Science Fiction Studies

#95 = Volume 32, Part 1 = March 2005



Timothy Unwin

Jules Verne: Negotiating Change in the Nineteenth Century

Abstract. -- Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires are among the finest documents we possess of a nineteenth-century world whose technologies and lifestyles were being transformed. This article highlights two major aspects of Jules Verne’s awareness and negotiation of change in his own century. First, it stresses that if he did “foresee” anything, it was less an era of futuristic inventions than one in which the abuse of technology leads to division and conflict. Second, it emphasizes the impact of Jules Verne’s preoccupation with scientific change on his concept of the novel, arguing that he contributes very significantly to the evolution of the form. In Jules Verne’s hands, the novel becomes an instrument with which to look at a new and evolving world, but an instrument that itself is subject to the law of change. The article concludes by affirming that, far from being seen as an unliterary author, Jules Verne redefines the notion of what literature is or can be.

Terry Harpold

Verne’s Cartographies

Abstract. -- This essay offers an analysis of the literary and narrative functions of the maps and other related design elements of the illustrated Hetzel editions of Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires. I argue that the complexity and originality of the play of word and image in these texts represent one of the signal achievements of Verne and his publishers. Taken as a whole, the Voyages are among the most accomplished and evocative reflections in modern fiction on the relations of the alphabetic text to its graphic counterparts.

William Butcher

Hidden Treasures: The Manuscripts of Twenty Thousand Leagues

Abstract. -- This first study of the manuscripts of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas shows that before the publisher’s harrowing censorship, the antepenultimate chapter of the novel was radically different. In the earlier drafts Captain Nemo supports the French Revolution and Republican ideas, and the ship he attacks, in legitimate self-defense, is French. In the original “Conclusion,” Nemo survives and is not criticized by the egregious Aronnax, but rather praised as the ultimate free man. In the light of these variants, changing the ideological tenor of the novel, it would appear increasingly urgent to have further detailed textual knowledge of the publisher’s censorship, so as to understand Verne’s real intentions in writing his masterpieces.

George Slusser

Why They Kill Jules Verne: SF and Cartesian Culture

Abstract. -- Bernard Blanc’s book Why I Killed Jules Verne, and its radical premise (that Verne the tyrannical “father” of sf must be killed so that his progeny, the new French writers of the late 1970s, can reclaim science fiction as their own terrain of activity) is symptomatic of a broader cultural attitude toward Verne and the materialist science he is seen to embody. This essay explores the cultural implications of the paternity of Verne and subsequent attempts to assassinate him in the context of a culture fascinated not only with tyrants and regicide but also with the mechanisms of the Cartesian cogito, itself a means, through its method of doubt, of stripping away material extension in order to assert the counter-reign of mind at the center of a hostile physical world. It argues that, because Verne in the eyes of French culture has become the icon of material science and technology, he must be killed if the cogito, representing the human privilege of mind, is to claim parity against the mindless mass of matter. The article explores this killing act in broad cultural manifestations from newspaper advertisements to commentary by Roland Barthes and Michel Serres. It concludes that the killing of Verne represents a defining act both in terms of French sf and of persistent French attitudes toward science itself.

Arthur B. Evans

Jules Verne’s English Translations

Abstract. -- This article offers a detailed comparison of the original French editions of Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires and their English translations. Many of Verne’s most popular novels were severely abridged, simplified, and ideologically censored in their English-language versions. Several of these bowdlerized translations became the “standard” editions of Verne’s works in the UK and the US and are still being published today. As a result, most anglophone readers of Verne have never had the opportunity to read the real Verne. It seems clear that these poor translations are largely responsible for Verne’s reputation in anglophone countries as a prescient but non-literary writer of adventure stories for children. More modern and accurate English translations of Verne’s oeuvre are needed to correct this misconception.

Teri J. Hernández

Translating Verne: An Extraordinary Journey

Abstract. -- Translating Jules Verne’s 1903 “Caribbean novel” called Bourses de voyage (Travel Scholarships) has been a challenging and a rewarding experience. Rendering Verne’s technical style into English demands both effort and care, but I have found his sensitivity and attention to detail in describing the native cultures of these islands as well as his critique of European colonialism in the region to be very impressive and highly unusual for an author of his historical period.

Jean-Michel Margot

Jules Verne, Playwright

Abstract. -- Jules Verne is known today as a writer of early sf and adventure novels, many of which have become the source for lucrative Hollywood scripts. It is less well known that Verne was also a prolific playwright who authored a variety of plays, operas, operettas, and opéras comiques before the publication of his first successful novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon. Plays that he later adapted from his novels were among the greatest successes of the Parisian stage. Le Tour du monde en 80 jours (Around the World in 80 Days), Michael Strogoff, Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (The Children of Captain Grant), and Voyage ŕ travers l’impossible (Journey through the Impossible) made the already-famous Verne a wealthy man. All four were pičces ŕ grand spectacle (great spectacle plays) with special effects that anticipated today’s commercial sf films. The play Voyage ŕ travers l’impossible, Verne’s most science-fictional work, is also his most intriguing.

Gregory Benford

Verne to Varley: Hard SF Evolves

Abstract. -- Hard sf can be said to begin with Verne. Its agenda he largely set, and a long line descends through Heinlein to Varley and many others. All had a satiric edge to many of their works and respected the constraints of the known science of their time. Verne’s influence has been enormous, perhaps most in the United States. Varley’s cheerful sex changes can be seen as an extension of the Verne tinkerer-explorer, combined with Heinlein’s experimental attitude toward sex itself.

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