ACCORDING TO THE “Year in Review” survey that appeared in the February 2012 issue of Locus magazine, there were 3071 book-length works of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and affiliated genres published in 2011, of which 931 were reprint titles. Undoubtedly the largest segment of the latter category was the paperback incarnation of books published the previous year in hardcover, with another large portion being the recycled backlist of perennially popular authors. But a sizeable fraction of these reprinted works were salvage operations — publications that either brought back into view authors in danger of lapsing into obscurity or presented well-known works in fresh critical-historical contexts, thus giving them new life for contemporary readers. Such publications are crucial to maintaining an institutional memory for these popular genres, whose prolific current output always threatens to overshadow their traditions.
One of the major publishers of state-of-the-art critical editions is Wesleyan University Press, whose “Early Classics of Science Fiction” series has brought back into print, often in fresh translation, work by Verne, Wells, Camille Flammarion, Ignatius Donnelly, and others. The latest volume in the series is J.-H. Rosny aîné’s Three Science Fiction Novellas: From Prehistory to the End of Mankind (January 2012), translated and introduced by Danièle Chatelain and George Slusser. Rosny aîné (1856-1940) was a pioneer in the representation of alien beings, including metallic and other inorganic life forms, and his tales foreground problems of communication across species boundaries in ways that seem quite modern (the three included here were published between 1887 and 1910). A lengthy (75-page) editorial introduction evaluates the author and his work in relation to relevant historical, scientific, and genre contexts. If you find this slim volume to your taste, you can sample many more of Rosny aîné’s scientific speculations in the numerous editions translated by Brian Stableford and published by Black Coat Press, a Tarzana-based publisher that specializes in English translations of classic works of French popular fiction.
The Wesleyan series has been a leader in the ongoing recasting of Jules Verne’s critical legacy, restoring the satirical and sociopolitical commentary often cut from earlier editions of the author’s work. Now SUNY Press has gotten into the act with the first complete English translation of Verne’s The Sphinx of the Ice Realm (June 2012), translated and edited by Frederick Paul Walter (who collaborated with the late Walter James Miller on a restored and annotated edition of 20,000 Leagues ...read more