La Jungle Nue (A Feast Unknown, 1974). Illustration de Alain Le Saux.
Chute libre means “free fall” in French, and here refers to an imprint of French publisher Champ Libre that from 1974 to 1978 reprinted a series of science fiction titles under that name. The imprint is notable for a number of reasons, not least the striking covers which impress with their uniform design and bold imagery. The combination of black cover with vivid artwork is very similar to the covers Penguin were producing for their SF titles a few years earlier but since there’s little written anywhere about the French books I can’t say whether this was an influence or merely coincidence. I’ve not been able to find a complete list of all the illustrators either. At least two of the covers are the work of Moebius, rare examples of him being commissioned outside the comics medium.
The other notable aspect of the imprint is the books themselves which are an odd mix of the outrageous and sexually provocative end of SF spectrum, together with more usual fare. Some of the covers play to the provocation more than is necessary: Michael Moorcock has always been pleased by the attention his work receives in France but I’ll bet he hates that cover. Several of these titles appeared as SF in the 1970s because of other work by their authors despite there being nothing overtly science fictional about The Atrocity Exhibition or Breakfast in the Ruins. Farmer’s A Feast Unknown and The Image of the Beast/Blown are violent and sexually excessive, and feature little genre material, but managed to slide onto the SF shelves for the same reason. Every so often I wonder whether any of these books (or books like them) would be offered to, or accepted by, genre publishers today.
As usual, if anyone can supply information about the missing illustrators then please leave a comment.
Comme une Bête (Image of the Beast, 1974). Illustration by Moebius.
Les Culbuteurs de l’Enfer (Damnation Alley, 1974). Illustration by Jean-Claude Castelli.
Le Chaos Final (The Men in the Jungle, 1974).