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Olaf Stapledon's Nautiloids



One of the fantastic alien races from Olaf Stapledon's 'Starmaker' (1937). A very crude MSPaint drawing to explain the race to a friend.

This is a race of alien ' pirate ships ' who evolved from free-floating molluscs on a large world, meaning that gravity causes generally flat terrain, so once water appeared it became a world of shallow oceans with little island chains. Stapledon named this race the 'Nautiloids' in a biologist manner, not in reference to any way in which they might have self-identified.

They develop to the level seen here, sometimes making use of mechanical propulsion paddle-wheels powered by solar panels and even making little 'cannons' for on their decks for warring. They create giant harbour-cities on coastlines, mining canals into dry land to get at minerals and such.

The mast-limbs can all extend, pulling the membranes out, the main mast can also points straight upwards, it can also all fold together and down for rest or bad weather. The tentacles are held flush against the 'hull' when sailing at speed.

Eventually, this race would split into two subcultures based upon the level of manipulatory ability in tentacles, this would eventually lead to planet-wide conflict as the less-able, but tougher 'worker' caste fought the more able but less tough 'ruler' caste. Their civilisation would collapse into barbarism but from this would arise a race mixing both the desirable qualities of the castes, leading this race to eventually become able and morally developed enough to transcend to the next, beyond-physical, evolutionary step.


1) Sensory apparatus "eyes and sonar"
2) Manipulator tentacles, very dexterous
3) Blow hole used for gas-burst short-range communicating.
4) rudder/tail
5) Sexual organ ( ' on deck' ) this is female, an area fertilised by 'boarding action' of male, presumably tentacle-like sex organ
6) Prow, ends with horizon scanning sensory organ "eye"
7) Small dexterous tentacle, used for long-range semaphorgraphic communicating
8) main 'mast' limb
9 & 10) example of minor and major 'masts' with membrane 'sail'
Image size
907x585px 99.36 KB
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EmmetEarwax's avatar
When the Last Men faced extinction they broadcast a "seed" across the cosmos, to bring about the evolution of sentient life on other worlds. Whether or not they succeeded, sentient peoples did arise on worlds long after the solar system was burned up. Races that made it to the final heat death.