[THE NAVIGATORS OF INFINITY]
 
 

The Book 

Les Navigateurs de l'Infini [The Navigators of Infinity] is arguably Belgian writer J.-H. Rosny Aine's science fiction masterpiece.  Originally published in France in  1925, Les Navigateurs and its sequel, Les Astronautes [The Astronauts], written at the same time, but published only in 1960, coined the word "astronautique" for the first time in the history of literature. 
 
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, not unlike Larry Niven's spaceships in his "Known Space" series.  On Mars, the human explorers come in contact with the gentle, peaceful, six-eyed, three-legged Tripedes, a dying race slowly being replaced by the Zoomorphs, alien entities made of minerals. 
 
In the sequel, 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 a
non-humanoid alien female.  This heralds the rebirth of the Martian race and, with Man's help, the eventual reconquest of their planet. 
 
Les Navigateurs de l'Infini is a colorful, poetic ode to the powers of love and science, a plea for understanding between races, and supporting the view that all living creatures -- men as well as aliens -- are somehow connected in the greater scheme of things.  It represented a marked departure from the xenophobic approach shaped by H. G. Wells with War of the Worlds in 1898, which eventually dominated anglo-saxon science fiction until Stanley Weinbaum's A Martian Odyssey in 1934. 

 

LES NAVIGATEURS DE L'INFINI
(1960 EDITION)
COVER ART BY
JEAN-CLAUDE FOREST
 

 
 
 

 

The Comic Strip 

Writer: Raymonde Borel-Rosny 
Artist: Jacques Bressy (1924- ) 
 
A daily comic strip adapting
Les Navigateurs de l'Infini was published in the newspaper "L'Humanite" from 5 December 1974 to 16 May 1975, as follows: 

1. Les Navigateurs de l'Infini (78 strips) 
2. Les Astronautes (60 strips) 

These strips were reprinted in 1999 by French publisher Pressibus
 

 
 
 The Author
 
Belgian author J.H. Rosny Aîné (1856-1940) (pseudonym of Joseph-Henri Boex) is to French-language science fiction what H. G. Wells or Olaf Stapledon are to English-langiuage science fiction.  After Jules Verne, he is, without a doubt, the second most important figure in the history of modern French science fiction.  Rosny, who was a member of the distinguished Goncourt literary academy, was also the first writer to straddle the line between mainstream and science fiction literature, even though his genre fiction was unjustly, but not unsurprisingly, neglected by literary scholars. 
 
Rosny's first science fiction tale was the short story Les Xipehuz (1887), in which primitive humans (the story takes place a thousand years before Babylonian times) encounter inorganic aliens, with whom all forms of communication prove impossible.  Men eventually drive away these invaders, but the hero mourns the loss of another lifeform.  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 was superior to that of ordinary men could 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 entities 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 has all but dried out.  In it, the last descendents 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.  One of the striking concepts of this poetic, evocative epic is that our disappearance is not the result of some kind of war or cataclysm, but merely that of natural evolution. 

French director Jean-Jacques ANNAUD
adapted Rosny's La Guerre du Feu
as a motion picture in 1981.
 
 
French comics artist PELLOS
adapted Rosny's La Guerre du Feu in 1951.
It was collected in
book form by Glenat in 1976.
 

French poster
for Jean-Jacques Annaud's
Quest for Fire
by Philippe
DRUILLET
 

 
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.  Social upheaval follows, before order was restored.  La Force Mystérieuse was, coincidentally, similar to Arthur Conan Doyle's The Poisoned Sky, published at the same time. 
 
L'Énigme de Givreuse [The Enigma Of Givreuse] (1917) is another remarkable novel about the bipartition -- cloning -- of a human being into two totally similar individuals, each naturally believing himself to be the original. 
 
The novella
La Jeune Vampire [The Young Vampire] (1920) is perhaps the first time that vampirism was described as a genetic mutation, transmissible by birth -- not unlike Richard Matheson's I Am Legend
 
L'Étonnant Voyage d'Hareton Ironcastle [The Amazing Journey Of Hareton Ironcastle] (1922) is a more traditional adventure novel, where explorers eventually discover a fragment of an alien world, with its fauna and flora, attached to Earth.  It was adapted in the United States by Philip Jose Farmer in 1976. 
 
Finally, Rosny was also, if not the creator, but the author who virtually defined the sub-genre of the Prehistoric Novel and the Lost World story in French literature.  Rosny gave nobility to the genre with five powerful classic novels: 
   
Vamireh (1892), Eyrimah (1893), the world-renowned classic La Guerre du Feu [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 these novels, he combined the notions of modern drama with the ability to depict Manís early days in a colorful, yet totally believable fashion.  The dialogue between the prehistoric man and the mastodon of
La Guerre du Feu is not very different from the attempts at communicating with the Xipehuz.  Rosny's prehistoric novels became so popular and widely respected that La Guerre du Feu was even included in French schools' curriculum. 
 
 

The Artist

 
Robert
Bressy also drew comic strip adaptations of J. H. Rosny Aine's Les Xipéhuz and La Mort de la Terre for Opera Mundi.  
 
FOR MORE ON ROBERT BRESSY, .