Thursday, 15 November 2012

Author Spotlight - Jules Verne Wore Leather and Goggles

Jules Verne was steampunk when steampunk was contemporary. He wrote his stories during the Victorian Age and along with HG Wells is considered one of the Founding Fathers of steampunk literature. (umm...he looks a little like Alan Rickman as "Lord Ridgecroft," doesn't he?)

(side note: The Windsor Diaries pays homage to both Verne and Wells – Can anyone tell me where their statues are placed in the series?)

Jules Verne was born in France in 1828. His most famous literary works include:
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864)
Around the World in 80 Days (1873)

What makes Verne stand out is that he was writing about space, air, and underwater travels in a practical way before methods had been developed to do so. (He's also considered one of the Founding Fathers of the Science Fiction genre, too)

As a young boy, Jules' family had a summer home in Brains, France on the banks of the Loire River and it was here that he cultivated a love of adventure. This love of adventure would play into his writing.

Jules studied to be a lawyer, but he had no heart for it and dropped his studies to work on his writing. He even met with writing contemporaries Victor Hugo and Aexandre Dumas.

Jules got married in 1857 and had a son, Michel. Michel proved himself a pistol. The boy had 2 kids with an underage mistress, married and actress and buried himself in debt.

In 1862, Jules traveled through Sweden. "A Hot Air Balloon Trip Through Africa" was published in Sweden in 1863, making it his first full length book!

Shortly afterwards Jules met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, a very well known and important French publisher. Hetzel helped improve Jules' writing. Until Jules met Hetzel, he was repeatedly rejected.

What a Good Editor does for you:

Prior to working with Hetzel, Jules' writing was "too" scientific, too pessimistic, and not too enthusiastic about technology and human progress. Jules was a pessimist.

Hetzel insisted Jules' work always had an optimistic feel to it and Jules was so grateful to be published he willingly agreed to Hetzel's changes.

Interestingly, Hetzel rejected one of Jules' novels called "Paris in the 20th Century."

Jules wrote "Paris in the 20th Century" in 1863. It's the story of a young man who lives in a glass skyscraper with high-speed trains, gas powered cars, calculators, and has a high-speed communications network. Our hero, however, can't find happiness and comes to a tragic end. Hetzel suggested Jules wait at least 20 years before publishing it. Jules locked the story away in a safe. But can you imagine! This is why Jules is one of the fathers of science fiction and steampunk! Heck, he was writing about the Internet over 130 years before it came into existence! And one of the "core" elements of steampunk is the addition of "futuristic" gadgets in the story.

What Happened to "Paris in the 20th Century?"

The novel, rejected in 1863 was locked in a safe. Hetzel died in 1887 and Jules never did have a chance to revisit the story. He passed away in 1905.

Michel, Jules' son, published some of his father's stories after his death – "Invasion of the Sea" and "Lighthouse at the End of the World," but Michel being the pistol he was made extensive changes to the stories. The original Jules Verne novels were discovered and published in the late 20th Century.

In 1989, Jules' great-grandson found the safe Jules had stashed "Paris in the 20th Century." The novel finally found print in 1994. Jules Verne had come full circle.


Verne is one of the top FIVE translated authors in the world?

Question for readers: What's your favorite Jules Verne story? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. I give up--will read a steampunk! As always, fascinating post, Stephanie! Could we ever match the incredible imagination of Wells and Verne? I confess I started reading because I was looking for the Robert Downey comment--in your 2nd post.He's my dreamboat!

  2. LOL!! Give it a try. I think it will sneak up on you. Wells and Verne were true visonaries. I'd love to read Verne's Paris in the 20th Century.

    Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor. I love him as iron man but I remember when he did Chaplin - amazing. He's got a great range as an actor.