"Delphi Fabrice" (the pseudonym of Gaston-Henri-Adhémar Risselin, 1877-1937), the most adamant of Jean Lorrain's disciples, is credited with authoring over one hundred books. None, however, is more bizarre than The Red Spider, here presented in English for the first time in a virtuoso translation by Brian Stableford. The novel, seeking to out-Decadent the most decadent of its predecessors, features Andhré Mordann, an ether-drinking hero seemingly modelled on Lorrain himself, who, in this "black, black, black tale"-a tale of true horror and madness-traverses the boulevards of decline, hobnobbing with drunken prostitutes and homosexual strong-men, licentious merrymakers and waterfront idlers-and, of course, the dancer gloved in imperial crimson.
Mathilde-Marie-Georgina-Élisabeth de Peyrebrune (1841-1917), who wrote under the pseudonym of "Georges de Peyrebrune," originally published "A Decadent Woman" in 1886, in two parts in the Revue Bleue. The novella, appearing here for the first time in English, in a translation by Brian Stableford, along with three supplementary tales, is one of Peyrebrune's most flamboyant works, presenting a caricature of a high-profile variety of radical feminism, which is demolished by the narrative in such an excessive fashion that it was evidently written tongue-in-cheek, although it is probable that some readers were oblivious to its sarcastic humor.
The three addition tales, "The Fays," a perverse parody of a fairy tale, "The Red Bird," a symbolist account of exotic madness, and "Salome" a spectacular landmark of decadent fantasy, are wonderful examples of Peyrebrune's work when she chose to venture into the avant garde herself.
Georges de Lys's An Idyll in Sodom, originally published in 1889, and here made available in its first English translation, by Brian Stableford, is a significant contribution to a subgenre of French Romantic fiction consisting of lush representations of "moeurs antiques" [ancient mores], a spectacular landmark of which was established with Salammbô by Gustave Flaubert, to whom the current novel is, in fact, dedicated.
"Georges de Lys" was the pseudonym of Georges Fontaine de Bonnerive (1855-1931), an army officer and literary maverick, and An Idyll in Sodom, with its robust approach to plotting and its muscular images of male beauty, illustrates the near-paradoxicality of the idea of a soldierly Decadent fantasy. Notable for its rich descriptions and orgiastic excesses, the book is an extravagant feat of lyrical strength, and its author deserves to be reckoned an important pioneer in the context of the Decadent Movement of the fin-de-siècle.
Double Heart, Marcel Schwob's first collection of short stories, here presented in English for the first time, in an expert translation by Brian Stableford, was originally published in 1891, all of the stories in it having previously appeared in the daily newspaper L'Écho de Paris while the author was part of a "stable" of writers attached to the newspaper, commissioned to supply stories at weekly or fortnightly intervals.
Considered superficially, the project of writing a short story once a fortnight, or even once a week, does not seem particularly daunting, but the reality was that few were able to keep up such a pace while maintaining diversity and originality. During the years when he was penning the stories assembled in Coeur double, Schwob was, however, one of those aristocrats, and the collection is remarkably heterogeneous, both thematically and in terms of its narrative strategies, perhaps more so than any other issued in the nineteenth century, and its variety offers an interesting example of disciplined randomness: not only a relentless quest for difference but a relentless quest for different kinds of difference.
Marcel Schwob was a genius, albeit one only appreciated by a limited cognoscenti, and the present book, with its idiosyncratic brand of black comedy, and its mastery of abbreviation and understatement, is a long overdue addition to the work of this wonderful author available in English.
They're essentially frustrating-things I glimpse out of the corner of my eye, but which disappear as soon as I try to look at them directly. For me, they're always peripheral. Elusive shadows, as you say. They modify the color of whatever they're gliding over, but they don't seem to have any color of their own. As for shape and structure, I only have the vaguest impression . . . Are they shadows? Shadows of something else?
Adrian Stamford, a genetic engineer, is something of a genius in his field, but also has a special ability: to see nuances in color that no one he has ever met can see, which has led him to be hired by Yorkshire industrialist Jason Jarndyke to develop biotech cloths of unique and exquisite color-and maybe even an authentic Golden Fleece.
But Jarndyke's beautiful wife, Angie, has a special ability, and secrets, of her own.
The Elusive Shadows is a tale of the biotech revolution, post-contemporary art, and color as both the ultimate medium of expression and a concealed source of fear.
Originally published in 1888, The Modesty of Sodom, the outrageous text for which Gustave Guiches (1860-1935) is most remembered, is here presented for the first time in English, in a wonderful translation by Brian Stableford. Still as avant-garde as ever, The Modesty of Sodom is one of the purest and most strident exercises of fin-de-siècle Decadent art. As well as employing colorful exotic terms, the author invents and improvises new ones freely, and the story contains several words found nowhere else, whose meanings have to be inferred from context or etymological analogies. It is a straight-faced black comedy, as the majority of exercises in literary decadence are, and its humor is appropriately scathing in its aggressive but amused assault on moral hypocrisy; it is very much a product of its time, but one which, alas, has by no means lost all its relevance in the historical interim.
In conjunction to the principal text, a second, "The Guardian Shades" is also here presented, again, in its first English language translation.
Monsieur de Bougrelon, which originally appeared in serial form in Le Journal between 20 January and 10 May 1897, is here presented in English in a wonderful and fully annotated translation by Brian Stableford. This literary masterpiece, the eponymous “hero” of which is an extraordinary invention, remarkably exotic even by the standards of an era in which the intersection of neo-Naturalist and Symbolist Movements had created an intense interested in abnormal psychologies, is, for all its calculated eccentricity a strangely poignant work. It is not surprising that Monsieur de Bougrelon continued to haunt the author long after he had completed its composition and, as literary revenants go, the character is one of those most likely to make a liminal but profound impression even in today’s world.
In addition to the title novella, the present volume includes nine delightful stories from Lorrain’s later period, which have never before appeared in English.
Written in collaboration in 1922 by the author of Felifax, this five-volume saga (of which this is the last), which chronicles the early years of the 21st century, takes place in a quasi-utopia-like Earth, where, thanks to the genius of master scientist Oronius, humanity has mastered natural forces. However, Oronius' former colleague Otto Hentzen, a mad scientist who has allied himself with the beautiful, deadly Princess Yogha, has sworn revenge on the master scientist. This time, the diabolical Hantzen, who has insidiously taken over another country under the alias of Professor Astaroth, Satan's Rival, plots to unleash a pandemic of madness on the women of the world. It is up to Oronius' faithful and resourceful servants, mechanic Victor Laridon, chambermaid Turlurette, and jack of all trades Julep, to thwart the demoniacal scientist...
This edition includes two more stories by H.-J. Magog.
Presented here, for the first time in English, in fabulous translations by Brian Stableford, are two exotic novels by Jane La VaudÈre, one of France’s most interesting, and most Decadent, writers.
In the first, Syta’s Harem, we are taken to a proto-anthropological India, to an ancient kingdom which is ruled by Princess Syta, a beautiful woman idolized by the members of her male harem over whom she exercises tyrannical authority. The novel soon becomes a surreal phantasmagoria, featuring religiously-impelled orgies, bloody sacrifices, and mysterious fakirs.
The second novel, Pharaoh’s Lover, placed in ancient Egypt during the Third Empire of Thutmose I, is a bizarre masterpiece of the highest order. In it the reader learns of the misadventures of Zelinis and Hary-ThÉ, who, in the aftermath of the sudden loss of their perfect amour, become the subject of rather eccentric liaisons—Zelinis, as a slave, is made to be a stimulant to the effete Pharaoh by engaging in romance with the latter’s sister, while Hary-ThÉ carries on a quasi-necrophlic relationship with a mummy.
These two exotic fantasies, in the feverish pitch of their narratives and the voluptuousness of their settings, are sure to delight and entertain all those who have sympathy for unusual expressions of passionate distress.
Zephaniah Corcoran has just returned to Earth after a seven-year jaunt to Jupiter where his special—some would say dubious—talents were put to the test in attempted communication with the Jovian cloud-whales. With no time to adjust to life on an Earth half alarmed and half fatalistic at the prospect of final catastrophe, he is headhunted for a reprise of his old job: being projected by the brilliant but asocial Walter Halleck’s Coincidence-driven Sling into the far future to make empathic contact with the various successors to the human race. In the meantime, he is discovering a close and mysterious bond with Denise, a doctor of evolutionary biology and the younger sister he has hardly known, who has been noticed by the same big players who have noticed Zeph. But nothing goes quite according to plan, and as the fate of humanity dangles on a thread grown very frayed, Zeph’s empathic skills are expanded in unexpected ways, not so much by coincidence, as by Coincidence, bringing Zeph and those around him into contact with what are perhaps only the beginning of ongoing revelations of time and space whose grandeur match the universe that Zeph and his colleagues must now begin to explore.
Written in collaboration in 1922 by the author of Felifax, this five-volume saga (of which this is the fourth), purporting to chronicle the early years of the 21st century, takes place in a quasi-utopia-like Earth, where, thanks to the genius of master scientist Oronius, humanity has mastered natural forces.However, Oronius’ former colleague Otto Hentzen, a mad scientist who has allied himself with the beautiful, deadly Princess Yogha, has sworn revenge on the master scientist.After the worldwide cataclysm that devastated the Earth, Oronius and his friends discover an advanced civilization of giant insects long buried in Antarctica. The Polars, aided by Hantzen and Yogha, launch an attack against Humanity, increasing the intelligence of animals, who then rebel and enslave mankind, turning the world into a “Planet of the Beasts.” Oronius eventually escape from his enemies and enlists the help of the United States to fight the giant insects…
Proses DÉcadentes by “LÉo TrÉzenik” (LÉo Épinette, 1855-1902), here published in its first-ever appearance English as Decadent Prose Pieces, in a fabulous translation by Brian Stableford, was one of the first volumes to advertise itself brazenly as a contribution to a nascent Decadent Movement, albeit ironically and in jest—an irony and humor entirely appropriate to the spirit of the school in question.
Replete with black comedy, essentially playful and provocative in its self-indulgent perversity and licentiousness, and quite similar in tone to Joris-Karl Huysmans’ prose vignettes, collected in Le Drageoir aux Épices (1874) and Croquis parisiens (1880), which likewise came to be seen retrospectively as crucial contributions to the revitalization of the “prose poem,” TrÉzenik’s collection, though largely ignored by literary historians, is exemplary in its Decadence. Being at once very Parisian and distinctly splenetic, its light touch is that of the steely forefinger of an important pioneer of the fin-de-siÈcle Decadent Movement.
Histoires et contes fantastiques, here translated by Brian Stableford as A Malediction, was the first volume of prose of Erckmann-Chatrian, the pseudonym of Émile Erckmann (1822-1899) and Alexandre Chatrian (1826-1890), who wrote in collaboration.
Ranging from the Romantic melodrama of the title novelette, which has never before appeared in English, to the horrific fantastic of “Red Wine and White Wine,” the current collection features imaginative seeds that germinated in much of Erckmann-Chatrian’s later work, and a certain awkwardness due to inexperience is more than compensated by raw enthusiasm and an unashamed boldness.
Written in collaboration in 1922 by the author of Felifax, this five-volume saga (of which this is the third), purporting to chronicle the early years of the 21st century, takes place in a quasi-utopia-like Earth, where, thanks to the genius of master scientist Oronius, humanity has mastered natural forces.
However, Oronius’ former colleague Otto Hentzen, a mad scientist who has allied himself with the beautiful, deadly Princess Yogha, has sworn revenge on the master scientist. He unleashes a worldwide cataclysmic radioactive heat wave that dries up most of the oceans and awakens the ancient continent of Atlantis. Unfortunately, it is a savage world of cannibal warriors and monsters, ruled by the cruel Queen Atlantea, the incarnation of all twelve Queens of Atlantis…
First published in 1898, and here made available for the first time in English in a translation by Brian Stableford, The Gate of Ivory was the last of Symbolist Bernard Lazare’s volumes of fiction to be released before his time was wholly taken up with the Dreyfus Affair.
Embedding tales within tales, this literary portmanteaux moves into the foreground of the reading experience the question of the functions of storytelling, developing a subversive skepticism and challenging orthodox thought. The Gate of Ivory was the most elaborate fruit of Lazare’s rare analytical fervor and intellectual commitment to Anarchist philosophy, and with its sophisticated polish it is surely one of the most unique feats of Symbolist fiction.
Written in collaboration in 1922 by the author of Felifax, this five-volume saga (of which this is the second), purporting to chronicle the early years of the 21st century, takes place in a quasi-utopia-like Earth, where, thanks to the genius of master scientist Oronius, humanity has mastered natural forces.However, Oronius’ former colleague Otto Hentzen, a mad scientist who has allied himself with the beautiful, deadly Princess Yogha, appear to have succeeded in slaying their rival. But is Oronius really dead?The quest to find the master scientist will take his friends into a vast, underground realm inhabited by giant vampire bats and homunculi who worship the great scientist as their god. But their foes push the subterrans to rebel. Will Oronius, his allies and his robots, be enough to defeat the diabolical Hantzen? Will they escape giant moles, the sea of gold and the central fire and reach the surface again in order to stop an invasion from the Center of the Earth?
This anthology collects stories belonging, at least approximately, to the genre of scientific fiction, which were published in various periodicals between 1886 and 1938. Many of them were never reprinted in book form.
The early stories—which are arranged in the chronological order of their publication—were produced in an era of relative optimism with regard to scientific advancement, when the rewards of scientific research were widely seen as a cornucopia; but even where that notion is explicit within the stories, it is generally fitted with a compulsory irony.
Attitudes changed because of the legacy of the Great War, which considerably eroded confidence in the future and provided a graphic illustration of the fact that technological advancement favored the power to destroy as well as the ability to construct.
Some of the notions deployed in those experimental ventures subsequently became clichÉs, but were not at the time of their publication, and deserve credit for their pioneering spirit, as well as their fast pace and easy readability.
Marie Krysinska (1857-1908), the inventor of vers libre, has long been overlooked, despite her important contribution to French letters. In this, the first volume of her work ever to be offered in English, in a splendid translation by Brian Stableford, two very different, and complimentary, selections of her prose are offered.
The first is a complete translation of Amour Chimine, her single collection of short stories, which was originally published in 1892 and is an example of her more commercial work, fitting the conventions established by prolific producers of short fiction for newspapers such as Catulle MendÈs and Octave Mirbeau.
In the second section, the reader is presented with a selection of forty-four never-before-collected prose poems and vignettes which the author published in periodicals between 1883 and 1900, mostly in the pioneering feminist newspaper La Fronde, which was edited and entirely written by women. These pieces, genuinely experimental in their terse and minimalistic narrative construction—or, in some instances, their deliberate lack of narrative construction—and often endowed with an effectively quirky wit, helped pioneer a new area of literary activity carried out by women with a female audience in mind.
Krysinska’s partial eclipse from “official” literary history is nowadays seen—accurately—as a monumental example of sexist injustice. With the present volume, it is hoped that her important contribution to the history of French Symbolism will become more accurately recognized and celebrated.
Written in collaboration in 1922 by the author of Felifax, this five-volume saga (of which this is the first), purporting to chronicle the early years of the 21st century, takes place in a quasi-utopia-like Earth, where war no longer exists, poverty has been banished, men no longer consume meat, and, thanks to the genius of master scientist Oronius, humanity has mastered natural forces.
However, there exists a snake in this garden of Eden: Oronius’ former colleague Otto Hentzen, a mad scientist who has allied himself with the beautiful, deadly enchantress Yogha. From their impregnable citadel located atop Mount Everest, they wish to crush the world and rule it.
Will Oronius’ pupil, Jean Chapuis, his fiancÉe Cyprienne, Oronius’ own daughter, ably assisted by his mechanic Laridon, her maid Turlurette, and their African manservant Julep, prove able to thwart the evil duo’s diabolical schemes?
Weird fiction has long been not only unappreciated but actively maltreated by orthodox esthetic evaluation, but its stature has improved considerably in modern times, and that has encouraged a reexamination of the genre’s history.
It has required nearly two centuries since the beginnings of modern weird fiction in the cradle of the Romantic Movement for the concept to be properly formulated, and the course of its development usefully mapped.
That cartography can now be carried out with a reasonable degree of accuracy, as the present collection, albeit limited in time and space, hopefully illustrates. The book hopefully shows that fiction depicting hypothetical aberrations in nature or perception is not a necessarily a symptom of aberration on the part of the author, but frequently quite the opposite: evidence of a sanity contemplating its own potential limits and uncertainties, in a context that is esthetic rather than diagnostic. ‘
Romanticisme is not dead, and is no less preciously modern today than it was two centuries ago, and weird fiction is not the least of its achievements.
How many people, over the centuries, must have read the famous Satyricon attributed to Titus Petronius, more commonly known as Petronius Arbiter, and then thrown it away in disgust, having observed that although it is clearly advertised by its title as a book of satyrs, it does not feature any—not, at least, in a literal sense?
Here, at any rate, in The Snuggly Satyricon, edited and translated from the French by Brian Stableford, is the first honest satyricon, featuring an entire chorus line of satyrs, fauns, aegipans and the Great God Pan himself—in whose divine image, of course, satyrs were made. Indeed, in the twenty Decadent tales and Symbolist fantasies in the present volume, the reader will be provided with satyrs of all sorts, some made of stone or wood, some of flesh and blood, and all of the most refined reverie.
Never marching to the beat of the charivari of conventional thought, The Snuggly Satyricon will be sure to make the reader cry “Io Pan!”
In 1737, French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson (1709-1782) constructed a life-sized automaton known as the Flute Player, which established him as a pioneer in the field. It was swiftly followed by a Tambourine Player and the Digesting Duck.
Vaucanson’s endeavors in matters of industrial automation are largely forgotten, but the ingenious toys he built in order to advertize his skills, have become legendary. His story inspired writers of speculative fiction fascinated by the idea of humanoid automata. The idea of machines successfully mimicking human form, and perhaps human emotions.
By the time most of the 14 stories included in this anthology were written, in the latter part of the 19th century, Vaucanson’s legacy was evident everywhere, with small clockwork automata being mass-produced. But the French authors who produced stories of automata invariably referenced Vaucanson in their flights of fancy.
We now live in a world where sophisticated machinery has transformed industrial endeavor, and robots equipped with artificial intelligence are achieving a remarkable sophistication. That does not mean, however, that the notions developed and extrapolated in these pioneering works of fiction have become redundant. They are tales told by seers ahead of their time, to whom the modern world gives every right to say “I told you so,” and who posed a host of questions that require answers far more urgently now than when they were written.
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