French sf podcast: Utopod

And now an unpaid plug for Utopod, a kick-ass French-language sf podcast, from editors Lucas Moreno and and Marc Tiefenauer.

Utopod is a new podcast (or rather a literature podzine) that provides its listeners with readings of science fiction and fantasy short stories written by the best French-speaking authors of the moment, from Africa, America, Europe and elsewhere. It is the first such podcast ever in French, with high quality standards. It audio-published acclaimed writers such as Joël Champetier, Jean-Pierre Andrevon, Xavier Mauméjean and Ugo Bellagamba. You can listen to new episodes once every 2 or 3 weeks. Subscription is totally free and available through iTunes or through the site. It is very similar to Escape Pod and aims to make good literature available for everyone throughout the world. So even if you understand little or no French, don't think twice about it: subscribe to utopod to support its two producers Marc Tiefenauer and Lucas Moreno, who work for free.

(click below for summaries of recent stories)

Huit harmoniques de Lumière ("Eight Light Harmonics"), by Joël Champetier: Joël Champetier (born 1957 in Lacorne, Québec, Canada) is one of the most acclaimed French-speaking SF writers of this last decade. He is a professional writer and editor-in-chief of "Solaris", French-speaking oldest active SF magazine.

The story starts in what seems to be a religious tone: a preacher tells his young "Purgators" about the events that lead to the creation of the extra-terrestrial society they are living in. But it soon turns out that their God is no other than Science itself. Their society is highly technological and exclusively based on scientific principles. Only the characters' devotion to their duties and the love they feel for their peers is religious. They are the remote descendants of an spaceship crew – the "Womb" – that was sent from Earth to colonize planet Lumière ("Light"). Everything went fine excepted… seven other spaceships were destroyed during the trip and half the Womb's crew was killed. Only 36 people survived and prospered on Lumière. As the narrator goes on telling his students about their past, we understand that the ships' destruction was caused by Earth inhabitants unwilling to let the space expedition succeed. And soon we understand why: the settlers were human hermaphrodites (and so are their descendants), each one of them carrying two babies and fully operational for breeding, something ultraconservative factions didn't view in a favourable light back on Earth. Only at the end of the story does the reader realize the narrator's students are in fact young warriors about to leave for Earth in order to protect Lumière from a new attack and thereby eradicate humanity's "primitive roots" and "sexual incompleteness". The story is subtle, thought-provoking, perfectly structured and magnificently written.

La Faim du monde ("World's Hunger "), by Xavier Mauméjean:

Xavier Mauméjean (born 1963, France) belongs to the new French-speaking generation of authors who mix genres with high creativity and brio. He has published a dozen novels for adults and young adults, written stories for the best French magazines and been translated into English in the USA.

In a near future, wars have ceased. UNO is now responsible for defusing political crises by inviting potential belligerents to banquets prepared by the best cooks in the world. Food style choice is left to the offended politician, who then subjects the aggressor to a lie detector to determine if he has really enjoyed the meal. If so, the crisis is solved, which happens most of the time since cooks are really good. Paul Veyne is a master chef who works for UNO. He is among the best, and that's precisely why UNO chooses him for the Communion, a huge celebration held every four years who gathers diplomatic representatives from all countries and is meant to keep the wordily at peace until the next celebration. The Communion appeases the "World's Hunger" for four years. But there is something very special about it: the selected master chef must cook a human being alive. Doctors and anesthesiologists are there to keep the person alive until the last moment. The volunteer gets to see his arms and legs cut, to eat his own eyes, while the world's representatives watch the whole scene and eat the victim. The story tells how Paul Veyne prepares the Communion by hanging around with the voluntary victim, getting to know about his life, his habits, his past. Progressively, Paul understands that the Communion experience is so big that nothing in the world will ever compare to if after it has finished. After the celebration, traditionally, UNO forbids its grand chef to go on practicing his skills. Paul Veyne's life is finished. The communion is like a powerful drug, but you don't get to use it ever again. This is simply one of the best SF stories published in French this last decade. It's a masterpiece!