Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

The novel “Star Maker” by Olaf Stapledon was published for the first time in 1937.

When an Englishman’s consciousness is transported out of his body, a limitless journey into deep space begins. He arrives on a planet inhabited by intelligent humanoids, which he calls the Other Earth, where his consciousness merges with that of one of the natives. This is just the first stage of a much longer journey.

Together with his new traveling companion, to whom he remains attached, the man travels to other planets inhabited by sentient beings. Civilizations with similarities and differences compared to the human one are observed during their technological, social, and spiritual evolution up to a cosmic scale made up of various dimensions.

Olaf Stapledon was above all a philosopher who chose to write fiction to spread his ideas. Science fiction offered him the means to develop those ideas using a possible future history of humanity but also alien civilizations such as those described in “Star Maker.” From this point of view, he’s an author out of the ordinary, especially in the science fiction panorama of the 1930s and 1940s.

In the preface to the novel, Olaf Stapledon reflects on the world situation of 1937, with winds of war fueled by rampant fascism, and on the opportunity to write a novel like “Star Maker” in a historical moment that already seemed very dark. The narrator can be considered an alter-ego of the author who searches for answers about humanity by observing the evolution of other sentient species and the possible problems that may risk leading to their extinction.

The first planet visited by the protagonist, which he calls the Other Earth, is inhabited by a species that in many ways resembles the human one, both physically and in the developments of its civilization. This is a typical case in which the alien is a mirror of the human and the narrator’s reflections on the natives mirror those of Olaf Stapledon on humanity.

The civilization of the Other Earth is the one described most in-depth but it’s only the first stage of the narrator’s cosmic journey. In the following stages, the author shows again a particular interest in the political and social developments of various civilizations. Some astronomical concepts are now obsolete but that’s irrelevant given that they are functional to the story of the very long journey between many other civilizations.

Olaf Stapledon imagines physical and mental variations to create other sentient beings on an ever-larger scale. For the protagonist, the journey has a subjective duration that is extremely long but the expansion also occurs on a spatial level, until it reaches other dimensions in what becomes a multiverse.

In all this, the spiritual dimension is also very important for Olaf Stapledon. The author was agnostic but was also influenced by Spinoza in his religious vision. This can be seen in “Star Maker” in various considerations and especially in the part concerning the Maker/God. In various cases, there is an explicit inspiration by Christian elements. This is probably the part that provokes the most subjective reactions in readers.

Olaf Stapledon was writing all this in 1937, a turbulent time in world history. In his preface to the novel, he explained what the meaning of a novel like “Star Maker” could be at a time when Europe risked an even worse catastrophe than what was later remembered as World War I.

Nearly 90 years later, Olaf Stapledon’s considerations are more valid than ever. The author influenced subsequent generations of writers, and not just science fiction writers, and “Star Maker” thrilled and stimulated generations of readers. In my opinion, it remains a must-read novel regardless of genre labels. It’s available on Amazon USA, UK, and Canada.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *