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Rosny aîné J.-H.
J.-H. Rosny aîné was the pseudonym of Joseph Henri Honoré Boex (February 17, 1856 - February 11, 1940), a French author of Belgian origin who is considered one of the founding figures of modern science fiction. Born in Brussels in 1856, he wrote together with his younger brother Séraphin Justin François Boex under the pen name J.-H. Rosny until 1909. After they ended their collaboration Joseph Boex continued to write under the name "Rosny aîné" (Rosny the Elder) while his brother used J.-H. Rosny jeune (Rosny the Younger).
Rosny Aîné was very much like H. G. Wells or Olaf Stapledon in his concepts and his way of dealing with them in his novels. He was, without a doubt, the second most important figure after Jules Verne in the history of modern French science fiction.
Rosny’s first science fiction tale was the short story "Les Xipehuz" (1887), in which primitive humans (the story took place a thousand years before Babylonian times) encounter inorganic aliens, with whom all forms of communication prove impossible. Men eventually drive away the invaders, but the hero mourns the loss of another life. This was the first time that science fiction had abandoned its usual anthropomorphic approach in the description of alien life.
The story "Un Autre Monde" ["Another World"] (1895) establishes that humans share the Earth with the land-bound Moedingen and the air-borne Vuren, two infinitely flat and invisible species who cohabit with us. Only a mutant whose vision is superior to that of ordinary men can see them. In Le Cataclysme [The Cataclysm] (1896), an entire region of France sees the physical laws of nature change, as a result of the arrival of a mysterious electro-magnetic entity from outer space.
Rosny’s short novel, La Mort de la Terre [The Death of the Earth] (1910), takes place in the far future, when Earth had all but dried out. In it, the last descendants of mankind become aware of the emergence of a new species, the metal-based "Ferromagnetals", fated to replace us. La Mort de la Terre is one of the most moving tales ever written about the extinction of Man.
Another novel, La Force Mystérieuse [The Mysterious Force] (1913), tells of the destruction of a portion of the light spectrum by a mysterious force -- possibly aliens from outer space who, for a brief while, share our physical existence. This causes panic, then a progressive and potentially deadly cooling of the world.
L'Énigme de Givreuse [The Enigma of Givreuse] (1917) is another remarkable novel about a fissiparous human being, divided into two totally similar individuals, each naturally believing himself to be the original.
The novella La Jeune Vampire [The Young Vampire] (1920) was the first time that vampirism was described as a genetic mutation, transmissible by birth.
L'Étonnant Voyage d'Hareton Ironcastle [The Amazing Journey of Hareton Ironcastle] (1922) is a more traditional adventure novel; in it, explorers eventually discover a fragment of an alien world, with its fauna and flora, attached to Earth. The novel was adapted and retold by Philip José Farmer.
Rosny’s masterpiece is Les Navigateurs de l'Infini [The Navigators of Infinity] (1925) in which the word “astronautique” was coined for the first time. In it, Rosny’s heroes travel to Mars in the “Stellarium”, a spaceship powered by artificial gravity and made of “argine”, an indestructible, transparent material. On Mars, the human explorers come in contact with the gentle, peaceful, six-eyed, three-legged “Tripèdes”, a dying race who is slowly being replaced by the “Zoomorphs”, alien entities who bear some resemblance to the “Ferromagnetals” of La Mort de la Terre. Later, a young Martian female, capable of bearing children parthenogetically by merely wishing it, gives birth to a child after falling in love with one of the human explorers, undoubtedly the first romance ever written between a man and an alien female. This heralds the rebirth of the Martian race and, with Man’s help, the eventual reconquest of their planet.
Rosny also penned five powerful classic prehistoric novels: Vamireh (1892), Eyrimah (1893), the world-renowned classic La Guerre du Feu better known as Quest for Fire (1909), Le Félin Géant [The Giant Cat] (1918) (sometimes known as Quest of the Dawn Man) and Helgvor du Fleuve Bleu [Helgvor of the Blue River] (1930). In it, he combined the notions of modern drama with the ability to depict Man’s early days in a colorful, yet totally believable fashion.
In 1897, Joseph Boex was named to the French Légion d'honneur and in 1903 was named to the first jury of the Prix Goncourt along with his brother. Rosny aîné remained involved with the Académie Goncourt and in 1926 became its president. He died in Paris in 1940.
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