No reason to put this up, other than I love pictures of the universe. I’ve just finished reading Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker, a truly unique piece of fiction (I’m not going to class it as Sci-Fi, because he didn’t.) It was written in 1937 and, much like his other masterpiece First and Last Men, it has a conception that’s truly mind-boggling, mainly in terms of time frame. Stapledon explores the history of the universe, flicking from himself standing on a hill in England to inconceivable (“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”) journeys through space and time, right up to heat-death of the cosmos and, curiously, beyond. Every paragraph contains the necessary components for a full novel, reduced down with Stapldeon’s spare language to haiku-like formulations.
It’s all driven by a pantheist belief, much like Spinoza’s, that everything is, in some sense, capable of consciousness and it’s this belief that provides the dynamic and the twists of what can loosely be termed the book’s plot. (It’s the only book to have inculcated in me a feeling of empathy for a nebula as it’s torn apart by the tumescences that would become stars.) Indeed Stapledon’s other writings are philosophical tracts – he was a philosophy student and teacher tutor at Oxford and Liverpool for most of his life. This tract expresses a philosophy about how the universe could work using the most up-to-date scientific knowledge of the time so sparingly and logically that it still holds up today, and could easily have been an inspirational religion-founding tome in itself, were it not for its unapproachableness and slow pedantry. (Kicks the crap out of the loathesome Johnathon Livingstone Seagull anyway…) Pick it up, sure, but be prepared to be very slowly astounded.