DAVIDSON, Avram (James)


DAVIDSON, Avram (James)
(1923-1993)
   US writer and editor, born in Yonkers, New York; he served in the US Navy 1941-5 and with the Israeli forces in the 1948-9 Arab-Israeli War. An orthodox Jew, though his faith found direct expression very rarely in his stories, he began publishing sf with "My Boy Friend's Name is Jello" (1954) in FSF, and early established a reputation for a sometimes obtrusive literacy and considerable wit. "Or All the Seas with Oysters" (1958) won a HUGO. Much of his early fiction appeared in FSF, which he edited 1962-4 - it won a Hugo in 1963 - and producing as part of his job The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 12th Series (anth 1963), 13th Series (anth 1964) and 14th Series (anth 1965). His first novel was Joyleg (1962) with Ward MOORE (whom see for details).AD's first solo novel, Mutiny in Space (1964), immediately established his credentials as a writer of superior SPACE OPERA rather in contrast to the manner and style of his short works. Other novels with a similarly straightforward effect include Rork! (1965), The Enemy of My Enemy (1966) and, most notably, Masters of the Maze (1965), an intricate PARALLEL-WORLDS adventure with sharply characterized humans involved in barring interdimensional transit to a remarkably vivid ALIEN race. The Kar-Chee Reign (1966 dos) and Rogue Dragon (1965) share a relaxedly pan-Galactic FAR-FUTURE perspective on their Earthly venue; Clash of Star-Kings (1966 dos), which along with Rogue Dragon was nominated for a NEBULA, is set in a richly realized Mexico which becomes a venue for a game of war amongst returning alien "gods". But even these relatively active tales tend to subordinate plot to the play of language and a visible affection for the phenomenal world, characteristics increasingly found in his later fiction, where an air of combined flamboyance and meditative calm enriches - but does not always manage to enliven - ornate fantasies like The Phoenix and the Mirror, or The Enigmatic Speculum (1966 AMZ; 1969), which opens the Vergil Magus sequence in a medieval ALTERNATE WORLD whose universal scholastic worldview, encompassing everything from geography to alchemy, turns out to be literally accurate (AD has always been fascinated by PSEUDO-SCIENCE). Vergil goes through a number of adventures in this ornately humanized environment in search of a "virgin mirror" to trade for his stolen virility, but the novel closes without coming to a satisfactory climax, nor does Vergil in Averno (1987), published as a sequel but in fact set prior to the earlier novel, bring things to a close. This tale, set in a factory town inside a volcano, is a rich and wry parable of the birth of the Renaissance mentality (with the magus himself rather jumping the gun). The Peregrine series - Peregrine: Primus (1971) and Peregrine: Secundus (1981) - even more relaxedly conveys its protagonist through a wide and intriguing world reminiscent of Classical Rome. The Island Under the Earth (1969) began a series not yet continued.AD's notable short fiction has been assembled in several volumes: Or All the Seas with Oysters (coll 1962), What Strange Stars and Skies (coll 1965), Strange Seas and Shores (coll 1971), The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy (coll of linked stories 1975; exp vt The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy 1990), set in an ALTERNATE-WORLD, RURITANIAN version of late-19th-century Europe, and The Redward Edward Papers (coll 1978), re-sorted in THE BEST OF AVRAM DAVIDSON (coll 1979) ed Michael KURLAND, and Avram Davidson: Collected Fantasies (coll 1982) ed John SILBERSACK. AD's wit and bookish allusiveness - he is perhaps sf's most explicitly literary author - shine most persuasively in his shorter works, where constraints in length seem to keep him from floundering or self-indulgence and the narrative thread stays in view; the focus supplied by length constraints also has a concentrating effect on the disquisitory 1980s essays, published in IASFM and elsewhere, and assembled as Adventures in Unhistory: Conjectures on the Factual Foundations of Several Ancient Legends (coll 1993). Working in short compass seems, too, to excite his extraordinary sense of humour. It is hard to imagine the genre that could encompass him; it is even more difficult to imagine fantasy or sf without him.
   JC
   Other works: And on the Eighth Day (1964) and The Fourth Side of the Triangle (1965), both as by Ellery Queen, both detections; Ursus of Ultima Thule (fixup 1973); Polly Charms the Sleeping Woman (1975 FSF; 1977 chap), an Eszterhazy tale; Magic for Sale (anth 1983); And Don't Forget the One Red Rose (1975 Playboy; 1986 chap); Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty (1988) with Grania (Eve) Davis (1943-).
   See also: ATLANTIS; COLONIZATION OF OTHER WORLDS; FANTASY; GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION; The MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION ; PASTORAL.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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