Fiction Spéculative

I find there is a curious flavor to French Speculative Fiction from the 80s onward written under the overwhelming influence of a peculiarly French brand of postmodernism. If you read this wall, you know how I feel about French postmodernism. But SF written under its influence, by people like Roland Wagner, is interesting. There's a lot of Weird For Weird's Sake, to be sure. And it is irritating. But there is more than that. I don't think "weird" quite describes it. An overall air of unreality seems to suffuse the writing of SF authors in France who came to their craft in the 80s and 90s. Demands placed upon the reader's suspension of disbelief are much greater and of a subtly different nature. I can see why Norman Spinrad felt some affinity for French SF.

The stories are sometimes outright silly in ways that are used to quite grave effect. Deadly serious in its silliness one might say. It's something that one used to Anglophone SF would not expect, and I doubt that much of this would even sell well in translation in the US outside very select circles, like Yale literary critics — most of whom I assume read French anyway.

Overall these stories aren't worse, or better, than those I've read from the previous generation, I think. They're just different. An increasing dose of of the outright fantastical permeates the stories as well. When they take their breaks from plausibility, what really disturbs me is that I don't think the authors even realize that that's what they're doing. One could be forgiven for thinking the writers themselves were sometimes prey to the Philip K Dick syndrome of not being able to grasp reality.

Some of the best stories from this period that I've found aren't even strictly speaking SF at all. Gonthier's stories such as "Le Dernier Mot" are of this type. The speculative possibilities are neither confirmed nor disconfirmed. They are eerie. They force (or affect to force) one to question what is and isn't real, leaving open disturbing possibilities of what might actually be true about the world. They make you think a thing is true in this world, but make you realize that that is your own assumption. The story suggests, but refuses to confirm.

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