When talking about short fiction in the French Canadian SF scene, one name stands out: Solaris. It is not only one of the oldest ongoing genre magazines (only Analog and F&SF are its seniors), its quality is reflected in the number of awards it and the stories found in its pages have won.
This issue opens with the winner of the 2010 Solaris Prize, “Monarque des glaces” by Michèle Laframboise. A tale of an ecologist who lives through the decline of our biosphere, first in his original body, then in artificial ones provided by corporate sponsors, themselves responsible for the problems he witnesses. While it is a story with a message, it is not moralizing and is expertly handled, the story being front and centre: the focus is on the main character’s reminiscence, his quest for absolution and his literal flight to freedom.
The next story, “Les pantoufles de Louis XVI”, by Geneviève F. Goulet, is an amusing and whimsical alternative history tale with a touch of Steampunk. A nice demonstration that this genre doesn’t require changing the fate of kings and nations to be effective.
It is followed by “La cité de l’ombre double” by one the French writer in these pages, Paul Martin Gal, who serves up a straightforward adventure tale, in the tradition of the pulps, about an Englishman in Afghanistan trying to protect a lost treasure he intends to bring back to the British Museum, he pairs up with an Irish adventurer and both will fight together against bandits and rascals, or will they? As the locals say, the mysteries of Allah are inscrutable and so are those of magic…
Mystery and magic are more evident in “Le chant de Syriopée” by Marie-Christine Boyer. It concerns a priestess who must investigate the disappearance of the sea.
The second French guest in these pages follows with “Gravité faible” a tale of someone going through a cure while reality slips around him. The slipping reality make it unclear who is being cured and for what.
“L’Île perdue” by Jean Carlo Lavoie, another adventure tale featuring pirates, a lost treasure and a cult worshipping a tentacled god brings us back to good old fashioned pulp adventure. This last story is followed by “Les Carnets du futurible” a regular column by Mario Tessier where he explores a variety of topics. The one in this issue: “Pour « l’amour de l’art » ou comment Lovecraft a conquis la culture populaire” (For “The Love of Art” or How Lovecraft Conquered Popular Culture”) is, as usual well researched, informative, and entertaining.
Short story writer Ted Chiang is also featured with a translation of his Boréal 2010 Guest of Honour Speech: “À Propos du corps” (“Reasoning the Body”) an exploration of the body and mind, the metaphors used through history to compare the workings of the brain and their implications in how this reflects our image of ourselves. It is as fascinating in its implications as any of this talented writer’s stories.
Finally, as usual, the issue closes with some book reviews: L’Ange blond by Laurent Poujois, Vegas Mytho by Christophe Lambert, Le Livre des morts (Library of the Dead) by Glenn Cooper and Fantômes : histoires troubles (20th Century Ghosts) by Joe Hill are the works looked at.
Like most issues of Solaris, this one offers many mixes: fantasy and SF, literary explorations and pulpy adventure, Canadian, French and American writers, yet somehow the editorial team manages to bring it all together in a coherent and diverse whole.
But that’s not all! With each issue, the editors post additional content online. Included in the PDF are reviews of several more books, including Terry Brooks’ Comme par magie : les secrets d’écriture d’un best-seller de fantasy (Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life), Lucie Chenu’s Les Enfants de Svetambre, and David Gaider’s Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne and Dragon Age: The Calling. Norbert Spehner and Pascale Raud’s overview of available books and Sci-néma, Christian Sauvé’s movie reviews.