Illa’s End

My look at apocalpytic French science fiction works from before World War Two continues.

Normally, this, as with anything labelled as a review, would be cross posted to LibraryThing and Amazon. Well, the latter isn’t going to be happen anymore since my last review was rejected for violating community standards.

That was not the first review rejected by them, but I suspected the earlier case was Amazon cracking down on reviews on items which you did not purchase from there.

The second rejected review was a book I bought on Amazon. Why was it rejected? Sexual content? Race? Violence? Don’t really care enough to analyze it. And I’m not going to go to the effort of writing or editing a separate review for Amazon.

There’s a community of one that determines review standards here.

So, for any writers or publishers wondering why future reviews of their work won’t be reviewed on Amazon, that’s why.

I follow a one-strike rule here.

Review: Illa’s End, José Moselli, trans. Brian Stableford, 2011.

Cover by Jean-Felix Lyon

Don’t ever do that again.

That, speculates Brian Stableford in his “Introduction”, is what Moselli’s usual publisher, Maison Offenstadt, told him after reading this “recklessly ultra-violent” story serialized as  La Fin d’Illa in 1925 in Sciences et Voyages. It may, speculates Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier in The Handbook of French Science Fiction, also be one of the reasons the publisher lost a court case in 1925.

Moselli was a true French pulp writer. Under a variety of names, he wrote a million words a year for adventure stories, police thrillers, technothrillers, and high enough quality science fiction that the Lofficiers regard him as one of the two most important French authors in that genre in the 1920s. And, like many a pulp writer, he would never see any of his work between the covers of a book in his lifetime. That would happen in the Moselli revival starting in the 1970s. Almost all his work was for Maison Offenstadt, and his editor there may not have even read the first installments of the novel when it was published. When he did, an abrupt end might have been ordered hence the novel’s truncated feel.

Nineteen Twenty-Five was a great year for French works of apocalyptic science fiction since it also saw the publishing of Ernest Pérochon’s The Frenetic People and Renee Dunan’s The Ultimate Pleasure. Unlike those stories, though, Moselli’s novel takes place in the distant past in the lost land of Gondawanaland.

The prologue starts in 1875 with the discovery, on a deserted Pacific Island, of a strange manuscript written on metallic sheets and an odd stone ball. The ship’s captain doesn’t end up selling them for the amount he hoped, and they end up being sold for a pittance to an antique dealer. Eventually, they are bought by a medical doctor, Akinson, in San Francisco who, in 1905, mails his translation of that manuscript to a friend in Washington D.C. Shortly afterwards, Akinson’s housemaid throws that stone balls in the fire – and the San Francisco Earthquake of 1905 results.

That manuscript is the account of one Xié, a general of Illa, one of two cities in the distant past on Gondwanaland. It’s the account of a dying, rather psychopathic, boastful man. He’s not much of a sympathetic character, but he’s determined, in the slim hope his writing will be found, that the future know of the ignoble Rair and that he, Xié, was the savior of Illa. Except, almost right from the beginning, we know he was the destroyer of Illa.

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The Ultimate Pleasure and Other Stories

My look at French romans scientifique with an apocalyptical bent continues.

Review: The Ultimate Pleasure and Other Stories, Renée Dunan, ed. and trans. Brian Stableford, 2015.

Cover by Phil Cohen

While Ernest Pérochon’s The Frenetic People was an argument against justice, equality, and the liberty of scientists, Dunan’s The Ultimate Pleasure attacks human character as a whole though having little to say about the danger of scientists pursuing knowledge unsupervised. Published under the title Le Dernière jouissance, it came out in 1925 as did Pérochon’s novel.

Stableford’s “Introduction” gives a brief bio on Dunan. She was a literary critic and wrote in a variety of genres. She was very prolific between 1920 and 1925 in books and various magazines and may have written more than published. While she claimed that all her fiction was based on “the Neo-Platonism of Bergson, the Relativism of Einstein and the Pansexualism of Freud”, Stableford says the only consistent influence was the pansexualism since Dunan was also known as writer of erotica and sometime hack pornography. Dunan’s tales in this book, particularly The Ultimate Pleasure, are action adventure stories with philosophical ponderings. And, yes, there are some semi-erotic scenes in that novel.

Stableford says it

is a very peculiar addition to the tradition of dystopian fiction, not least because of its curious even-handedness, although that might be partly due to a reversal of opinion while the work was in progress. In its depiction of a future absolute tyranny it is remarkably stark. 

This is a post-catastrophe world. Thirty years before the novel’s main story, a massive fault split the earth open from Peru to the “Far North”. Out of the fault, the Bloody Sweats emerges, blood pouring from its victims’ pores. Millions die from it.

A team of scientists discovers the Bloody Sweats is caused by a gas emerging from the fault. Dubbed Necron, the gas isn’t the only danger. The newly exposed surface alters the atmosphere to produce a great deal of “cyanogen, carbon monoxide and free chlorine”. Oxygen in the atmosphere begins to be depleted. 

 The last relics of civilization disappeared. In parallel, the frenzy of pleasure-seeking and the fury of asceticism increased. Their partisans massacred one another. 

Forests, complete with wild beasts, spring up in once inhabited lands. People flee to Siberia.  Germans vanish entirely, and the Baltic nations kill all foreigners. Cannibalism shows up as do roving rural gangs. 

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