Creator / Jules Verne

"I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new."
Passepartout in Around the World in 80 Days

Jules Gabriel Verne (1828-1905) was an influential 19th century 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 H. G. 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 works, including a seminal historical overview of famous explorers and their achievements. Intended originally as a quick side project to pad his permanently thin wallet, it eventually grew into a compendium rivaling in size even the Voyages Extraordinaires themselves.

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 up at Verne's home and counted him as his favorite uncle) couldn't bring himself to insist on the changes he wanted.

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 day 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.

Works with a page on this wiki:

An incomplete list of his other books:

  • The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
  • An Antarctic Mystery a.k.a. The Sphinx of the Ice Fields
  • The Archipelago on Fire
  • Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen
  • Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
  • The Flight to France
  • A Floating City
  • In The Year 2889 (with his son Michel)
  • Invasion of the Sea
  • The Lighthouse at the End of the World
  • Master of the World
  • Off on a Comet
  • Propeller Island
  • The Purchase of the North Pole
  • The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz (edited by his son Michel)
  • Tribulations of a Chinaman in China
  • Two Years' Vacation
  • The Village in the Treetops

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

Verne's life, style of writing and works show examples of the following tropes:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
    • In many works, a real landscape, event or phenomenon is exaggerated for dramatic purposes.
    • Robur the Conqueror: The flying ship is carried by storm between Mount Erebus and Mount Terror and narrowly misses by a lucky helm handling the flames spewing from Mount Erebus' crater. The tone of the story makes people think it as some dashing flight through a canyon of fire. In Real Life the mountains are separated by more than 15 miles, Mount Terror has been extinct for at least 800 000 years and Mount Erebus' flames never jump for thousands of yards into the atmosphere.
  • The Alternet: In Paris in the Twentieth Century banks communicate via a linked network of fax-style document machines (which did exist in Real Life during the 1890s, but on smaller scale). Possibly the Ur-Example.
  • Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: Many of his most famous Mad Scientist and Genius Bruiser characters, including Captain Nemo and Robur the Conqueror.
  • Artistic License – Economics: The Incredible Adventures of Barsac's Expedition features a highly advanced city built by the villains in some inaccessible place in uncharted African lands. The sole way to finance the construction and a giant factory building most advanced technology is a string of bank robberies in Europe. One of the characters lampshades it by saying something along the lines of "how do they got you the money to build all this? The Big Bad has to be at least a billionaire."
  • 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. Best example being Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen, where the Black characters who aid the hero are loyal, devoted and brave fighters. A notable exception is the black servant in Robur the Conqueror, portrayed as an abject coward and not particularly bright.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Verne was really ahead of his own time. Many of his stories features inventions like space travel that are so accurately described that you would forget that many of these things weren't invented yet in his own lifetime!
  • 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 problemsnote , 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.
  • Crippling the Competition: In Michel Strogoff, the eponymous character is blinded by having his eyes exposed to a heated iron by his foes.
  • 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 One 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 Bastards 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.
    • The most shining example is probably his posthumous novel The Incredible Adventures of Barsac's Expedition, set in the Darkest Africa, which he started shortly before his death in 1905 and which was completed by his son from Vere's outline some 10 years later. Its bleakness is comparable to the Paris in the Twentieth Century, though much of it probably stems from his son's touch — Michel Verne was fond of writing Dystopias.
  • Enfant 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. What's interesting, despite Michel's erratic behavior, he later made up with his father and became an heir to his archive. As turned out later, he's also basically co-wrote much of Jules' posthumous works.
    • 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 retreat 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 Edgar Allan 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 Poe and even tried to emulate his style in some of his fiction during various eras of his writing career.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The Begum's Millions has two competing cities as expies for France and Germany. Verne made no bones on where his sympathies were.
  • 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).
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Verne was somewhat interested in Russia — as was a significant part of the French society in XIX century — and often used it as his setting, but most of these books were largely informed by this trope: despite the interest, the mid-XIX century perception of Russia in France was largely Entertainingly Wrong. Verne himself never visited the country unlike his literary mentor Dumas-père — he planned a Black Sea tour during one of his Mediterranean cruises, but the trip in question was cut short (different sources give different reasons: from cholera outbreak in Odessa to a falling out with his wife).
  • Homage: From his younger years Verne was well-read in the works of E. T. A. Hoffmann, and some of his own works can be seen as homages, most notably the novella Master Zacharius (1854), The Castle in Transylvania, and the posthumously published The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz. About the latter he wrote in his last letter to Hetzel that it was "pure Hoffmann, and Hoffmann himself would not have dared to go that far".
  • Humans Are Bastards: 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.
  • 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.
  • Phlebotinum du Jour: Much, much of Verne's work feature incredibly widespread and, for its time, almost inconceivably advanced use of electricity. In fact, some of the technologies he describes are still largely out of our reach today.
  • 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 Begum's Millions were inspired by a disastrous French defeat in a Franco-Prussian war.
    • The Begum's 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 André Laurie. He has then just returned to France from his exile in New Caledonia and the 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 his colleague — Laurie later became a famous adventure writer.
    • The original backstory for Nemo of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was almost Ripped from the Headlines in that he was a Polish nobleman who had lost his entire family to the Russians in the 1863 January Uprising, the Russians' actions shocked and angered many people throughout the world, including Verne. His editor was afraid of offending Russia though so he made Verne obscure Nemo's origins in the book.
  • 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.
  • 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 a 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 (a nuclear one also called the Nautilus), Simon Lake, was caught in a storm, and recalled a moment in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea where the Nautilus dives a few feet underwater to avoid the storm. He then repeated the technique and survived, and sent Verne's great grandson a telegraph thanking him. The book is famous for also inspiring Ernest Shackleton, William Beebe, Robert Ballard and Jacques Costeau.
    • 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. Oh, and the projectile looks suspiciously like the command module. The book was popular with astronauts, and Yuri Gagarin read the Russian edition a lot.
    • And in Around the Moon, he predicted most of the activities the astronauts would do in 1969 (with the exception of Ardan spraying perfume everywhere) and, near the end, a prototype of satellite communication.
  • Sky Pirate: Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World are one of the earliest Trope Makers, if not the Ur-Example.
  • Small Reference Pools: The books that have their own pages (except for Paris in the Twentieth Century) are pretty much his only works that most people know. They represent less than a fifth of his total output.
  • Starving Artist: In his younger days, after his father cut his financial support because Verne dropped out of the law school and turned himself to literature. To feed himself, he had to work as a stock broker, a job he hated immensely despite being reportedly quite successful at it. Eventually, though, this trope became subverted when plays of his works and large readership lead to him having a big house in Nantes, a yacht and a comfortable lifestyle.
  • Steam Punk: 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 Steam Punk aesthetic we know today, Verne often subverted this trope by presenting fictional technologies based on the existing 19th 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.
  • Those Two Guys: Craig and Fry, the two employees assigned by the American insurance company as bodyguards to watch over Kin-Fo in Tribulations of a Chinaman in China. Inseparable and largely indistinguishable (they are cousins), they appear like spiritual ancestors of the Thom(p)sons, if a bit more competent.
  • Tractor Beam: Possibly the Ur-Example - The Meteor Hunt, written in 1901 and published in 1908, uses such a device to bring the titular meteor down to Earth. Except that both the Tractor Beam and its inventor were introduced by Michel Verne, when he reedited the novel for publication three years after his father's death.
  • Unbuilt Trope/Troperrific: Since he's a one of the granddaddies of the science fiction genre, this is to be expected.
  • Underground City: Occurs in Les Indes noires, which appeared in English under the titles "The Child of the Cavern, or Strange Doings Underground", "Black Diamonds'' and "The Underground City".
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Hetzel — their letters to each other show that both men rarely shied from rather pointed barbs, especially when discussing their Creative Differences, but they remained fast friends to the very end.
  • The Worm Guy: At the time of this writing, Professor Roch in Facing the Flag is the earliest known example of the trope.
    • Ripped from the Headlines: Thomas Roch is actually a thinly veiled caricature of the famous French chemist Eugène Turpin, who invented the use of the picric acid (trinitrophenol, a common dye and antiseptic) as a military explosive and (reportedly, though the rumors later turned out to be false) toured various governments trying to sell them his patent, after the French military turned uninterested. Verne, a nationalist at heart, disapproved of Turpin's profiteering, and presented his character in a rather unpleasant fashion. Turpin, naturally, wasn't amused and sued Verne for defamation, but lost, largely because of the effort of the Verne's attorney, Raymond Poincaré, a future President of France.
  • 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 Steam Punk 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 balloonnote . 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 embarrassed.