Jules Gabriel Verne (8 February 1828 24 March 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 cited as 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. Together, the novels published in his lifetime form a Thematic Series, the Voyages Extraordinaires (Extraordinary Voyages).
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Another thing is that many of his posthumous works (Verne was a prolific author and there was a large backlog of unpublished novels after his death in 1905, which were published well into the Roaring Twenties) were extensively edited (up to the point of a complete rewrite) or even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 by Verne:Fiction
- Around the World in 80 Days (which inspired the creation of the Jules Verne Trophy)
- The Begum's Millions (expanded from a draft by Andre Laurie)
- The Castle in Transylvania
- Five Weeks in a Balloon
- From the Earth to the Moon and its sequels Around the Moon and The Purchase of the North Pole
- In Search of the Castaways (aka The Children of Captain Grant)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Master of the World
- Michael Strogoff
- The Mysterious Island
- Paris in the Twentieth Century
- Robur the Conqueror
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- The Steam House
- A Winter Amid The Ice
- 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
- 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 works contain examples of the following tropes:
- 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."
- The Dividual: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Survivors of the "Jonathan" is a thorough deconstruction of utopian ideas. The ending is happy, though.
- Fan Sequel: 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.
- Friendly Scheming: Tribulations of a Chinaman in China: The whole plot was staged by the protagonist's mentor, philosopher Wang, to teach him the value of life.
- Exty Years from Now: "In the Year 2889", published in 1889. (The story's actually by Verne's son, Michel, a creative sci-fi author in his own right, but Jules let Michel use his more famous name so the story would have a better chance of being published.)
- 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, including the novella Master Zacharius (1854) 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".
- High Concept: His concepts are usually stated in the title:
- In Which a Trope Is Described: In many novels the chapters have long descriptive names or start with a brief synopsis.
- Misplaced Wildlife: In Two Years' Vacation, the children encounter a hippopotamus in what's meant to be South America. Oddly, in the earlier book Dick Sand, A Captain At Fifteen, Dick Sand deduces that they must be in Africa and not South America because they encounter hippos.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Thomas Roch in Facing the Flag is 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.
- Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil:
- Dick Sand, A Captain At Fifteen (published 1878) is a long, continuous exposure of all evils of the Atlantic slave trade. Keep in mind those were the 1870s, when the slave raidings and trade had already begun to shrink away. In the heyday, it had been much worse.
- In The Mysterious Island Verne vocally supports North in The American Civil War.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: With stories that are out of the norm and going into worlds of imagination and dreams, its pretty safe to say Jules Vernes work is on the idealistic end of the scale. But only when Hetzel is editing.
- Switching P.O.V.: Aside from any possible examples within individual books, there's the interesting fact that, if you look at the entirety of his works, you'll find both books with American protagonists and unfriendly Brits (i. e. From the Earth to the Moon, where a group of Americans ask the whole world for donations for their shoot-a-projectile-at-the-Moon project, and Britain is shown as the only major Western nation that doesn't donate anything), and books with British protagonists and unfriendly Americans (i. e. Around the World in 80 Days, where the British protagonist ends up in a duel with an American minor character at one point). (Verne was clearly writing at a time when the USA and the UK were still widely perceived as antagonists rather than allies.)
- Thematic Series: Verne devoted most of his career to the "Extraordinary Voyages in Worlds Known and Unknown", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a series of novels linked by themes of travel, knowledge, and discovery. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, and all the other famous Verne novels belong to the series. There are a few direct sequels within the series, but most of the time, allusions between novels are limited to The Cameo, a Continuity Nod, or a bit of surprise Canon Welding.
- 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.
- 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".
- The Worm Guy: At the time of this writing, Professor Roch in Facing the Flag is the earliest known example of the trope.