Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) was born near Liverpool and educated at Balliol College, Oxford and Liverpool University. After spending eighteen months working in a shipping office in Liverpool and Port Said, he lectured extramurally for Liverpool University in English Literature and industrial history. He served in France from 1915 until 1919 with the Friends Ambulance Unit and then lectured again for Liverpool University in psychology and philosophy. His novels include First and Last Men, Last Men in London, Star Maker and Odd John.
Cass will not, I am sure, mind my saying that he always seemed to us a bit crazy: but he certainly had a queer knack of prophesy, and though we thought him sometimes curiously unable to understand the springs of his own behaviour, he had a remarkable gift of insight into the minds of others. This enabled him to help some of us to straighten out our tangles, and I for one owe him a debt of deep gratitude. He saw me heading for a most disastrous love affair, and by magic (no other word seems adequate) he opened my eyes to the folly of it. It is for this reason that I feel bound to carry out his request to publish the following statement. I cannot myself vouch for its truth. Cass knows very well that I am an inveterate sceptic about all his fantastic ideas. It was on this account that he invented my nickname. "Thos," which most of my Oxford friends adopted. "Thos," of course, is an abbreviation for Thomas, and refers to the "doubting Thomas" of the New Testament.
Cass, I feel confident, is sufficiently detached and sane to realize that what is veridical for him may be sheer extravagance for others, who have no direct experience by which to judge his claims. But if I refrain from believing, I also refrain from disbelieving. Too often in the past I have known his wild prophesies come true.
The head of the following bulky letter bears the address of a well-known mental home.
In Last Men in London the author follows up the themes of his earlier masterpiece in presenting a Neptunian 'last man's' views on our twentieth-century world, views informed by the huge dimensions of space and time which separate him from our tiny contemporary world. Once again, Olaf Stapledon has been totally successful in creating a work of such stunning imagination and brilliance that it has taken its place amongst the classics of science fiction.