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
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.
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