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Le Rouge, Gustave

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1867-1938) French author, a significant figure in early twentieth-century French sf, much admired by the transgressive Modernist/Surrealist author Blaise Cendrars. None of his works were translated into English until 2008, perhaps because most of his output appeared in various French versions of the Pulp magazine, often in magazine-like volumes wholly dedicated to the title being published. His first novel, with his junior partner Gustave Guitton, La Conspiration des milliardaires ["The Billionaires' Conspiracy"] (1899-1900 3vols; cut vt L'Empereur des Dollars ["The Dollar Emperor"] 1914; trans Brian Stableford as The Dominion of the World 2012 4vols [for details see Checklist]), is a kind of noir Edisonade in which a Robot – the invention of a thinly disguised Thomas Alva Edison – is misused in an attempt to conquer the world; a railway tunnel Under the Sea between Europe and America is also featured in Invasion planning, plus a cadre of Telepaths. Other early singletons include L'Espionne du Grand Lama ["The Grand Lama's Spy"], a Lost World tale, and Le Reine des Éléphants ["The Queen of the Elephants"], about a species of evolved elephants (see Evolution).

Le Rouge is best known, however, for the Mars sequence – comprising Le Prisonnier de la Planête Mars (1908; rev vt Le Naufrag, de l'espace 1912) and La Guerre des vampires (1909; rev vt L'Astre dépouvante 1913), both edited and assembled as Vampires of Mars (omni trans Brian Stableford 2008; new trans David Beus and Brian Evenson as Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars 2015) – a Planetary Romance where the protagonist Darvel, after having been transported in his Psi-Powered Spaceship to Mars, discovers a rich ecology, winged Martians who suck blood, and a central controlling brain; the latter sends Darvel back to Earth in the charge of the Vampire Martians, and a War of the worlds ensues. Echoes of H G Wells's are clearly deliberate; introducing his translation of Henri Gayar's The Marvelous Adventures of Serge Myrandhal on Mars (1908), Stableford suggests that the first of La Rouge's sequence, along with Gayar's novel and The Fiery Wheel (1908) by Jean de La Hire, all of which appeared almost simultaneously, may have been written in a spirit of perhaps friendly competition.

Perhaps the most interesting of his later works is Le Mystérieux Docteur Cornelius ["The Mysterious Dr Cornelius"] (1912 and 1913 18vols; rev 1918 to 1920 9vols; trans Brian Stableford as The Dominion of the World 2012 4vols [for details see Checklist; we do not list the individual titles of each fascicle]), featuring Dr Cornelius Kramm, a Mad Scientist with some Antihero characteristics, as his life in New York seems driven and anarchic, and his criminal conspiracies against the world – in particular against an American industrial trust – become increasingly grotesque as he and his co-conspirators threaten to gain Secret-Master control of the world; in the end, however, a band of good Scientists and heroes seems to defeat Kramm and his cohorts. The tale was adapted for Television in six parts as Le Mystérieux Docteur Cornelius (1984). The size of Le Rouge's oeuvre (selected titles are listed below) and its inventiveness make it clear that he is a notable figure in the development of sf. [JC]

Gustave Henri Joseph Le Rouge

born Valognes, Manche, France: 22 July 1867

died Paris: 24 February 1938




individual titles (selected)


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