First edition cover
|Genre(s)||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest is a 1935 science fiction novel by the British author Olaf Stapledon. The novel explores the theme of the Übermensch (superman) in the character of John Wainwright, whose supernormal human mentality inevitably leads to conflict with normal human society and to the destruction of the utopian colony founded by John and other superhumans.
The novel resonates with the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and the work of English writer J. D. Beresford, with an allusion to Beresford's superhuman child character of Victor Stott in The Hampdenshire Wonder (1911). As the devoted narrator remarks, John does not feel obligated to observe the restricted morality of Homo sapiens. Stapledon's recurrent vision of cosmic angst -- that the universe may be indifferent to intelligence, no matter how spiritually refined -- also gives the story added depth. Later explorations of the theme of the superhuman and of the incompatibility of the normal with the supernormal occurs in the works of Stanisław Lem, Frank Herbert, Wilmar Shiras and Vernor Vinge, among others.
None of Stapledon's novels or short stories have been filmed, although George Pal bought the rights to Odd John. Castle of Frankenstein magazine reported in 1966 that actor David McCallum would play the title role.