Olaf Stapledon: The Father of Modern Science Fiction
Published under a pseudonym in the August 1985 issue of High Times. As I recall now, the main reason for the pseudonym was my unhappiness with the editor’s thoughtless editing; I’ve tried to repair a little of the damage here, and also added a few details.
I can happily report that Stapledon’s work has garnered a lot more attention since 1985, including a book-length study by Leslie Fiedler, and all the fiction discussed here is currently in print (or was when I last posted this), which wasn’t true back then. (Dover has excellent editions pairing Last and First Men with Star Maker and Odd John with Sirius, and An Olaf Stapledon Reader, edited by Robert Crossley, which Syracuse University Press published in 1997, includes all of The Flames and samplings from the others.) Although I don’t have much to say here about Odd John, this novel may actually serve as the best single introduction to Stapledon’s work. Although having just seen the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s original and powerful experimental feature [see still below] loosely based on Last and First Men, released earlier this year , I wonder if that might also serve the same function.
One anecdotal epilogue to Jorge Luis Borges’s interest in Star Maker, cited at the end of this piece: I was lucky enough to attend a public discussion with Borges at the University of California, Santa Barbara shortly before his death, and asked him at the time to comment on this book. Read more