Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher and academic who wrote a number of extremely influential Science Fiction
novels in the early part of the Twentieth Century. At a time when most SF was mainly focused on simple action and adventure, Stapledon wrote broad stories examining philosophical ideas based on the revolutions in science that were happening at the time. Although they were drenched in philosophy, they were written for a general audience, and were popular enough for him to become a full-time writer.
His first novel, Last And First Men
(1930) is a broad study of the future history of mankind, and its descendants, covering millennia in its few pages. Its sequel, Star Maker
, covered all of time and space. His most popular novel, Odd John
was one of the first serious studies of what it means to be more than human.
Stapledon is credited with inventing the Dyson Sphere
(Freeman Dyson admits he got the idea from Stapledon, and thought it should have been called a "Stapledon Sphere"). He was also one of the first writers to introduce the concept of Terraforming
(although Jack Williamson
is credited with naming it). His work has been cited as a major influence by many later SF writers, including Arthur C. Clarke
, Stanislaw Lem
, and C. S. Lewis
Works with a page on this wiki:
Other works include:
- Odd John
- Last Men in London
- Darkness and the Light
- Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord
Tropes in his other works:
- Brainy Baby: John Wainwright of Odd John by Olaf Stapledon is a serious version.
- Differently Powered Individual: The use of the name Homo Superior goes back at least to the 1935 novel ''Odd John" by Olaf Stapledon. It's been used everywhere from pulp sci-fi to Marvel Comics to The Tomorrow People to refer to superhumans as the "next stage of evolution".
- Evolutionary Levels: In Odd John: The titular character is one of a new species of supermen who happen to be born here and there around the world at roughly the same time. This story is apparently the origin of the term "Homo Superior" for such beings.
- Interspecies Romance: In Sirius, which is about a man who creates a super-intelligent dog. Of course turns out badly in the end.
- Mighty Whitey: Odd John both subverts and plays this straight. Roughly half of the super-intelligent mutants are of East Asian descent and there seems to be no racial discrimination between them. However, the protagonist and de facto leader is still a white man of mixed European ancestry. Though it's made clear that there are several members of the mutant species/ race with powers and intelligence far in advance of Odd John, including a Tibetan and an Arab, and most of them think of John's venture as another Children's Crusade.
- Puberty Super Power: Averted in Odd John, where the title character had special abilities from birth. However, those abilities also came with a cost (including much slower childhood development and physical frailties).
- ‹bermensch" Odd John, the superhuman mutant from the Olaf Stapledon novel of that name.
- Uplifted Animal: Sirius was one of the first attempts to seriously imagine what it might be like to be an uplifted animal—to try to get inside the head of such a creature. In this case, the first of its kind, a dog, named after the "dog star", Sirius.
- Xenofiction: Sirius was one of the first works to try to combine this with Uplifted Animal, and try to get inside the head of a dog that had been given human-like intelligence.