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Adapting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea part V. Crew of the Nautilus

Jules Verne was very clear about the crew of Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus. They are all male, subservient to Nemo and die on the voyage.

And the crew dying off during the course of the voyage of the adventure is a gift to a writer, especially as at least one dies in very mysterious and unexplained circumstances.

Having established Nemo has crew of 30 or so, I began plotting ways of how, where and when they die. And how.

But first I had to decide where Nemo’s crew came from? Well, Patrick O’Brian’s magnificent historical naval novels set in the Napoleonic era, set a mere 50 years before 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, portray the endless issue of naval recruitment the British navy endured.

If there were insufficient volunteers then press-gangs were produce crews. And when this failed then criminals and even former crews of one’s enemies could be pressed to serve.

So assuming Nemo started his voyage with a crew drawn from India who have suffered casualties, their replacements would be taken from anywhere and everywhere, assuming they could be persuaded to join.

And who would join Nemo on his mission of revenge against the British empire? Presumably those who also held a grudge against the empire, which in 1867 would be a fair amount of the world’s population.

But would having a grudge against the British empire be enough to persuade ordinary people to jump aboard the Nautilus? Life at sea then was a very dangerous prospect, and they would have to have a second, more primary reason for signing up with Nemo.

And so those who’ve joined the Nautilus are people escaping persecution or prosecution at home.

But the Nautilus is a microcosm of the world and far from a utopia, not least as the Captain has an Ahab-like obsession with fighting the British empire. And having a crew from Africa, India, Europe, the South Pacific and north America brings its own tensions.

Nemo aside, Verne never endowed his characters with a second dimension if one were sufficient, and seemed even more averse to creating women characters at all, unless they were there to provide an emotional anchor for a man.

And if they could be killed off-screen before the story begins – as happens to Nemo’s wife and child – then all the better.

And it’s not as if contemporaries of Verne such as Annie Denton Cridge and Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett weren’t writing sci-fi stories with central women characters.

So taking their example as my starting point, I decided the crew of the Nautilus would be 50% women. But they and the male crew would still be subservient to Nemo. At least openly they will be.

And so with these building blocks in place, Nemo’s Fury is set to become an adventure of intrigue and murder.

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