Avram Davidson (April 23, 1923 May 8, 1993) was an American writer of SF and crime fiction, prolific and award-winning in both fields.
Probably his best-known story is the Hugo Award-winning "Or All the Seas With Oysters", which posits a creative unified theory to explain a set of everyday questions beginning with 'Why is there never a paperclip to be found when I need one?'.
Several of his notable SF works feature history that never quite was, such as in his stories featuring Dr Eszterhazy, a respected scientist in the 19th-century Ruritanian empire of Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, or the Vergil Magus series, beginning with The Phoenix and the Mirror, which is set in the Roman empire not as it was but as people of the Middle Ages imagined it to be.
Two of his crime fiction stories, "The Ikon of Elijah" (in which an antique dealer goes to extreme lengths to obtain a valuable antique) and "Thou Still Unravished Bride" (in which a woman goes missing on her wedding day) were adapted for episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Avram Davidson's works provide examples of:
- The Butler Did It: "Author, Author" features the writer who invented the trope, and a large number of disgruntled butlers.
- Chinese Launderer: The title character of "The Deed of the Deft-Footed Dragon" is a Chinese man who has migrated to the US and is now employed in a laundry.
- Constructive Body Disposal: In "The Cobblestones of Saratoga Street", two elderly women campaign against a move to have a cobblestone street in their neighborhood resurfaced with modern materials. It turns out that the real reason they want the street left alone is that when they were much younger and the cobblestones were first being laid they used the construction to hide the body of a man who'd seduced them both.
- For Want of a Nail:
- In "O Brave Old World!", a small change results in the American Revolution being the occasion on which England revolted against the rule of America.
- In "Pebble in Time", a time traveller dislodges a single pebble and causes a massive change to the history of the western United States.
- Going to See the Elephant: "The Man Who Saw the Elephant"
- He Also Did: The foreword to one collection of Davidson's stories notes that people who are mostly familiar with his crime fiction often have this reaction to the discovery that he wrote SF, and vice versa. Among other things he ghost-wrote a few of the later Ellery Queen books, when Dannay & Lee had reduced their input to plotting.
- Historical Domain Character: In several of his historical-set stories.
- Literary Allusion Title:
- Mock Millionaire: The title character of "Captain Pasharooney" turns out to be one of these, though with an unselfish motivation.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr Esterhazy — sometimes addressed as Drs Esterhazy, on account of possessing doctorates in more than one field.
- Posthumous Collaboration: The Boss in the Wall, completed by his wife, Grania Davis
- Pride: The aliens lure Doctor Morris Goldpepper into slavery by playing to his vanity and pretending to offer him the chance to be a groundbreaker on their world too.
- Public Domain Character: The English doctor and his disconcertingly-observant friend, both unnamed, in "The Singular Incident of the Dog on the Beach"
- Ruritania: Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania
- Sibling Triangle: In "The Cobblestones of Saratoga Street", two sisters discover that they've fallen in love with the same man, who has been seeing each behind the other's back.
- Time Travel: In "Pebble in Time", a man invents a time machine and uses it to go and watch his favourite historical moment. Despite taking great care to keep out of the way, he inevitably (since there'd be no story otherwise) manages to make a mess of it.