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Renard, Maurice

Entry updated 9 August 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1875-1939) French author, in active service throughout World War One, during which period he published nothing; 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 (see 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 Alien civilization of miniature lifeforms known as Savants who, having arrived in the vicinity of Earth from interstellar space, camp on top of the world's atmosphere, which as impenetrably dense to them as a great ocean; fishing for prey in what to them is a benthic abyss causes Disaster after disaster to Homo sapiens below. the tale 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 maître 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 tué ["He Who Did Not Kill"] (coll 2019). 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. Note that Celui qui n'a pas tué, though announced as a 1932 title with galley proofs printed, was not then published owing to the bankruptcy of its Paris publisher Georges Crès; it finally appeared in 2019.

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) [pb/]
    • New Bodies for Old (New York: Macaulay, 1923) [cut trans by anon of the above: hb/nonpictorial]
    • Doctor Lerne, Sub-God (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/Black Coat Press, 2010) [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: pb/Geo Dorival]
    • The Blue Peril (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/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: pb/Maggy Monier]
    • The Hands of Orlac (New York: E P Dutton, 1929) [trans by Florence Crewe-Jones of the above: hb/M B K]
    • 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: pb/]
    • 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: pb/]
    • A Man Among the Microbes and Other Stories (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/Black Coat Press, 2010) [exp as omni of the above plus Le Voyage immobile suive d'autres histories singulieres below: trans by Brian Stableford of both: The Scientific Marvel Fiction #2: pb/Gilles Francesco]
  • Le maître de la lumière (Paris: J Tallandier, 1947) [first appeared 8 March-2 May 1933 L'Intransigeant: in the publisher's Les Romans mystérieux series: hb/Regino Bernad]
    • The Master of Light (Encino, California: Hollywood Comics/Black Coat Press, 2010) [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/]

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