Which literary prophecy of the great science fiction writer and the “father of steampunk” Jules Verne have come true after 150 years
Science fiction is usually referred to as stories that describe what technologies may exist in the future, and what they will mean for the people of that time. Although the term “science fiction” was not used until the 1930s, as a genre it began to gain momentum much earlier. And today we can only wonder how accurate were the literary prophecies of Jules Verne
When nineteenth-century thinkers and storytellers faced an era of incredible technological progress and social and industrial change, it is logical that they began to wonder what these changes meant for the world in which they lived, as well as to make certain predictions as to where they would all lead.
One of the founders of speculative (scientific) fiction was Jules Verne. Born in 1828, 100-200 years before most of today’s miracles became commonplace, Verne, however, surprisingly accurately described what many of these miracles would be. In his novels, he talked about technologies that his peers found not only curious, but, in some cases, so incredible that even sometimes refused to publish his works. Interestingly, such “most fantastic” predictions of the writer about the future were, in fact, one of the most accurate.
National Geographic has compiled a list of eight technologies that hundreds of years ago managed to predict Jules Verne. Perhaps the most iconic of these is the Nautilus, an electric submarine that was described in 20 thousand leagues under water.
At the time when the book was written, electricity was a novelty for everyone and by and large something incomprehensible and even a little mysterious. However, by the mid-1960s, fully electric submarines had appeared not only in the pages of books, but also in the real oceans.
In 1865, Verne wrote “From the earth to the moon direct in 97 hours and 20 minutes.” In this novel, he made several predictions about how space technology would evolve.
Vern was thinking about developing spacecraft that could move with light. Today, the same idea became known as solar sails, and the Japanese began to produce them almost ten years ago.
The same novel also described lunar modules, rockets that could carry passengers from Earth to the moon… and that’s about a century before anything like that was built. Vern also predicted spaceships that could land in the ocean and float, like the mercury project capsules.
Not all of Vern’s predictions were related to something as remote from the daily life of those times as space. In 1863 he wrote a novel called “Paris in the twentieth century”.
The novel was not published after its completion because the publisher found it too incredible and too pessimistic, so it was shelved and forgotten for 130 years (it was first published in 1994). Verne’s lost novel tells the story of the dystopian Paris of the 1960s and describes a society that is as socially backward as it is technologically advanced.
And now to the most interesting. In 1863, Jules Verne described the technology of the XX century, which were actually developed later. These forecasts included the use of elevators, faxes, high-speed trains running on magnetism and compressed air, cars with internal combustion engines, a system of paved roads, cities lit at night by electric lights, and skyscrapers. He even assumed that the underlying computers would use a network system very similar to the Internet to communicate with each other.
However, in addition to technological miracles, “Paris in the twentieth century” was also a study of the impact of these technologies on society. In the novel foretold the development of the suburbs, the massive spread of higher education, the rise of feminism to the extent that, as women increasingly began to take on work and the increase in the number of children born out of wedlock.
The writer described Paris in 1960 as rather soulless, in which only business and progress at the expense of emotional and spiritual life of people mattered. Vern described the people of the future as being forgotten in obscene or meaningless forms of relaxation or simply losing their essence, devoting themselves only to work.
He may have used his vision of the future as a means to work out his fears about the rapidly changing culture of his time, but that does not make his vision any less accurate.
One of the features of a first-class storyteller is that he or she not only talks about what is happening, but also describes how it is happening and what it means to society as a whole. Jules Verne has done just that. In many ways, his works not only inspire modern people to dream, but also serve as a reminder that even the most amazing things are possible.