We interrupt our regularly scheduled post (which was probably going to being Character Background 3: Jasper, The Dead Guy) because today is Jules Verne’s birthday, and as he is considered to be the father of both steampunk and science fiction in general, he is well worth a post on.
The guy wrote 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, and Around The World In 80 Days. These stories in which he blends fantastical places and voyages with a numerous scientific and geographic details, are the first science fiction stories, predating even HG Wells by 2 to 3 decades. Since he wrote sci-fi in the midst of the Victorian era, he is TRULY the first steampunk.
Here are 10 rather interesting facts about the man.
1. Before he wrote stories he wrote libretti (lyrics) for operas.
2. His father, upon finding out Jules was involved with the theater, cut him off and Verne became a stockbroker. He was actually quite good at it although he despised it.
3. He hung out with both Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas, who gave him writing advice.
4. Around The World In 80 Days was actually based on a true story. In 1870, US railroad magnate George Francis Train (what are the odds on that name?) declared in the middle of his Presidential candidacy that he would travel around the world in 80 days or less. (It ended up taking him almost double the time. He tried twice more and finally, 20 years later in 1890 he managed to do it in under 80 days. 67 to be precise)
5. His submarine The Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues predated actual powered submarines by 25 years. In 1886, the first electric powered submarine was name The Nautilus after Verne’s creation.
6. Verne began as very optimistic about how technical possibilities could influence the future of mankind. Over his career he began more and more pessimistic about the future of civilization. Some say his good friend and publisher Peirre-Jules Hetzel edited out some of the more pessimistic aspects that were creeping in to Verne’s works, but after his death, Hetzel’s son who took over the business did far less editing and left them in
7. In 1863 he wrote a novel based in the 20th century which featured glass skyscrapers, high speed trains, calculators and even a worldwide communications network. Called Paris In The 20th Century, it was eerily accurate. However, despite the wonders of 20th century life, the protagonist cannot find happiness and comes to a tragic end. Verne’s publisher (you know, Hetzel Sr.) thought the book too pessimistic and held off publishing it. It wasn’t discovered until 1989 by Verne’s great grandson.
8. He published at least 1 book a year for over 40 years on a wide range of subjects.
9. He actually traveled very little. His only time riding in a balloon lasted 24 minutes.
10. He was shot in 1886 by his mentally ill nephew, Gaston. Two shots were fired, one missing and the other hitting his left leg. Gaston spent the remainder of his life in a mental asylum and Verne had a limp for the rest of his life, which ended in 1905 of diabetes.