Science Fiction Studies

#95 = Volume 32, Part 1 = March 2005

Editorial Introduction: Jules Verne’s Centenary

Editorial introductions are rather like those annoying “Hello, my name is ... and I will be your server” spiels that you encounter in trendy, upscale restaurants. You must patiently listen to an overview of the various plats du jour and how large your vegetable servings will be before you can settle into the more serious work of perusing the menu and deciding what you want to eat.

So I will try to be as brief as possible.

Jules Verne died on March 24, 1905. It is therefore quite fitting that SFS celebrate his memory with this March 2005 special issue.

In the past 30-odd years, the anglophone sf field has witnessed a Jules Verne renaissance. Before the 1970s, there were few reliable English translations and no critical editions of Verne’s novels, prompting Walter James Miller to observe in 1976 that “The English-speaking world has never had a chance to know the real Jules Verne” (ix). Today, a host of new and accurate Verne translations—with informed critical materials—are available from university presses such as Oxford, Wesleyan, and Nebraska, as well as from commercial publishers such as Random House, Prometheus Books, and others. In 1980, the editors of an authoritative bibliography on Jules Verne stated that “English language criticism on Verne has not passed beyond a sterile and superficial level” (Gallaher et al. xvi). Today, there is a growing body of vibrant and cutting-edge scholarship in English on Jules Verne thanks to the efforts of British scholars such as William Butcher, Andrew Martin, and Timothy Unwin, and their counterparts in North America such as Miller, Terry Harpold, Brian Taves, Peter Schulman, Jean-Michel Margot, and the many members of the North American Jules Verne Society, formed in 1994.

French Vernians Daniel Compère and (the late) François Raymond once recommended that, because of their richness, Jules Verne’s works needed to be viewed through a “plurality of critical perspectives” (30). That is exactly what we have aimed at in putting together in this special issue of SFS to mark Jules Verne’s centenary. Launching our celebration of Verne’s oeuvre is Timothy Unwin’s essay “Jules Verne: Negotiating Change in the Nineteenth Century,” a discussion of how Verne affected, and was affected by, his historical milieu in a time of unparalleled social (and literary) transformation. Terry Harpold’s “Verne’s Cartographies” next offers an analysis of the literary and narrative functions of the many maps and other graphics in Verne’s works and how they influence the reader’s experience of the Vernian text. William Butcher, in “Hidden Treasures: The Manuscripts of Twenty Thousand Leagues,” shares a detailed analysis of the original manuscripts of this Verne masterpiece, showing us that the rough drafts—censored by Verne’s publisher Hetzel—were very different from the novel we know today. In “Why They Kill Jules Verne: SF and Cartesian Culture,” George Slusser discusses how Verne, as a dominant cultural icon, is viewed today in France. My own contribution focuses on Verne’s English translations—the good, the bad, and the very ugly—and I include an extensive bibliography of the same. Teri J. Hernández, in “Translating Verne: An Extraordinary Journey,” recounts her rediscovery of Verne and her own Caribbean roots as she translates the last Verne novel never to have been translated into English, Bourses de voyage (Travel Scholarships). Jean-Michel Margot, in “Jules Verne, Playwright,” introduces us to another side of the venerable author of which most readers are totally unaware: the Verne who was passionately attracted to the theater and whose popular “great spectacle” plays ultimately made him a wealthy man. Gregory Benford, in “Verne to Varley: Hard SF Evolves,” traces the tradition of hard sf from Jules Verne to John Varley (via Hugo Gernsback and Robert A. Heinlein) and chronicles the Frenchman’s lasting legacy to the genre. And, finally, in a “Jules Verne Roundtable,” a number of sf scholars from around the world were asked to address the question “What is Jules Verne’s relevance to the twenty-first century?” Their diverse responses not only reflect the “plurality of critical perspectives” mentioned above but also illustrate to what extent this putative “father of science fiction” remains pertinent to our world today.

I welcome you to this special issue of SFS and wish you bon voyage in your (re)discovery of Jules Verne. Let the feast begin.

Gallagher, Edward J., Judith A. Mistichelli, John A. Van Eerde, eds. Jules Verne: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980.
Miller, Walter James. “Foreword: A New Look at Jules Verne.” The Annotated Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. Trans. and ed. Walter James Miller. NY: Crowell, 1976. vii-xxii.
Raymond, François et Daniel Compère. Le Développement des études sur Jules Verne. Archives des Lettres Modernes 161. Paris: Minard, 1976.

When discussing the work of a foreign author who was as prolific and as well known as Jules Verne, certain difficulties arise in how best to handle translation and citation. Accordingly, the following four editorial conventions will be observed for this issue:

• The collective title for Jules Verne’s novels in French is the Voyages extraordinaires (the second and subsequent terms in French titles are generally not capitalized). In English, it has been translated as “Extraordinary Voyages,” “Extraordinary Journeys,” and even “Strange Journeys.” For this issue, we shall retain the original French title but capitalize both terms in the English manner: Voyages Extraordinaires.

• Given the plethora of different editions of Verne’s works (in French and English) and the fact that many of Verne’s novels are composed of more than one Part, we thought it useful to include Part and chapter references whenever needed. For this issue, II§4.178 signifies Part II, chapter 4, page 178.

• To conserve space, all French titles and text will be offered in English translation only. Exceptions to this rule will be those articles where including the original French titles and text is crucial to the discussion.

• Most Verne novels carry up to as many as five different English titles. For this issue, the following English titles will be used as the “standard” references (with abbreviated versions in parentheses):

Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires in French and English
(publication dates listed are for the illustrated octavo editions)

Cinq semaines en ballon (1863) - Five Weeks in a Balloon (Five Weeks)
Voyage au centre de la terre (1864) - Journey to the Center of the Earth (Journey)
De la Terre à la lune (1865) - From the Earth to the Moon (Earth to Moon)
Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras (1866) - The Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras (Hatteras)
Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (1867) - The Children of Captain Grant (Grant)
Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1870) - Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (20,000 Leagues)
Autour de la lune (1870) - Around the Moon (Around)
Une Ville flottante (1871) - A Floating City (Floating City)
Adventures de trois Russes et de trois Anglais dans l’Afrique australe (1872) - The Adventures of Three Russians and Three Englishmen in Southern Africa (Three Russians)
Le Pays des fourrures (1873) - The Fur Country (Fur Country)
Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (1873) - Around the World in Eighty Days (80 Days)
Le Docteur Ox (1874) - Doctor Ox (Ox)
L’Île mystérieuse (1875) - The Mysterious Island (Mysterious)
Le Chancellor (1875) - The Chancellor (Chancellor)
Michel Strogoff (1876) - Michael Strogoff (Strogoff)
Hector Servadac (1877) - Hector Servadac (Servadac)
Les Indes noires (1877) - The Black Indies (Black Indies)
Un Capitaine de quinze ans (1878) - A Captain at Fifteen (Captain at 15)
Les Cinq cents millions de la Bégum (1879) - The Begum’s Millions (Begum)
Les Tribulations d’un Chinois en Chine (1879) - The Tribulations of a Chinese Man in China (Tribulations)
La Maison à vapeur (1880) - The Steam House (Steam House)
La Jangada (1881) - The Jangada (Jangada)
Le Rayon vert (1882) - The Green Ray (Green Ray)
L’école des Robinsons (1882) - The Robinson School (Robinson)
Kéraban-le-têtu (1883) - Keraban the Headstrong (Keraban)
L’Archipel en feu (1884) - The Archipelago on Fire (Archipelago)
L’étoile du sud (1884) - The Southern Star (Southern Star)
Mathias Sandorf (1885) - Mathias Sandorf (Sandorf)
L’épave du Cynthia (1885) - The Wreck of the Cynthia (Cynthia)
Robur-le-conquérant (1886) - Robur the Conqueror (Robur)
Un Billet de loterie (1886) - A Lottery Ticket (Lottery)
Le Chemin de France (1887) - The Flight to France (Flight)
Nord contre Sud (1887) - North Against South (North)
Deux ans de vacances (1888) - A Two Years’ Vacation (Vacation)
Famille-sans-nom (1889) - Family Without a Name (Family)
Sans dessus dessous (1889) - Topsy-Turvy (Topsy-Turvy)
César Cascabel (1890) - Caesar Cascabel (Cascabel)
Mistress Branican (1891) - Mistress Branican (Branican)
Le Château des Carpathes (1892) - The Castle of the Carpathians (Castle)
Claudius Bombarnac (1892) - Claudius Bombarnac (Bombarnac)
P’tit-bonhomme (1893) - Lit’l-Fellow (Lit’l-Fellow)
Mirifiques aventures de maÎtre Antifer (1894) - The Fabulous Adventures of Captain Antifer (Antifer)
L’Île à hélice (1895) - Propeller Island (Propeller)
Face au drapeau (1896) - Facing the Flag (Flag)
Clovis Dardentor (1896) - Clovis Dardentor (Dardentor)
Le Sphinx des glaces (1897) - The Sphinx of the Ice (Sphinx)
Le Superbe Orénoque (1898) - The Mighty Orinoco (Orinoco)
Le Testament d’un eccentrique (1899) - The Last Will of an Eccentric (Last Will)
Seconde patrie (1900) - Second Homeland (Second)
Le Village aérien (1901) - The Aerial Village (Village)
Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin (1901) - The Tales of Jean-Marie Cabidoulin (Cabidoulin)
Les Frères Kip (1902) - The Kip Brothers (Kip)
Bourses de voyage (1903) - Travel Scholarships (Scholarships)
MaÎtre du monde (1904) - Master of the World (Master)
Un Drame en Livonie (1904) - A Drama in Livonia (Livonia)
L’Invasion de la mer (1905) - Invasion of the Sea (Invasion)
Le Phare du bout du monde (1905) - The Lighthouse at the Edge of the World (Lighthouse)
Le Volcan d’or (1906) - The Golden Volcano (Volcano)
L’Agence Thompson and Cº (1907) - The Thompson Travel Agency (Thompson)
La Chasse au météore (1908) - The Hunt for the Meteor (Meteor)
Le Pilote du Danube (1908) - The Danube Pilot (Danube)
Les Naufragés du Jonathan (1909) - The Survivors of the Jonathan (Survivors)
Le Secret de Wilhelm Storitz (1910) - The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz (Storitz)
Hier et demain (1910) - Yesterday and Tomorrow (Yesterday)
L’étonnante aventure de la mission Barsac (1919) - The Amazing Barsac Mission (Barsac)

NOTE: Verne’s posthumous works—beginning with Le Phare du bout du monde—were modified and, in some instances, entirely (re)written by his son, Michel. During the past few years, Verne’s original manuscripts for these works have begun to be published, sometimes with a different French title: En Magellanie for Les Naufragés du Jonathan, Le Beau Danube jaune for Le Pilote du Danube, etc. For a more detailed account of these and other French editions, see Volker Dehs, Jean-Michel Margot, and Zvi Har’El’s excellent Jules Verne Bibliography at <>.

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