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Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics$
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Gavin Parkinson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381434

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381434.001.0001

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date: 22 October 2018

Surrealism, Science Fiction and UFOs in the 1950s: ‘Myth’ in France Before Roland Barthes

Surrealism, Science Fiction and UFOs in the 1950s: ‘Myth’ in France Before Roland Barthes

(p.104) 5. Surrealism, Science Fiction and UFOs in the 1950s: ‘Myth’ in France Before Roland Barthes
Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics

Gavin Parkinson

Liverpool University Press

Evidence of the French Surrealists’ interest in Anglo-American pulp fiction can be found as early as 1942 in the essay ‘Explorers of the Pluriverse’ by the journalist Robert Allerton Parker, which acted as the preface to the exhibition ‘First Papers of Surrealism’ organised by exiled Surrealists in New York during the Second World War. Allerton’s expansion on this in his essay ‘Such Pulp as Dreams are Made On’ – concerned with H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and the burgeoning SF pulp scene in America – could be read the following year in the Franco-American Surrealist journal VVV, probably known to the writer Raymond Queneau in Paris during the war in his post-Surrealist phase. Queneau is usually given credit for introducing American SF into France in 1950 in the pages of Georges Bataille’s journal Critique, but the details of postwar Surrealism’s contribution to this reception are less well known. This chapter situates Surrealism, for the first time, in the complex reception of US SF in France by demonstrating the nuanced rejection of its typically interplanetary strains by the Surrealists in the 1950s in favour of an adjacent literature of the fantastic that met its established prewar theory and tastes. Repudiating Isaac Asimov, Frederick Pohl, A.E. van Vogt, and Robert A. Heinlein, the Surrealists favoured ‘voyages in time and histories of parallel worlds,’ in the words of Robert Benayoun, ‘when they break a path onto the fantastic and onto legends,’ prioritised in the writings of Lewis Padgett, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham, Fredric Brown, Theodore Sturgeon, and William Tenn. This chapter also observes the ways in which Michel Carrouges, an important fringe figure in postwar Surrealism, manoeuvred the writings of André Breton to figure the SF of Bradbury and others as a form of modern myth, in the same ways as Breton had theorised the Gothic novel in the 1930s.

Keywords:   Gothic novel Lovecraft painting myth pulp fiction

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