Verne, Jules (1828–1905)
Born in Nantes and trained in law, Verne may not have been the first science
fiction writer (Lucian, Mary Shelley, and
Edgar Allan Poe all having prior claims to that accolade) but he
was certainly the first to explore the genre systematically and to make
a fortune from it. Although he must have been familiar with the enthusiasm
of his Parisian contemporary Flammarion
for the possibility of life on other worlds, Verne barely touches upon the
alien theme in his novels. The one minor exception is to be found in his
only extraterrestrial venture, From the
Earth to the Moon (1865) and its sequel Around the Moon.
In the latter, he exploits Hansen's hypothesis that the Moon's far-side
has an atmosphere, water and, possibly, life. His astronauts glimpse "...
real seas, oceans, widely distributed, reflecting on their surface all the
dazzling magic of the fires of space; and, lastly, on the surface of the
continents, large dark masses, looking like immense forests ..." In other
respects, his lunar novels remarkably presaged Apollo, even to the extent
of describing a three-man crew, a Florida launch site and a splashdown point
in the Pacific just three miles from where Apollo 11 landed. All Verne's
early novels captured the Victorian enthusiasm for science and technology,
though the optimistic ideology in them may have stemmed more from the urging
of Verne's publisher, the commercially-minded Pierre-Jules Hetzel, than
Verne himself who seems by nature to have been a techno-skeptic.
See also science fiction involving extraterrestrials,
up to 1900.