Olaf Stapledon is the author of the first extraterrestrial science fiction novels to be published as such, "Last and First Men" and "Starmakers". Because of his popularity as a visionary futurist, Stapledon was commissioned by the BBC to write "Far Future Calling" for a broadcast in 1931. The programmers choked on Stapledon's play and cancelled the show. Social criticism is the essence of Stapledon's work and the soul of the genre. The approach Stapledon took will be current forever, literally, and that is what must have daunted the programmers.
"FAR FUTURE CALLING" summarizes ideas Stapledon developed in "Last and First Men" and "Starmakers". Essentially: time is a canvas upon which one's world is depicted in a scale that can be in nanoseconds, a human life or billions of years. The larger the scale, the more clearly we can project the course of human existence and its evolution.
Stapledon had little respect for books like those of his competitor H.G. Wells, the author of "Time Machine" and "War of the Worlds", fantasies that are not grounded in empirical evidence. Stories like Wells', however, make good theater if not great authors. Orson Welles adapted one of them to radio in 1938 in a documentary style done so realistically that many people believed that Martians had invaded the earth.
Stapledon believed alien contact and time travel project dangers that humanity will never face, while the dangers they were and would be facing are real and devastating. Wells exploited the genre, whereas Stapledon, like Cervantes, used it to interest readers in the bearing of scientific discoveries on social issues.
In Far Future Calling, Stapledon reflected how humanity in 1930 would be viewed by the beings we become three billion years from now. To this date, it is still taboo to view man's place in the universe as a secular phenomenon. Stapledon surprised his BBC commissioners by projecting human evolution on this great a scale. In doing so, he reflected human a history of ruthlessness, suggesting that humanity will either grow out of such practices or eventually be destroyed by them. It is we, not alien intelligence, who are likely to cause our own extinction either through weapons of unlimited violence, or in failing to care for the environment or to prepare for catastrophic change.
Although never produced, Far Future Calling was one of the first plays ever written expressly for radio. The plot is simple: Two scientists from two billion years in the future interrupt a radio program in 1931 in which two actors are pretending to be broadcasting to the audience from the year 2500. The "real" visitors from the future explain that they would not interfere, but they were incited to do so by their knowledge of what was to come and their feeling that the shortsightedness of the show needed to be straightened out. There is broad humor possible in the dialogue. The script posted on this site, however, is Stapledon's original. SDRT's script will be posted sometime in The Future.
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