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SF Crossing the Gulf (Episode 11): “Star Maker” by Olaf Stapledon

In this episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, we tackle Star Maker, the 1939 classic by Olaf Stapledon.

One moment a man sits on a suburban hill, gazing curiously at the stars. The next, he is whirling through the firmament, and perhaps the most remarkable of all science fiction journeys has begun. Even Stapledon’s other great work, LAST AND FIRST MEN, pales in ambition next to STAR MAKER, which presents nothing less than an entire imagined history of life in the universe, encompassing billions of years.

This relatively short novel is jam-packed with all the sense of wonder you could ask for. We talk about the seeds of any number of sf stories found within its pages, its perspective on aliens, the Omega Point, and much more. If you read Star Maker and enjoy it, we strongly recommend that you also read Last and First Men, Stapledon’s earlier work of science fiction.

About Karen Burnham (82 Articles)
Karen is vocationally an engineer and avocationally a sf/f reviewer and critic. She has worked on the Orion and Dream Chaser spacecraft and written for SFSignal, Strange Horizons, and Locus Magazine.

8 Comments on SF Crossing the Gulf (Episode 11): “Star Maker” by Olaf Stapledon

  1. I think readers should tackle Last and First Men first, and *then* Star Maker. (that’s the way I read them, in the edition on the lower left of the six covers shown above, actually)

  2. I generally agree, and I read them the same way in the same edition! 😀

  3. I think an SF writer could just about make an entire career out of writing novels based on individual sentences in Star-Maker.

  4. One thing I love about SM is how all of Last and First Men fits into a brief part of SM (just as Last Men in London fits into a brief part of Last and First Men). Along with Sirius and Odd John, it is my favorite work by Stapledon.

    I do not, however, think that one needs to read Last and First Men (or Last Men in London) before reading SM. In fact, if you do so, you may be turned off by Stapledon as a writer, period. Last and First Men is chock full of wonderful ideas and scenes but getting beyond the first section…most do not (a point that the author of the introduction to the Gollancz Masterworks edition makes).

    If you can find it (there are a few online versions), I’d point you to J.D Bernal’s classic long essay/short book The World, The Flesh and The Devil. Not only was it a big influence on Stapledon, but also influenced Arthur C. Clarke, Gerard K. O’Neil (the Lagrange Colonies designer) and many others. Joe (above) says author’s could spend careers out of spinning stories out of Stapledon: Bernal is definitely an non-fiction author who had the same effect.

    • Cool, I’ll have to look that up! I’ve seen Bernal referenced in the context of the Singularity as well, and I’ve been meaning to get to that essay. Thanks!

  5. Now I want you two to cover Cordwainer Smith. ESPECIALLY after this episode.

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