Friday, February 8, 2008

The Father of Science Fiction

Today, February 8th, 2008, marks the 180th anniversary of the birth of French author Jules Verne. Verne is considered the father of science fiction and wrote many fantastical tales, some of which were technologically impossible in his day and age and have only been possible in the 20th century.

Verne did not start out as a science fiction author; he first co-authored musical texts (librettos) for operettas. He spent several of his early years writing for musicals and theaters and the occasional travel text. It was during this time that his father discovered that he favored writing over his other studies and cut off his financial backing.

Verne, who relished writing, rubbed elbows with several well-known and influential authors including Alexander Dumas and Victor Hugo. From them, he was able to receive advice on how to be a better author. It was around this time that he began to focus on tales of a more fantastical nature.

Verne wrote many books that are considered to be classics of the science fiction genre. These include Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and probably his best known story 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

In 1955, France honored the 50th anniversary of his death by issuing a stamp honoring one of their greatest authors. This stamp is readily available and can be obtained for a small price. Additional stamp offerings can be found at Zvi Har'El's excellent site Jules Verne Stamps.

Trivia: It is a common misperception that the title 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea refers to the depth of the submarine's travels under the surface of the ocean. In fact, it refers to the distance traveled under the surface; 20,000 leagues is the equivalent of 2-1/2 times around the circumference of the earth.

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