the Avram Davidson electronic newsletter

Vol. II No. 3
30 September 1997
ISSN 1089-764X

Henry Wessells, Editor.
Cooper Wessells, Honorary Secretary.

Published bimonthly.
Contents copyright 1997 The Nutmeg Point District Mail and assigned to individual contributors. All rights reserved.

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Upper Montclair, NJ 07043-0072


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The New York Review of Science Fiction for August 1997 (single issue $3.50 from Dragon Press, Box 78, Pleasantville, New York 10570) includes a selection of the correspondence between Avram Davidson and Philip K. Dick, with a short introduction by Grania Davis, entitled "Avram and Phil: Memoir of a Literary Friendship." In letters dating from late 1980, Avram and Phil question each other's reality, and pose questions to aid in determining who is real and who a simulacrum or imposter. The five letters include three addressed to Professor Pickle or Doctor Duckweed, and retain eccentric spellings). In one notable passage, Dick writes, "a test by which I can absolutely determine if you are indeed my friend Avram Davidson or merely someone pretending to be (that is, seeming to be; what the Greek philosophers called dokos)." This letter raises a question of cause and effect regarding the composition of the next item.

The issue of Asimov's Science Fiction for September 1997 includes "Vergil and the Dukos," an excellent and unsettling Vergil Magus tale of doublings and doubted identities, painted doors, and Vergil's memories of an old friend. The "Dukos" of Avram's story refers to "living" simulacra created by magicians who have since been executed for bringing to life (life?) such images of themselves. This "dukos" and the "dokos" in the Philip K. Dick letter are interchangeable; which came first? Compare also Robert Sheckley's "The Robot Who Looked Like Me" (needless to say, Sheckley's narrator shrugs off rather lightly any possible doubts as to who is real and who the robot).

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Among the holdings of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University are the archives of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and the papers of Frederick Dannay (1905-1982). There are three folders of letters from Avram Davidson, as well as manuscripts for the numerous stories he published in the magazine. These shed considerable light on when certain stories were actually written. "The Third Sacred Well of the Temple," initially titled "The Feet of the Messenger" for example, was one of the first stories Avram wrote during his residence in Amecameca, Mexico. Apparently written in September 1963, it was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in December 1964. It is also apparent that many stories "languished" for years before seeing publication: "Amphora" was written in 1963, and only published in 1973; "The Man Who Was Made Out of Money" was written in 1971, when Avram was