the Avram Davidson electronic newsletter

Vol. XIX No. 1

8 May 2019

ISSN 1089-764X

Published irregularly by whim and fancy (approximately annually)
for the Avram Davidson Society.
Contents copyright 2019 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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In October of last year, on a visit to the Lilly Library at Indiana
University in Bloomington, I was able to spend a couple of hours with
boxes from the White Mss., 1932-1969 (LMC 2181), that is to say the papers
of William Anthony Parker White (1911-1968), best known in science fiction
and mystery circles by his pseudonym Anthony Boucher. I knew his name as
a founding editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, as
the author of several good mystery novels, including Rocket to the Morgue
(1942), which is set in southern California science fiction; and also as
friend and mentor to a young Berkeley writer named Philip K. Dick.

While writing A Conversation larger than the Universe, I had read Jeffrey
Marks’ Anthony Boucher. A Biobibliography (McFarland, 2008), which
surveys the many talents of the author, editor, and critic. Marks cites
Avram Davidson’s letter of 4 December 1962 to Boucher when Avram was
named editor of F&SF, and feeling the unreality of his new post: “The
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction should be edited by Anthony
Boucher. In a sense, in many senses, it always will be.”

The papers of Anthony Boucher have been at the Lilly since 1976, and
include some 30,000 items. I was chiefly interested in correspondence with
Philip K. Dick and Avram Davidson. Boucher wrote good letters, and
both Dick and Davidson wrote long and informative letters to him, so
it was a very interesting research visit. I now have copies of all of
Davidson’s letters to Boucher, and one or two will certainly find
their way into the Selected Letters.

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Harlan Ellison, who died 28 June 2019, was a prolific author of short
fiction, editor and anthologist, and writer for television. He began
publishing in the late 1950s, but it was when his short stories began
winning Hugo and Nebula awards during the 1960s onward that he established
himself as an important and sometimes controversial figure in the fields of
science fiction and fantasy. His two Dangerous Visions anthologies, published
in 1967 and 1972, are at the core of the American New Wave in science fiction.

Harlan knew Avram Davidson for many years, and published Crimes &
Chaos when he was an editor at Regency Books. Ellison wrote movingly of
their friendship in his afterword to “Polly Charms, the Sleeping Woman”, in
The Avram Davidson Treasury (1998): “brilliant beyond the telling; funny
and witty and acerbic and cranky beyond the believing”. Grania Davis
reported that Harlan Ellison had paid for Avram’s medications for several

Your correspondent had one telephone conversation with Ellison while
researching Avram Davidson in the men’s magazines of the late 1950 and
early 1960s. The collaborated on “Up Christopher to Madness” for Knight
magazine in 1965 (the story was later collected in Partners in Wonder).
Ellison described the writing of such fiction, usually published under
pseudonyms, as worthy of Balzac: “Our hands were clean.”

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Your correspondent was delighted beyond measure to see a letter of
comment published in the TLS for 2 November 2018:


A delight to read the ringing of the changes to Homer over the long
centuries in the TLS for 12 October, especially Madeline Miller’s “False
counsellor”. American fantasist Avram Davidson (1923-1993) also wrestled
with the epic and its maker. His tale “They Loved Me in Utica” (1970) and
The Wailing of the Gaulish Dead, an essay written in 1981, and published
2013, display his range across modes from the comic to the supernatural.
But the essence of Davidson’s Homer is found in a bawdy and almost
Borgesian miniature on two pages of his novel Peregrine: Primus (1971), where,
far from the ocean stream, Ulyxes recounts his wanderings in the American
vernacular of the day (and incidentally revealing his faithless nature).
Read it: you will never again think of the Odyssey in quite the same way.

Henry Wessells
The Avram Davidson Society
Upper Montclair, New Jersey 07043

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The proposed volume of selected letters of Avram Davidson, as the sixth
publication of the Avram Davidson Society, remains near the top of the
list of books to be edited by your correspondent. After a promising visit to
Seattle last autumn, during which your correspondent met with Eileen
Gunn and looked through hundreds of Davidson letters, little progress
has followed during the past few months. I have made a few new pen
pals and received several groups of correspondence previously unknown
to me, but a couple of archive with Davidson holdings have been closed
for renovation or re-cataloguing. With a bit of luck, during the summer
I will get a preliminary selection together, and will announce a realistic
publication date.

The editor of The Nutmeg Point District Mail welcomes photocopies
or digital images of any Avram Davidson letters that may not have
been sent to Eileen Gunn when she had made a similar request some
years ago.

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Still available:

Chance Meeting
Avram Davidson & Philip K. Dick.
Published by The Nutmeg Point District Mail for the Avram Davidson
Society, 9 July 2019.
Edition of 150 unnumbered copies, stitched in Hahnemühle wrappers
with letterpress label. 6 x 9 inches, 16 pp.
Price : $20.00 (postage paid in U.S. ; elsewhere add $5.00).
Trade discount available.

Chance Meeting prints two uncollected pieces by Avram Davidson on
Philip K. Dick: Davidson's perceptive review of The Man in the High
Castle from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for June 1963
and his memoir of PKD from Locus 256, vol. 15, no. 5, for May 1982.
The publication also includes a letter from Grania Davis from the same
issue of Locus; with a short essay by Henry Wessells assembling
biographical and bibliographical information.

The Wailing of the Gaulish Dead, an Adventure in Unhistory
With a Preface by Eileen Gunn.
Published by The Nutmeg Point District Mail for the Avram Davidson
Society, 8 May 2013.
Edition of 200 copies, perfect bound in heavy card covers, french flaps.
6 x 9 inches, viii + 40 pp. Inserted errata leaf.
Payment by cheque or money order in U.S. funds, or by credit card or paypal.
Price : $25.00 (postage paid in U.S. ; elsewhere add $10.00) ; £20
postpaid to U.K. (cash only).
Trade discount available.

Michael Swanwick on The Wailing of the Gaulish Dead:
"a voyage through the mind of a brilliant autodidact, a man who engaged in
esoteric research not for profit or academic survival but simply for the fun of
it. Those who can enjoy such company on a journey with no obvious direction or
destination know who they are. [. . .] I witnessed a reader reach the end of
this essay and burst into delighted laughter."

The following titles are out of print:
The Beasts of the Elysian Fields by Conrad Amber (2001)
El Vilvoy de las Islas (2000)
The Last Wizard with A Letter of Explanation (1999)

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