The first work of true science fiction I read was a standard English translation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I was still in single digits (yes, I was a very precocious reader).
I picked it up again this week, and this amazing book really does stand up. It stands up to the years that have passed in my own life, and it stands up to the decades (many of them) since it was written.
Verne basically invented 'hard science fiction' - fiction based off of realistic extrapolations of current scientific knowledge, not stepping beyond them. In his books the scientist is the hero...but sometimes also the villain. He was the first writer to be in the business of both writing science fiction and predicting the future.
But its intriguing that his books can still be read and enjoyed many years after his predictions have either been proved true (there are very few differences between Verne's Nautilus and a modern submarine) or false (he grossly overestimated the amount of energy electricity produces). By a certain kind of reader, that is. Some modern readers would find his endless catalogues of sea life in 20,000 Leagues, for example, boring...but it has to be remembered he was writing in a different time and he was also French, coming from a slightly different culture. The translator also took some liberties with the text.
Even so, though? I'm going to raise one to Jules Verne because there's something else he really was.
He was the first Grand Master.
(Before anyone mentions Wells...I would call Wells a Grand Master too, but Verne's career was well underway when Wells was beginning his).