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Why Didn't Jules Verne Create Steampunk?

11 min read

In this article, we will go back to the essence of the steampunk genre with an author who has certainly been a reference in this field since the beginning. How could Jules Verne have influenced Steampunk even before the term was invented and officially created? We will see how its emergence is fundamentally linked to literature and to the literary criticism of the famous writer... OR NOT.

Jules Verne or the Invention of the Scientific Novel

Let's begin by introducing and putting the author in his context. Jules Verne is a French writer who established himself during the XIXème century. He wrote notable works that received many favorable reviews from the literary community. He has mainly produced works devoted to science fiction and adventure novels. In the milieu, the stories of Jules Verne were qualified as ''novels of anticipation'' by the specialists. He was the first to seize technological advances, numerous in his era, to integrate them into fictional stories. Thus "Twenty thousand leagues under the sea" or "From the Earth to the Moon" seem almost credible at the dawn of the industrial revolution.

He was born in February 1928 in Nantes, Loire-Atlantique. The character was normally interested in steam technology since it was very much in vogue at the time. He then took advantage of this to seize many of the discoveries of his time to give them an extraordinary panache, using the adventures of his favourite heroes. Jules Verne simply took the lead in order to surprise his fellow men of the XIXth century.

In any case, the man reflects a certain paradox in many ways. Jules Verne mainly followed literary studies during his youth. His passion for technology seemed to come naturally, out of nowhere. During his lifetime, he was very interested in technical inventions and technological engineering with a keen eye. Jules Verne has also subtly played on the two tables by marrying with brilliance science fiction and literature. The singularity of the character is mainly on this point. This is why Jules Verne wrote several successful science fiction novels. The author possessed a rare talent that allowed him to surprise and to make the great majority of literary fanatics turn around.

The career of Jules Verne is in line with a certain logic since the character was attracted to literature from the very beginning. Obtaining his bachelor's degree in literature was a very special moment in his life. Jules Verne moved to Paris to study law at the University. He then became a stockbroker during the years that followed. The legendary curiosity of the character led him to launch himself into the business of therapeutics; he was supported in his endeavor by the Dumas family, father and son. It is quite natural that the young Jules Verne of the time, occupied the position of secretary of the lyric theater until 1854. He worked then with Michel Carr to have many plays represented at the th&eacirc;tre.

However, the literary career of Jules Verne did not immediately go smoothly. Several publishers initially refused his manuscripts, apparently because they were not convinced of their relevance to the world of politics. Fortunately, his writings ended up in the hands of Pierre-Jules Hetzel. Curiously, this well-known publisher agreed to publish the manuscript of good old Jules. Pierre-Jules Hetzel had the vision to be convinced by the emergence of a new public in which youth would occupy a prominent place.

He took advantage of this period of his life to establish a link with Pierre-Jules. The famous editor will collaborate for a long time with the writer. From this partnership, they publish a manuscript '' Voyage en l’air '' confirming the interest of Jules Verne for the production of literary works. To seal the collaboration, Pierre-Jules Hetzel had articulated his conviction around the capacity of Jules Verne to produce a great popular novel. The publication of the novelist's '' Five Weeks in a Balloon '' was a crucial step in the partnership between the two figures (Jules Verne and Pierre-Jules Hetzel).

Jules Verne takes advantage of his years in Paris to make interesting encounters in the world of literary production and criticism. It is necessary to believe that the character has the literature in the blood. His meeting with Alexandre Dumas fils marks a turning point in his career. The two personalities collaborate together to make a clear contribution to the evolution of literary productions. Thus, they corrected ''Les pailles rompues'' which is a comedy play written just before their meeting. Jules Verne also took advantage of this moment of enlightenment to publish short stories in the magazine Musée des familles.

Jules Verne's manuscripts have also made a name for themselves with his publisher and an eager public for his novels. The success was such that the publishing adventure between the writer and his mentor Pierre-Jules Hetzel lasted about 40 years. Together, they published a total of 63 novels, sealing a carefully initiated work. Inspired by the quality of his protagonist's literary works, Pierre-Jules Hetzel had a brilliant idea that would take Jules Verne's literary career to the top.

 Indeed, he created the prestigious collection ''Les Voyages extraordinaires'' devoted exclusively to the literary works of the writer. This incredible collection was distinguished by its unique binding. Most of the novels written by Jules Verne were published there, contributing to their success. The guiding line of the novels was clearly defined, namely '' an invitation to travel and to discover ''. The collaboration with Pierre-Jules Hetzel allowed Jules Verne to transcend himself. He also refined his style to invent a new literary genre. Of course, the ''scientific novel '' created a stupidity in the milieu and a craze that few authors have aroused.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or the birth of Steampunk . .


As you know now, the Steampunk aesthetic is fundamentally linked to Jules Verne. Indeed, the author describes a world full of inventions, futuristic objects for the era and a multitude of elements that we now find in Steampunk. It seems that the literary works of Jules Verne have contributed significantly to the understanding of the world during the decades that followed. René Barjavel confirms moreover this analysis in one of his cult sentences: '' Without him, our society would be stupid ''. This one is none other than one of the most faithful followers of Jules Verne. Unquestionably, the native of Nantes is an important writer of the 21st century.

In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the advanced technology of the submarine, the Nautilus, and many of the novel's elements, such as sea monsters, have become symbols of futurism. We do not count any more the versions of Nautilus Steampunk or octopuses mécaniques (an animal fétiche of the steampunk).

The irony of Steampunk or the uchrony in the uchrony.

But be careful : if you have read the book, you know that the description of the submarine is quite far from what we think of in the collective imagination. And for good reason, Disney's film adaptation is not quite the same.

The Nautilus is presented here in a different way from the novel, with a Victorian interior and an engine room totally inspired by the industrial revolution. The materials, such as rivets and bolts, are not designed or imagined by Verne. Thus one could say that the decades that separate us from the original work have been influenced by a multitude of works that have transformed the collective imagination.

The Disney version of the Nautilus has such a steampunk aspect that one could say that it is the influences and the vision of the 50s and 60s of Victorian aesthetics that has imposed itself. It replaced the description of Jules Verne and ended before the arrival of the word "steampunk" the Victorian rerefuturist genre.

To come back to Jules Verne, he was the first to see the scientific advances of his time, which he successfully integrated into his literary works. He writes novels that leave ample room for scientific progress and let his imagination run wild. The literary and artistic talent of Jules Verne in this universe, was thus attested by three outstanding productions: Twenty thousand leagues under the sea (1869), From the earth to the moon (1865), and before that Journey to the center of the earth (1864). These masterpieces of anticipation literature have fascinated readers. He laid the foundations of science fiction that was creative, documented and inspired by the most recent discoveries. The breath of discovery and travel, linked to a talented writer, inspired generations, and of course the future steampunk movement.

The legacy of Jules Verne in Steampunk


Even today, Steampunk remains the inventive and daring fashion that makes a difference and appeals to all generations without distinction, from the youngest to the oldest. Steampunk can be difficult to understand for men of the contemporary era because of the multiple subtleties that surround the concept. Nevertheless, it is enough to make a few turns of the outstanding events of the past to better understand its influences. Steampunk is a literary trend that focuses on the 19th century, which coincided with the first industrial revolution. Steam technology and coal were particularly popular at that time. The industrial revolution, during which the interest in wood, leather and metals (bronze, copper, brass or silver) was obvious, is particularly noteworthy.

Moreover, the stories of Jules Verne provide some answers to this question, since these literary works plunge the reader directly into the heart of the industrial society of the 19th century. The expression ''Steampunk'' is closely linked to cyberpunk, whose emergence dates back to 1984, according to the literature on the subject. The popularization of Steampunk has been made thanks to the immense contribution of the field of music, cinema, drawing and the ''Do it yourself'' movement. The Steampunk concept allows the authenticity of handcrafted creations to be brought to light.

All of this resonates with the audacity and inventiveness of Jules Verne's novels. Even more impressive, Steampunk embellishes the author's work, and the vision of his inventions. Each adaptation of the works of the great Jules is now influenced by the movement that adds its own touch, so much so that, as with the egg or the chicken, we don't know who influenced the other!

But once again, be careful: there is not only Jules Verne that we can consider as a Steampunk author. We can easily quote H.G. Wells or Albert Robida.It was in France that Douglas Fetherling had preciously defined Steampunk, namely in the preface of Futurs antérieurs in 1999. As a reminder, the preface in question is entitled ''The past is the future of man'' which has met with great success among historians. The concept of Steampunk has been influenced by several trends in the arts. The Steampunk aesthetic has recorded some mutations having integrated some historical events. Steampunk was inspired by three rather symbolic periods in history:

  • &From 1760 onwards: the industrial revolution in England
  • From 1861 to 1865: The War of Secession Across the Atlantic (United States)
  • From 1871à 1914 : La Belle Époque


When exploring Steampunk fashion with a keen eye, it is common to see mechanical components made of cogs and gears, providing the rationale for costumes and clothing. There are then some touches of modernity, giving an admirable elegance to the rendering of the looks. With this understanding of the concept, a number of questions naturally arise. The first question concerns the way to proceed. Revisiting the past as if the future had arrived earlier implies a transformation of the historical events that took place. This mechanism then leads to the emergence of a parallel reality or uchrony. To explain it in all simplicity. A steampunk novel is a novel that rolls off the contemporary era, as it would have been if the actual event had occurred. Simply put, Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that serves to revisit the past in a very original way. Specialists often refer to Jules Verne and Steampunk to easily explain the concept. The approach associated with this concept makes it seem as if the future happened earlier.

And these influences are reflected in Jules Verne's work?

For a long time, the Steampunk movement seemed to compete with the Gothic movement, a not so distant era. There are indeed points of convergence between these two fashion trends, hence the emergence of this encroachment of one on the other. The birth of the steampunk movement was part of a certain logic. It gathered a relatively large community of creators. The notoriety of the concept was reinforced by the immense contribution of these dedicated characters who animated the movement. It was thus common to see automaton shows, object exhibitions and cosplay to celebrate steampunk as a whole. At the beginning, it is necessary to believe that the initiatives were multiplying to gather the adhesion around the concept. The result is clear: steampunk has become part of people's culture. The movement has been widely and enthusiastically embraced.

It is only logical that today there are many subcultures attached to the original steampunk movement. In addition to this, there is the emergence of several conventions on the steampunk theme. The steampunk movement is mostly encountered during cultural events or events related to history. Nevertheless, what arouses the curiosity of the participants is the creation of costumes and cosplay. The discerning eye takes advantage of these events to discover the most romantic components of Victorian fashion. As you can imagine, watchmaking mechanisms naturally occupy a place of honor.

Steampunk allows you to revisit the past;


Steampunk offers the opportunity to revisit the past in a subtle way with a touch of refinement. The Steampunk style is a reflection of the emerging subculture fashion that originated in the 80s. This original look vaguely illustrates a trend that goes against the trend of the digital era. It subtly combines its playfulness and intrigue. Steampunk offers women the opportunity to create mind-blowing outfits between punk, gothic and Victorian for a while, wearing very original Steampunk creations. It also allows them to wear trendy and timeless looks, without imposing a limit of age, gender or budget.

The creations of the inventors have provided the guideline for many contemporary authors to perpetuate the Steampunk style. And we warmly greet the success of some in this way. They talk about the beautiful era by highlighting the historical events that have remained associated with the Steampunk concept. The most committed among them often think of the steamboat Henri Giffard, known as the "Tsar". Undoubtedly, the other Steampunk emblem is John Cockerill's steel machine. It is nothing less than the home of the industrialization of Belgium. The implementation of the Steampunk approach is therefore a subtle art form that is served to the most creative and responsive artists.

The futuristic retreat genre requires a deep understanding of the present and past world to subtly merge the two. In fact, the steampunk movement seems to be about what the contemporary world would have been like under different circumstances. This one is particularly true of a scheme in which the inventors of the steampunk current would have been able to overcome technology. In short, it's quite abstract as an approach, but it fits perfectly with the creative imagination of the artists behind its initiation and its perpetration. For those who like the style of dress of the past, the wearing of costumes adorned with metal horns is very popular. It is common to see antique clocks and decorative arts with gears or cogs.

In conclusion

With an innovative concept in France, Steampunk Store offers everyone the opportunity to subtly revisit the past. The approach combines the real and the abstract, but also the best of the past to improve our daily future. Steampunk is a unique concept that has crossed time to become even more established in the 21st century. Far from being anodyne, steampunk has imposed itself on a large community of enthusiasts. The concept has gone beyond being just a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy. In addition to fashion, most cultural mediums such as literature, music, and film have adopted the steampunk style to further enrich themselves.114

I hope I have made it clear to you how much of the influence of Jules Verne on Steampunk is true. Although he laid an unmistakable foundation and the movement remains associated with his literary works, many of his contemporaries also have their share. It is also fascinating to see how the collective imagination can be influenced and shaped over time, such as the uchronies that we learn as fashion enthusiasts or history buffs.

Thank you for reading, and see you soon for a new article on the exciting world of Steampunk !

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