JF Ptak Science Books LLC
Albert Robida, a fabulous visionary born in France in 1848 (dying in 1926) was an illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, and novelist. His greatest achievement is his futuristic trilogy, including Le Vingtième Siècle (1883), La Guerre au vingtième siècle (1887) and Le Vingtième siècle. La vie électrique (1890). In general he has deep, realistic vision, the sort that puts him on a similar plane as Jules Verne, but is differentiated from his famous French compatriot, in that his creations seem more compatible with possibility, being more common, more fashioned to what the average person might come to expect of their
future creature comforts. In spite of a fantastic and perhaps unparalelled scifi imagination, Verne seems a little beyond the scope of the mortal future, maybe a little too much for their appreciation of whatever common class the future might hold room for.
The future of Robida includes telephones (more in their application and use than in the invention itself, seeing far more accurately, I think, in the possible roles in society than people like Bell and Dolbear saw in their own inventions), televisions (the telephonoscope), bacterial warfare, emancipation and political empowerment of women, advanced submarines, transportation tubes, helicopters, and the like.
Verne (born in 1828) had an exhaustive, exhausting, fantastically accomplished literary career—his bibliography is a sci-fi equivalent of William Shakespeare in that his accomplishments are so vast. (Not of course actually as vast as the Bard, because Old Bill was totally impossible--an Einstein/Feynman/Newton/Chandra of literature, all rolled into one person. For example, some of his fifty books include these recognizable nuggets: Five Weeks in a Balloon (Cinq Semaines en ballon, 1863), Journey to the Center of the Earth (Voyage au centre de la Terre, 1864), From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune, 1865), In Search of the Castaways or Captain Grant's
Children (Les Enfants du Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, 1869-1870), Around The Moon (Autour de la lune, a sequel to From the Earth to the Moon, 1870). A Floating City (Une ville flottante, 1871). Around the World in Eighty Days (Le Tour du Monde en quatre-vingts jours, 1873), The Mysterious Island (L’île mysterieuse, 1875), Off on a Comet (Hector Servadac, 1877)
They are deep and far-reaching, though Verne, unfortunately, did not find an artistic muse for his visions nearly as capable as those Robida produced for himself. For example, Verne wrote Paris in the 20th Century, in 1863, including many now-familiar things that in the heights of the US Civil War seemed dauntlessly impossible: skyscrapers, automatic and electric calculating machines, gas-powered cars, flying machines and a worldwide information and distribution network.
What Robida did indeed have that Verne did not was an artistic talent, and it was here that he excelled—actually no one, in my opinion, had accomplished anything nearly as close as did Robida in imaging the future; no one in the 19th century comes close. He was a Jules Verne of scifi illustration.
Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle”, a Japanese anime film from 2004, has remarkabel flying machine quite resembling Robida’s mannerism, and I think I'd be remiss for not mentioning it.