On this day: Jules Verne, Science Fiction Pioneer, was born le 8 Février 1828
French writer Jules Verne, who along with H.G. Wells, is considered to be the pioneer of the Science Fiction genre was born in the seaport town of Nantes on le 8 février 1828.
Verne forecast the invention of airplanes, submarines, television, guided missiles, and space satellites. Verne even accurately predicted their uses.
Verne cleverly used realistic detail and believable explanations to support incredible tales of adventure. His fantastic plots took advantage of the widespread interest in science and the enterprising spirit of the XIX ème siecle. Verne knew a great deal about geography, and used his knowledge to make his stories realistic.His works were often written in the form of a travel book. He carried his readers all over the earth, under it, and above it. Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," published in 1870, tells about Captain Nemo, a mad sea captain who cruises beneath the oceans in a submarine. In "Around the World in Eighty Days" (1873), Phileas Fogg travels around the earth in the then unheard-of time of 80 days, just to win a bet. Other thrillers include "A Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1864), "From the Earth to the Moon" (1865), and "Around the Moon" (1870). He also wrote several historical novels, including a story about the American Civil War, "North Against South" (1887).
Verne's father was a successful lawyer. With the idea of continuing his father's practice, Verne moved to Paris to study law. His uncle introduced him into literary circles and he began publishing plays under the influence of such writers as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas fils, whom Verne also knew personally. Verne's one-act comedy "The Broken Straws" was performed in Paris when he was 22. In spite of busy writing, Verne managed to pass his law degree.
Verne's first novel, "Five Weeks in a Balloon" (1863), brought him immediate success. It was based on an essay he wrote describing the exploration of Africa in a balloon. The essay was rejected several times before the publisher Hetzel suggested that Verne rewrite it as a novel of imagination. The popularity of the book encouraged Verne to continue writing on science-fiction themes.
"Ah - what a journey - what a marvelous and extraordinary journey! Here we had entered the earth by one volcano, and we had come out by another. And this other was situated more than twelve hundred leagues from Sneffels, from that drear country of Iceland cast away on the confines of the earth... We had abandoned the region of eternal snows for that infinite verdure, and had left over our heads the gray fog of the icy regions to come back to the azure sky of Sicily!"
There Jules studied Latin, which he later used in his short story Le Marriage de Monsieur Anselme des Tilleuls, written in the mid-1850s. One of his teachers may also have been the French inventor Brutus de Villeroi, who was professor of drawing and mathematics at the college in 1842, and who later became famous for creating the U.S. Navy's first submarine, the U.S.S. Alligator. De Villeroi may naturally have been an inspiration for Jules Verne's conceptual design for the Nautilus in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
After completing his studies at the lycée in Nantes, Verne went to Paris to study for the bar. In about 1848 he began writing librettos for operettas. For some years his attentions were divided between the theatre and work, but some travellers' stories which he wrote for the Musée des Familles seem to have revealed to him the true direction of his talent: the telling of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details gave them plausibility.
When Verne's father discovered that his son was writing rather than studying the law, he promptly withdrew his financial support. Consequently, Verne supported himself as a stockbroker, work he hated, although he was somewhat successful at it. During this period, he met the authors Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo, who offered him some advice on his writing.
In 1854 Charles Baudelaire translated Edgar Allan Poe's works into French. Verne became one of the most devoted admirers of the American author, and wrote his first science fiction tale, "A Voyage in a Balloon" (1851), under the influence of Poe. Later Verne would write a sequel to Poe's unfinished novel, "Narrative of Gordon Pym, entitled The Sphinx of the Ice-Fields" (1897).
During this period Verne met Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. They married on le 10 janvier 1857. With her encouragement, he continued to write and actively try to find a publisher.
Verne's career as a writer improved when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, one of the most important French publishers of the XIX ème siecle. Hetzel also published Victor Hugo, and George Sand, among others. When they met, Verne was 35 and Hetzel 50, and from then, until Hetzel's death, they formed an excellent writer-publisher team. Hetzel's advice improved Verne's writings, which until then had been time and again by other publishers. Hetzel read a draft of Verne's story about the balloon exploration of Africa, which had been rejected by other publishers on the ground that it was "too scientific". With Hetzel's help, Verne rewrote the story and in 1863 it was published in book form as Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon). Acting on Hetzel's advice, Verne added comical accents to his novels, changed sad endings into happy ones, and toned down various political messages.
From that point on, and for nearly a quarter of a century, scarcely a year passed in which Hetzel did not publish one or more of his stories. The most successful of these include: Voyage au centre de la terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864); De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865); Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, 1869); and Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days), which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. In 1870, he was appointed as "Chevalier" (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur. After his first novel, most of his stories were first serialized in the Magazine d'Éducation et de Récréation, a Hetzel biweekly publication, before being published in the form of books. His brother, Paul Verne, contributed to the 40th French climbing of the Mont-Blanc, added to his brother's collection of short stories, "Doctor Ox," in 1874. Verne became wealthy and famous. He remains the most translated novelist in the world: 148 languages.
On le 9 mars 1886, as Verne was coming home, his twenty five year-old nephew, Gaston, with whom Verne had had good relations, charged at him with a gun. As the two wrestled for it, it went off. The second bullet entered Verne's left leg and Gaston spent the rest of his life in an asylum.
After the deaths of Hetzel and his beloved mother Sophie in 1887, Jules began writing works that were darker, such as a story of a lord of a castle infatuated with an opéra singer who turns out to be just a hologram and a recording, and others concerned with death. In 1888, he entered politics and was elected town councillor of Amiens where he championed several improvements and served for 15 years. On le 24 mars 1905, while ill with diabetes, Verne died at his home. His last novels "Invasion of the Sea" and "The Lighthouse at the End of the World" were published posthumously.
In 1863, Jules Verne wrote a novel called "Paris in the 20th Century" about a young man who lives in a world of glass skyscrapers, high-speed trains, gas-powered automobiles, calculators, and a worldwide communications network, yet cannot find happiness, and comes to a tragic end. Hetzel thought the novel's pessimism would damage Verne's then booming career, and suggested he wait 20 years to publish it. Verne put the manuscript in a safe, where it was discovered by his great-grandson in 1989. It was published in 1994.
The 1954 film version of "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea," produced by Walt Disney won an Oscar for its special effects, which included a mechanically operated giant squid. The "squid" fought with the actors in a special studio tank. Interior sets were built as closely as possible to Verne's own descriptions of the Nautilus. James Mason played Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas was Ned Land, a lusty salor. Mike Todd's 1957 film "Around The World in 80 Days" won an Academy Award for "Best Picture."
Reader "RW" reminded Louis la Vache of the Jules Verne restaurant in la tour Eiffel. "RW" lived in Paris for a number of years. He wrote that this was his favorite restaurant in Paris. His wife attended one of the top cooking schools in Paris, so if this restaurant rates that highly with "RW," Louis la Vache would agree that it must indeed be good!
Science Fiction Pioneer: A Story about Jules Verne (Creative Minds Biographies Series)
The Mysterious Island (Scribner Illustrated Classics) ILLUSTRATED BY N.C. WYETH