I recently finished a fascinating book by the French science fiction writer J.-H. Rosny aîné. Born in 1856, he is considered the second most important French science fiction writer (after Jules Verne). He is also virtually unknown in this county.

The book is entitled Three Science Fiction Novellas: From Prehistory to the End of Mankind. It contains three works:

  • "The Xipehuz" (1887) - in which primitive humans encounter inorganic aliens (geometric shapes)
  • "Another World" (1895) - in which a human mutant is able to communicate with inhabitants of another dimension
  • "The Death of the Earth" (1910) - possibly the first "last man on Earth" story, certainly the first to describe human-alien symbiosis

    The book also contains a long introductory essay by Daniele Chatelain and George Slusser comparing Rosny aîné to his contemporaries H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. And there are plenty of story annotations.

    Rosny aîné's bibliography includes over one hundred stories and novels. Unlike Verne, Rosny aîné did not back away from his discoveries. As Chatelain and Slusser point out, Verne would take the reader to a new place--the far side of the moon, the center of the Earth--but never examine the discovery's consequences. Rosny aîné's fiction is much more probing and reminded me of H.G. Wells (The Time Machine) or Stanislaw Lem (Solaris).

    My favorite of the three stories mentioned above was "The Death of the Earth." It is written in a dreamy, introspective style eerily similar to that of The Time Machine.

    Hopefully much more of Rosny aîné's output will be forthcoming.

    Trivia note: Rosny aîné coined the word "astronaut" (The Navigators of Infinity (1925)).