the finally completed odyssey of the “Servants of the City” – Liberation
Find every Tuesday a narrative, an interview or an image linked to a science fiction text making the news. Now, a collection that waited almost fifty years before it was published.
There are many projects launched with great enthusiasm, with creative and collective energy, that never come to fruition. Time and human reality play against them. Clearly attached to these literary bets that fell into a well, and undoubtedly in the history of French science fiction, Richard Comballot has just finished publishing a collection conceived in the mid-1970s by Michel Jeury (1934- 2015). After working in particular to complete the universe of Galaxys by Michel Demuth, published in Bélial in November, he took up a gauntlet launched in May 1975 by the author of Uncertain period. It started with a long story published in the journal fiction, written by Jeury in collaboration with Katia Alexandre, entitled “Servants of the City”. “It is clear that writing a short story is pleasant and its main author does not want to leave the sketched universe, which corresponds to something deep in him.narrates the opening Richard Comballot. This is why he plans to share it and invites some mutual friends to participate in what could, if the project succeeds, become a collective book. In the preface written by Michel Jeury at Comballot’s request some ten years ago, he explained himself that it was “put the theme up for anyone who wants to get it”.
But heaps of dangers prevented the idea from succeeding completely: Jeury was shocked, handed over to Dominique Douay, whom he appointed as “the master of servants” ; came the texts, and the collective collection City Servants is even programmed, then not programmed. News from those who write for the cycle are published as they occur Fiction, “at least ten short stories”. Then the series fell into oblivion. Richard Comballot’s preface describes this epic in detail while recalling that its birth took place at a certain time, in a “political” generation of authors. More than forty-five years later, he was able to lead the company in its publishing, after contacting the authors concerned in the 1980s and leading the search for manuscripts, which for some were futile. For him, this book is formative “an important testimony to what French science fiction really was in the 1970s”. In this collection, nine texts in addition to the short story that gave them the codes of a universe have been preserved, all written between 1975 and 1979. “mostly inexperienced young authors”.
Variation of the theme
“The Servants of the City”, the heart of the reactor, is like an introductory story, Erwin, 29, has to pass the ultimate test that will be an encounter with the City itself to become its Servant and leave for assignment. The City, capitalized, includes a hundred or a thousand cities perhaps, and extends over millions and millions of square kilometers. “What is a City? Erwin wondered. A non-human being, a machine, some kind of cyborg, a supercomputer or a God? Nobody knows for sure.” So he trains the Servants, who are like vigilantes under their distinctive red capes, sent by the City to the cities or requested by their governors. Once inducted, Erwin goes to Warboon, which has become a hotbed of criminals and gangs, to restore order there. Most of the texts from this central hub play with an envoy in a city ravaged by chaos (crime, chaos, destruction) with a political, anti-capitalist and libertarian background, which really says a lot about the era. But the story of a hooded hero’s prowess is less a question than his misgivings, his wanderings, his reversals (power whores in Jan de Fast’s “The City is a brothel,” or a Servant who goes to war to avoid it in “La Course du Juggernaut” by Jean-Pierre Vernay). The collection is like a variation of a theme, a set of possibilities in a basic and shared universe frame, a process seen in thrillers, but relatively rare, according to Richard Comballot, in science fiction in France.