So, when we publish a ‘new’ SF or Fantasy Masterwork, the general procedure is to identify the definitive version of the text, have it scanned and typeset and then sent to a proofreader. That way we can eliminate any OCR errors that might have crept in to the text and also correct any typos that have been made in the source material.
Usually, the procedure is smooth and what we end up with is a clean, improved text and everyone is happy. Occasionally, though, the proofreader will get back to us with queries like ‘WTF?!’, ‘What does this even mean?’ or ‘This word is spelled three different ways throughout the book – which one is correct?’. Sometimes, someone here will know the answers, sometimes it’s a matter of making a judgement call for consistency’s sake, and sometimes . . . well, sometimes we just plain need some expert help.
When the proofreader for Avram Davidson‘s The Phoenix and the Mirror (Fantasy Masterwork paperback | SF Gateway eBook) sent us queries not entirely dissimilar to the examples above, we were – to be frank – stumped.
Luckily for us, we encountered the cavalry in the form of critic and reviewer extraordinaire, Graham Sleight, managing editor for the indispensable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and serial provider of excellent and insightful introductions to both the SF and Fantasy Masterworks. Graham pointed us in the direction of one Henry Wessells, whom he described as ‘the world’s foremost expert on Avram Davidson’, and Henry was able to answer all of our questions as well as providing Avram Davidson’s corrections to the 1969 text. It is fair to say that the Fantasy Masterworks edition of The Phoenix and the Mirror would not be anything near the book it is without his generous help.
So: happy birthday, Henry Wessells! And from all at Gollancz and from fans of Avram Davidson everywhere: thank you so much for your considerable part in making our edition of The Phoenix and the Mirror the most definitive text available.