French science fiction  

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Loisirs Littéraires au XXe siècle (English: "Literary leasures in the 20th century") from the story "The End of Books" by French writer Octave Uzanne and illustrated Albert Robida. The illustration depicts a female reader of the 20th century, imagined by Robida, who is listening to  "12 poètes assortis" (twelve assorted poets) on a balcony overlooking a future city.
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Loisirs Littéraires au XXe siècle (English: "Literary leasures in the 20th century") from the story "The End of Books" by French writer Octave Uzanne and illustrated Albert Robida. The illustration depicts a female reader of the 20th century, imagined by Robida, who is listening to "12 poètes assortis" (twelve assorted poets) on a balcony overlooking a future city.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

French science fiction is a substantial genre within French literature. Arguably dating back further than English science fiction, it remains an active and productive genre which has evolved in conjunction with anglophone science fiction and other French and international literature.

Contents

History

Proto science fiction before Jules Verne

As far back as the 17th century, space exploration and aliens can be found in Cyrano de Bergerac's Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon (1657) and Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle's Entretien sur la Pluralité des Mondes (1686). Voltaire's 1752 short stories Micromégas and Plato's Dream are particularly prophetic of the future directions science fiction would take.

Also worthy of note are Simon Tyssot de Patot's Voyages et Aventures de Jacques Massé (1710), which features a Lost World, La Vie, Les Aventures et Le Voyage de Groenland du Révérend Père Cordelier Pierre de Mésange (1720), which features a Hollow Earth, Louis-Sébastien Mercier's L'An 2440 (1771), which depicts a future France, and Nicolas-Edmé Restif de la Bretonne's La Découverte Australe par un Homme Volant (1781) notorious for his prophetic inventions.

Other notable proto-science fiction authors and works of the 18th and 19th century include:

However, modern French science fiction, and arguably science fiction as a whole, begins with Jules Verne, the author of many of the seminal classics of science fiction.

After Jules Verne

The first few decades of French science fiction produced a stable of renowned names in literature. Not only Jules Verne, but also figures like:

World War I brought an end to this early period. Where the explosion of science and technology of the late 19th century motivated the optimistic works of these early science fiction authors, the horrors of industrialised warfare and specifically the application of advanced technologies in such a destructive manner soured the French literary community on the potential of technological development.

Between the two wars, Rosny aîné published his masterpiece Les Navigateurs de l'Infini (1924), in which he coined the word "astronautique". There were few notable new authors during the period:

After World War II

Until the late 1950s, relatively little French science fiction was published, and what was published was often very pessimistic about the future of humanity, and frequently was not labelled "science fiction" at all. René Barjavel's Ravage (1943) and Pierre Boulle's Planet of the Apes (1963) are widely known examples.

This period of decline in French science fiction (abbreviated SF) was the golden age of English-language and particularly American science fiction. When French science fiction began reappearing after World War II, it was the themes and styles of Anglophone science fiction which served as an inspiration for new works. The first genre magazine, Fiction, at first a translation of F&SF, was launched in 1953.

The major genre imprint of the 1950s and 1960s publishing translations of American novels was Le Rayon Fantastique published by Hachette and Gallimard, and edited by George Gallet and Stephen Spriel. Nevertheless, Le Rayon Fantastique helped launch the careers of a number of native authors:

In 1951, publisher Fleuve Noir launched Anticipation, a paperback imprint devoted mostly to French authors which released as steady stream of pulp-like novels. Among its authors were:

Later, many major names in French science fiction first saw print under that imprint.

Another imprint, Présence du Futur, was launched in 1954 by publisher Denoël. Among its authors were:

Throughout this era, there was very little mainstream critical interest in French SF. French cinema, however, proved a bit more fertile a ground for science fiction. Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 film Alphaville—a thriller and satire on French politics—was the flagship example of French New Wave science fiction.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, French SF regained some of its lost momentum. Unlike American science fiction, space travel was not the major theme for these post-1968 French authors. A new generation of French writers, who had few memories of the horrors of the past two generations, were inspired by the transformation in France in the post-war era. Especially after May 1968, French SF authors took on political and social themes in their works. Authors like Michel Jeury, Jean-Pierre Andrevon and Philippe Curval began to attract acclaim for their reinvention of a genre which, at the time, was still primarily considered a juvenile entertainment.

In the 1970s, comics began to play an important role in French SF. Métal Hurlant—the French magazine that spun off Heavy Metal—began pursuing the possibilities of science fiction as a source for comics. Graphic novels are now a major—if not the major—outlet for French science fiction production today.

In the 1980s, French authors began to view science fiction as a field for experimental literature. The influence of postmodernism on literature and the arrival of cyberpunk themes catalysed a new body of French SF, near the end of the decade: the Lost Generation (represented by such writers as Claude Ecken, Michel Pagel, Jean-Marc Ligny or Roland C. Wagner)

At present, French SF is particularly well represented in graphic novels, and a number of titles reach print annually. As in most of the developed world, magazine culture has declined dramatically, but a number of French SF magazines remain in print, including Bifrost, Galaxies and Solaris. Despite the space opera revival of the beginning of the 1990s (Ayerdhal, Serge Lehman, Pierre Bordage, Laurent Genefort) the influence from English language science fiction and movies has considerably diminished since the Lost Generation, while the influence of animation, video games and other international science fiction traditions (German, Italian) has increased. The role of Japanese manga and anime has also been particularly noticeable in recent years, but not in literature.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "French science fiction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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