Sometimes called “the father of science fiction,” Jules Verne, the author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days, was born 179 years ago this week in Nantes, France. In his novels, Verne predicted submarines, flying machines, skyscrapers and space travel long before their time.
In one of his lesser-known books written in 1863, Paris in the 20th Century, his main character lives in a world of glass skyscrapers, rapid transit, gas-powered cars, calculators and a world-wide communications system, but cannot find happiness and comes to a bad end. His publisher thought the novel was too depressing, and Verne put the manuscript aside. Discovered by his great-grandson, it wasn’t published until 1994.
Verne, along with H.G. Wells and lesser-known writers such as Hugo Gernsback, invented a literary genre that has spawned such celluloid icons as Hal, Luke Skywalker, E.T., and more.
In fact Gernsback, who published science fiction magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, lent his name to the annual award for science fiction. Here are some recent winners of the Hugo Award:
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark.
Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold.
Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge.