Home Community Interview with the French SF Writer Jean-Claude Dunyach – Sven Kloepping (Germany)

Interview with the French SF Writer Jean-Claude Dunyach – Sven Kloepping (Germany)


Sven Kloepping : Your stories resemble surrealistic paintings: roses grow out of bellies, a Ferrari is swallowed by the street … Have you been influenced by artists like Dalí, Magritte and others? And do you integrate these influences consequently in your settings ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : Surrealism is part of the landscape, in Europe, so yes, I’ve been influenced by it (I am very fond of Delvaux, Leonor Fini, and of course Dali and Magritte, to name a few). But I’ve gradually lost it, I think. My early years were Baroque, and it had become a trademark, so I decided to remove it entirely to start walking off my own beaten path. I will get back to it eventually.
Jean-Claude Dunyach_The Thieves  of SilenceJean-Claude Dunyach_Night Orchid

Sven Kloepping : Are there any writers who have influenced you ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : Everything influences me! Writers, all sorts of artists (painters, musicians, photographs, and architects – I’m very fond of human created landscapes) and the man in the street if its behavior or look is sufficiently unusual. Stories are everywhere. And many of them wander freely around you, waiting to be captured. As for writers, the list is huge – I’ve read a book a day during my entire life and I’m especially found of short stories writers: J. G. Ballard and Ian Watson, Julio Cortazar, J. L Borges, F. S. Fitzgerald, R. Brautigan, Buzzatti, Calvino, many Japaneses (Kawabata, Abbe Kobo, Banana Yashimoto, Murakami)… Science-Fiction is a wonderful playground for short-stories. Every month or so, I read one that knock me off my feet. It’s wonderful. I am also very fond of SF written by women (Elizabeth Bear, K. K. Rusch, Linda Nagata, Chris Moriarty, or the French Catherine Dufour and Sylvie Lainé, to name a few). Their books have a very distinctive flavor that I like.

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Sven Kloepping : As you are able to write very visual, colorful scenes, could you also imagine writing fantasy, which has much more commercial potential, internationally spoken ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : I don’t really decide what to write… Stories settle in my mind and I decide to write them to get rid of them – writing is a form of eviction for our brain occupants. I did, however, write a dark fantasy novel (Game of circles). Well, actually I wrote and published the first volume and I’m well into the second one, after a couple of false departures. There should be three of them. It’s dark, baroque, and extremely cruel. I love it.

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Sven Kloepping : International collaboration is for the most writers from non-major markets essential if they want to sell their works and if they want to get the readers’ attention. Do you think there is enough collaboration in Europe or could it all be much better ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : Oh, it certainly could be much better… I fully agree with your analysis and I am convinced that we should exchange more at the European level. I circulated a few years ago a document in English describing the French SF scene, and some friends did the same for their country. But real collaboration is hard to implement. When I was associated editor of the French magazine Galaxy, we tried to publish Italian, German or Spanish authors along with the Anglo-Saxon ones. But good translators are hard to find – we were lucky to work with some of the finest – and it was frustrating to read a good short story from someone who didn’t have a novel translated in French.

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Sven Kloepping : In France and in Quebec (Canada), there is a well-established SF market (which could be better and bigger, but after all, it’s still good). Why is it so difficult for French authors (and for others) to become internationally known? Do you need good contacts at last ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : It is not that difficult to become internationally known, apart from the Anglo-Saxon market which is very complex (and expensive) to address. The first thing, obviously, is to find a foreign editor that can read your story in the original language (it might be the case in Europe) – or to translate it in English because every SF editor in the world read English. And that’s where the problem is…
I have been published in the United States and in the Anglophone world, but this is because I have enough money to pay for translations myself. I have a remarkable translator, Sheryl Curtis. Although she often works pro bono, as a labor of love, she is also (and rightly so) motivated by the need to pay her bills. Because she is a talented translator, my writing gets published. But I don’t recover my outlay before years pass; I must wait three or four years for a story to earn enough money to refund the price of a translation; I don’t really earn any money otherwise. Now, as two of my collections have already been published, and they are released as ebooks, that costs me nothing but allows us to do more, as I can recoup costs more quickly. And I’m less worried about doing that.
This is of course possible for short stories. But you need a few thousand euros for the translation of a novel and, since you’re not sure to be published, it’s a bet, and a dangerous one. I’ve submitted tons of manuscripts in the standard form to the Anglo-Saxon market—one hundred and fifty thousand words along with a plot outline—and even if the book is already published in French, has won awards, etc., in general the publishers’ response is “This looks great; when can we see the rest?” And I say, “Send me the contract, I will pay for the rest of the translation.” And they respond “No, I can’t give you a contract based on the first hundred and fifty thousand words, I need the whole thing. So now you spend ten thousand dollars on a translation, and later I will give you twenty. Or maybe not, if I don’t like the book.” They have no one to read a book for them in French, no one.
The market share of translated foreign language books published in the United States is something like two percent – and this includes all languages. In France, it’s more than 30%… We don’t play with the same set of rules.

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Sven Kloepping : Online publications are a good possibility for young writers to publish their stories, but unfortunately, there are also a lot of bad quality stories among them. Should there be a quality check, an official “trade mark” for good online SF ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : That’s a good point.
Whatever form your story will be published, you need an editor to choose, improve and validate it. If you self-publish your work, there is no guarantee for the reader that it is any good. So there is a need for online editors – many are already available in the Anglo-Saxon world. In France, we have online magazines like “Angle mort” (www.angle-mort.fr/) that publishes superb stories. They are becoming a quality trademark, for sure. We need more initiatives like that.

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Sven Kloepping : What are the best ways for unknown writers to stand out, to be unique? Should they write unique content or is it also style that matters ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : If you’re unique, you’ll find your own way to be so. But style versus substance is an old, overused, debate. As a reader, I need both. Plenty of both.
And remember: deep in his own heart, everybody is unique. You can’t assume that your own uniqueness will be sufficient, unfortunately. A lot of work is also required.

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Sven Kloepping :When did you write your first SF story and where was it published?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : I started writing in July 1981, because I had time on my hands. It took me a month to write my first short story – did I mention that I’m a slow writer? – then I wrote another one in August, a third one in September. I sent the last one to the French magazine Fiction, and it was accepted in five weeks (I was really lucky). They published it in March 1982. After that, it was easier, I had direct contacts with the editor of Fiction, I started to meet colleagues and other editors in SF conventions and I wrote regularly a handful of short stories every year. My first novel, on the other hand, was written in 1986, much later.

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Sven Kloepping : What are your plans for the future? Do you want to publish some novels or are you rather a short story writer ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : I am definitely a short story writer and I can’t imagine not writing some. However, I did write six novels and I’m still interested in longer forms (I’m also working on novellas that are another literary species). I have two novels in preparation, the big Fantasy one I mentioned earlier and a strange SF story with one main female character that should be published in chunks – the first part has been published as a novella by the French magazine Bifrost.
And I’m also planning another novel located in the Animalcities universe. But that will take time.


Sven Kloepping : Tell us a little bit about the French SF. Which writers should one need to know, which books are the best in your point of view ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : Well, answering this would be the best way to be hated by all the friends I would forget to mention  ! Well, anyway, I updated my article on French SF that should help German readers to know us more.
The important thing is: there’s a lot of new writers blossoming every year! We just published “Destination Univers”, a professional space-opera anthology in February 2012 (http://www.griffedencre.fr/spip.php?article708) and half of the authors are newcomers. And they are good, believe me!

Sven Kloepping : If you were guest on a sci-fi space ship, what would you do first ?
Jean-Claude Dunyach : Most certainly ask for the location of the nearest toilets as I tend to be space sick. Then, I would go on the deck and contemplate the stars!
Sven Kloepping : Thanks for this interview !

© Sven Kloepping
The interview made by Sven Kloepping with Jean-Claude Dunyach was published with the permission of the author. We‘re thanking him !
The first publication of the interview was on InterNova, the international science fiction e-zine : http://nova-sf.de/internova/?p=769

Jean-Claude Dunyach has already published seven novels and six collections of short stories, garnering the French Science-Fiction Award in 1983 and two Rosny Aîné Awards in 1992, as well as the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and the Prix Ozone in 1997. His short story  “Unravelling the Thread” was voted Best Story of the Year by the readers of the magazine Interzone. His latest novel, “Étoiles Mourantes” (Dying Stars), written in collaboration with the French author Ayerdhal, won the prestigious Eiffel Tower Award in 1999 as well as the Prix Ozone. Former singer-guitarist of a rock band (The Worldmasters), itinerant storyteller and a songwriter, Jean-Claude Dunyach, born the 17th of July 1957 in Toulouse, as seen already possesses a solid life experience. However, these activities have not led to the marginalization, since he also has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics (supercomputing) and he was an engineer at Aérospatiale-Matra since 1982 and for Airbus in Toulouse in southwestern France.

Author of over seventy science fiction short-stories, nine of which were collected in his collection “Autoportrait” (Self-Portrait, 1986), seven in his collection “Voleurs de Silence”  (Thieves of Silence, 1992), while other of his books found refuge at the Atalante Press. He also wrote several novels published at Fleuve Noir Press , “Étoiles mortes”(Dead Stars) and “Étoiles mourantes” (Dying Stars) in cooperation with Ayerdhal, novel that received the  1999Grand Prix de la Tour Eiffel.

Awards :

–          Grand Prix of the French Science Fiction in 1986, for “Les Nageurs de Sable” short-story (The Sand Swimmers)

–          1992 Rosny Aîné Award for „L’autre côté de l’eau” short-story (Across the Water)

–          1992 Rosny Aîné Award for  the novel “Étoiles Mortes” (Dead Stars)

–          1997 Ozone Award  for the fantastic short-story “Ce que savent les Morts” (What the Dead Know)

–          1998 Prix de l’Imaginaire and 1998 Rosny Aîné Award for “Déchiffrer la Trame” (Unravelling the Thread )

–          Interzone Readers’Award for “Unravelling the Thread

–          1999 Grand Prix de la Tour Eiffel for the novel “Étoiles Mourantes” (Dying Stars), in collaboration with Ayerdhal

–          2000 Ozone Award Category  for the novel “Étoiles Mourantes” (Dying Stars), in collaboration with Ayerdhal

Dunyach’s works have been translated into English, Spanish , German, Italian, Danish, Croatian, Russian and Bulgarian.

Translations in English :

  • In Medicis Gardens, in Full Spectrum 4, Bantam Spectra, New York, 1993
  • The Dead Eye of the Camera, in Full Spectrum 5, Bantam Spectra, New York, 1995
  • Unravelling the Thread, in Interzone 133, Brighton, UK, July 1998; reprinted in Year’s Best SF 4, HarperPrism, New York, 1999
  • Come Into My Parlor, in Altair 1, Blackwood, SA, Australia, 1998
  • Footprints in the Snow, in Interzone 150, Brighton, UK, December 1999
  • Station of the Lamb, in Altair 6, Blackwood, SA, Australia, 2000
  • All the Roads to Heaven, in Interzone 156, Brighton, UK, June 2000
  • Orchids in the Night, in Interzone 160, Brighton, UK, October 2000
  • Watch Me When I Sleep, appeared in Interzone 168, Brighton, UK, June 2001; reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Tor Books, New York, 2002
  • Enter the Worms, in On Spec, Volume 14, Number 2, Ed-monton, Canada, Summer 2002
  • What the Dead Know, in On Spec, Volume 16, Number 1, Ed-monton, Canada, Spring 2004
  • The Night Orchid: Conan Doyle in Toulouse, (collection of short stories) Black Coat Press, 2004 ISBN 0-9740711-7-X
  • Separations, in The SFWA European Hall of Fame, Edited by James and Kathryn Morrow, Tor 2007
  • The Thieves of Silence (collection of short stories) Black Coat Press, 2009 ISBN 1-934543-72-1





Sven Kloepping

Sven Kloepping is a German SF and poetry writer who translates his German SF stories for the English speaking readership by himself (and occassionally writes original English language poetry). He published his English language SF stories in several fiction magazines such as Fantastic Metropolis (“Up”), Internova, Planet Magazine. For Internova, he serves as co-editor. In Germany his fiction is published in anthologies (i. E. Passagen) and, by the major SF zines like Nova, c’t or phantastisch. In 2001, he has published a sci-fi short story collection named “MegaFusion” (setting is a city covering nearly the whole planet) which will be translated step by step. A second German story compilation came out in November 2010.


2nd winner of the Poetensitz Award (Heidelberg, 1999)

Winner of the Gerhard Beier Award (Frankfurt, 2001)

Nominated for the Kurd Laßwitz SF-Award (Germany, 2002, 2012)


„MegaFusion” (English) – SF stories (Amazon Kindle, 2012)

„MegaFusion” (German) – SF stories (G. Meyer Publishing, 2001)

„Menschgrenzen“ (German) – SF stories (p.machinery, 2010)


Several science-fiction stories and poetry in American fanzines and e-zines (such as Planet Magazine, Aphelion, Fantastic Metropolis) as well as in international magazines and e-zines (such as Internova, Futuro Europa or Lumi Virtuale). His works have been translated into English, Italian and Romanian so far. In Germany, Sven has published numerous sf and non-sf stories, articles and poetry in magazines and anthologies (e. g. Passagen, Federwelt, c’t, Nova, phantastisch! …). He also created an own sci-fi universe where many of his stories are set in (“MegaFusion”’).


Sven translates his stories by himself. He is co-editor of the German SF magazine ”Nova”, he dits a SF website called „Deutsche Science Fiction” as well as a German poetry magazine caled, „Kaskaden”.

Official homepage: http://www.svenkloepping.de

MegaFusion website: http://lyriko.vs120130.hl-users.com/SKloepping/MegaFusion/index.htm

Internova SF mag: http://www.nova-sf.de/internova

Nova SF magazine (German only): http://www.nova-sf.de

Kaskaden, the poetry magazine (German only): http://www.lyrikonline.eu

Deutsche Science Fiction (German only): http://www.deutsche-science-fiction.de

French editions of the Jean-Claude Dunyach’s books covers’ scans : www.noosfere.org Thank you!


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