City of Lights No More: Dystopian Paris in French Science Fiction

in Cityscapes of the Future
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Recently, several authors in French science fiction have imagined dystopian worlds where Paris is no longer the city of lights. This chapter analyses the relegation of the French capital to the status of a mere ‘second city’ in three different works. In Julien Leclercq and Frank Philippon’s film Chrysalis (2007), I show how Paris has become one of the many administrative units that belong to a future European federation. I demonstrate how the filmmakers rely heavily on digital technology in order to erase the spatial markers that characterise the French capital. In Benoit Sokal’s video game Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals (2008), I explain how the twilight of the nation-state has forced Europeans to adopt a political model based on the system of the Ancient Greek city-states. In this dystopian world, Paris must do battle with former ‘second cities’ for prominence in Europe. In this case again, I emphasise the use of digital technology that is necessary to create the visual characteristics of a post-apocalyptic urban environment.

Finally, in Pierre Bordage’s podcast ‘série mp3’ Chroniques des ombres (2009), I study a similar situation where Paris has lost its cultural specificity and is only the third component of a megalopolis called Nylopa (the acronym of ny-London-Paris). Of course, I expand on how new digital technology made the emergence of a new medium called the mp3-serie possible and how its users can almost interact with the diegesis as if they were fictional characters. In my conclusion, I summarise how this obsession with the decline of Paris reflects concern over post-colonial immigration, neo-liberal globalisation and the loss of secular values that progressive societies have fought to conquer. However, I also point out how alternative forms of global networking, subcultures and minorities redefine the French capital as a ‘second city’.

Cityscapes of the Future

Urban Spaces in Science Fiction

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