Jules Verne

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Jules Verne was an early French novelist who became famous for his adventure novels and Speculative Fiction. He is widely credited as being one of the pioneers of the Speculative Fiction genre (the others being Mark Twain, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and HG Wells). His works greatly influenced several generations of authors, and is often the basis for the modern Steampunk setting.

Jules Verne wrote about space and undersea travel before such things were possible, and many early engineers and scientists said his works greatly influenced their careers. In fact, some of his works were eerily on-target predictions of the future in many ways... some more than others, naturally. He is also the seldom-credited inventor of the Transforming Mecha concept in the form of the Terror, Robur's newest flying machine in Master of the World, which can also become a sub or an armored car. Sadly, Verne being the stickler for realism that he was, the world would have to wait another century for the Japanese to be crazy enough to come up with the idea of the now ubiquitous humanoid robot mode.

He also wrote short stories and some Nonfiction novels.

Jules Verne's works are notorious for being poorly translated into English, specifically by arrogant, censor-happy, blind idiots who can't do math. Beware, particularly with public domain translations. His works also suffered from Executive Meddling of his friend and publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel (for instance, changing Captain Nemo's origin to an Indian fighting the English from a Pole fighting the Russians, as France was allied with Russia at the time), who generally demanded happy endings for the protagonists. You see, Verne wasn't a cheerful and spunky man by a long shot, he always was more on a brooding side, and especially in his late years, his difficult family life and declining health had led him to grow increasingly bitter and misanthropic, which is evident from his later works, where he earned a Protection From Editors after Hetzel died and his son (who basically grew at Verne's home and counted him as his favorite uncle) couldn't bring himself to insist on the changes he wanted. Your Mileage May Vary over whether the changes were for good or otherwise.

Another thing is that many of his posthumous works (Verne was a prolific author and there was a large backlog of unpublished novels after his death in 1905, which were published well into the Roaring Twenties) were extensively edited (up to the point of a complete rewrite) or even made from the whole cloth by his son and heir Michel Verne. Michel, while being in general a classic Enfant Terrible, and a cause for a lot of trouble for his father, by the end of his life made up with him and become his advisor and assistant. Due to the way he was working, Verne left a lot of unfinished novels in the various states of completion, from the simple outline to the almost complete manuscript, so Michel, who inherited his father's archive, completed and reedited these drafts himself as he saw fit, so the Verne scholars to this are still trying to separate Michel's influence from Jules' last works. Fortunately Michel was a good enough writer for this matter to be only of academic importance.

An incomplete list of his books



  • Celebrated Travels and Travellers
  • The Exploration of the World
  • The Great Navigators of the Eighteenth Century
  • The Great Explorers of the Nineteenth Century

Tropes about Verne's style of writing and works:
  • Anti-Hero / Anti-Villain : Many of his most famous Mad Scientist and Genius Bruiser characters, including Captain Nemo and Robur the Conqueror.
  • Atlantis Is Boring: Largely averted in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, which even has a literal trip to the underwater ruins of Atlantis.
  • Black Best Friend: Typical secondary characters in novels with larger casts. While he did use some of them as Plucky Comic Relief and they often served as a Token Minority, he almost always portrayed them in a positive light and as resourceful, intelligent and equal to white characters—a notable exception is the black servant in Robur the Conqueror, portrayed as an abject coward and not particularly bright.
  • Canon Welding / Massive Multiplayer Crossover : To a smaller extent on a few occasions. The Mysterious Island linked the previous novels In Search of the Castaways and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea with itself into a loose trilogy (via the characters of former pirate Ayrton and Captain Nemo). Verne's fans tend to call the three novels "The Sea Trilogy".
  • Creator Breakdown: A mild form happened later into the Verne's life. A combination of family problems,[1] bad health, partly stemming from the very same problems, and loss of some of the closest people to him — his brother Paul and his longtime friend and publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel — drove Verne to progressively darker views on the life and science, obvious in his later works.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: A lot of his characters, especially those who would've been seen as social outcasts by contemporary 19th century society. Many of them eventually get better and become The Atoner. Others, not so much...
  • Dystopia: Some of his novels feature varying examples of this. A good full-blown example is his early novel Paris in The Twentieth Century. One of the Ruritanias in The Begum's Millions is clearly a Take That at the Prussian militaristic tradition and the German arms industry of the pre-World War I era (to the extent of giving off Putting on the Reich vibes, despite being written many decades before this trope came in full force). Propeller Island is an allegorical Humans Are the Real Monsters novel, where the inhabitants of a mobile and hi-tech island utopia eventually end up in petty arguments and in-fighting, unwittingly damaging the island's drive and buoyancy mechanisms, sinking it in the process. Works with dystopian overtones were more common in his later life, when Creator Breakdown and Real Life Writes the Plot started settling in.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Contrary to the public opinion, Verne didn't have any illusions of the human nature and wasn't that shy to show it in his works. This was greatly moderated by his close friend and publisher, Pierre-Jules Hetzel, who had much more optimistic outlook and spared no effort in reigning in his friend's misanthropy.
  • Enfante Terrible: Verne's son Michel, who was for much of his life a good-for-nothing playboy, and even when he became more subdued with age he remained a total loser in business and private life, and his father had to constantly bail him out. Whats interesting, despite Michel's erratic behavior, he later made up with his father and became a heir to his archive.
    • His nephew Gaston, the son of Jules' much beloved younger brother Paul, was mentally ill and once shot his uncle to the leg. Verne never completely recovered and walked with a heavy limp until the end. As he couldn't go to sea anymore due to his injury (and because he needed money to pay for one of Michel's many business blunders), he had to sell his favorite yacht, which he always used as a reteat from his difficult home life. This greatly contributed to his darker outlook on society and technological progress late in life.
  • Executive Meddling: As noted above, at a certain angle Hetzel could almost be counted as a Verne's co-author.
  • Fan Sequel : Believe it or not, The Sphinx Of The Ice Fields is this for E. A. Poe's famous horror/mystery novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Verne's novel had many Continuity Nods towards Poe's and expanded on its cliffhanger, but opted for a more Nothing Is Scarier approach, rather than overly physical threats to the characters (e. g. the Tsalal natives seemed to have gone extinct due to a mysterious plague). Verne was a life-long fan of E. A. Poe and even tried to emulate his style in some of his fiction during various eras of his writing career.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish : In his early years, he adored British culture and science, but later became Britophobic for some reason and shifted his focus to Americans. This is noticeable in his later novels, where American and French characters are often portrayed in a somewhat friendlier light than British ones (though the Brits are rarely villains and mostly end up as Jerk with a Heart of Gold characters at worst).
  • Market-Based Title: The reason why many of his novels often have three or even four different names, with one of them being preferred in the country where it's being published.
  • Porting Disaster / Blind Idiot Translation : A lot of the earlier translations of his works into English were poor at best, which had the undesirable effect of alienating whole generations of Verne's potential English readers who took the quality of the text at face value, as a sign of a bad author. Furthermore, Verne would include physics formulas in his science fiction to demonstrate their general plausibility. This created problems when translating his work into English back in the day, as Verne used the metric system, which no English-speaking country was familiar with at the time. Many translators Just Didnt Care, and replaced "kilometers" with "miles", etc., rendering the numbers nonsensical.
  • Protection From Editors: After Hetzel died, his son and heir, who basically has grown in a Verne's home, couldn't bring himself to insist on an editing level his late father did, and it definitely shows in the Verne's late works.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Some of the novels were almost literally Ripped from the Headlines, while others were inspired by the current hot themes. For example the Five Weeks In A Balloon were written when the whole world was abuzz with the news of African exploration, while The Begums Millions were inspired by a disastrous French defeat in a Franco-Prussian war.
    • The Begums Millions is also one of the very few known Verne's collaborative novels. The novel's outline was proposed by a famous revolutionary and a Paris Commune member Paschal Grousset, better known under his pen name of Andre Laurie. He has then just returned to France from his exile in New Caledonia and US, and was in a bad need of an income. Verne, being an ardent French nationalist and somewhat sympathetic to the Commune, and thus completely in agreement with the book's themes, reworked the novel and published it under his name to help the colleague — Laurie later became a famous adventure writer.
  • Science Is Bad: A definite note of this can be felt in the late novels after his Protection From Editors kicked in. On the other hand, Verne, who always did the research, was too honest with himself to fall into this trope completely. For him the science was bad only when bad people were using it.
  • Sci Fi Ghetto : Played with, but - surprisingly - mostly averted in the case of his contemporary readership. It helps that sci-fi wasn't an independent genre yet and that only around a third of Verne's works could be labeled as sci-fi. On the other hand, this trope was played straight in the case of theatrical adaptations of his works : The musical versions of the adventure novels Around the World in Eighty Days and Michail Strogoff were pretty succesful in their time, but there was little interest in adapting his sci-fi or more serious works.
  • Shown Their Work : His famously accurate predictions about various technological advances and social changes were the results of many, many, many hours of hard work he did in public libraries or by consulting various scientists and experts of the time. He really liked to do his research, even for things he could have easily handwaved. This general attitude and avoiding most far-fetched concepts is what gave him the credence of an hard sci-fi writer in the eyes of modern day critics.
    • This led to a rather awesome moment; the inventor of the first truly functional submarine, Simon Lake, was caught in a storm, and recalled a moment in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea where the Nautilis dives a few feet underwater to avoid the storm. He then repeated the technique and survived, and sent Verne a telegraph thanking him.
    • From Earth to the Moon has become somewhat famous for this, where Verne correctly predicted not only the location the astronauts would launch from, but the height and weight of the craft, the number of astronauts, and was accurate to being only about 2 and a half miles off from where the craft splashed down.
  • Sky Pirate : Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World are one of the earliest Trope Makers, if not the Ur Example.
  • Steampunk : While some of his works played this trope pretty straight (e. g. Steam House, which features a walking locomotive with the outward appearance of an Indian elephant, touring the British Raj) and greatly inspired the whole Steampunk aesthetic we know today, Verne often subverted this trope by presenting fictional technologies based on the existing 19. century ones, but powered by electric generators and/or powerful batteries, rather than classic steam engines. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea even features air rifles shooting pellet-like bullets charged with a deadly amount of concentrated electricity.
  • Unbuilt Trope / Troperrific : Since he's a one of the granddaddies of the science fiction genre, this is to be expected.
  • Zeppelins from Another World : Majorly subverted in Robur the Conqueror and its sequel. The Albatross of Robur and his band of sky pirates is more like a giant helicopter with a ship-like hull built from a Steampunk analogue of modern laminate/composite materials. The protagonists of the novel are members of an airship enthusiast club who get kidnapped by Robur and taken on a journey across the world on the Albatross just so Robur can make a point about heavier-than-air vehicles being the real thing of the future. Even after the protagonists escape and return home, they're still pretty convinced that airships are just better and take their long-developed giant blimp on a major public demonstration. The Albatross suddenly shows up, has an aerial race with the airship and then defeats it by skewering its balloon. Robur saves the airship's entire crew and safely carries them back to the audience, makes a little speech about the awesomeness of heavier-than-air machines and flies away, leaving the group of airship fanboys completely embarassed.
  1. He grew progressively more distant from his wife, his son was a good-for-nothing playboy with atrocious business sense, and his nephew Gaston was mentally ill