Sunday, 18 August 2013

"Another Stapledon"

"As for visions, we writers have never matched the transcendence of what some scientists have beheld. Nor do I expect we ever shall. We can only hope for another Stapledon to put it into fictional terms, as he did the cosmology of his period. That will be no minor success."

(Poul Anderson, "Wellsprings of Dream" IN Anderson, All One Universe, New York, 1997, pp. 235-247, AT p. 238)

I have read this article before but had not remembered this passage. Much earlier on this blog (here), I described Anderson as the modern Stapledon.

In Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker, telepathically linked organic intelligences originating throughout the universe form a Cosmic Mind. In Anderson's Genesis, electromagnetically linked post-organic intelligences emanating from Earth evolve towards a Cosmic Mind. Thus, Anderson effectively updates Stapledon but, of course, he does so by writing with creativity and originality, as both Wells and Stapledon had done, not by merely imitating his predecessors. (Also compare Wells' The Time Machine with Anderson's time travel series, novels and short stories.)

I know that several sf writers since Anderson have addressed cosmological themes and that I have not kept abreast of this more recent sf but my question is whether any more recent writer has yet addressed such themes with the level of literary skill, historical knowledge and sociological understanding displayed by Anderson.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I agree, Anderson's works gives him a very good claim to being the Olaf Stapledon of our times. Here I'm thinking of Anderson works as early as BRAIN WAVE and THE ENEMY STARS; and, of course, his later works such as the HARVEST OF STARS books and GENESIS.

I would consider John C. Wright, whose blog I sometimes go to, as one current writer who touches on some of the ideas and topics Poul Anderson has. But, I think Wright himself would agree that he has not managed to work at the same "level of literary skill, historical knowledge and sociological understanding displayed by Anderson." Nonetheless, Wright's "Golden Age" and Menelaus Montrose books are very well worth reading.