The name adopted by French scholar, writer and self-styled utopian Jacques Chamson (1923-2001), a survivor of Auschwitz. He began writing sf in the 1950s, publishing several novels, including Les étoiles ne s'en foutent pas ["The Stars Care"] (1954), En avant, Mars ["Forward to Mars"] (1955), Feu d'artifice ["Fireworks"] (Paris: Métal, 1955) and Le professeur ["The Professor"] (1956), and over 20 stories (some with his wife Martine Thomé) while editing Ailleurs (1957-1962), a critical Fanzine of high repute. A later novel was Les transhumains ["The Transhumans"] (1980). While resident in Switzerland, where he lived for 33 years, Versins also produced Passeport pour l'inconnu ["Passport for the Unknown"], a regular sf Radio programme for Radio Geneva.
He will perhaps be remembered more for his scholarship than for his fiction: a keen researcher and bibliographer, he was a foremost authority on early sf and donated his priceless collection of books, magazines and sf memorabilia to the town of Yverdon-les-bains, Switzerland, in 1975, acting for five years as the curator of the unique local sf museum thus created, La Maison d'Ailleurs. Versins' major achievement is undoubtedly his massive 1000pp Encyclopédie de l'Utopie et de la sf ["Encyclopedia of Utopia and SF"] (1972; rev 1984), which was given a Special Award at the 1973 Toronto World SF Convention. An invaluable if idiosyncratic volume, particularly useful on sf outside America and the UK and prior to 1900, it remains to this day one of the finest reference books on sf; it has not been translated. Versins' scholarship was honoured by the SFRA with a Pilgrim Award in 1991. [MJ/PN]
see also: Critical and Historical Works About SF; France.
born Avignon, France: 12 January 1923
died Avignon, France: 19 April 2001
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