- ROBIDA, Albert
- (1848-1926)French illustrator, lithographer and writer. AR was the most important and popular of 19th-century sf illustrators, and may even be said to have founded the genre, though he was clearly working in the tradition of such French fantastic artists as Grandville (Jean Gerard; 1803-1847) and Gustave Dore (1832-1883). Always interested in DYSTOPIASand SATIRE, he illustrated works by François RABELAIS, CYRANO DE BERGERAC, Jonathan SWIFT and Camille FLAMMARION among others, but his most importantworks had texts by himself. These were very often first published as periodical-series, each instalment being slim, and then later in most cases as books. AR took up sf themes with his gently satirical homage to Jules VERNE's Voyages extraordinaires with Voyages tres extraordinaires deSaturnin Farandoul, a 100-part periodical beginning June 1879. It was later collected as 5 books (all 1882): Le roi des singes ("King of the Monkeys"), Le tour du monde en plus de 80 jours ("Round the World in Morethan 80 Days"), Les quatre reines ("The Four Queens"), A la recherche de l'elephant blanc ("In Search of the White Elephant") and S. Exc. M. le Gouverneur du Pole Nord ("His Excellency the Governor of the North Pole").A more prophetic work was Le vingtieme siecle ("The 20th Century"), a periodical in 50 parts beginning Jan 1882. There followed another series appearing later as La vie electrique ("The Electric Life") (1883), set in 1955. AR's ironically half-amused but pessimistic view of the likelynature of future WAR (many of his predictions proved all too true) appeared in \#200 of the humorous magazine La Caricature (1883) as "La guerre au vingtieme siecle" ("War in the 20th Century"), set in 1975, and in a book with the same title but different contents, La guerre au vingtieme siecle (1887), set in 1945. A TIME-TRAVEL fantasy, serialized in the magazine Le petit francais illustre in 1890, Jadis chez aujourd'hui("The Long-Ago is with Us Today"), features a scientist resuscitating Moliere and other literary figures in order to show them the UniversalExhibition of 1889, which bores them. L'horloge des siecles ("Clock of the Centuries") (1902) is one of the earliest treatments of the time-reversal theme later used by, for example, Philip K. DICK in Counter-Clock World (1967), Brian W. ALDISS in An Age (1967; vt Cryptozoic! US) and MartinAMIS in Time's Arrow (1991). AR continued to produce quite prolifically, his last work being another future fantasy entitled Un chalet dans les airs ("Castle in the Air") (1925).The texts to the above works are generally undistinguished. The ILLUSTRATIONS, however, mostly in a vein of detailed caricature, are consistently inventive and amusing. AR worked mostly with lithographic pencil and crayon, achieving a haphazard but impressive vigour. The figures are very much those of Victorian Europe, dressed in the fashions of the time, and involved in various busy scenes with a huge variety of modernistic devices. Among his hundreds of predictions were the videophone and germ warfare. His machines and WEAPONS were usually well designed - some may actually have been practicable - although his flying machines look distinctly un-airworthy. The ironic intelligence of his work is rather undermined by his inability to imagine the future except in terms of more and more gadgetry: social mores remain frozen in the Victorian mould. AR had a strong influence on the future-war genre.PN/JG
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.