Sunday, 26 June 2016

Jules Verne (History of Science Fiction)

Two weeks ago I wrote about one of the most famous books in the history of science fiction, Mary Sheeley’s Frankenstein. This week we come to one of the most famous authors – Jules Verne.


Jules Gabriel Verne (8 February 1828 – 24 March 1905) was a French novelist, poet and playwright. Born in Nantes, he trained as a lawyer, but gave it up quite early in order to write for magazines and the stage. He wrote many plays, poems, song texts, operetta libretti, and short stories, as well as a variety of essays. But he is best known for a series of adventure novels, including Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869).

The thing that made Verne stand out was his meticulous research and attention to detail. The technology in his books was a logical progression of the science of his day, extrapolated into the future.

From the Earth to the Moon, for example, had detailed scientific calculations. Verne worked out that if you were going to fire a rocket into space the best place was the Cape Canaveral area of Florida, and if you were going to bring it back, the best place was the ocean – he got all that right.
Surprisingly, Verne rejected the idea that he wrote science fiction, claiming his interests were geography and travel. Nevertheless, he was a huge influence for later writers.

Sadly, the early translations of his work into English were aimed at children and consequently quite poor. It took some time before better translations revealed the strength of his prose to everyone. He is the second most translated writer in the world since 1979, ranking between Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare.

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