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A NEIGHBORLY COLUMN

I know, I know, this column is dreadfully late. After I delivered my translation of ILIUM, I thought I would have some time to devote to more personal projects, including this one, but I had to tackle another translation right away: John C. Wright’s THE PHOENIX EXULTANT, volume 2 of his “Golden Age” trilogy. Check it out if you love mind-boggling science fiction in the tradition of Jack Vance, you won’t be disappointed. The icing on the cake: Wright uses a lot of scientific concepts and Greek mythos, so that I sometime had the feeling I was still in the ILIUM universe – well, in a seriously warped version of it, anyway.

ILIUM is now in the French bookstores – and on the French bestseller lists, I’m happy to add – and I hope Dan will post its cover one of these days. That way, maybe one of you will be able to explain it to me. Volume one of the Folio paperback edition of CARRION COMFORT is still the undisputed winner in the “Most Ludicrous Dan Simmons French Cover” competition, but this one is a strong contender in the “Most Enigmatic” category.

Well, I’ve just delivered the Wright translation, and before I tackle the next one – SINAI TAPESTRY, volume 1 of Edward Whittemore’s “Jerusalem Quartet”, another change of pace, and another opportunity to learn a lot of things – I have some time to introduce my next-door neighbor to you.

Well, he doesn’t live next door to me, but it almost came to be: when we were looking for a house, the one next to his was on the market, and we got to view it – too small, not room enough for all the books. So we bought a bigger one, a mile or so from his place. Since that, we’ve been frequent guests at each other’s home, with much fine food, fine wines and fine conversation.

So what? you’ll ask.

Well, this almost-next-door neighbor is none other than Jean-Claude Dunyach, one of the best French science fiction writers around. And this Spring saw the publication of his first English-language collection, THE NIGHT ORCHID, from Black Coat Press (ISBN: 0-9740711-7-X, 280 pp., $ 20.95, website: www.blackcoatpress.com), with translations by Sheryl Curtis, Jean-Louis Trudel, Dominique Bennett and Ann Cale, an introduction by David Brin and a stunning cover by Gilles Francescano.

Dunyach’s name is familiar to you if you remember Dan’s introduction to “The Ninth of Av” in WORLDS ENOUGH & TIME: the DESTINATION 3001 international anthology, edited by Robert Silverberg and the late Jacques Chambon, featured a story of his, along with works by Joe Haldeman, Paul McAuley, and all the French writers mentioned by Dan.

This story, “Useless Nights”, is translated here, along with what is perhaps Jean-Claude’s most famous one, “Unravelling the Thread”. First published in the French magazine GALAXIES, it was read by Brian Stableford, who liked it enough to recommend it to the British magazine INTERZONE, where it was subsequently published and voted best story of the year by the readers. Since INTERZONE is read the world over, a lot of people who don’t read French could discover and appreciate this story, including David G. Hartwell, who reprinted it in YEAR’S BEST SF 4, and it has now been translated into several languages.

“Unravelling the Thread” is Dunyach in his quiet, allusive mood, but a sampling of this collection will show you he can tackle any subject, any tone. “Shark” is a chilling cyberpunk tale; “The Night Orchid” is an alternate-history romp, with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Professor Challenger fighting a prehistoric monster in and above Toulouse; “Time for Worms” is a no-holds-barred horror story; “Watch Me When I Sleep” is a strange fairy tale; and I could go on like this for a long time.

For all of you out there who don’t read French and are willing to try something different, check this one out. THE NIGHT ORCHID may be the harbinger of a true invasion, though, as other writers have followed Dunyach’s lead and got their stories published in English – I’ll only mention two names: Ayerdhal, who sold a story to INTERZONE, and Mélanie Fazi, who sold two to THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. Ayerdhal is a best-selling novelist, mainly working in the science fiction genre – though his latest offering is a thriller – while Mélanie Fazi is a young, rising star, with a strong gothic slant.

Till next time.

Best,

 

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