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Flammarion, Camille

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1842-1925) French astronomer and author, author of at least seventy books, one of the first major popularizers of Astronomy; he took great delight in the flights of imagination to which his studies in Cosmology inspired him. In 1858, the year he entered the Paris Observatory as a student, he wrote an unpublished scientific romance, «Voyage extatique aux régions lunaires, correspondence d'un philosophe adolescent». His two major fascinations were the possibilities of Life on Other Worlds and of life after death, and these interests are reflected by his earliest major works: La pluralité des mondes habités ["The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds"] (1862), an extremely early attempt to argue for and to popularize the concept of the Alien as a distinct being (rather than a parody of various human characteristics), and Les habitants de l'autre monde ["The Inhabitants of the Other World"] (1862), the latter being "revelations" transmitted by the medium Mlle Huet. His most important work in the popularization of science was Astronomie populaire (1880; trans as Popular Astronomy 1894).

Works of specific sf interest include his dramatization of ideas from his earlier nonfiction book Les mondes imaginaires et les mondes réels (1864; trans as Real and Imaginary Worlds 1865) as Recits de l'infini (coll 1872; trans S R Crocker as Stories of Infinity: Lumen – History of a Comet – Infinity 1873). "Lumen", consisting of a series of dialogues between a man and a disembodied spirit which is free to roam the Universe at will, includes observations about the implications of the finite velocity of light (see Time Viewer) and many images of otherworldly life adapted to Alien circumstances; all three were integrated for separate publication as Lumen (1887; trans anon 1892; new trans Elethea Appleby Moller and Rebecca Moore, with some new material, 1897; new trans Brian Stableford 2000). Notions taken from these dialogues were embodied in the Reincarnation romances Stella (1877) and Uranie (1889; trans Mary J Serrano as Uranie 1890; new trans Augusta Rice Stetson as Urania 1890).

Flammarion's boldest Scientific Romance is La fin du monde – envoi de l'auteur (1893 La Science Illustrée #182-189; 1894; trans anon as Omega: The Last Days of the World 1894), an epic of the future. Although it is as much essay as story, this is a notable work, akin to H G Wells's The Time Machine (1895) and William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland (1908) in presenting a striking vision of the End of the World: Earth survives an early encounter with a Comet but ultimately freezes when the Sun dies. It was filmed as La Fin Du Monde (1931; vt The End of the World) directed by Abel Gance (1889-1981), the narrative ending after Earth's escape from the comet. Flammarion's scientific reputation was injured by his passionate interest in Spiritualism (in later life he was an intimate of Arthur Conan Doyle), but his was a major contribution to the popularization of science and to the literature of the scientific imagination.

The Paris publisher, E Flammarion, was founded by Flammarion's brother, and published much of his work. [BS/JC]

see also: Eschatology; Evolution; Far Future; Faster Than Light; France; History of SF; Mars; Religion; Stars.

Nicholas Camille Flammarion

born Montigny-le-Roi, France: 26 February 1842

died Juvisy-sur-Orge, France: 3 June 1925

works (highly selected)

  • La pluralité des mondes habités ["The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds"] (Paris: Didier et Cie, 1862) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
  • Les habitants de l'autre monde ["The Inhabitants of the Other World"] (Paris: Didier et Cie, 1862) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
  • Les mondes imaginaires et les mondes réels: voyage pittoresque dans la ciel (Paris: Gauthier-Villars pour Didier, 1864) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
    • «Real and Imaginary Worlds» (?US, 1865) [reported trans of the above, but publisher cannot be traced – this may be a ghost title: binding unknown/]
  • Recits de l'infini (Paris: Didier et Cie, 1872) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • Stories of Infinity: Lumen – History of a Comet – Infinity (Boston, Massachusetts: Roberts Bros, 1873) [trans by S R Crocker of the above: hb/]
    • Lumen (Paris: E Flammarion, 1887) [rev vt of the above: specifically expanding the story of the same name from the above: as integrated narrative: binding unknown/]
      • Lumen, Experiences in the Infinite (New York: no publisher found, 1892) [trans of the above: hb/]
      • Lumen (London: Heinemann, 1897) [new trans by Elethea Appleby Moller and Rebecca Moore of the above, with some new material: hb/uncredited]
      • Lumen (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2000) [new trans by Brian Stableford of the above: hb/]
  • Astronomie populaire (Paris: C Marpon et E Flammarion, 1880) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
  • Uranie (Paris: C Marpon et E Flammarion, 1889) [pb/]
    • Uranie (New York: Cassell, 1890) [trans by Mary J Serrano of the above: pb/]
    • Urania (Boston, Massachusetts: Estes and Lauriat, 1890) [new trans by Augusta Rice Stetson of the above: illus/De Bieler, Myrbach, and Gambard: hb/uncredited]
    • Urania (Chicago, Illinois: Donohue, Henneberry and Company, 1892) [trans by E P Robins of the above: in the publisher's Olympia Series: illus/pb/J Ellingson]
  • La fin du monde (Paris: E Flammarion, 1894) [first appeared 1893 Revue Illustrée: illus/Albert Robida and others: hb/]
    • Omega: The Last Days of the World (New York: Cosmopolitan Publishing Co, 1894) [trans of the above: portion first appeared April-August 1893 Cosmopolitan: illus/many artists: hb/]


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