Jules Verne: the inventor of stories who created science fiction

Jules Verne: the inventor of stories who created science fiction

Jules Verne

He guided us into the depths of the sea aboard the Nautilus and shot us (literally) on the Moon, thanks to him we traveled the world in the company of Phileas Fogg and discovered what is hidden in the center of the Earth. These simple clues are enough for all voracious authors of science fiction to pay a grateful smile to the memory of Jules Gabriel Verne, a respected French writer, like names like Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells, one of the noble fathers of modern science fiction. It could not have been otherwise, considering that this fervent mind born on February 8, 1828, in Nantes, a French port city, showed from a young age how much adventure was rooted in his soul.

The great minds that have characterized the evolution of anticipation fiction, as nascent science fiction was known at the time, they shared a particularly intense century in terms of technological evolution. From the electric battery to the typewriter, from the telegraph to the electric dynamo, these inventions were just some of the ideas that caught the imagination of the great storytellers of the period. And Jules Verne could not resist this call.

Jules Verne: narrating the adventure

On the other hand we are talking about a man who as a boy, just eleven, secretly boarded a ship bound for the Indies, hoping to collect corals to give to his first flame, his cousin Caroline Tronson. Fortunately, the young Jules was recovered by his father in a port before the ship set sail for the other side of the world. This first experience was already a sign of how adventure was inherent in Verne's DNA, waiting to find full realization in his works, but it was an opportunity for Verne to make a promise to his father that would become the leitmotif of his life:

"I will travel no more except my imagination"

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"Science is made up of errors, but errors that it is good to commit, because they slowly lead to the truth"

While finishing his law studies, Verne began writing librettos for operettas, until he decided to definitively abandon his legal career, devoting himself entirely to theatrical production. Despite the help obtained by the Dumas family, the theatrical environment proved to be inauspicious for Verne, to the point that after the rich (albeit unhappy) marriage with the wealthy widow Anne Hébée Morel, he abandoned the world of the stage to devote himself to what would become the his life: writing.

Jules Verne's luck, in addition to his incredible inventiveness, was to find a publisher who had extreme confidence in him. After publishing his first collection of short stories, Five weeks in a balloon, the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel proposed a twenty-year exclusive agreement to the French writer, with the obligation to publish three novels a year. For Verne, this was the turning point, an economic security that allowed him to abandon his job as a stockbroker to devote himself exclusively to his beloved writing.

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Five weeks in balloon, his literary debut was inspired by the photographer Nadar, who attempted to build the largest balloon, prophetically baptized Le Gèant (The Giant). Nadar's undertaking did not have the hoped-for success, but thanks to this failure Verne began to develop a conviction that was ahead of his time: the skies were ready to be crossed by heavier-than-air aircraft. Passion shared with Nadar, with whom he created an association with the aim of promoting this innovative idea.

The dawn of science fiction

Verne was increasingly convinced that the future of humanity was to seize the heavens. For him, convincing the world that the exploration of our world was finally possible became a life mission, to the point that he struggled to conceive how there were still skeptics who could not understand how much science and technological progress were writing the steps of the future of humanity, to the point that Verne never hid his disappointment:

“To follow certain limited minds, man would be condemned to languish on this world without any possibility of launching himself into space tomorrow. Nonsense! We will go first to the moon, then to planets and stars, with the same simplicity with which we currently travel from New York to Liverpool. The ocean of space will soon be furrowed like the terrestrial oceans "

From these beliefs, works such as From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and Around the Moon (1870) were born. What at the time might have seemed like mere literary speculations, such as the choice of launching its space projectile from Florida or landing it in the Pacific on its return to Earth, anticipating NASA's choice by a century. Every work of Verne demonstrates how the ingenious French writer, like subsequent authors such as Herbert or Wells, let himself be influenced by technological innovation, revealing himself to be a precursor, so much so that Ray Bradbury recognized a great tribute to the novelist:

“Without Verne, we probably would never have conceived the idea of ​​going to the Moon”

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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), the most famous novel of Verne, is a symbol of this prophetic vision of his future. The Nautilus, Captain Nemo's submarine vessel, is powered by the newborn electricity, anticipating modern submarines by decades, to the point that the first American atomic submarine was baptized Nautilus, indicating how Verne's creation was a symbol of human ingenuity itself. pushed towards new, wonderful discoveries. But it was not only Nemo's admirable craft that showed the capacity, but every page of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea contains Verne's happy insights into future achievements in science and technology, from the exploitation of seabed minerals to the creation of textile fibers, up to the use of particular diving suits whose realization would become reality years later.

In this first phase of his production, Verne approached with the authentic curiosity and indomitable charm of a man who savored every new conquest, he saw future developments for social evolution. Not only that, but he fully enjoyed it, traveling with his yacht, giving vent to his adventurous spirit that he had shown since he was a child. But this enthusiasm faded in the latter part of his life as a writer.

The dark side of science

After 1885, Verne began a period of serious personal difficulties, which inevitably it also affected his professional life. Within a few years, the writer lost some of his closest loved ones, including publisher Hetzel. To this was added the worsening of family difficulties, a domestic environment dominated by an oppressive wife and a problematic son, to which was added the care of his nephew Gaston, afflicted by mental disorders, who went so far as to make the writer gamble, condemning him to finish. his days in a wheelchair, robbing him of his love of travel.

These torments put a heavy toll on Verne's literary output, which seemed to fundamentally change his once enthusiastic outlook on science and progress technological. After recounting the incredible and promising possibilities, Verne began to see the dark side of these continuous inventions. Works such as Robur the Conqueror (1886) and his retinue The Master of the World (1904) belong to this period, which contrast with other novels by the writer, showing how the brilliant inventors became men capable of bending the power of new scientific discoveries. for much less noble purposes.

Not only did the characters of the characters change, but also Verne's style took on a harder and more mature tone, ideal for conveying this new, disturbing vision of his. For years, Verne's imaginative literature, despite an almost popular scientific trait, was considered a reading suitable for an adolescent audience, but Verne's late production prompted contemporary critics to begin a process of re-evaluation of the novelist's entire literary corpus. French.

The first real recognition of the value of Verne's work came from Hugo Gernsback, founder of Amazing Stories, the first magazine in the world entirely devoted to science fiction. Within the first issue of Amazing Stories, Gernsback wrote an editorial in which Verne was regarded as one of the noble fathers of science fiction:

"By science fiction I mean the genre of stories written by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe: a compelling fiction intimately intertwined with scientific data and prophetic intuitions. Edgar Allan Poe can rightly be called the father of "science fiction". It was he who really started the romance, brilliantly weaving a scientific thread in and around the story. Jules Verne, with his amazing romances, also interwoven with a thread of science, came second. A little later came H. G. Wells, whose science fiction stories, like those of his forerunners, have become famous and immortal. "

On the other hand, Verne must be recognized for having best interpreted the spirit of future science fiction, finding a perfect synthesis between the exaltation of the achievements of human ingenuity and the imaginative, possible evolutions that tomorrow would have reserved for us. . As Italo Calvino said:

"All his work aims at the encyclopedia. We always talk about Verne's unparalleled imagination in predicting scientific inventions. In reality he was a great reader of scientific journals, enriching what he gradually came to know about the research in progress "

Despite the precious recognition by Gernsback, who conceived modern literary science fiction, the figure Verne was unable to easily break free from his reputation as a teenage writer. This conception of Verne's work was slowly re-evaluated only at the end of the last century, when literary criticism, primarily British, demonstrated how Verne's intuitions and narrative were not only suitable for an audience of adolescents, but for all those who were looking for a great science fiction story.

Verne and the cinema

The world of cinema was more aware, which saw in the adventures narrated by Verne a universe to draw fully on hands. Not surprisingly, the first science fiction film in the history of cinema, Journey into the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune), a 1902 silent film made by George Méliès, came to life when the French filmmaker condensed the plots of From the Earth to the Moon by Verne and HG's First Men on the Moon Wells. Poetic, as the two fathers of modern science fiction were also the proponents of sci-fi cinema, albeit indirectly.

After this very short debut (Journey into the Moon lasted just 14 minutes), Verne's ideas were able to find full value in the following years. Memorable are the film adaptations of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea made in 1954 by Disney, with Kirk Douglas and James Mason, who won two Oscars, including the one for the special effects, or the one, also signed by Disney, of Viaggio al centro della Terra (1959).

What remains today of Verne's production? Much more than imagined. The French writer's imagination is deeply rooted in the collective imagination, influencing later authors, such as Alan Moore, and offering generations of readers their first, unforgettable adventure.

You can venture into the worlds of Verne read the volume The strange journeys of Giulio Verne

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