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Jules Verne’s Most Famous Books Were Part of a 54-Volume Masterpiece (openculture.com)
449 points by vo2maxer 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 129 comments

Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island" was how I got interested in tech around the age of 6. I devoured all of his books that I could find after that and it was my introduction to geology ("Journey to the Center of the Earth"), geography ("In search of the castaways", "Around the world in eighty days"), oceanology ("Twenty thousand leagues under the sea"), Astronautics ("From the Earth to the Moon", "Around the moon"), dystopian/utopian world building ("The Begum's fortune") and so on and so forth.

EDIT: fixed the name of the book, thank you bradyd.

For me it was the old Tom Swift books that I found at my grandparent's house. Tom Swift and His Flying Lab, Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster, Tom Swift and His Diving Seacopter, Tom Swift in the Caves of Nuclear Fire, Tom Swift in the Race to the Moon, etc.



Unrelated fact: Tom Swift is why tasers are called tasers. Their inventor, Jack Cover (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Cover), named them by acronymizing "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle" (TASER).

That's a ridiculously cool fact.

For me it was Tom Swift and... Danny Dunn! Can't believe that series is so hard to track down, it's been out of print for ages.

Case in point: Danny discovers the pros and cons of invisibility, by learning how to pilot the professor's telepresence suit that drives a small insect-sized drone. This was in 1974.


Danny Dunn and the homework machine was what got me interested in computers! I keep a copy of that and "geometry and the imagination" together on my side table.

Gosh yes!! The big reveal (he'd actually be learning all along while figuring out how to program the machine) has stuck with me forever. :)

The Tom Swift Jr. (First Series) books (the ones you mentioned above) were a core part of my childhood too - they inspired my father to become an engineer, and the very same books did the same for me. They're certainly a product of their time, with clearly-allegorical "Brungarian" antagonists and somewhat dated gender roles. But they were incredibly imaginative, adventurous, and clever.

Looking back, the concept that a person could love what they do so much, that they would want a "cot in the lab," probably drove me to the startup space long before that was a thing!

Mine too. Tom Swift and the Bookmobile that brought them changed my life. It also had a few of the "new" Tom Swift adventures and I later learned there was an "old" series that start with Tom Swift and his Wireless Message and Tom Swift and his Electronic Rifle.

Wow, same here. My family happened to find a big set of that same Tom Swift series at a yard sale when I was about 12. They were constantly my most-read books through middle and high school, and may well have had something to do with going into tech as a career.

Me too! I loved those books when I was young. I'd forgotten about them.

Elon Musk is the real life Tom Swift:

1. Elon Musk and his Reusable Space Rocket

2. Elon Musk and his Electric Car

3. Elon Musk and his Tunnel Boring Machine

4. Elon Musk and his Flamethrower

5. Elon Musk and his Self Driving Car

> 3. Elon Musk and his Tunnel Boring Machine

We've had these for ages and Elon has not made any advances in tunneling technology despite hundreds of millions of dollars and however-many years invested.

> 4. Elon Musk and his Flamethrower

Elon Musk and his $500 roofing torch.

> Elon Musk and his Self Driving Car

Elon Musk and his moving goalposts...

Of course, there is also "Elon Musk and his Cult of Personality", which is how he can slap a brand-name on a roofing torch and get people to run around calling it a "flamethrower", and how he can get away with calling a system that still requires human supervision "feature-complete full self driving".

This also contributes to his being able to get away with publicly calling an international hero a pedophile, just because they had the gall to question "Elon Musk and his Cave Rescue Submarine".

I give Elon a lot of respect for what he has done with 1 and 2, but I think his visions would be better served by less hero-worship and more serious people holding him to account.

The guy insulted musk and got insulted back. He didn't really "question" the usefulness in a benign way. Generally speaking in life, if you're an asshole people are going to be assholes back. You can be a hero and an asshole at the same time, there's no need to promote the diver to sainthood.

Musk was an asshole too, but he didn't start it.

The divers spent days risking their lives to save the kids, and some Silicon Valley fucker with zero field knowledge pretends he's going to save the day with some high-tech gizmo. You can understand the guys were a bit upset and told him to shove his gadget up his ass. Also calling someone a pedophile is a heavy and potentially dangerous accusation. Like is or not, Musk was the bad guy here.

That's a ridiculous outlook. Musk might be misguided, but its not like he swooped in and took control of the rescue operation and put kids' lives in danger and forced a sovereign nation to use his submarine. He made a thing that may or may not work and brought it to a place and said they could use it.

The diver doing that is like winning the world cup and then during your post-game interview you use that time to talk about how bad your teammates that sat on the bench are. Maybe he's technically correct about Musk's submarine not working, but he's still classless and an asshole. Its hard to imagine that Musk would be upset if there was some good PR for Tesla as a result of this but its also not hard to imagine that a part of him legitimately wanted to do something that he thought would help.

Pedophile in that context was not intended as a serious allegation that the diver sexually assaulted kids. It was a generic insult that just plays off of the stereotype that western expats that live in Thailand are going there primarily for underage prostitutes.

Its also ridiculous because the divers were immediately praised and applauded by the entire world. Why would they even give a shit if other people showed up to help and they (the divers) were the ones that got to run the operation? It was a pretty positive event where some people saved some children from certain death and in the aftermath 2 grown men decided to turn a positive thing into a petty argument.

A single person should not be referred to as “divers” and “guys”.

I may be rude, but Elon Musk is just a 22nd century snake oil salesman.

He's good at promotion and raising capital, and has real products that function... but I can't believe he's only a salesman.

OTOH how would you go about assessing his engineering ability? He was accepted into a Stanford PhD program. An ex-employee of spacex was amazed how he absorbed a textbook of rocket science.

Unlike Eistein, he hasn't written any papers himself (AFAIK), so we can't assess his work directly. I would guess his primary role is being a technically and business-aware coach for engineers who actually do the work - like Steve Jobs. But maybe he is a genuine engineering genius himself - but how could we tell?

A simple talentless salesman, who with his humble head did more than a conglomeration of well-trained programmer employees that just follow orders.

Virtue is somewhere in the middle.

What does Elon Musk have to do with this? He is just someone who takes existing working things and tries to produce them in some slavery sweat shop conditions for cheap. There is essentially zero innovation involved here, even less so any "sci-fi".

> essentially zero innovation

The innovation is in bringing these products to market and keeping multiple companies viable while doing so. NO ONE else has done the things he has. Put up or shut up. Edit: I'm not a fanboy and there are a lot of things about him I dislike, but the casual dismissals just irk me. If he's so unoriginal, you go do what he did.

> If he's so unoriginal, you go do what he did

That's nonsense. Most people weren't lucky enough to sell a company for several hundreds of millions of dollars in the dot-com boom.

There are lots of centa-millionaires. None have done what Musk did.

Musk got his start with Zip2, programming it himself. Any competent programmer could have done that (but didn't). Each success he used to launch a much more ambitious enterprise.

When someone does that multiple times, it isn't luck. It's being good at it.

Or to have parents to seed said company. Not sure why you got downvoted.

It’s easier to say “Go do what JK Rowling did” than to say “Go do what Elon did” lmao. I can write a fantasy series with $0. The same can’t be said necessarily for building companies.

Musk's first company he founded with his brother got $28,000 investment from his father. It's not an outlandish amount - less than the cost of a car.

It’s still more than most people have and during a specific time in history. What you said doesn’t negate my point.

There’s more involved to starting a company than money. Such as your network. Your support system. Even your race and geographic location could play a factor. Luck, etc.

“You go be a 7-ft basketball player if you think it’s so easy!!!”

> It’s still more than most people have and during a specific time in history.

The freeways around here are gridlocked with cars costing more than $28,000.

> Such as your network. Your support system. Even your race and geographic location could play a factor. Luck, etc.

Oh phooey. I started my company with nothing more than an IBM PC. Nobody knew my race or location - it was mail order. Want to network? Use the internet. The D development community is all over the world.

On HN I regularly see extreme negativity and often outright hostility to all the opportunities all around us. What I enjoy about Musk is he likes to do things everyone else says can't be done.

Can't help but think about the Yorkshiremen. :)

> The freeways around here are gridlocked with cars costing more than $28,000.

Yea, financed with debt over what is now typically 7-10 years. 28k of capital to invest is out of the reach of the majority of Americans. Please don't pretend that's a small amount of money anyone can come up with.

> anyone

Somehow "most" morphed into "anyone".

BTW, if you can finance $28,000 over 7-10 years, you can buy a perfectly fine $3,000 car, save up what your payment would have been, and have those funds to invest.

My daily driver, for example, is 31 years old now, and is worth maybe $500. I invest the money I save (taxes, insurance, and repairs are pretty cheap for the thing, too).

My not-so-humble opinion is that if you have to finance a car, you should buy a cheaper used one you can pay cash for. Financing an expensive car is a great way to never have any spare funds available.

Oh I agree with you on the car, but this assumes you know enough about them to get a decent one for 3k; people go for newer used ones because it's a black box to them and they want something they "feel" is reliable and they don't feel that about older cars. They're wrong, but that's the nature of not understanding a thing. 28k is still out of the reach of most.


Right now, there's someone in his garage starting a company that'll be worth a $billion 5 years from now.

Ten years from now, someone will start a billion dollar company in their rover garage on Mars because of Elon Musk.

So you mean in the United States or some other developed country? Ok. I know you already understood what I was saying. I’m not going to argue.

The guy who made Flappy Bird lived in Vietnam. Sure, he's not Elon Musk, but apparently a single day of Flappy Bird ad revenue was enough to earn that $28K.

It's a shame he let everyone's negativity and tall poppy syndrome talk him into killing the app, instead of riding out the wave all the way. He made something that made a lot of people happy all over the world.


danielg6 9 days ago [flagged]

Yeah, sure. We’re talking about Elon Musk though... And whether it’s fine to say “you go do what Elon did.” It’s more realistic to say “you go do what the flappy bird guy did”. You fanboys are hilarious.

There's also someone buying a lottery ticket that will make them rich soon, so what? Both take a huge amount of luck and are extremely unlikely.

And even that investment has been disputed - by Elon himself - as per the zip2 wiki page.

I got the figure from his biography. Regardless, given the shoestring conditions the company operated on, it could hardly have been a lot of money.

I am no expert, but the wiki mentions the biography and that he disputes the claim made there. You are right it is inconsequential either way.

While Musk should be rightly criticised for the ethically-questionable practices, we can at least be thankful that SOMEONE has both the drive (okay, sure, the ego) and passion for technological progress that results in the societal change we've seen so far.

Are there ANY other players at his level of household-name and wealth that are pushing as hard as he is, in as many directions? Gates has done fantastic work for decades but only using conventional methods, and basically everyone else is only doing R&D for their own purposes.

He's not some Tony-Stark/Tom-Swift type, but neither is he just another capitalist dick.

He's simply a Howard Hughes type: every generation since Hughes has had one, and they're all backed by the military industrial complex and spooks. He'd have gone broke by now otherwise. None of his companies make money.

EDIT2: Basically any government that wants to improve investment into STEM should start by including those and similar books into the school reading program.

You're right. Compare that to the random classics in which you have no interest on which you have to write a report.

Might not those become a subject to tedious report writing and become disliked by young children as well? I bet there are people who like those current classics, too – people who were not exposed to them in school, or who overcame their association with the drudgery of schoolwork.

As a kid when I learned to read I soon devoured trough books in children section basically reading all books from one author, then moving to the next.

First Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan and Mars series. Then all Jules Verne books available. Verne is technically very detailed. They were great reading experiences. I can still remember where the books were placed in the library.

It's funny, kids don't get to experience the magic of libraries like we did. I'm a 71 model and I think those that came after the 70s pretty much didn't get to experience it.

'84 model, and dude, I basically lived at the library - both school and public. It was a ~16km bike ride from my parents farm to the library.

Only one of my ~6 nephews/nieces show interest in libraries, but honestly? That's a pretty good hit-rate. They're not for everyone, and never were.

Glad to hear we weren't the last of the library kids

I'm from '91 and I basically read a book a week during my teens.

There are still great public libraries in many parts of the world (and certainly all over the USA). Why wouldn’t kids get to experience them?

The magic of libraries was discovering a new section of the dewey decimal system, figuring out that other books you liked might be next to the book you looked up in the card catalog, and escaping to worlds you could never see if not for your imagination and the printed word. Now you just google it, find pictures, read everything about it on the wikis, look at a live cam or webcam of the place, use google earth to wander around, read about all the negative things about the hero you just discovered etc. It's not that the libraries aren't there - it's that the lack of other things made them magical.

Plus..and this is true in Hawaii but not positive about other libraries - when I was a kid there weren't homeless people spending all day sleeping in the library and occupying all the available seats. The main people in the libraries around us are homeless using the internet, homeless using the air conditioning, and homeless using the bathrooms. I'm not going to send my kid to hang out in the library for hours without supervision.

Depends on the parents. My kids biggest complaint about the library is that they are only allowed to checkout 100 books at a time.

Out of curiosity, what's the scenario in which one would hit that limit? When I was a kid, the limit was something like five books, and we'd just go to the library often.

When we go to the library (about once a week), the kids haul out at least that many books. They are all voracious readers and can go through 100 books in the blink of an eye.

I did the same. I got sidetracked with Tolkien and the Jim Kjelgaard Big Red books as well.

I believe you actually mean "The Mysterious Island". I read this book last year and was amazed by the level of technical detail.

Same impact of "Mysterious Island" on me. It's the original "competence/achievement" book.

Though I've never fully recovered from the reality check than a real engineer isn't as broadly competent and knowledgeable as Cyrus Smith. (even American ones ;) )

Don't forget an introduction to Chemistry in Mysterious Island as well. Fun fact, The Mysterious Island was the basis of the series LOST.

Interesting, I haven't been able to find any acknowledged connections between the two. Do you have any references you could share?

The two works were linked in my mind back when I was watching Lost, and my impressions of them were very similar -- in both The Mysterious Island and Lost, there were fascinating mysteries built up in the beginning, but the eventually revealed explanations could not live up to those expectations.

I wrote my undergrad thesis back in 08 about how Lost was breaking barriers between real world and fiction - part of that was interviewing cast, crew, and writers. On my interview with Cuse and Abrams it came up as the starting point - castaways, mysterious cave, submarine, etc etc. I'll see if I can dig it up.

There was no way they could live up to the expectations - part of the problem was that they kept trying to tease the fans with the future and the fans kept guessing right so they kept trying to change things to stay ahead and as a result - painted themselves in a corner.

They did some amazingly interesting things though - creating events, products, and fake companies in the real world to enhance the story telling in the fictional one. Ground breaking.

A big part of my thesis was how a shared interest in the show was creating real world friendships from online fanboards - something that sounds 'so what?' now, but that was mind blowing back then. People would meet on the boards and then travel to Hawaii, meet up, go to the set locations, even stay together - based on a passion for the 'mysteries' the show created.

I decided to become an engineer after reading the mysterious island. Although I was somewhat older, probably 10-12. Journey to the centre of the earth was actually the first book that I read when I was probably 7, and I really enjoyed it.

Probably my favorite book as a child, I probably read that thing 100 times.

Same here. I've read that book probably at least 20 times in my life, and I expect I'll read it at least a couple more if I live long enough.

Ditto, but I think it would be good to accompany the book with some testimonies by/about people who got hurt/killed by chemicals. I remember getting quite giddy about the possibility to get some nitroglycerin, nitric acid, etc. from reading The Mysterious Island; and I was lucky to lack the resourcefulness needed to actually obtain the nasty stuff.

If the young reader could get a good chemistry teacher as a tutor, though; the possibilities turn from grim to great.

A movie called Vynález zkázy ("the destructive contraption") based on severa of Verne's works was made in Czechoslovakia in 1958, combining animations based on line art from some of Verne's books with live acting.


It won the Grand Prix at the International Film Festival that was held as part of Expo 58 in Brussels.

Czechs and Slovaks can't get enough Verne. Check out all the translations of The Mysterious Island between 1878 and 2018. Some of the translators did it several times again, one of them six times.


Jules Verne was generally seen pretty well in the former communist countries, my HN/reddit nickname is taken from a Soviet TV series based on one of Jules Verne's books [1]. Mind you, I didn't even live in the former Soviet Union, but when I first saw a glimpse of Verne's universe as a 7-year old kid I was hooked for life.

[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088635/

Shameless plug, we have a few Verne books downloadable for free as high-quality ebooks: https://standardebooks.org/ebooks/jules-verne/

If you'd like to produce some new ones for everyone to read, get in touch at our mailing list!

Oh man, I recently finished some of his novels and it is astounding to see the optimism he had for us, considering he was writing in a world before any world wars happened.

I really would like to live in a Vernian world where people are mostly good and rationalism wins the day. But I also would like to live in Discworld (maybe except Fourecks) so caveat emptor! :'D

You should try and read the dystopian novel he wrote, it was first published in 1994. It paints a very bleak dystopian picture of Paris, it is an interesting contrast to his other works https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_Twentieth_Century

"The Mysterious Island" is his best book, and it had aged way much better than any of his other novels. Probably because in this one Verne didn't try to venture far from the realm of possible, giving Cyrus Smith a very advanced set of skills and deep knowledge of contemporary sciences, but abstained from introducing non-existing technologies, besides a brief appearance of Nemo & "Nautilus"

I read a number of Jules Vernes novels recently. The pattern is a similar one where he describes the known science of the time in quite a bit of accurate detail. Starting with that as the premise, he then runs with the idea to create the plot. The result is both science and science fiction. My favorite is still "Around the World in Eighty Days". A Jules Verne novel was rediscovered not long ago: "Paris in the Twentieth Century".

That really is what science fiction is supposed to be, IMHO. You take a scientific or technological concept (or set of concepts... or perhaps a near-at-hand extrapolation of a concept... like air-independent propulsion for the Nautilus) and explore it and its consequences thoroughly.

Seveneves explores social media and swarm robots (and non-fantastical alternatives-to-chemical-rocket-propulsion), for instance (and later, epigenetics).

Arrival explores a hypothesis from the science of linguistics, for instance (I like this one a lot because it strays from the usual "hard" sciences or anthropological rehashing of European conquest, etc, of space operas).

Space operas are really just fantasy in space. Fun, grand epics, but not science fiction (exception would be in The Last Jedi, the use of the hyperdrive as an extremely powerful weapon... exploring the consequences of any kind of propulsion system capable of traveling at extreme speeds... of course, everyone--except me--hated that one because, we all agree, Star Wars is fantasy, not science fiction).

I still get goosebumps remembering the scene in "journey to the center of the earth" when they see a human figure lumbering across the cavern.

Paris in the 20th century was also really cool to read. Almost every Jules Verne book has this unbridled optimism (especially pronounced in the American characters). But this book is dark. I kinda liked it for that. After reading so many Jules Verne books as a teenager, they all started to feel the same.

recapturing the 'feel' of Verne’s socio-historical milieu and evoking that sense of faraway exoticism and futuristic awe

It's my understanding that the original French texts (not just the illustrations) are much richer in that socio-historical stuff. The English translations that we have are unfortunately dumbed-down to YA-friendly adventure stories.

I'd love to see translations that more faithfully capture the full complexity of the works.

I enjoyed many of Verne's books as a child, so last year I tried reading some to my children. I thought the writing held up quite well (compared to e.g. Karl May, another author I loved reading when I was young):

In particular, Verne is able to deploy ethnic caricatures without coming across as bigoted:

> What can be added to these figures, so eloquent in themselves? Nothing. So the following calculation obtained by the statistician Pitcairn will be admitted without contestation: by dividing the number of victims fallen under the projectiles by that of the members of the Gun Club, he found that each one of them had killed, on his own account, an average of two thousand three hundred and seventy-five men and a fraction.

> By considering such a result it will be seen that the single preoccupation of this learned society was the destruction of humanity philanthropically, and the perfecting of firearms considered as instruments of civilisation. It was a company of Exterminating Angels, at bottom the best fellows in the world.

I agree in general (adored Verne as child, and has enjoyed many of his books as an adult), but I would caution against reading Off on a Comet, as that contains pure, unadulterated, mean-spirited anti-semitism. At least that does not come to the fore in any other book of his that I have read.

Jules Vernes is one of my favorite authors.

He dreamt big, wild (Michel Strogoff), and daringly (From the Earth to the Moon), ranging from adventure (Around the World in Eighty Days) to scientific anticipation (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), to sheer madness (Robur the Conqueror).

My favorite quote of his is quite revealing of the man's character: "Tout ce qui est dans la limite du possible doit être et sera accompli". Which I would roughly translate as "All that is within the limits of the possible must and will be accomplished".

Reading Robur the Conqueror was quite a trip when I first picked it up from Project Gutenberg.

It made me suspect that the versions of the more well-known novels like 20,000 Leagues, Earth to the Moon, Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth that I'd read from the shelves of my school library had been considerably bowdlerized.

The initial English translations of Verne _were_ considerably bowdlerized, sometimes with large chunks cut out or summarized in the interests of making them more "kids books" than adult ones.

There are some modern translations that might be better on this front.

Edit: Mentioned elsewhere in this thread: <https://19thlevel.blogspot.com/2012/08/jules-verne-translati..., which I have now bookmarked!

Your link has a ">" at the end which makes it not work.

Ugh, I keep forgetting that HN's URL delimiter handling is completely broken.... Unfortunately I can't edit my comment at this point, but the link should have been https://19thlevel.blogspot.com/2012/08/jules-verne-translati...

> Human knowledge of the universe has widened and deepened since Verne's day, but for sheer intellectual and adventurous wonder about what that universe might contain, has any writer, from any era or land, outdone him since?

No, I don't think so. It seems sci fi went the way of the graduate thesis: hyper specialized, hyper focused. I think this might have been out of necessity. Maybe Stephenson has come close though.

He's covered nonfictional history, space travel (anathem, seven eves), colonization of Earth orbit and the moon (seven eves), generational space travel (anathem), multiple universe theories (anathem), and to come back down to earth, cryptography (cryptonomicon, reamde, fall), AI (diamond age), wetware hacking (snow crash), VR (snow crash, fall), post mortem VR (fall), nanotech (fall, diamond age), and layered simulated universes (fall).

So beyond Stephenson I don't think anyone comes close to fantastical exploration at the level of Verne. Crichton didn't. Watts is highly focused in biology. Banks deals with cosmic horror, AI, and a touch of multiverse. Doctorow is fantastic "realistic near future" exploration but he never takes us to space, and I don't think he really even explores AI.

Banks deals with cosmic horror, AI, and a touch of multiverse.

Come on now, there's a lot more to Iain M Banks than that. Anarchist post-scarcity utopias, dirigible behemothaurs, The Shellworld Sursamen, and the mind-boggling purpose it was put to, the immenseness of Syang-un Nestworld, the idea that whole civilizations can sublime, Minds, pure energy creatures, The Girdlecity of Xown, in which a huge airship hosts a five year long two thousand person party to mark the end of a civilization. The Excession. The Affront! The subtle exploration of what people born into a galaxy spanning utopia might want to do with their time. And the fantastic and slighly disturbing idea that super intelligent Minds might give themselves silly names.

And his non-Culture novel Feersum Endjinn, although its quite old now, had some startling ideas about cyberspace - that it might move thousands of times faster than base reality, and (major spoilers - ROT13) rfpncrq znyjner zvtug ribyir va uvtu-fcrrq plorefcnpr vagb n pvivyvmngvba infgyl byqre naq zber pbzcyvpngrq guna bhe bja, naq pbzcyrgryl vapbzcerurafvoyr gb hf

With names aready being dropped, here are some oldies: Clarke, Asimov, Stanislav Lem.

Ah, you're right, Asimov definitely tops the list. He explored the fuck out of AI and then jumped straight into the question of whether human psychology is deterministic. Space travel, galaxy colonization, hell even telekinesis and other wild shit.

I think he doesn't have the breadth of topic of Neal Stephenson but he's definitely prolific.

His nonfiction work is even broader: he wrote books on history, the Bible, and Shakespeare, as well as every kind of science.

Not always very well, mind you: my youthful adoration of his breadth has been replaced by am embarrassed coughing as I realize just how far out of his depth he often was. Still, who I am today owes a lot to him.

Asimov’s breadth tops NS’s by far. He is famously the only author who has published works in every single category of the Dewey Decimal System, fiction and non-fiction. And his books feature another theme that NS never explored: coherent endings.

Specifically science fiction topics though? Not so sure I agree. Not like those topics are well defined or universally applicable though.

Asimov never published a book categorized in the 100s. All nine other categories, yes.

Clifford Simak's books all seem to be mainly about evolution of humanity of some sorts, but they are so epic that they touch almost every usual and unusual sci-fi topic.

Why not Crichton? Too much techno-thriller horror, despite his fantastical imaginings and settings?

Ever notice that most Crichton plots end with things going back to the status quo?

They're a little like Indiana Jones adventures except with technological terrors instead of ancient artifacts.

I haven't read all of Crichton, but from what I remember, he covered

Nanotech/grey goo

Genetic engineering

Aliens and their freaky orbs

Time travel

As far as I know, he's not really explored the possibilities of space exploration, AI, VR, transhumanism, etc. I mean he's great but I don't think he covers all that much ground.

Also Heinlein explored some pretty far out things.

Philip K Dick had a pretty broad spectrum

In Prophets of Science Fiction [1], the TV Series about SF authors, they portrayed Jules Verne as disillusioned and depressed in his later years. They said he burned all his correspondence and in despair wrote his last work, Paris in the Twentieth Century [2], a somewhat dystopian novel in which art is no longer valued.

It is such a contrast to his other novels I have to wonder how accurate this portrayal is, whether it was greatly exaggerated in some way. Can anyone comment on Verne's latter days?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophets_of_Science_Fiction [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_Twentieth_Century

Well, there's a number of people plugging their ebook sites of some of them easier to get books.

As a slightly different plug, "20,000 Leagues under the Sea" from 1916 [0] is worth a glance.

It's a silent film, so some people might not be able to watch it today, but is has some curiosities to it.

It was the first feature filmed underwater, using a simple tube and mirror arrangement that most people here could come up with. It also had tons of extravagant sets, and so on, making it incredibly expensive for the era.

Literature wise, it combines "20,000 Leagues under the Sea" and "The Mysterious Island", in a fairly faithful way.

[0] https://sixteenmm.org/s/leaguesunderthesea_1916

Note: If it wasn't obvious from above, that's a link to something I run.

I would love to re-read some of these books with the original illustrations now, something I didn't have the first time I read them.

Does anyone know of good copies of English translations that preserve the original illustrations? The easiest to find ones on Amazon (from SeaWolf Press) don't look to be the best printing.

Unfortunately, Verne was not well served by his contemporary translators -- among other things, there are technical descriptions, or episodes poking fun at the English or Americans, which somehow just never showed up in the English translations. There are newer translations that do a much better job -- but those are still within copyright, and so not cheap. (This addresses only the text; the illustrations are a significant extra wrinkle.)

> newer translations that do a much better job

Do you have recommendations?

Guess I'll have to learn French!

>Human knowledge of the universe has widened and deepened since Verne's day, but for sheer intellectual and adventurous wonder about what that universe might contain, has any writer, from any era or land, outdone him since?

Yes, we can safely say science fiction writers after Jules Verne has outdone him. Safely. I believe Jules Verne himself reading science fiction that came after himself would say so himself.

Believing that one moment in the past was better than all the future moments is a classic form of romantic nostalgia in the style of Midnight in Paris of Woody Allen.

I believe Jules Verne books were incredibile for the time and inspired millions of readers.

Believing that Jules Verne was the apex though is very sad. It's absolutely the opposite of what Jules Verne was. Jules Verne was a dreamer believing in progress. When you believe that the Jules Verne was the apex of science fiction progress you are spitting in the face of his optimism.

Ah, Verne. Brings back childhood memories.

I consumed the entire Verne that was in my primary school library, maybe 15 novels in total. "The Mysterious Island" and "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" were one of the first books I read in English translations (my mother tongue is Polish), around the age of 13. Good times.

Is there a collection of fictional ‘"documentational" illustrations like "the map of the Polar regions (hand-drawn by Verne himself)’ illustrations out there? I love that hand-drawn style and often want to find examples for tattoos.

You're in luck! This week, via kottke.org: https://www.oldbookillustrations.com/

All here for free: https://www.epubbooks.com/series/1-voyages-extraordinaires

Registration required, though.

And here without registration requirements: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/60

Gutenberg blocks German IPs.

Here's why: https://cand.pglaf.org/germany/index.html

PGLAF has taken an extreme position. In order to comply with a German court ruling about copyright infringement, it's made the entire site unavailable to German IP addresses.

That would be like Google entirely cutting off the EU over "Right to be Forgotten" stuff. Google would never do that, because money. But PGLAF isn't about money.

So anyway, I'm on PGLAF's side here, if anyone cares.

> But PGLAF isn't about money.

But the decision to block German IP addresses /is/ about money. They made the point that it would be more expensive for PG to arrange to block specific works and that they simply don't have a budget for it. See https://cand.pglaf.org/germany/index.html

Edit: formatting.

User: bugmenot@mailinator.com

Password: bugmenot

I downloaded Five Weeks in a Balloon and noticed that it does not credit a translator but does claim copyright. Seems a bit odd.

It's amazingly difficult to predict which of one's efforts is going to "stick". I've put years of work into things that ended up being total duds. I've also spent a few evenings here and there writing things off-the-cuff that ended up becoming famous. Just as we're lucky if we think one truly novel thought in all our lives, we're amazingly lucky if one part of our effort out of 54 becomes part of humanity's collective inheritance. Jules Verne was lucky several times over.

This story of the (usually serialized first) books' publishing history is interesting. (Many also had special 'Christmas editions'.)

"... if variations in binding color are considered, more than 4000 different combinations of text and binding were published between 1866 and 1919."


If you read French, there's a convenient Kindle edition of his collected works for three bucks. Unfortunately the illustrations there are comparable to postage stamps.

Holy cow, Looks like I need to expand the library.. Somehow I am unable to quickly find a complete collection in print. I will have to dig to see what volumes would be required to collect all of his work. Plenty of ebook collections however if that is your style.

Beware: AFAIK many of the most commonly-available English translations are not very good. It's a pretty common problem with 19th-century foreign language literature generally, in fact. The public domain's full of translations that are simply poor, and/or retain a lot of cruft from 19th or early 20th century English style that aren't vital to conveying the meaning or tone of the original work, and so are less approachable to the modern reader, to no real purpose. Probably any big ebook collections you find are going to be re-packagings of translations of this sort, from Project Gutenberg or wherever.

His French isn't too tough if you read that, but some of the English translations you see in the wild—oof.

Are there specific English translations that are good and reasonably modern?

As a kid I read Jules Verne translated in my native language, and loved it. Not sure where I would start to acquire his work in English.

Sound like a niche business opportunity?

I did not know that, and I have read a few of his books.

One of the reasons that I like HN, is because of occasional gems like this.


I love this. I ate these up as a kid and looked for the connections.

Almost like Donald Knuth's TAOCP!

That's amazing!

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