I continue to look at French romans scientifiques featuring apocalypses and disasters.
It’s a big anthology, but it’s a low-res scan because I’ve already reviewed J.-H. Rosny Aîné’s “The Cataclysm” (aka “Tornadres”) before, and three works – Raoul Bigot’s “The Iron That Died”, René Pugol’s “The Black Sun”, and Colonel Royet’s On the Brink of the World’s End – will be getting separate posts in my World War One in Fantastic Fiction series.
Low Res Scan: French Tales of Cataclysms, ed. Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier, trans. Brian Stableford, 2022.
The Lofficiers’ “Introduction” recaps the history of French apocalyptic and cataclysmic stories through the end of World War Two. This anthology has ten stories and two novels “published between 1802 and 1928”. This is another example of Black Coat Press’s less than stellar copyediting since the earliest story is actually from 1858. All the stories here are translated and introduced by Brian Stableford with the exception of The Tremendous Event.
Pierre Véron’s “The Paris Deluge” (“Le Déluge en Paris’) was probably written in 1859 and not published until 1862 since there was a tradition of setting these kind of stories a multiple of thousands of years in the future. And what kind of tale is it? The ever popular ruined Paris of the future and archaeologists reaching bogus conclusions about contemporary life from the artifacts they find. Those stories became popular with the demolition and reconstruction of large parts of Paris under Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann.
Here the year is 4859. The story starts with the last ten years of the city. It’s submergence under the advancing sea is ainticipated. For the last ten years, the submergence of Paris has been seen as imminent, and now it’s only six days away. Wealthy people seek out agents to give their fortune to the poor. Critics attack their own works, and novelists are offering refunds to readers. A vast number of balloons are being built to escape the city, the proceeds to be given to the Association of Ruined Stockbrokers. Then Véron has a silly interlude with various forms of marine life contemplating Parisian life as the ocean innudates the city.
The story then shifts three thousand years into the future with a discussion between geologists and archaeologists. We then get a rather crytpic description of four items which, in keeping with this sub-genre, are ridiculously interpreted. In a rare end note from Stableford, he tells us that, usually in such stories, indirect clues are provided by authors to let us figure out what those objects really are. Here, Véron ran out of space and offered the explanation in four footnotes.
Eugène Mouton’s “The End of the World” (“La Fin du Monde”, 1872) illustrates a problem all writers of science fiction faced in the early days of the genre: coming up with an appropriate narrative form for their tales. Mouton’s solution was to adapt an absurdist tone for this story which has no characters.Continue reading