Olaf Stapledon Timeline for Last and First Men

Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures

The Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures is an interdisciplinary research centre based in the University of Liverpool, bringing together researchers from various disciplines but focused primarily on English, Philosophy, and Special Collections & Archives.

This unique blend of the archival, the philosophical, and the literary is used to examine the many and varied ways in which ‘the future’ can be conceived, and to contemplate—as Stapledon so often did—the ultimate destiny of humankind in the cosmos. Within the University, it works closely with the Literature and Science Hub within the Department of English and in relation to the Olaf Stapledon collection and the Science Fiction Foundation collection at Special Collections and Archives. Outside the University, it works with the Science Fiction Foundation (Registered Charity No. 1041052), and helps to promote that charity’s goals.

The Centre aims:

  1. to explore how science fiction, broadly conceived, has speculated about possible futures, and the philosophical questions it raises.
  2. to demonstrate how philosophy today—and ‘the philosophy of the future’—can help us to understand and situate our present moment in time as well as the futures we can see.
  3. to promote awareness of how archival holdings can inform our view of both the past and the future, and to develop the use of our literary heritage into the future.
  4. to use an interdisciplinary array of methodologies to intervene in current debates about possible futures, and to demonstrate the knowledge and expertise such disciplines can provide in terms of technological, scientific, and social change.
  5. to examine the extent to which science fiction can serve as a model through which to imagine possible futures, and as a means of engaging different communities in questions about technological, scientific, and social change.

The Centre manages or supports various activities to achieve its aims. Its members:

  • run the MA in English (Science Fiction Studies) and numerous modules in English, Philosophy, and History at the University of Liverpool.
  • promote the use of the University’s collections and holdings, including the Science Fiction Foundation collection, at Special Collections and Archives, and via the Science Fiction Hub.
  • develop workshops and training symposia within its specialist areas, including developing and extending the use of sf archival materials in teaching, engagement, and outreach activities.
  • host public lectures on key topics related to science and technology, and the philosophy of the future.
  • organise public events including writers’ symposia and workshops, exhibitions, and talks.
  • provide support to Current Research in Speculative Fiction, an annual postgraduate and early-career conference founded in Liverpool in 2011.
  • provide consultancy services, for the development of insights into futures analysis and technological development, via the Speculative Technology and Innovations Research Group.

Can’t possibly tell what will happen except—it will be utterly different

Olaf Stapledon on the future, from lecture notes held in Special Collections & Archives

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