Jules Verne, who has been called the "father of science fiction," was born on February 8, 1828, in Nantes, France. As a child, Verne enjoyed exploring the quays on the River Loire near his home. His favorite book was The Swiss Family Robinson because of its constant action and because members of the shipwrecked family contribute their different talents to the task of survival. As a young adult, Verne evaded his parents' plans for a career in law. Instead, in 1857, he bought himself a seat on the stock exchange, writing in his spare time. When, in 1862, he sold his first novel (Cinq Semainesen ballon, 1863; Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1869), he announced to his fellow stockbrokers that he had written a novel in a new genre created by himself. With this, he quit the stock exchange and devoted himself to writing. He was an extraordinarily prolific author, eventually publishing more than sixty novels in the series Les voyages extraordinaires (Fantastic journeys).
In Jules Verne: Inventor of Science Fiction (1978) Peter Costello observes that there was nothing new in Verne's concept of "fantastic journeys." Science fiction in this sense can be seen in the writings of the ancient Greeks. However, Costello suggests, Verne was the first to use a well-researched scientific basis for his tales. This makes his work convincing in a way that previous texts are not.
There is some controversy about the extent to which Verne's texts were intended for a child audience. In JulesVerne and His Work (1966) I. O. Evans observes that, although Verne was always mindful of young readers, he rarely wrote especially for them. Moreover, Walter James Miller points out in his foreword to The Annotated Jules Verne (1976) that Verne is considered a highly respected writer of adult fiction in much of Europe. It is only in Britain and America that his works are relegated to children–a fact that Miller attributes to the extensive editing and poor translations of the English-language texts.
On the other hand, Verne's novels may have particular appeal to children because of their emphasis on action and suspense. Furthermore, children can easily identify with Verne's protagonists. Just as children are marginalized in an adult-run society, so Verne's protagonists stand apart from society as they travel to the moon or to the center of the earth. In addition, Verne's books suggest ways in which child readers can see themselves as possessing agency. For example, his protagonists often rely upon their wits rather than physical force. In some cases, they also invent alternatives to established social traditions. In Deux Ans de vacances (1888; Two Years' Vacation, 1889) a group of shipwrecked boys organizes a society based on cooperation and individual development. In many ways, this new society seems superior to the adult-run boarding school from which they came, in which younger boys were expected to act as personal servants for older ones.
Verne's texts have been adapted for film, including Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (1870; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1873), adapted and released by Walt Disney Productions in 1954, and Autour de la lune (1870; All Around the Moon, 1876), adapted and released by Jules Verne Films in 1967. His work has also been adapted for theater and television.
See also: Children's Literature.
Costello, Peter. 1978. Jules Verne: Inventor of Science Fiction. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Evans, I. O. 1966. Jules Verne and His Work. New York: Twayne.
Miller, Walter James. 1976. "Foreword: A New Look at Jules Verne." In The Annotated Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, ed. Walter James Miller. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.