Émile Driant

Émile AuEmile_Driant_1gustin Cyprien Driant (1855–1916) was a prolific writer of future war stories, and the first high-ranking officer to die in the battle of Verdun in 1916.

He was born in Picardy, and became an Army officer in 1877. He joined a Zouave regiment in North Africa, as a captain, in 1886. In 1888 he married the daughter of General Boulanger, who became a populist politician in the late 1880s and was regarded with loathing by many. Between 1892 and 1896 Driant was an instructor at the Saint-Cyr military academy, from which he had graduated himself, and from 1899 to 1905 commanded the 1st Battalion of Chasseurs. He resigned his commission in 1906, as he knew that his father-in-law’s name would prevent him from further promotion. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a representative for Nancy in 1910.

As in England, those who feared their country’s preparation for war sometimes turned to writing future war stories, which were effectively warnings. In 1888 Driant began writing his own. His first guerre imaginaire story was published under the same “Capitaine Danrit”. La Guerre de demain (“The War of Tomorrow”) was divided into three sections which in turn told stories of “Fortress Warfare”, “War in Open Country”, and “Balloon Warfare”. The surprise attack on France by Germany was foiled by the French army.

In 1902 he published Guerre fatale: France-Angleterre, in which the British army was totally destroyed by the French. L’Invasion Jaune (1905) is a Yellow Peril story, in which Japan organizes an invasion of Europe and are defeated after the burning of Paris. Robinsons Sous-Marins (1908), which described the attempts of a submarine crew to survive after a mechanical problem, is the only one of his long and not very well-written stories to be translated into English. It came out in 1910 as The Sunken Submarine and in 2011 as Undersea Odyssey.

Pierre Versins said in his Encyclopédie de l’utopie et de la science fiction (1972) that the hundred pages of Chesney’s Battle of Dorking (1871) were much more important and revealing “than the thousands of white pages soiled day after day by a national hero of France.”

He is indeed probably remembered more as a war hero than as a writer of tales of the future: see here for his experiences in the Great War.

Almost all my information is so far all from Wikipedia; I hope to correct this situation as soon as possible. There is some  information in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia.


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