Olaf Stapledon: the first interplanetary man

Olaf Stapleton lecturing to the BIS on "Interplanetary Man" on 9th October 1948

“Star Maker is the most wonderful novel I have ever read.1
– Bran Aldiss

London: Saturday 9 October, 1948

For H.G. Wells’s eponymous Time Traveller, it would have been the shortest of journeys, barely a trip round the block, a mere nudge of his incredible machine’s “starting lever.2” But that is perhaps what makes this short hop back in time so intriguing, its temporal proximity.  Odyssey has already made the journey once but it is a trip worth repeating. Some items in the BIS archive speak for themselves and require little in the way of commentary. So, here then, is the flyer for Olaf Stapledon’s famous talk, delivered to an audience of BIS members eager to hear the views of this interplanetary man, possibly the first of his kind, certainly the first to address the Society. The original leaflet can still be found in the BIS archives. Perhaps it was one of many printed at the time and passed from hand to hand. And perhaps one of these leaflets once blew through the streets of London, near Charing Cross Road where the lecture took place. If you had chanced upon this wind-blown scrap of paper in 1948, can you honestly say you wouldn’t have gone along to the talk just to hear, for one night only, the last and first man of British SF; a man who already knew there were “worlds innumerable3” waiting to be discovered amongst the “celestial megatheria.3

Olaf flyer

Mark Stewart, FBIS


1. From Aldiss’s Foreword to the 1999 edition of Star Maker (Victor Gollancz)

2. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells

3. Last and First Men, Olaf Stapledon

For a recreation of Stapledon’s lecture see Odyssey issues 5 and 6 (July and August 2011).


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