Brian Aldiss designates Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) the first science fiction novel. The story of human creating human and the discordant relationship that results, H.G. Wells took its inspiration and wrote the The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896). A similar premise (human attempting to endow animal with human intelligence and appearance), Wells nevertheless took time to examine the animal side in balance with the human. The third link in this chain of humanity’s god quest (unnatural means of endowing sentience in living flesh) came after a much shorter interval: Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius (1944).
But Sirius is also part of the natural evolution of the writer’s own oeuvre. Like Last and First Men’s follow up Last Men in London, Stapledon saw fit to rework the ideas of his novel Odd John, publishing Sirius nine years after. Continuing with the theme of super-intelligence, Stapledon threw the gauntlet down to himself by shifting premise from super-human intelligence to super-dog intelligence, aka human intelligence. While superficially seeming a cheesy idea, Stapledon unpacks the idea with his trademark attention to detail. Few science fiction writers these days who look into every nook and cranny of the wild ideas their brains conjure, Stapledon opens the concept of Sirius from nothing, scrutinizes it closely, develops every inch within natural frames, then closes it in literary fashion.