Avram Davidson

Avram Davidson (April 23, 1923 – May 8, 1993) was an American writer of fantasy fiction, science fiction, and crime fiction, as well as the author of many stories that do not fit into a genre niche. He won a Hugo Award and three World Fantasy Awards in the science fiction and fantasy genre, a World Fantasy Life Achievement award,[1] and an Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine short story award and an Edgar Award in the mystery genre. Davidson edited The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1962 to 1964. His last novel The Boss in the Wall: A Treatise on the House Devil was completed by Grania Davis and was a Nebula Award finalist in 1998. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says "he is perhaps sf's most explicitly literary author".

Avram Davidson
Avram Davidson
BornApril 23, 1923
Yonkers, New York, US
DiedMay 8, 1993 (aged 70)
Bremerton, Washington, US
GenreScience fiction, crime fiction
Notable awardsEdgar Award
Hugo Award
World Fantasy Award
SpouseGrania Davis

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Fiction and articles

Davidson wrote many stories for fiction magazines beginning in the 1950s, after publishing his first fiction in Commentary and other Jewish intellectual magazines.

Davidson was active in science fiction fandom from his teens. His best-known works are his novels about Vergil Magus, the magician that medieval legend made out of the Roman poet Virgil; the Peregrine novels, a comic view of Europe shortly after the fall of Rome; the Jack Limekiller stories, about a Canadian living in an imaginary Central American country modelled after Belize during the 1960s; and the stories of Dr. Eszterhazy, a sort of even more erudite Sherlock Holmesian figure living in the mythical Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, the waning fourth-largest empire in Europe.

Lesser known and uncollected during his lifetime are his mystery stories, which were assembled after his death as The Investigations of Avram Davidson. These mystery stories frequently have a historical setting, and are intricately plotted. In addition, Davidson ghosted two Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle, and a true crime collection, Crimes and Chaos.

Other noteworthy works are his collaborations. In Joyleg, A Folly, written in collaboration with Ward Moore, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War (and of the Whiskey Rebellion) is found alive and very well in the Tennessee backwoods, having survived over the centuries by daily soaks in whisky of his own making to hilariously face the world of the 1960s. In Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty, co-written with Grania Davis, the background of Marco Polo's travels in the Mongol Empire is borrowed for an original story. After Davidson's death, Grania Davis also finished The Boss in the Wall, a claustrophobic horror novel that bears little resemblance to the work of any other writer.

Davidson also wrote dozens of short stories that defy classification, and the Adventures in Unhistory essays, which delve into puzzles such as the identity of Prester John and suggest solutions to them. His earlier historical essays were scrupulously researched, even when published by magazines just as happy to offer fiction as fact. Later essays were handicapped by a lack of resources in the libraries of the small towns where Davidson lived in the pre-Internet era, but are enlivened by the style and bold speculation.

Davidson's work is marked by a strong interest in history, with his plots often turning on what at first might seem like minor events. His characterization is also unusually in-depth for fantasy, and is often enriched by his ear for unusual accents.

Davidson's most obvious characteristics are his plotting and style. Very little may happen in a Davidson story, but he described it in detail. Hidden among the detail are facts or omissions that later become important to the outcome of the story. Especially in his later works, Davidson included elements that beginning writers are told to avoid, such as page-long sentences with half a dozen colons and semi-colons, or an apparently irrelevant digression in the opening pages of a story. He expects much from his readers, but delivers much to them.


Davidson was born in 1923 in Yonkers, New York to Jewish parents.[2] He served as a Navy hospital corpsman (medic) with the Marine Corps in the Pacific during World War II, and began his writing career as a Talmudic scholar around 1950. As reported at the time in the February 20, 1962 Yonkers daily, the Herald Statesman, Rabbi Arnold Weinberger officiated at his wedding to Miss Grania Kalman, which took place at the home of Damon Knight.[3]

This made his conversion to Tenrikyo in the 1970s unexpected. Although he had a reputation for being quick to anger, Davidson was known among his friends for his generosity. His peripatetic life and career may have been due to a disinclination to finish what he began. His reputation among science fiction and fantasy readers peaked in the 1960s, after which he had a coterie of fans who (as with R. A. Lafferty), kept his reputation alive, especially after his death.

He was a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), a loose-knit group of Heroic Fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, some of whose works were anthologized in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies.

While editing The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction he lived in Mexico, and later in British Honduras (now renamed Belize). He lived in a rural district of Novato, in northern Marin County, California, in 1970, but later moved closer to San Francisco. He lived in a small house in Sausalito, at the southern end of Marin County next to San Francisco in 1971 and 1972, and it was there fans and friends were welcomed. He worked for a short time in the late 1970s as a creative writing instructor at the University of Texas at El Paso. In his later years, he lived in Washington state, including a brief stay in the Veterans' Home in Bremerton. He died in his tiny apartment in Bremerton on May 8, 1993, aged 70. A memorial service was held in Gasworks Park in Seattle.

He was survived by his son Ethan and his ex-wife Grania Davis, who continued to edit and release his unpublished works until her own death.



  1. ^ World Fantasy Convention. "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved Feb 4, 2011.
  2. ^ Cohen, Joshua (May 25, 2007). "Writing in Four Dimensions: Reconsidering Science-Fiction Writer Avram Davidson". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
  3. ^ "Avram Davidson, Magazine Editor, Marries Hunter College Student" (PDF). newspaper. Yonkers, NY. Herald Statesman. February 20, 1962. p. 11. Retrieved 2 April 2018.

Further reading

  • Avram Davidson Treasury: A Tribute Collection, with an introduction by Guy Davenport. (1998)

External links

Collected Fantasies (Avram Davidson collection)

Collected Fantasies is a collection of fantasy short stories, written by Avram Davidson and edited by John Silbersack. It was first published in paperback by Berkley Books in June 1982.

Eileen Gunn

Eileen Gunn (born June 23, 1945, Dorchester, Massachusetts) is a science fiction author and editor based in Seattle, Washington, who began publishing in 1978. Her story "Coming to Terms", inspired, in part, by a friendship with Avram Davidson, won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 2004. Two other stories were nominated for the Hugo Award: "Stable Strategies for Middle Management" (in 1989) and "Computer Friendly" (1990).

Grania Davis

Grania Davis (July 17, 1943 - April 28, 2017) was an American author and editor of science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. She was the primary editor of the posthumously published work of her former husband, Avram Davidson. Her short stories have appeared in various genre magazines, anthologies, and "best of" collections. The Boss in the Wall (1998, Tachyon Publications with Avram Davidson) was nominated for a Nebula Award in the Best Novella category.She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in Hollywood, California. She lived in San Rafael, California for many years. She died on April 28, 2017.

Limekiller! (collection)

¡Limekiller! is a collection of fantasy short stories by Avram Davidson, edited by Grania Davis and Henry Wessells. It was first published in hardcover by Old Earth Books in November 2003. An ebook edition was issued by Gateway/Orion in July 2015.

Masters of the Maze (novel)

Masters of the Maze is a science fiction novel by American writer Avram Davidson, originally published in 1965 by Pyramid Books with a cover by John Schoenherr. The first UK edition, the only hardcover to date, was issued by White Lion in 1974. An American paperback reprint followed from Manor Books in 1976. Ebook editions appeared in 2012, from both Prologue Books and SF Gateway.The novel presents historical and fictional characters as "Guardians" of a maze which malignant, insect-like aliens are seeking to traverse in order to subjugate Earth.


Mermaids! is a themed anthology of fantasy short works edited by American writers Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. It was first published in paperback by Ace Books in January 1986. It was reissued as an ebook by Baen Books in July 2013.The book collects seventeen novelettes and short stories by various science fiction authors, together with an introductory essay by Avram Davidson and a bibliography of further reading by the editors.

Nebula Award for Best Novella

The Nebula Award for Best Novella is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for science fiction or fantasy novellas. A work of fiction is defined by the organization as a novella if it is between 17,500 and 40,000 words; awards are also given out for pieces of longer lengths in the novel category, and for shorter lengths in the short story and novelette categories. To be eligible for Nebula Award consideration a novella must be published in English in the United States. Works published in English elsewhere in the world are also eligible provided they are released on either a website or in an electronic edition. The Nebula Award for Best Novella has been awarded annually since 1966. Novellas published by themselves are eligible for the novel award instead if the author requests them to be considered as such. The award has been described as one of "the most important of the American science fiction awards" and "the science-fiction and fantasy equivalent" of the Emmy Awards.Nebula Award nominees and winners are chosen by members of the SFWA, though the authors of the nominees do not need to be members. Works are nominated each year between November 15 and February 15 by published authors who are members of the organization, and the six works that receive the most nominations then form the final ballot, with additional nominees possible in the case of ties. Members may then vote on the ballot throughout March, and the final results are presented at the Nebula Awards ceremony in May. Authors are not permitted to nominate their own works, and ties in the final vote are broken, if possible, by the number of nominations the works received. The rules were changed to their current format in 2009. Previously, the eligibility period for nominations was defined as one year after the publication date of the work, which allowed the possibility for works to be nominated in the calendar year after their publication and then be awarded in the calendar year after that. Works were added to a preliminary list for the year if they had ten or more nominations, which were then voted on to create a final ballot, to which the SFWA organizing panel was also allowed to add an additional work.During the 53 nomination years, 171 authors have had works nominated; 49 of these have won, including co-authors and ties. Nancy Kress has won the most awards: four out of eight nominations. Robert Silverberg, John Varley, and Roger Zelazny have each won twice out of eight, two, and three nominations, respectively. Silverberg's and Kress's eight nominations are the most of any authors, followed by Lucius Shepard and Michael Bishop at seven, and Kate Wilhelm and Avram Davidson with six. Bishop has the most nominations without receiving an award for novellas, though Wilhelm and Davidson have also not won an award.

Or All the Seas with Oysters

"Or All the Seas with Oysters" is a science fiction short story by American writer Avram Davidson. It first appeared in the May 1958 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction and won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1958. One of Davidson's best-known stories, it has been anthologized or collected more than a dozen times.

Or All the Seas with Oysters (collection)

Or All the Seas with Oysters is a collection of fantasy and science fiction short stories, written by Avram Davidson. It was first published in paperback by Berkley Medallion in 1962. The first hardcover edition was issued by White Lion in January 1976, and a second paperback edition by Pocket Books in December of the same year. An ebook edition was published by Gateway/Orion in August 2012.

Robert P. Mills

Robert Park Mills (1920−1986) was an American crime- and science fiction magazine editor and literary agent.

Mills was the managing editor of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine beginning in 1948 and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from its inception in 1949; he took over as editor upon the resignation of Anthony Boucher in 1958; while EQMM was sold by publishers Mercury Press in 1958 to B. G. Davis, Mills briefly remained on staff there during the transition and continued to edit Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine till its folding. From 1957-1958, he also served as editor of Venture Science Fiction Magazine. Under Mills, F&SF won three Hugo Awards for best magazine (in 1959, 1960 and 1963). He also edited several "Best of" volumes based on the contents of F&SF among other anthologies. He was succeeded as editor by Avram Davidson in 1962.

Shottle Bop

"Shottle Bop" is a fantasy short story by American writer Theodore Sturgeon, first published in 1941 in the magazine Unknown. Avram Davidson has said that it is the source of all "odde shoppe" stories; and even if not that, of many.The protagonist discovers a mysterious shop – "The Shottle Bop", between Twentieth and Twenty-first Streets, on Tenth Avenue in New York City – which has bottles containing all manner of strange things. The proprietor dislikes his pompous attitude, paralyzes him by spraying him with the essential oil from the hair of a Gorgon's head, and only releases him after extracting a grudging apology. The proprietor then mixes up a strange potion, saying it will, when drunk, "cure" him and give him a "talent".

The protagonist returns home and, after initial reluctance, drinks the potion. He discovers that he can now see and talk with ghosts; although they cannot see him. When he goes back to look for the shop, it is not there. He sets himself up as a psychic investigator: a business at which he is highly successful, with the aid of unseen disembodied assistants.

He taunts some of his low-life former associates with his success. They round on him; but he persuades one of them to spend the night in a haunted house, for a bet. That night, the effects of the potion wear off.

Strange Seas and Shores

Strange Seas and Shores: a Collection of Short Stories is a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories, written by Avram Davidson. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in 1971. A paperback edition was issued by Ace Books in August 1981, and an ebook edition by Gateway/Orion in September 2013.

The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy

The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy is a collection of historical mystery fantasy short stories by Avram Davidson featuring his scholarly detective character Doctor Eszterhazy and set in an imaginary European country. It was first published in hardcover by Owlswick Press in January 1991, with an ebook edition issued by Gateway/Orion in August 2013. The book is an expansion of the earlier collection The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy (1975), adding six more Eszterhazy stories written later but set earlier.

The Best of Avram Davidson

The Best of Avram Davidson is a collection of fantasy, science fiction and mystery short stories, written by Avram Davidson and edited by Michael Kurland. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in January 1979. The book has been translated into French.

The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy

The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy is a collection of historical mystery fantasy short stories by Avram Davidson featuring his scholarly detective character Doctor Eszterhazy and set in an imaginary European country. It was first published in paperback by Warner Books in December 1975. Its contents were later incorporated into the more comprehensive collection The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy (1991), which included six additional Eszterhazy stories written later but set earlier.

The Phoenix and the Mirror

The Phoenix and the Mirror, or, The Enigmatic Speculum is a fantasy novel by American writer Avram Davidson, the first volume in his Vergil Magus series. It was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in February 1969, with the first paperback edition issued by Ace Books in the same year. The Ace edition was reprinted in January 1978 and February 1983. The First ebook edition was issued by Prologue Books in August 2012. The first British edition was published in paperback by Mayflower in April 1975. Gollancz issued British trade paperback and ebook editions in October 2013 and December 2013, respectively. The Gollancz edition adds an introduction by Adam Roberts.

The Scarlet Fig

The Scarlet Fig: or, Slowly through a Land of Stone, is a fantasy novel written by American writer Avram Davidson, edited by Grania Davis and Henry Wessells, published in hardcover by Rose Press in 2005. An ebook edition was published by Prologue Press in August 2012.It is the third and final novel of the author's Vergil Magus sequence, following The Phoenix and the Mirror (1969) and Vergil in Averno (1987). It follows Vergil's adventures in an alternate ancient Mediterranean world where harpies, basilisks, and satyrs co-exist with Rome, Carthage, and the Punic Wars. The books are not written in chronological order, and in fact the second and third are prequels to the first.

What Strange Stars and Skies (collection)

What Strange Stars and Skies is a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories, written by Avram Davidson. It was first published in paperback by Ace Books in January 1965. An ebook edition was issued by Gateway/Orion in September 2012.

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