May 31, 2008
French Science Fiction
After posting the cover images from the Presence du Futur series, I went on a hunt for actual French science fiction in English translation. I was not surprised to find only a couple collections, though perhaps I didn't search hard enough (ie, I didn't yet buy the 800-page book French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Pulp Fiction from McFarland Press).*** [Before I continue, I should plug University of Nebraska Press's reprints of early SF titles (disclaimer: I do not know enough about science fiction to correctly use the apparently different terms "SF" and "sci-fi"), including their Jules Verne books. Check out their blog. I also stumbled upon (if you can call searching Amazon for "Jordan Stump" stumbling) Jordan Stump's new-ish translation of Verne's The Mysterious Island.]
My most "bizarre, uproarious" discovery was Damon Knight's 1965 anthology 13 French Science-Fiction Stories. Copies can be found in abundance on the internet.
The uncredited cover reminds me of the Saragossa Manuscript paperback cover featured in this post. Let me blow-up the cat woman's face for you:
I'm very fond of the back cover of this book, which answers the question of how you could possibly market French science fiction to America:
Best of all is the text that appears on the first half-title page (ie, the very first page of the book) under the title "Gift-Wrapped Amour":
"Vanas come gift-wrapped in plastic bags. They are perfect semblances of human females and just made for love. You can train them just as easily as you would a dog to obey even your slightest whim. Their skin is glossy like the pelt of an animal, pale saffron in color, with reddish-brown highlights. They have the faint odor of musk. Their breasts are high and firm, their nipples tawny-colored. They have two great eyes of melting turquoise.
"They were the answer to everyman's dream. But, Slovic made the mistake of falling in love with one!"
Let me rewrite that for you: Everyman Slovic falls in love with the tawny-colored nipples of his pale-saffron robot woman.
Here are the Contents:
--"Juliette" by Claude F. Cheinisse
--"Blind Pilot," "Non Humans," and "Moon Fishers" by Charles Henneberg
--"Olivia" and "Notary and the Conspiracy" by Henri Damonti
--"The Vana" by Alain Doremieux
--"The Devil's Goddaughter" by Suzanne Malaval
--"After Three Hundred Years" by Pierre Mille
--"The Monster" by Gerard Klein
--"A Little More Caviar" by Claude Veillot
--"Chain of Love" by Catherine Cliff
AND THE KICKER:
"Dead Fish" by Boris Vian!
Yes, this book actually concludes with a 12-page story by "a Satrap of the College of 'Pataphysics." Knight thanks Queneau-translator Barbara Wright in his short list of acknowledgments, so perhaps that's how Vian wound up here.
Alternate cover (I guess for the 1972 edition), which includes a hilarious subtitle (this is not my scan):
Here's the other volume I found: Travelling towards Epsilon: An Anthology of French Science Fiction, edited by Maxim Jakubowski and published in 1976 by New English Library. There are various editions available, which I'll probably wind up buying sight unseen for the covers (none of the editions available on Amazon include cover images).
The cover art by Christos Kondeatis reminds me of album covers by Italian prog bands!
More on this book later. I'm running out of steam.
***McFarland Press has a bunch of interesting titles, but because they're geared toward the library market, their books are expensive. Still, these look great:
-- Early German and Austrian Detective Fiction (the description mentions Adolph Müllner’s 1828 novella The Caliber -- published 13 years before Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders of the Rue Morgue" -- I'll have to research that).
-- An entire book about my hero Lee Van Cleef.
-- Czech New Wave Filmmakers in Interviews
-- The Mexican Cinema of Darkness
Another side note: I keep winding up at the website for Black Coat Press, mainly because of recent searches for Villiers de l'Isle Adam (subject of future posts on this site). I found myself there again today because the editors of that French Sci-fi encyclopedia, Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier, have done some things for them.