Avram Davidson was one of the great original American writers of this century. He was erudite, cranky, Jewish, wildly creative, and sold most of his wonderful stories to pulp magazines. They are wonderful.
Now his estate and his friends have brought together a definitive collection of his finest work, each story introduced by an SF luminary: writers like Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, Poul Anderson, Gene Wolfe, Guy Davenport, Peter S. Beagle, Gregory Benford, Thomas M. Disch, and dozens of others. This is a volume every lover of fantasy will need to own.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
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About the Author
Avram Davidson was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1923. After spending some time at New York University, he served in the Marines from 1942 till 1946--and again saw action during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. For two years in the early 1960s, Davidson edited Fantasy&Science Fiction magazine. He earned awards and accolades throughout his life for his SF writing, including the Hugo Award, the Edgar Award, the Ellery Queen Award, and three World Fantasy Awards. Davidson died in 1993.
Harlan Ellison has written or edited 75 books and more than 1700 stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns as well as two dozen teleplays and a dozen motion pictures. He won the Hugo award nine times, the Nebula award three times, the Bram Stoker award six times (including The Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996), the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America twice, the Georges Méliès fantasy film award twice, and was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by PEN, the international writer's union. Harlan has garnered two Audie Awards for the best in audio recordings. Along with Stefan Rudnicki and other narrators, Harlan read the 20th anniversary edition of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, published by Macmillan Audio.
Robert Silverberg has written more than 160 science fiction novels and nonfiction books. In his spare time he has edited over 60 anthologies. He began submitting stories to science fiction magazines when he was just 13. His first published story, entitled "Gorgon Planet," appeared in 1954 when he was a sophomore at Columbia University. In 1956 he won his first Hugo Award, for Most Promising New Author, and he hasn't stopped writing since. Among his standouts: the bestselling Lord Valentine trilogy, set on the planet of Majipoor, and the timeless classics Dying Inside and A Time of Changes. Silverberg has won the prestigious Nebula Award an astonishing five times, and Hugo Awards on four separate occasions; he has been nominated for both awards more times that any other writer. In 2004, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America gave him their Grand Master award for career achievement, making him the only SF writer to win a major award in each of six consecutive decades.
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was one of science fiction's greatest luminaries. The author of such classic, important works as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, Bradbury was honored in 2007 with a Pulitzer citation "for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy." Other distinctions include a 1954 honor from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation in 2000, and the National Medal of Arts, awarded by President George W. Bush and Laura Bush in 2004. He was also an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter. Born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920, Bradbury spent most of his life in Los Angeles, where he passed away in 2012.
Harlan Ellison has written or edited 75 books and more than 1700 stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns as well as two dozen teleplays and a dozen motion pictures. He won the Hugo award nine times, the Nebula award three times, the Bram Stoker award six times (including The Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996), the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America twice, the Georges Méliès fantasy film award twice, and was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by PEN., the international writer’s union. In addition to his writing accolades, Harlan has garnered two Audie Awards for the best in audio recordings. Along with Stefan Rudnicki and other narrators, Harlan read the 20th anniversary edition of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, published by Macmillan Audio.
Read an Excerpt
My Boy Friend's Name Is Jello
INTRODUCTION BY ROBERT SILVERBERG
This little story was the science-fiction world's introduction to the art of Avram Davidson. It occupied just four pages of the July, 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which then was an elegant and fastidious publication edited by the elegant and fastidious Anthony Boucher, a connoisseur of fine wines and opera and mystery stories and fantasy, and his colleague J. Francis McComas. Boucher's brief introduction to the story went like this:
Avram Davidson, scholar and critic, has the most beautiful beard that has ever visited our office, and one of the most attractively wide-ranging minds, full of fascinating lore on arcane and unlikely subjects. For his first fiction outside of specialized Jewish publications, he takes his theme from an offtrail branch of folklore, the baffling rime-games sung by little girls, with distinctive and delightful results.
Thus the new author was placed perfectly for us as he actually was: the bearded scholar with the wide-ranging offbeat mind. And Avram did the rest, with the dazzling opening paragraph that (while seeming to be bewilderingly diffuse) actually communicates a dozen different significant things about the narrator and his predicament, and then, deftly leading us onward through one circumlocution after another, depositing us less than two thousand words later at the sharply ironic final moment.
It was all there, right at the outset: the cunning narrative strategy, the mannered prose, the flourish of esoteric erudition, the sly wit, all done up in a four-page marvel of a story. Surely we all saw, right away, that a stream of further masterpieces would follow this introductory tidbit. Surely we did: surely. Oh, Avram, Avram, what a wonder you were!
MY BOY FRIEND'S NAME IS JELLO
FASHION, NOTHING BUT FASHION. Virus X having in the medical zodiac its course half i-run, the physician (I refuse to say "doctor" and, indeed, am tempted to use the more correct "apothecary") — the physician, I say, tells me I have Virus Y. No doubt in the Navy it would still be called Catarrhal Fever. They say that hardly anyone had appendicitis until Edward VII came down with it a few weeks before his coronation, and thus made it fashionable. He (the medical man) is dosing me with injections of some stuff that comes in vials. A few centuries ago he would have used herbal clysters. ... Where did I read that old remedy for the quinsy ("putrescent sore throat," says my dictionary)? Take seven weeds from seven meads and seven nails from seven steeds. Oh dear, how my mind runs on. I must be feverish. An ague, no doubt.
Well, rather an ague than a pox. A pox is something one wishes on editors ... strange breed, editors. The females all have names like Lulu Ammabelle Smith or Minnie Lundquist Bloom, and the males have little horns growing out of their brows. They must all be Quakers, I suppose, for their letters invariably begin, "Dear Richard Roe" or "Dear John Doe," as if the word mister were a Vanity ... when they write at all, that is; and meanwhile Goodwife Moos calls weekly for the rent. If I ever have a son (than which nothing is more unlikely) who shows the slightest inclination of becoming a writer, I shall instantly prentice him to a fishmonger or a Master Chimney Sweep. Don't write about Sex, the editors say, and don't write about Religion, or about History. If, however, you do write about History, be sure to add Religion and Sex. If one sends in a story about a celibate atheist, however, do you think they'll buy it?
In front of the house two little girls are playing one of those clap-handie games. Right hand, left hand, cross hands on bosom, left hand, right hand ... it makes one dizzy to watch. And singing the while:
My boy friend's name is Jello,
There is a pleasing surrealist quality to this which intrigues me. In general I find little girls enchanting. What a shame they grow up to be big girls and make our lives as miserable as we allow them, and oft-times more. Silly, nasty-minded critics, trying to make poor Dodgson a monster of abnormality, simply because he loved Alice and was capable of following her into Wonderland. I suppose they would have preferred him to have taken a country curacy and become another Pastor Quiverful. A perfectly normal and perfectly horrible existence, and one which would have left us all still on this side of the looking glass.
Whatever was in those vials doesn't seem to be helping me. I suppose old Dover's famous Powders hadn't the slightest fatal effect on the germs, bacteria, or virus (viri?), but at least they gave one a good old sweat (ipecac) and a mild, non-habit-forming jag (opium). But they're old-fashioned now, and so there we go again, round and round, one's train of thought like a Japanese waltzing mouse. I used to know a Japanese who — now, stop that. Distract yourself. Talk to the little girls ...
Well, that was a pleasant interlude. We discussed (quite gravely, for I never condescend to children) the inconveniences of being sick, the unpleasantness of the heat; we agreed that a good rain would cool things off. Then their attention began to falter, and I lay back again. Miss Thurl may be in soon. Mrs. Moos (perfect name, she lacks only the antlers) said, whilst bringing in the bowl of slops which the medicine man allows me for victuals, said, My Sister Is Coming Along Later And She's Going To Fix You Up Some Nice Flowers. Miss Thurl, I do believe, spends most of her time fixing flowers. Weekends she joins a confraternity of over-grown campfire girls and boys who go on hiking trips, comes back sunburned and sweating and carrying specimen samples of plant and lesser animal life. However, I must say for Miss Thurl that she is quiet. Her brother-in-law, the bull-Moos, would be in here all the time if I suffered it. He puts stupid quotations in other people's mouths. He will talk about the weather and I will not utter a word, then he will say, Well, It's Like You Say, It's Not The Heat But The Humidity.
Thinking of which, I notice a drop in the heat, and I see it is raining. That should cool things off. How pleasant. A pity that it is washing away the marks of the little girls' last game. They played this one on the sidewalk, with chalked-out patterns and bits of stone and broken glass. They chanted and hopped back and forth across the chalkmarks and shoved the bits of stone and glass — or were they potshards — "potsie" from potshard, perhaps? I shall write a monograph, should I ever desire a Ph.D. I will compare the chalkmarks with Toltec emblems and masons' marks and the signs which Hindoo holy men smear on themselves with wood ashes and perfumed cow dung. All this passes for erudition.
I feel terrible, despite the cool rain. Perhaps without it, I should feel worse.
Miss Thurl was just here. A huge bowl of blossoms, arranged on the tableacross the room. Intricately arranged, I should say; but she put some extra touches to it, humming to herself. Something ever so faintly reminiscent about that tune, and vaguely disturbing. Then she made one of her rare remarks. She said that I needed a wife to take care of me. My blood ran cold. An icy sweat (to quote Catullus, that wretched Priapist), bedewed my limbs. I moaned. Miss Thurl at once departed, murmuring something about a cup of tea. If I weren't so weak I'd knot my bedsheets together and escape. But I am terribly feeble.
It's unmanly to weep....
Back she came, literally poured the tea down my throat. A curious taste it had. Sassafrass? Bergamot? Mandrake root? It is impossible to say how old Miss Thurl is. She wears her hair parted in the center and looped back. Ageless ... ageless ...
I thank whatever gods may be that Mr. Ahyellow came in just then. The other boarder (upstairs), a greengrocer, decent fellow, a bit short-tempered. He wished me soon well. He complained he had his own troubles, foot troubles ... I scarcely listened, just chattered, hoping the Thurl would get her hence ... . Toes ... something about his toes. Swollen, three of them, quite painful. A bell tinkled in my brain. I asked him how he spelt his name. A-j-e-l-l-o. Curious, I never thought of that. Now, I wonder what he could have done to offend the little girls? Chased them from in front of his store, perhaps. There is a distinct reddish spot on his nose. By tomorrow he will have an American Beauty of a pimple.
Fortunately he and Miss Thurl went out together. I must think this through. I must remain cool. Aroint thee, thou mist of fever. This much is obvious: There are sorcerers about. Sorceresses, I mean. The little ones made rain. And they laid a minor curse on poor Ajello. The elder one has struck me in the very vitals, however. If I had a cow it would doubtless be dry by this time. Should I struggle? Should I submit? Who knows what lies behind those moss-colored eyes, what thoughts inside the skull covered by those heavy tresses? Life with Mr. and Mrs. Moos is — even by itself — too frightful to contemplate. Why doesn't she lay her traps for Ajello? Why should I be selected as the milk-white victim for the Hymeneal sacrifice? Useless to question. Few men have escaped once the female cast the runes upon them. And the allopath has nothing in his little black bag, either, which can cure.
Blessed association of words! Allopath — Homeopath — homoios, the like, the same, pathos, feeling, suffering — similia similibus curantur —
The little girls are playing beneath my window once more, clapping hands and singing. Something about a boy friend named Tony, who eats macaroni, has a great big knife and a pretty little wife, and will always lead a happy life ... that must be the butcher opposite; he's always kind to the children.... Strength, strength! The work of a moment to get two coins from my wallet and throw them down. What little girl could resist picking up a dime which fell in front of her? "Cross my palm with silver, pretty gentleman!"— eh? And now to tell them my tale ...
I feel better already. I don't think I'll see Miss Thurl again for a while. She opened the door, the front door, and when the children had sung the new verse she slammed the door shut quite viciously.
It's too bad about Ajello, but every man for himself.
Listen to them singing away, bless their little hearts! I love little girls. Such sweet, innocent voices.
My boy friend will soon be healthy.
It will be pleasant to be wealthy, I hope. I must ask Ajello where Cincinello is.
INTRODUCTION BY DAMON KNIGHT
"The Golem" was the second Avram Davidson story that sf readers ever saw. The first was "My Boy Friend's Name Is Jello," which appeared a few months before it in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The title of "My Boy Friend's Name Is Jello" is memorable, but although I have read the story many times, I never remember anything else about it.
One of my many theories about short stories is that their titles and first lines ought to be memorable, because if not memorable they will not be remembered, and if not remembered the stories will not be reprinted (because no one can find them). Well, according to this theory it's no wonder that "The Golem" is Davidson's most-reprinted story. It is full of memorable lines; if they were any more memorable than they are, the story would be just a bunch of quotations strung together, as someone said of ... Hamlet
But really "The Golem" is memorable for a different reason: because it is a perfect story. I know this seems like gross hyperbole, but the statement has a literal meaning and is true. There isn't a word in "The Golem" that a sympathetic reader would want to change; one word more would be too many, one less would be too few. There is nothing labored about "The Golem," it does not falter or wamble; it flows like clear syrup down a tablecloth, and by the way it is very funny. One imagines that the author stared at it in a wild surprise.
He (the author) was twenty-nine or thirty years old, and he had almost forty years of creative triumphs ahead of him. He was then, I take it, living in San Francisco; Anthony Boucher, the editor of F&SF, said he had "the most beautiful beard that has ever visited this office." Later he moved to New York, where I once visited him in a ground-floor apartment with a china cabinet in which there was a half-eaten sandwich. Before that he had been a yeshiva student, a Navy corpsman, and a pioneer in Israel, where he tried to teach the herdsmen to milk their goats from the side, in order to keep the goat-shit out of the milk. (This is the way I remember it, but it may have been sheep.)
THE GRAY-FACED PERSON came along the street where old Mr. and Mrs. Gumbeiner lived. It was afternoon, it was autumn, the sun was warm and soothing to their ancient bones. Anyone who attended the movies in the twenties or the early thirties has seen that street a thousand times. Past these bungalows with their half-double roofs Edmund Lowe walked arm-in-arm with Leatrice Joy and Harold Lloyd was chased by Chinamen waving hatchets. Under these squamous palm trees Laurel kicked Hardy and Woolsey beat Wheeler upon the head with codfish. Across these pocket-handkerchief-sized lawns the juveniles of the Our Gang Comedies pursued one another and were pursued by angry fat men in golf knickers. On this same street — or perhaps on some other one of five hundred streets exactly like it.
Mrs. Gumbeiner indicated the gray-faced person to her husband.
"You think maybe he's got something the matter?" she asked. "He walks kind of funny, to me."
"Walks like a golem," Mr. Gumbeiner said indifferently.
The old woman was nettled.
"Oh, I don't know," she said. "I think he walks like your cousin Mendel."
The old man pursed his mouth angrily and chewed on his pipestem. The gray-faced person turned up the concrete path, walked up the steps to the porch, sat down in a chair. Old Mr. Gumbeiner ignored him. His wife stared at the stranger.
"Man comes in without a hello, goodbye, or howareyou, sits himself down and right away he's at home ... . The chair is comfortable?" she asked. "Would you like maybe a glass tea?" She turned to her husband.
"Say something, Gumbeiner!" she demanded. "What are you, made of wood?"
The old man smiled a slow, wicked, triumphant smile.
"Why should I say anything?" he asked the air. "Who am I? Nothing, that's who."
The stranger spoke. His voice was harsh and monotonous.
"When you learn who — or, rather, what — I am, the flesh will melt from your bones in terror." He bared porcelain teeth.
"Never mind about my bones!" the old woman cried.
"You've got a lot of nerve talking about my bones!"
"You will quake with fear," said the stranger. Old Mrs. Gumbeiner said that she hoped he would live so long. She turned to her husband once again.
"Gumbeiner, when are you going to mow the lawn?"
"All mankind —" the stranger began.
"Shah! I'm talking to my husband. ... He talks eppis kind of funny, Gumbeiner, no?"
"Probably a foreigner," Mr. Gumbeiner said, complacently.
"You think so?" Mrs. Gumbeiner glanced fleetingly at the stranger. "He's got a very bad color in his face, nebbich. I suppose he came to California for his health."
"Disease, pain, sorrow, love, grief — all are naught to —"
Mr. Gumbeiner cut in on the stranger's statement.
"Gall bladder," the old man said. "Guinzburg down at the shule looked exactly the same before his operation. Two professors they had in for him, and a private nurse day and night."
"I am not a human being!" the stranger said loudly.
"Three thousand seven hundred fifty dollars it cost his son, Guinzburg told me. 'For you, Poppa, nothing is too expensive — only get well,' the son told him."
"I am not a human being!"
"Ai, is that a son for you!" the old woman said, rocking her head. "A heart of gold, pure gold." She looked at the stranger. "All right, all right. I heard you the first time. Gumbeiner! I asked you a question. When are you going to cut the lawn?"
"On Wednesday, odder maybe Thursday, comes the Japaneser to the neighborhood. To cut lawns is his profession. My profession is to be a glazier — retired."
"Between me and all mankind is an inevitable hatred," the stranger said. "When I tell you what I am, the flesh will melt —"
"You said, you said already," Mr. Gumbeiner interrupted.
Excerpted from "The Avram Davidson Treasury"
Copyright © 1998 Grania Davis.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Robert Silverman
Foreword by Grania Davis
My Boy Friend's Name Is Jello
The Necessity of His Condition
Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper
Now Let Us Sleep
Or the Grasses Grow
Or All the Seas with Oysters
Take Wooden Indians
Ogre in the Vly
The Woman Who Thought She Could Read
Where Do You Live, Queen Esther?
The Sources of the Nile
The Affair at Lahore Cantonment
The Tail-Tied Kings
The Price of a Charm; or, the Lineaments of Gratified Desire
The House the Blakeneys Built
The Power of Every Root
Polly Charms, the Sleeping Woman
And Don't Forget the One Red Rose
Crazy Old Lady
"Hark! Was That the Squeal of an Angry Thoat?"
Manatee Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight
The Eighties and Nineties
Full Chicken Richness
The Hills Behind Hollywood High
The Slovo Stove
Revenge of the Cat-Lady and The Last Wizard
While You're Up
The Spook-Box of Theobald Delafont De Brooks
Yellow Rome; or, Vergil and the Vestal Virgin
Afterword by Ray Bradbury
Afterword by Harlan Ellison