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Literature / Star Maker

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Star Maker is a 1937 Science Fiction novel by Olaf Stapledon, and a sequel of sorts to Last and First Men. When he decided that the former book — which chronicled the entire (future) history of humankind — had not been nearly ambitious enough, Stapledon followed it up with a history of the entire universe, culminating in a brief glimpse into the nature and history of God himself (the titular Star Maker).

Like Last and First Men, the story's viewpoint grows broader and broader as it progresses, though this time it is a broadness not only of time but of space. After examining several individual alien societies in some detail, the book's perspective gradually pulls back from a planetary to a galactic scale, then to a universal scale, and finally to a viewpoint that encompasses the Star Maker himself and all of his various created universes.

Also like its predecessor, it's told through the framing device of a man (Stapledon himself, presumably) being given this "guided tour" of reality telepathically by advanced beings from the future.

This novel provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: It is important to love your neighbor, and to balance action with contemplation.
  • Alien Geometries: Not all of the Star Maker's creations are Euclidean. There are even some that are made of sound, some have time but lack space.
  • Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: Many aquatic civilizations stagnate in industry due to the difficulty in creating fires underwater.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: During the time of the United Empire's conquests, a star cluster with a very advanced race of symbiotic telepaths ignores the pleas of pacifist populations until they themselves are attacked.
  • Art Evolution: The Star Maker's motivation to create a new universe after he is done with the previous one.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Many strange examples, the least exotic being a species similar to human that regurgitate the cud to feed their young.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The stars, as well as the Star Maker.
  • Creation Myth
  • Deflector Shields: Necessary for interplanetary travel to protect against impacts from space dust.
  • Dyson Sphere: The actual origin of the concept (Dyson himself said they should have been called "Stapledon spheres"), though it's mentioned only briefly. Other types of Space Stations are more common.
  • The Empire: What some of the advanced civilizations end up as.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The warlike civilizations end up succumbing to the telepathic entreaties of an advanced star cluster, with societies geared for conquest unable to transition to peaceful ways of life and collapsing.
  • The Federation: What the other civilizations become.
  • Genius Loci: Later space civilizations eventually create sentient planets.
  • God Is Evil: Or at least remarkably callous toward the suffering of his creations.
  • Heavy Worlder: The beings designed to inhabit the white dwarfs, after there are few "living" stars left.
  • Hive Mind: Several of the species the author visits have this, like a few Insectoid Aliens. A single specimen is just an animal, but a shared consciousness of a swarm is an equivalent of an individual.
  • Hollow World: The artificial planets as well as all the "dead" stars eventually.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Many of the planets visited, like the first one, have inhabitants with familiar bipedal anatomy.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: The entire history of humanity from the first to the last men leaves absolutely no impact on the history of the galaxy, let alone the universe.
  • Intangible Time Travel: The protagonist travels through both time and space this way. The various planets he (and his companions) visit are scattered throughout every age of the Galaxy.
  • Mental Fusion/Assimilation Plot: A symbiotic race eventually replaces physical symbiosis with a mental one. Later civilizations have species-wide telepathy that grants them a shared consciousness. This later spreads to most of the universe.
  • The Multiverse: Some of the Star Maker's later creations consist of more than one universe.
  • No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture: Thoroughly Averted with the description of the Other Earth whose inhabitants have taste as a primary sense, and therefore a more gustatory media as opposed to a visual one.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Having become a part of the multigalactic overmind, the protagonist remains unaffected by the suffering of civilizations and individual beings, reasoning that their suffering ultimately serves a higher purpose. Yet he is horrified to find out that the Star Maker himself is just as indifferent to his own suffering for the very same reason.
  • Plant Aliens: An entire subgroup of intelligent lifeforms, with one species switching between sessile and motile modes playing a key role in galactic evolution.
  • Post-Historical Trauma: The mental anguish caused by various species succumbing to accident or nefarious means occasionally affects the explorers' minds, sometimes slowing down or even stopping their ability to travel across space.
  • The Power of Friendship: Progression into higher stages of being requires the ability to live in a community of diverse minds.
  • Starfish Aliens: Several examples.
    • Subverted with the Echinoderms, intelligent beings that evolved from a starfish-like creature but ended up with a humanoid body plan.
    • In general, the book describes a great many very bizarre life forms, including living ships and intelligent stars and nebulae.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: Some sentient stars explode themselves to rid them of the interfering planetary beings. Thankfully, this stops eventually.
  • The Symbiote: A few species, particularly one between an aquatic fish-like species and a land-dwelling arachnoid race. The tension between their different lifestyles underpins their planetary evolution and history.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Those on a high-enough plane of existence are literally incomprehensible to the explorers until they themselves become more acquainted with more advanced modes of thinking.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: Telepathy turns out to be one of the key ways to communicate across the stars.
  • Utopia: From planetary to galactic ones.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: On planets populated with intelligent centaurs.