William Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) is one of the great figures in the history of British science fiction. The philosophical depth and imaginative breadth of his novels signified an important stage in the development of the genre, inspiring and influencing many subsequent writers. In accordance with his career as a lecturer for the Workers' Educational Association and The University of Liverpool, Stapledon began publishing academic essays in 1908 and took a doctorate in Philosophy in 1925. He was a relative late-comer to fiction but eventually found in this expansive form a means of exploring his complex ideas of 'community' and 'spirit'. In 1930 he published his first novel, Last and First Men, followed by Odd John (1935), Star Maker (1937) and Sirius (1944). Although Stapledon wrote other works of fiction, these are the novels that made the greatest impact during his lifetime and which continue to receive widespread critical acclaim.
The Olaf Stapledon Archive is an extensive collection of material, deposited with The University of Liverpool in 1983. The Archive consists of corrected holograph manuscripts and typescripts of Stapledon's published works, including his most famous novels as well as some unpublished works. In addition, there are publishers' proofs, notes for lectures and teaching courses and Stapledon's diaries and appointment books spanning 50 years. There is also a large section of correspondence relating to Stapledon's writing, political activities and teaching, as well as letters to and from friends and other important writers of the day, including H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf and J.B. Priestley.
The archive is fully listed and an online Finding Aid including further biographical information is available for browsing or searching.
All material in the Olaf Stapledon Archive is available to researchers for consultation in the University of Liverpool Library's Special Collections and Archives Reading Room by prior arrangement. Please read Using the Collections if you are considering visiting us.
Reproduction and Licensing rules are available upon request.
Search our SF Catalogue for Stapledon's published works and related critical material. A large number of other books by and about Stapledon are separately contained in The University of Liverpool Library's Special Collections Catalogue. Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 9, No. 28 (Nov. 1982) is a special issue devoted to the work of Olaf Stapledon. We also have some copies of articles about Olaf Stapledon and his work in our Offprints Collection. A bibliography of Stapledon's fiction can be found on the Fantastic Fiction site.