"The Golem" by Avram Davidson: An Appreciation by E.C. Myers
"The Golem" was the classic reprint of that week. The title caught my eye because of my growing interest in Jewish literature (via my then-girlfriend, who was a graduate student studying Yiddish), and the opening line promptly drew me in:
"The grey-faced person came along the street where old Mr. and Mrs. Gumbeiner lived."
I flew through the rest of the story. When I reached "The End," all too soon, I was actually shocked at how deeply it had engaged me in so few pages. I immediately read it again.
As a beginning writer, I was in awe of Davidson's brevity, his vivid descriptions, and his skillful use of language. I also was charmed by the simple but clever plot, and envious of the witty dialogue and characterization. In his introduction to "The Golem" in The Avram Davidson Treasury, Damon Knight calls it "a perfect story"; I'm inclined to agree.
To me "The Golem" is a model for everything that can go right in fiction; it demonstrates the power of the short story to provide a full emotional and literary experience despite a limited word count. By extension, this is the function that SCI FICTION fulfilled for many of us. It offered the very best of short fiction every week, stories that succeed or surpass the early success of "The Golem"--stories that regularly challenged us as readers and writers. Through the classics and originals Ellen shared with us, she gave new readers like myself a valuable glimpse of the origins of sf and fantasy, while also driving the future of our genre.
When I read Avram Davidson's biographical notes on SCI FICTION, it seemed impossible that I hadn't heard of him before, given how prolific and influential he was in his career as a writer and later as an editor at F&SF. (I was surprised and pleased to discover that Davidson grew up in my hometown; as silly as it may sound, that connection encouraged me in my own writing.) This is something else SCI FICTION accomplished: it provided an entry point into the work of authors we likely would not have encountered otherwise. It allowed us to expand our interests and sample a variety of new voices in a truly diverse field.
I'll always be grateful to SCI FICTION for introducing me to the work of Avram Davidson, along with the countless other authors I have discovered since, but I owe "The Golem" for introducing me to SCI FICTION, because that was the story that kept me coming back week after week for more.
Link to story.