Star Maker

Star Maker

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Star Maker'
Start a new discussion about 'Star Maker'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Star Maker is a science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 novel by Olaf Stapledon
Olaf Stapledon
William Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher and author of several influential works of science fiction.-Life:...

, published in 1937. The book describes a history of life in the universe, dwarfing in scale Stapledon's previous book, Last and First Men
Last and First Men
Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future is a "future history" science fiction novel written in 1930 by the British author Olaf Stapledon. A work of unprecedented scale in the genre, it describes the history of humanity from the present onwards across two billion years and eighteen...

(1930), a history of the human species over two billion years. Star Maker tackles philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. A pervading theme is that of progressive unity within and between different civilizations. Some of the elements and themes briefly discussed prefigure later fiction concerning genetic engineering
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 and alien life forms. Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...

 considered Star Maker to be one of the finest works of science fiction ever written.

Plot


The book begins with a single human narrator
Narrator
A narrator is, within any story , the fictional or non-fictional, personal or impersonal entity who tells the story to the audience. When the narrator is also a character within the story, he or she is sometimes known as the viewpoint character. The narrator is one of three entities responsible for...

 from England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 who is, via unexplained means, transported out of his body
Out-of-body experience
An out-of-body experience is an experience that typically involves a sensation of floating outside of one's body and, in some cases, perceiving one's physical body from a place outside one's body ....

 and finds himself able to explore space and other planets. After exploring a civilization on another planet in our galaxy at a level of development similar to our own that existed millions of years ago thousands of light years from Earth (the "Other Earth") in some detail, his mind merges with that of one of its inhabitants, and as they travel together, they are joined by still more minds or group-minds. This snowballing
Snowballing
- Economy :* A situation in which the exercise of stop orders in a declining market or advancing market or specific share creates further downward or upward pressure, triggering more stop orders, magnifying the decline or advance...

 process is paralleled by the expansion of the book's scale, describing more and more planets in less and less detail.

The disembodied travellers encounter many ideas that are interesting from both science-fictional and philosophical points of view. These include the first known instance of what is now called the Dyson sphere
Dyson sphere
A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure originally described by Freeman Dyson. Such a "sphere" would be a system of orbiting solar power satellites meant to completely encompass a star and capture most or all of its energy output...

, reference to a scenario closely predicting the later zoo hypothesis
Zoo hypothesis
The zoo hypothesis is one of a number of suggestions that have been advanced in response to the Fermi paradox, regarding the apparent absence of evidence in support of the existence of advanced extraterrestrial life...

 or Star Trek's Prime Directive
Prime Directive
In the universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive, Starfleet's General Order #1, is the most prominent guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets...

, many imaginative descriptions of species, civilizations and methods of warfare, and the idea that the stars and even the pre-galactic nebula
Nebula
A nebula is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen gas, helium gas and other ionized gases...

e are intelligent beings, operating on vast time scales. A key idea is the formation of collective minds from many telepathically
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

 linked individuals, on the level of planets, galaxies, and eventually the cosmos
Cosmos
In the general sense, a cosmos is an orderly or harmonious system. It originates from the Greek term κόσμος , meaning "order" or "ornament" and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. Today, the word is generally used as a synonym of the word Universe . The word cosmos originates from the same root...

 itself.

The climax
Climax (narrative)
The Climax is the point in the story where the main character's point of view changes, or the most exciting/action filled part of the story. It also known has the main turning point in the story...

 of the book is the "supreme moment of the cosmos", when the cosmical mind (which includes the narrator) attains momentary contact with the "Star Maker" of the title. The Star Maker is the creator of the universe, but stands in the same relation to it as an artist to his work, and calmly assesses its quality without any feeling for the suffering of its inhabitants. (This point of view vis à vis God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 seems to be a distillation of Stapledon's readings in philosophy; most notably the works of Spinoza, and the more cynical philosophical ideas of the nineteenth century. Stapledon articulated these ideas to their fullest extent within a framework of modern cosmology.) This element makes the novel one of Stapledon's efforts to write "an essay in myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 making". After meeting the "Star Maker," the traveller then explores earlier "drafts" of the universe, which he refers to as "toy cosmos," including a universe composed entirely of music with no spatial dimensions, and a triune universe which closely resembles "Christian orthodoxy"(the three universes respectively being hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

, heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

, and reality with presence of a savior). The novel ends with the traveller returning to Earth.

Contents

  1. The Earth
    1. The Starting Point
    2. Earth among the Stars
  2. Interstellar Travel
  3. The Other Earth
    1. On the Other Earth
    2. A Busy World
    3. Prospects of the Race
  4. I Travel Again
  5. Worlds Innumerable
    1. The Diversity of Worlds
    2. Strange Mankinds
    3. Nautiloids
  6. Intimations of the Star Maker
  7. More Worlds
    1. A Symbiotic Race
    2. Composite Beings
    3. Plant Men and Others
  8. Concerning the Explorers
  9. The Community of Worlds
    1. Busy Utopias
    2. Intermundane Strife
    3. A Crisis in Galactic History
    4. Triumph in a Sub-Galaxy
    5. The Tragedy of the Perverts
    6. A Galactic Utopia
  10. A Vision of the Galaxy
  11. Stars and Vermin
    1. The Many Galaxies
    2. Disaster in Our Galaxy
    3. Stars
    4. Galactic Symbiosis
  12. A Stunted Cosmical Spirit
  13. The Beginning and the End
    1. Back to the Nebulae
    2. The Supreme Moment Nears
    3. The Supreme Moment and After
  14. The Myth of Creation
  15. The Maker and his Works
    1. Immature Creating
    2. Mature Creating
    3. The Ultimate Cosmos and the Eternal Spirit
  16. Epilogue: Back to Earth
Appendix: A Note on Magnitude

Reception


The novel is one of the most highly acclaimed in science fiction. Its admirers at the time of first publication saw it as one of the most brilliant, inventive, and daring science fiction books. Among its more famous admirers were H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells
Herbert George Wells was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games...

, Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

, Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

, Brian Aldiss
Brian Aldiss
Brian Wilson Aldiss, OBE is an English author of both general fiction and science fiction. His byline reads either Brian W. Aldiss or simply Brian Aldiss. Greatly influenced by science fiction pioneer H. G. Wells, Aldiss is a vice-president of the international H. G. Wells Society...

 and Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing
Doris May Lessing CH is a British writer. Her novels include The Grass is Singing, The Golden Notebook, and five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos....

. Borges wrote a prologue for a 1965 edition and called it "a prodigious novel". Lessing wrote an afterword for a UK edition. Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson
Freeman John Dyson FRS is a British-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum field theory, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. Dyson is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists...

 was also a fan, and admitted to basing his concept of "Dyson Spheres" on a section of the book. Among SF writers, Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...

 has been most strongly influenced by Stapledon. Critics of the novel tend to see it as full of interesting ideas but its writing as dry, characterless, difficult, as well as scientifically implausible at points. Indeed, some of Stapledon's contemporaries were appalled at the books philosophy: in a letter to Arthur C. Clarke in 1943, C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

 described the ending as “sheer devil worship.”

Science


Some of the science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 described in Star Maker has since been shown to be inaccurate, but much of the book is still thought to be correct. Astronomical scales would have to be adjusted by a few orders of magnitude, but the overall scale of time and space is still valid. Stapledon is an author who takes interstellar and galactic distances seriously. Some editions contain a timeline (over billions of years) for the book. It may be instructive to compare these with modern conceptions of orders of magnitude (length) and orders of magnitude (time)
Orders of magnitude (time)
-Seconds:- See also :* Heat Death* Second law of thermodynamics* Big Rip* Big Crunch* Big Bounce* Big Bang* Cyclic model* Dyson's eternal intelligence* Final anthropic principle* Ultimate fate of the Universe* Timeline of the Big Bang...

, in particular 1 E19 s and more as well as the modern view of the ultimate fate of the universe
Ultimate fate of the universe
The ultimate fate of the universe is a topic in physical cosmology. Many possible fates are predicted by rival scientific theories, including futures of both finite and infinite duration....

.

Stapledon imagines alien biologies, minds and civilizations radically different from human ones. But unlike in Stanisław Lem's Solaris
Solaris (novel)
Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

, all these are supposed to be fundamentally similar in the long run, since all are governed by the same Darwinian
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and Marxian
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 laws of development. Some of Stapledon's ideas for alien minds, such as collective intelligence
Collective intelligence
Collective intelligence is a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making in bacteria, animals, humans and computer networks....

, seem far ahead of their time, anticipating recent ideas about swarm intelligence
Swarm intelligence
Swarm intelligence is the collective behaviour of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial. The concept is employed in work on artificial intelligence...

 and the general fascination with networks. He also mentions the idea of virtual reality
Virtual reality
Virtual reality , also known as virtuality, is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds...

in the first and most Earth-like alien world visited, in the form of an apparatus that directly affects sense centers in the brain. The idea of entire worlds as spacecraft is used several times.

External links