The Avram Davidson Treasury
may be the most satisfying short-story collection of the decade. Davidson (1923-1993), one of science fiction and fantasy's greatest writers, was "a master shaper of small stories," writes Alan Dean Foster in his introduction to "Or the Grasses Grow." Foster is joined in introducing the stories by dozens of extraordinary authors, including Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, William Gibson, Poul Anderson, and many others. Davidson was clearly adored, and often emulated, despite his reputation for being somewhat curmudgeonly. His mastery of language was exquisite, and his stories glittered like diamonds. Each of the 38 tales in this collection spanning five decades is a self-contained wonderland. One of the most famous (and most often plagiarized) short stories in science fiction appears here: "Or All the Seas with Oysters," tells of slightly sinister safety pin pupae, coat hanger larvae, and bicycle adults in a world where machines are more than they seem.
Of "Dagon," John Clute writes, "It is as vicious as the world of a fish, and wise. It is masterly.... it cannot be read. It can only be re-read." On the surface, this is the story of an American military officer in Peking in 1945, but lurking underneath are ancient gods, Chinese magicians, and the obscene torpor of hell. As Ray Bradbury writes in his afterword, "Many of these stories are complete mysteries, puzzles. Avram Davidson starts us in a fog and lets us orient ourselves slowly.... His knack for a proper pace is that of a true teller of tales." But all of Davidson's stories aren't dark--far from it. He was a satirical genius, able to poke fun at sacred cows and turn a comic phrase with the best of them. Some of these stories will make you laugh out loud.
To the fan of great literary short fiction: Don't skip over this deeply fulfilling treasury because Avram Davidson was "only" a science fiction author. He's been compared to Rudyard Kipling, Saki, John Collier, and G.K. Chesterton, if you need a literary excuse.
And to the science fiction or fantasy fan: This amazing and creative Hugo, Edgar, and World Fantasy Award winner, nominated for seven Nebula Awards by his fellow writers, will astound and amaze you. --Therese Littleton
Containing 38 of Davidson's best pieces of short fiction and story-introductory tributes to him by nearly that many of his colleagues, this is necessarily a stout volume. Since Davidson possessed a willingness to listen only to his muse and an almost stereotypical lack of business sense, much of his work was out of print before his death in 1993. For readers who may not have heard of any of the stories herein except "Or All the Seas with Oysters" and "Manatee Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight?" this book contains revelations. It is a safe bet that it will be a pleasure to almost all readers, even if no two of them end up with the same listing of favorite stories. Davidson had one of the most original imaginations in the history of American sf and fantasy--genres he did not worry much about distinguishing from each other--and deserves to be enjoyed by generations of ordinary readers rather than left to the dubious mercy of sf academics. Roland Green