"Something Rich and Strange" : The Writings of Avram Davidson

A Bio-bibliographical essay by Henry Wessells

     Certain authors contribute to science fiction and fantasy by writing books and stories that become classics of a recognizable type of work, whether it be "hard" science fiction, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, or cyberpunk. Other writers constantly push at the boundaries of genre fiction in their work. One such author who surpassed these limits was Avram Davidson (1923-1993), who published 17 novels and wrote more than 200 stories and essays during his lifetime.
     Davidson's work includes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery novels and stories. His short fiction, notable for its wit and erudition, won numerous awards and has been widely anthologized. "Or All the Seas with Oysters" (1958) won the Hugo Award for short story, while "The Affair at Lahore Cantonment" (1961) received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
     He was an influential editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 1962 to 1965. During his tenure, the magazine received a Hugo Award in 1963. His novels include Joyleg (1962), Rogue Dragon (1965) and Clash of Star-Kings (1966), both Nebula Award nominees, as well as The Phoenix and the Mirror (1969), and Vergil in Averno (1987). Nine collections of his stories have appeared to date, including Or All the Seas with Oysters (1962), and the World Fantasy Award-winning The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy (1975).
     Davidson's distinctive, even unique style is apparent from his earliest published writings, and grew more colorful and elaborate in his mature work. He won a second Howard, or World Fantasy Award, for the short story "Naples" (1978). However, his prolific output and critical recognition did not always translate into commercial success. Davidson received a third World Fantasy Award in 1986, for lifetime achievement, but his novel Vergil in Averno was not promoted after publication, because the book's publisher had discontinued its science fiction line.
     In the last years of his life, however, two books appeared from the small press publisher Owlswick Press. Since his death, his stories continue to be published in magazines and in anthologies such as The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories (1993) and Modern Classics of Fantasy (1996), and interest in his work remains strong.
     Avram James Davidson was born on April 23, 1923, on Hog Hill in Yonkers, New York. His father was Harry Davidson, and his mother was Lillian, née Adler. He was educated in the local public schools, and briefly studied anthropology at New York University before joining the U.S. Navy in 1942. He served as a hospital corpsman, first with the Naval Air Corps, and then with the Fifth Mari