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Olaf Stapledon (William Olaf Stapledon) Biography

(1886–1950), (William Olaf Stapledon), Last and First Men, Last Men in London, Odd John, Star Maker

British sciencefiction writer and philosopher, born in Cheshire, educated at Oxford and at Liverpool University, where he taught after the First World War. He was the most formidable figure in the field of British science fiction after H. G. Wells; though his audience was not wide, the extraordinary conceptual sweep of his fictional discourses upon future history had a powerful impact upon other writers. His five major books, Last and First Men (1930), Last Men in London (1931), Odd John (1935), Star Maker (1937), and Sirius (1944), provide blueprints for the rigorous shaping in fictional form of speculative thought about evolution, man's ethical place in the universe, cosmogony, and the nature of God. Writers as dissimilar as B. W. Aldiss, G.. Bear, A. C.. Clarke, and Stanislaw Lem were influenced by his work. The eighteen evolutionary stages of humanity encompassed in Last and First Men provide an unrivalled conspectus of the futures that can be conceived for this species; Odd John relentlessly examines the concept of the Superman; and Star Maker ascends from the first book to a stringent, evolutionary vision of a God. At the same time, in all his fiction, and in straightforward speculative texts like Waking World (1934), an abiding frustration at the strictures of mortal man suffuses his most enthralling vistas with melancholy. See also Utopia and Anti-Utopia.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Souvenirs to St Joan of the Stockyards (Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe)