoes the unctious narrative of Drusilla Clack, spinster of reduced means,
whose hero-worship of Godfrey Ablewhite colors her account of events
connected with the disappearance of the great diamond.

Itis observations such as these — and the pleasure of opening a book by
Davidson that reminde me, again and again, that I have not yet finished
with his work. [HWW]

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

This issue was scheduled for distribution on 8 May 2010 but an unexpected
power outage delayed its release until 9 May 2010.

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