Friday, October 15, 2010

Who is this Verne person, anyway?

A bit of a depressing post this time. I recently encountered someone (yes, an adult) who didn't know who Jules Verne was. Now, when I mentioned Twenty Thousand Leagues Beneath the Sea, among others, recognition dawned. But still, given that most people in the US at least only know Verne from movies, and hardly any of the movies are faithful adaptations. A lot of people think the Nautilus was nuclear powered, for example. It wasn't, and Verne was clear about that. It was electric, run on batteries that were in turn powered by old-fashioned coal-generated electricity. In the early days especially, Verne tended to merely extend current technology; he didn't do the weird, visionary stuff until later, as in Facing the Flag, with its weapon of mass destruction--a kind of guided missile.

Also, Verne dealt more in adventure stories than in sci-fi: practically all of his stories are adventures, but many aren't sci-fi. (The only non-sci-fi work by Verne that is well-known in the US is Around the World in Eighty Days.) So we've seriously skewed his work. Even putative fans are sometimes off: The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne displayed considerable ignorance of Verne's work, portraying the modern legend more than the reality. Comparatively few of the episodes fit Verne or his work at all well; most were modeled after The X-Files instead: there was a tendency toward supernatural and occult themes generally foreign to Verne's actual work.

I've done some tinkering with Verne's work myself, and perhaps we'll get a look at Ty Addison's "I Am Called No Man" on the blog in the not-too-distant future.

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