Renard, Maurice

Tagged: Author

(1875-1939) French writer, generally regarded in France as the most important native sf writer in the first decades of the twentieth century, heavily influenced by the work of J-H Rosny aîné. His career began with the stories assembled as Fantomes et fantoches ["Phantoms and Puppets"] (coll 1905) as by Vincent Saint-Vincent; the first of them, "Les Vacances de Monsieur Dupont" – involving Time Travel into a Prehistoric SF territory inhabited by dinosaurs – was included in Brian Stableford's translation of Renard's first novel, Le docteur Lerne, sous-dieu (1908; trans anon as New Bodies for Old 1923; new trans Brian Stableford with added material as Doctor Lerne, Sub-God 2010). The novel follows a sinister Scientist's experiments in grafting produce, for example rats with leaves, and the transplantation of a man's brain into a bull's body, and vice versa (> Identity Exchange), resulting in a smart cow and a Minotaur. Ultimately the German villain – who has already occupied the scientist's brain (see also Identity Transfer) – transplants himself into the body of a car, but the machinery, thus rendered mortal, putrefies. While Le docteur Lerne, sous-dieu clearly shows the influence of The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) by H G Wells, to whom it is dedicated, its Parody of Evolution, as misconceived by a Mad Scientist, is both broader and more comic.

The title story of Le Voyage Immobile, suivi d'autres histoires singulières (coll 1909; rev 1922; title story trans anon as The Flight of the Aerofix 1932 chap) features an unsteerable craft, powered by Antigravity and detrimental to its passengers; along with the minor Un homme chez les microbes, scherzo (1928) – a journey into the microcosm with more sophistication and verbal wit than ever shown by Ray Cummings – the collection as a whole is translated by Stableford in A Man Among the Microbes and Other Stories (omni 2010). Le Peril Bleu (1910 L'Intransigeant; 1910; trans Brian Stableford as The Blue Peril 2010) describes with considerable intensity an extraordinary civilization of lifeforms living on the top of the world's atmosphere as if it were a sea, whose fishing for prey in what to them is a benthic abyss causes Disaster after disaster to Homo sapiens below; it was acknowledged as the inspiration for John N Raphael's Up Above (1913). Renard's next-published novel was Les mains d'Orlac (15 May-12 July 1920 L'Intransigeant; 1921; trans Florence Crewe-Jones as The Hands of Orlac 1929; new trans Ian White 1981), first filmed in 1924 as Orlacs Hände; another version was Mad Love (1935); it remains his best-known, but its use of futuristic medical Technology never dominates a narrative focused on the Gothic consequences of a hand transplant. Le Singe (1925; trans Florence Crewe-Jones as Blind Circle 1928) with Albert Jean (1892-1975) is a gruesomely comic mystery story whose solution reveals the manufacture of a series of identical Androids by a kind of electrolysis. Le mâitre de la lumière (8 March-2 May 1933 L'Intransigeant; 1947; trans Brian Stableford as The Master of Light 2010), about the creation of a new form of glass which condenses space and time, similar to the Slow Glass invented (independently) by Bob Shaw.

Most of Renard's shorter fiction appeared late in his career: Monsieur D'Outremort et autres histoires singulières (coll 1913; vt Suite Fantastique 1921; trans Brian Stableford with added stories as The Doctored Man and Other Stories coll 2010); L'Homme truqué ["The Altered Man"] (coll 1921), the long title story of which was described by Pierre Versins as "a nightmare based on the Universe as seen by a mutilated giant whose eyes have been replaced by 'electroscopes' . . . the pretext for many pages of a strange, visual poetry"; L'invitation à la peur ["Invitation to Fear"] (coll 1926); Le Carnaval du mystère ["The Carnival of Mystery"] (coll 1929) and Celui qui n'a pas tue ["He Who Did Not Kill"] (coll 1932). The last three volumes include many fine stories, mostly extremely short, on a great variety of sf themes: Clones, Invisibility, Time Travel, Cyborgs, gravity, Time Paradoxes, Eschatology and, especially and often, altered modes of Perception.

The huge Maurice Renard: Romans et contes fantastiques ["Maurice Renard: Fantasy Novels and Tales"] (omni 1990) contains most of his work of genre interest. In his recent annotated translations of five volumes of Renard's work, Brian Stableford has opened the door to a broader appreciation of this significant figure. This sequence, given the surtitle of The Scientific Marvel Fiction of Maurice Renard, is registered as such in the Stableford entry; for convenience, his translations are cited below according to normal practice, in conjunction with the chronological listing of the original titles. [PN/JC]

see also: History of SF; Science Fiction Series.

Maurice Renard

born Châlons-sur-Marne, Champagne-Ardenne, France: 28 February 1875

died Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, France: 18 November 1939

works

  • Le docteur Lerne, sous-dieu (Paris: Mercure de France, 1908) [binding unknown/]
    • New Bodies for Old (New York: Macaulay, 1923) [cut trans by anon of the above: hb/nonpictorial]
    • Doctor Lerne, Sub-God (Encino, California: Black Coat Press, 2010) [pod: exp as coll: new trans by Brian Stableford of the above: plus added story: The Scientific Marvel Fiction #1: pb/Gilles Francesco]
  • Le Péril bleu (Paris: Société des éditions Louis-Michaud, 1911) [first appeared 1910 L'Intransigeant: binding unknown/]
    • The Blue Peril (Encino, California: Black Coat Press, 2010) [trans by Brian Stableford of the above: The Scientific Marvel Fiction #3: pb/Gilles Francesco]
  • Les mains d'Orlac (Paris: Nilsson, 1921) [first appeared May-July 1920 L'Intransigeant: binding unknown/]
    • The Hands of Orlac (New York: E P Dutton, 1929) [trans by Florence Crewe-Jones of the above: hb/]
    • The Hands of Orlac (London: Souvenir, 1981) [new trans by Ian White of the above: hb/Oliver Frey]
  • Le Singe (Paris: Georges Crès, 1925) with Albert Jean [first appeared 1924 L'Intransigeant: binding unknown/]
    • Blind Circle (New York: E P Dutton, 1928) with Albert Jean [trans by Florence Crewe-Jones of the above: hb/]
  • Un homme chez les microbes, scherzo (Paris: Georges Crès, 1928) [first drafted 1908: binding unknown/]
    • A Man Among the Microbes and Other Stories (Encino, California: Black Coat Press, 2010) [exp as omni of the above plus Le Voyage immobile suive d'autres histories singulieres below: pod: trans by Brian Stableford of both: The Scientific Marvel Fiction #2: pb/Gilles Francesco]
  • Le mâitre de la lumière (Paris: J Tallandier, 1947) [first appeared 8 March-2 May 1933 L'Intransigeant: binding unknown/]
    • The Master of Light (Encino, California: Black Coat Press, 2010) [pod: trans by Brian Stableford of the above: The Scientific Marvel Fiction #5: pb/Gilles Francesco]
  • Maurice Renard: Romans et contes fantastiques ["Maurice Renard: Fantasy Novels and Tales"] (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1990) [coll: assembling most of Renard's work: binding unknown/]

collections

links

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