Olaf Stapledon

Nightspore

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Has anyone read any of Olaf Stapledon's novels? I have read only Last and First men & Star Maker. The latter is one of the finest novels of speculative fiction that I have ever read. It truly deserves the status of 'classic Sci Fi'.

Olaf Stapledon ~ SFE
 

Venusian Broon

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Read both, as well as Sirius.

Starmaker for me is a towering work of imagination and yes one of my top 10 books of all time. Which is odd for something that virutally has no plot, but it almost had the blueprint for all SF thinking for the fifty years after it had been written (Amazing to think it was written in 1937)

Each section just gets bigger and bigger in scope. Took my breath away when I first read it.

And if CS Lewis described the ending as 'sheer devil worship' then I'm all for it!
 

Nightspore

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Read both, as well as Sirius.

Starmaker for me is a towering work of imagination and yes one of my top 10 books of all time. Which is odd for something that virutally has no plot, but it almost had the blueprint for all SF thinking for the fifty years after it had been written (Amazing to think it was written in 1937)

Each section just gets bigger and bigger in scope. Took my breath away when I first read it.
Yes, he put a lot of his own philosophical ideas into the work & inadvertently invented a genre. I think that he was quite bemused to be considered as one of the fathers of British science fiction. Arthur Clarke was a huge fan, I think that they met on one occasion at least.

And if CS Lewis described the ending as 'sheer devil worship' then I'm all for it!
LOL! Yeah. I've read a lot of Lewis's essays but his Christian apologetics could be a little trying after a while. I never suspected as a child that 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' was a Christian allegory. But even as a child I could sense the patriarchal moralising of 'Aslan'.

I read somewhere that 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' was banned in the Bible belt in the USA at one time because it had the word 'witch' in the title. :eek:
 

Extollager

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And if CS Lewis described the ending as 'sheer devil worship' then I'm all for it!
I haven't read Stapledon yet, but my impression is that he ends with the idea of an all-powerful but amoral being, the Star Maker. This being is held in awe or even adored because of its power although it is not in any sense good.

If this is where Stapledon ends up, Lewis, in contrast, is opposing anything like adoration of a being simply because it is supremely powerful; to be worthy of worship it must also be holy, blessed, good.

Lewis had harsh things to say about theologians whom he perceived as "Calvinists" who had gone beyond Calvin in this direction. It seems to me that here too he used the expression "devil worship."
 

Venusian Broon

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I haven't read Stapledon yet, but my impression is that he ends with the idea of an all-powerful but amoral being, the Star Maker. This being is held in awe or even adored because of its power although it is not in any sense good.

If this is where Stapledon ends up, Lewis, in contrast, is opposing anything like adoration of a being simply because it is supremely powerful; to be worthy of worship it must also be holy, blessed, good.
I was a bit glib so apologies, I wasn't intending to cause any rucus.

Yes it ends with an amoral creator, neither good or bad but just is. Contemplation appears to be prime process of this being (Possibly as Stapledon was a philosopher, this is his highest state!)

Ultimately however is this, as the text hints, just the flawed vision of something utterly ineffable by the limited mind of a man? And that it is the impossible task of trying to comprehend something that is unknowable that is a 'dread mystery, compelling adoration'?

(Furthermore how to define good [particularly in a religious sense] is a chore in it's own right and I'm sure we'll be shooed off the forum for attempting it. As would be my utter lack of understanding of why worship of supreme beings is even necessary [but then I'm a theoretical agnostic and a practical atheist, so what do I know?] )
 

Nightspore

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I haven't read Stapledon yet, but my impression is that he ends with the idea of an all-powerful but amoral being, the Star Maker. This being is held in awe or even adored because of its power although it is not in any sense good.

If this is where Stapledon ends up, Lewis, in contrast, is opposing anything like adoration of a being simply because it is supremely powerful; to be worthy of worship it must also be holy, blessed, good.

Lewis had harsh things to say about theologians whom he perceived as "Calvinists" who had gone beyond Calvin in this direction. It seems to me that here too he used the expression "devil worship."
Much as I admire Lewis in may ways, he was rather self-opinionated a lot of the time.
 

Extollager

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VB and Nightspore,

I wanted to clarify the meaning of Lewis's remark about "devil worship" in Stapledon, though I admit I was too lazy to look up the context!

This matter reminds me of Lewis's admiration for the eschatology of Norse myth: the giants and monsters will destroy the gods and the cosmos, but let a man die with these "losers" rather than allied to their destroyers.
 

Nightspore

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VB and Nightspore,

I wanted to clarify the meaning of Lewis's remark about "devil worship" in Stapledon, though I admit I was too lazy to look up the context!

This matter reminds me of Lewis's admiration for the eschatology of Norse myth: the giants and monsters will destroy the gods and the cosmos, but let a man die with these "losers" rather than allied to their destroyers.
It's OK, I knew where you were coming from. ;)

Incidentally, I think that you can read many of his works online.

The Olaf Stapledon Archive
 

Nightspore

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Ultimately however is this, as the text hints, just the flawed vision of something utterly ineffable by the limited mind of a man? And that it is the impossible task of trying to comprehend something that is unknowable that is a 'dread mystery, compelling adoration'?
Sounds a bit Taoist.

(Furthermore how to define good [particularly in a religious sense] is a chore in it's own right and I'm sure we'll be shooed off the forum for attempting it. As would be my utter lack of understanding of why worship of supreme beings is even necessary [but then I'm a theoretical agnostic and a practical atheist, so what do I know?] )
Yes, I think it's best not to get into the theodicical argument here. LOL
 

Venusian Broon

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VB and Nightspore,

I wanted to clarify the meaning of Lewis's remark about "devil worship" in Stapledon, though I admit I was too lazy to look up the context!

This matter reminds me of Lewis's admiration for the eschatology of Norse myth: the giants and monsters will destroy the gods and the cosmos, but let a man die with these "losers" rather than allied to their destroyers.
It is always a little difficult to ascertain tone sometimes on the interweb - and my loose tongue has got me in trouble a few times. So I was just making sure I didn't offend! :)

But I get exactly where you're coming from.




Sounds a bit Taoist.
I see he's described as an agnostic mystic by others (something I could go for, I think :rolleyes:), so maybe there is elements of this in his views.

But then philosphers throughout all history have all loved to have a go at explaining everything on grand meta-physical levels.
 

Nightspore

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I see he's described as an agnostic mystic by others (something I could go for, I think :rolleyes:), so maybe there is elements of this in his views.
I think that agnostic mysticism actually describes Taoism anyway.

But then philosphers throughout all history have all loved to have a go at explaining everything on grand meta-physical levels.
"Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards."

~ Diogenes
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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I have read Last and First Men, Star Maker, Odd John, and Sirius. All remarkable works of astonishing imagination. I have also read his uncompleted work "Four Encounters," which is not science fiction (and hardly fiction at all) but which offers a great deal of insight into his thought.

Apparently "Four Encounters" was supposed to be "Ten Encounters" but the author died before it could be finished. In any case, it consists of four character studies -- a Christian, a scientist, a mystic, and a revolutionary -- in which the narrator discusses the beliefs of each. The feeling I got from "Four Encounters" was that Stapledon was the ultimate agnostic; not just on religious questions, but on philosophical and political matters as well. He is willing to listen to each of the four, but makes no final judgment on any of them. It would have been fascinating to read six more of these encounters.
 

Nightspore

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I have read Last and First Men, Star Maker, Odd John, and Sirius. All remarkable works of astonishing imagination. I have also read his uncompleted work "Four Encounters," which is not science fiction (and hardly fiction at all) but which offers a great deal of insight into his thought.

Apparently "Four Encounters" was supposed to be "Ten Encounters" but the author died before it could be finished. In any case, it consists of four character studies -- a Christian, a scientist, a mystic, and a revolutionary -- in which the narrator discusses the beliefs of each. The feeling I got from "Four Encounters" was that Stapledon was the ultimate agnostic; not just on religious questions, but on philosophical and political matters as well. He is willing to listen to each of the four, but makes no final judgment on any of them. It would have been fascinating to read six more of these encounters.
I have read some of his non-fiction works. I am planning to read Odd John next.
 

Nightspore

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"I am a man rather prone to think of remote futurity—a man who can read Mr Olaf Stapledon with delight." -- C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man



http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/lewis/abolition2.htm



The reference appears about halfway down the chapter offered at the link.
Interesting, thanks. In his essay 'On Science Fiction' Lewis refers to some novels as what he would call the Eschatological. He includes Well's Time Machine & Clarke's Childhood End as well as Last and First Men which he defines as a new form; the pseudo-history.
 

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Sirius is a particularly fine piece of work, very moving in places. He was way ahead of his time. Have read a couple of his others, including the far-future-history one, but Sirius is the only one I re-read.
 

Nightspore

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Sirius is a particularly fine piece of work, very moving in places. He was way ahead of his time. Have read a couple of his others, including the far-future-history one, but Sirius is the only one I re-read.
I'm reading Odd John at the moment. I reckon Sirius will be the next one for me then.
 

antiloquax

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I've just read "Odd John" - the first of his that I have read. I have "Sirius" and "Last and First Men" lined up ...
mark
 

merritt

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I am going to ignore everything posted before this so I can tell my story. Relevant 10 years ago.

Me and my body Dave were in New orleans for a trade show prolly 15 years ago. We were both sci-fi fans, collecting p-backs with cool covers. Crawling bookstores rather than bars/pubs.
I asked the hippy owner of an old store crammed full of books if he had any Stapledon and a few other old school authors.

He said" I have an old Stapledon in rough shape in the back"
I shut my moiuth and let him get it.

It was a 1st printing page/3rd printing p-back with the Bif Perez artwork glued to it. Now the binding was F@$#^%#d but just to get it I was thrilled. The cost? he had it marked it for $25.00 and I got iy for$22.00 "hey man the the thing was messed up!" :0)

wE HAD ALOT OF FUN AND bought a few sci-fi collectables that trip!

A good afternoon on my deck today!
 
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