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Authors: Avram Davidson

The Avram Davidson Treasury

BOOK: The Avram Davidson Treasury
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To Puff, Herman, and Mudge
Who Made Us Laugh
To Seth Davis, Dr. Stephen Davis, and Ethan Davidson
The Mighty Copy-Shop Crew


- Oh, Avram, Avram, What A Wonder You Were!
by Robert Silverberg

- Starship Avram: A Writers’ Memorial Party
by Grania Davis


My Boy Friend’s Name Is Jello
Introduction by Robert Silverberg

The Golem
Introduction by Damon Knight

The Necessity of His Condition
Introduction by Poul and Karen Anderson

Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper
Introduction by F. Gwynplaine Macintyre

Now Let Us Sleep
Introduction by Gregory Benford

Or the Grasses Grow
Introduction by Alan Dean Foster

Or All the Seas with Oysters
Introduction by Guy Davenport

Take Wooden Indians
Introduction by John M. Ford

Author, Author
Introduction by Melisa Michaels

Introduction by John Clute

Ogre in the Vly
Introduction by Peter S. Beagle

The Woman Who Thought She Could Read
Introduction by Martha Soukup


Where Do You Live, Queen Esther?
Introduction by Kate Wilhelm

The Sources of the Nile
Introduction by Gregory Feeley

The Affair at Lahore Cantonment
Introduction and Afterword by Eileen Gunn

Introduction by Bill Pronzini

The Tail-Tied Kings
Introduction by Frederik Pohl

The Price of a Charm; or, The Lineaments of Gratified Desire
Introduction by Henry Wessells

Introduction by Spider Robinson

The House the Blakeneys Built
Introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Goobers
Introduction by James Gunn

The Power of Every Root
Introduction by Thomas M. Disch


Selectra Six-Ten
Introduction by Ed Ferman

Goslin Day
Introduction by Jack Dann

Polly Charms, the Sleeping Woman
Introduction by Gene Wolfe; Afterword by Harlan Ellison

And Don’t Forget the One Red Rose
Introduction by Richard A. Lupoff

Crazy Old Lady
Introduction by Ethan Davidson

“Hark! Was That the Squeal of an Angry Thoat?”
Introduction by Mike Resnick

Manatee Gal, Won’t You Come Out Tonight
Introduction by Peter S. Beagle; Afterword by Lucius Shepard

Introduction by William Gibson


Full Chicken Richness
Introduction and Afterword by Gardner Dozois

The Hills Behind Hollywood High
Introduction by Grania Davis

The Slovo Stove
Introduction by Michael Swanwick

Two Short-Shorts:
“The Last Wizard”
“Revenge of the Cat-Lady”
Introduction by F. M. Busby

While You’re Up
Introduction by Forrest J. Ackerman

The Spook-Box of Theobald Delafont De Brooks
introduction by Algis Budrys

Yellow Rome; or, Vergil and the Vestal Virgin
Introduction by Darrell Schweitzer; Afterword by Ray Nelson


- Night Travel On The Orient Express, Destination: Avram
by Ray Bradbury

- Turn Out The Lights
by Harlan Ellison





, rumpled, bearded man who had the look of a rabbi for some down-at-the-heels inner-city Orthodox congregation. He had a rabbi’s arcane erudition, a rabbi’s insight into human foibles, a rabbi’s twinkling avuncular charm, a rabbi’s amiable self-mocking modesty; and, of course, a rabbi’s profound faith in Judaism, at least until, to my amazement if not his own, he gave up all his obsessive observance of the myriad Jewish rules and regulations and converted late in life to an exotic Japanese cult called Tenrikyo. He was also one of the finest short-story writers ever to use the English language, as the fortunate readers of this book are about to discover, or to rediscover, whichever is the case.

I can’t remember when or precisely where I met him, though it had to have been in New York City somewhere between 1956 and 1961. During those years I lived in a spacious and pleasant apartment on the fourth floor of a building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and I distinctly recall Avram’s coming to visit me on a Friday night—the eve of the Jewish Sabbath—when, as I had forgotten at the time, it is forbidden for Orthodox Jews to perform any sort of mechanical labor. The prohibition extends even unto pressing a button to summon an elevator; and so Avram diligently walked up the four flights of stairs to my apartment that evening, and walked down again when he left, which struck me—Jewish also, but not particularly observant—as a charming but bizarre adherence to Talmudic dogma.

But I think we must have met even before that, for why would I have invited an utter stranger to my apartment? I can’t tell you where that first Davidson-Silverberg encounter took place, though my memory for such things normally is extraordinarily precise. And, oddly, considering the rare precision of Avram’s own memory, he came to forget the details of our first meeting also, as I know from the evidence of a letter from him dated July 17, 1971, in which Avram wrote, apropos of nothing in particular, “We—you and I—first met in an apt in Mannahattoe; but
? Fit would help you to recall, you had been talking about a story you’d just then written, ‘…and on this planet the people have no sexual parts, they’re all built like dolls…’ Hey! a great title! ‘All Built Like Dolls.’ But you can have it if you like.”

I quote this not only to illustrate that Avram was capable of forgetting things occasionally too, but also to demonstrate certain notable idiosyncracies of the man and of his style. Consider his use of the archaic term “Mannahattoe” for “Manhattan”—the original uncorrupted Native American name for that island in New York Harbor, which the Dutch twisted into the form used today, and which Avram of course knew, paying me the compliment of expecting that I would know it too. (I did.) Note also his genial colloquialism “Fit” for “If it,” and the borrowing from his friend and colleague Philip K. Dick in his use of “apt” for “apartment,” and the generosity implicit in his offering me, without strings, the story title he had plucked from my account of my own recent story. (A story of which, by the way, I have no recollection whatever; but all this was close to forty years ago, and there are a lot of stories I wrote then that I no longer remember, nor do I want to.)

Anyway, I definitely did meet Avram in New York City somewhere in the 1950s, and thereafter we maintained a pleasant acquaintanceship for decades. We were not precisely close friends, with all the intimate sharing of woes and triumphs and confessions that that term implies in my mind, but certainly we were friends of some sort, and beyond doubt we maintained a warm collegial relationship, fellow toilers in the vineyard of letters, always ready to exchange tidbits of professional information with each other or to query each other on some point of esoteric knowledge. (I quote from a typical letter from him, under date of Dec 8 1984: “As I know that you have a complete collection of EVERYTHING, and that there is nothing you like better than LOOKING THINGS UP to please a friend, so I am asking you, please, to find out: Who wrote the Galaxy ‘Bookshelf’ review column in #6 vol. 39…”

In the days when we both lived in New York, we saw each other most frequently at the monthly gatherings of the local science-fiction-writer’s organization, a pleasant casual group called the Hydra Club, or at parties held at various writers’ homes, such as at the one in (I believe) 1961, given by Daniel Keyes of “Flowers for Algernon” fame, at which Avram proudly introduced us to his (literally) blushing teenage bride Grania, with whom I would sustain a friendship extending decades beyond her marriage to Avram, and who is now my esteemed co-editor on this project. And often we would meet and break booze together at some science-fiction convention, where Avram was always a welcome sight to see, since he was in the habit of carrying a bag of excellent New York bagels around with him to distribute to his friends. (One time, also, he had a pocketful of coproliths—fossilized dinosaur turds—which he distributed similarly to those he knew would appreciate them. I cherish mine to this day.)

Avram entered New York s-f social circles with an instantly lofty literary reputation. Since 1946 his work had been appearing in places like
Orthodox Jewish Life Magazine
, but we knew nothing of that. However, his first professionally published story, “My Boy Friend’s Name Is Jello” (
Fantasy & Science Fiction
, July 1954), though only a few pages long, announced immediately that a quirky, utterly original writer, as distinctive in his way as Ray Bradbury was in his, had arrived in our field. The following year the same magazine offered the similarly brief and similarly impressive “The Golem,” and then, in 1956 and 1957 and 1958, came a whole flurry of concise and brilliant little Davidson tales in nearly all the science-fiction magazines at once.

The New York s-f community, which at that time included (if you count its suburban branch in Milford, Pennsylvania) virtually all the movers and shakers of the field, was awed and captivated by the prolific performance of the kindly, charming, formidably learned, and rather peculiar little man who had taken up residence in its midst. He was, at the same time, contributing dazzling mystery stories to the premier mystery magazine of the day,
Ellery Queen’s.
Plainly there was a prodigious writer here. The author of “Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper” (
, July 1957)—that’s the one about the Jewish dentist who sends messages back from an alien planet, where he is being held captive, via dental fixtures—could be nothing other than a genius. The author of “Or All the Seas With Oysters” (
, May 1958), the story of alien residents of Earth who disguise themselves as safety pins in their pupal form and become coat-hangers when they reach the larval stage, must surely be a man of distinctly original mind. (So original, indeed, that he could conceive of pupas hatching into larvae, a stunning reversal of the usual order of things.) Not that the only thing he wrote was high whimsy; for there was the dark and brooding “Now Let Us Sleep” (
, September 1957) and the sinister Dunsanyesque fantasy “Dagon” (
Fantasy & Science Fiction
, October 1959) and the quietly passionate “Or the Grasses Grow” (
Fantasy & Science Fiction
, November 1958) and ever so much more.

So we clustered around this curious little man at our parties and got to know him, and when his stories appeared we bought the magazines that contained them and read them; and our appreciation, and even love, for his work and for him knew no bounds. He was courtly and droll. He was witty. He was lovable. He could be, to be sure, a little odd and cranky at times (though not nearly as much as he would come to be, decades later, in his eccentric and cantankerous old age), but we understood that geniuses were entitled to be odd and cranky. And that he was a genius we had no doubt. Ray Bradbury, in an introduction to a collection of Davidson short stories that was published in 1971, spoke of his work in the same breath as that of Rudyard Kipling, Saki, John Collier, and G. K. Chesterton, and no one who knows Avram’s work well would call Bradbury guilty of hyperbole in that.

Even though Avram had seemed to materialize among us like a stranger from another world, there in the mid-1950s, it turned out that he was in fact a New Yorker like the rest of us. (Well, not strictly like the rest of us, because Avram wasn’t really like anyone else at all, and the fact that he came from the suburban city of Yonkers rather than from one of the five boroughs of New York City disqualified him as a true New Yorker for a city boy like me.) Indeed he had been active in New York science-fiction fandom in his teens—cofounder, no less, of the Yonkers Science Fiction League. (I find the concept of a teenage Avram Davidson as difficult to comprehend as the concept of the Yonkers Science Fiction League, but so be it.) Exactly where he had been living immediately before his debut in the science fiction magazines, I was never sure, though he did once admit to having served in the Israeli Army at the time of Israel’s independence in 1948; certainly he gave the impression of one who was returning to New York after prolonged absence in exotic parts. In one of his infrequent autobiographical pieces he revealed this much:

BOOK: The Avram Davidson Treasury
8.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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