Stapledon, Olaf 1930. Last and First Men: A story of the near and far future. Harmondworth: Penguin.
"a masterpiece ... among the most imaginative works ever written" [Brian Aldiss]
"one of my gods (the other, of course, is H. G. Wells) ... whose books are full of lessons for our time" [Arthur C. Clarke]
"I have tried to invent a story which may seem a possible, or at least not wholly impossible, account of the future of man. ... the human race in its cosmic setting. ... an essay in myth creation ... the thought that it [our present civilisation] may decay and collapse ... must be faced at least as a possibility. ... the whole enterprise of our race may after all be but a minor and unsuccessful episode in a vaster drama ...
"I have imagined the triumph of the cruder sort of Americanism over all that is best and most promising in American culture. May this not occur in the real world!
"the defeated nation ... now became the most pacific ... a profound change of heart ... chiefly in Germany
"the Russian state came increasingly under the influence of Western, and especially American, finance... the Russo-German war ...
"This dread [of war] was one cause of the formation of a European Confederacy, in which all the nations of Europe, save Russia, surrendered their sovereignty to a common authority ... in every serious crisis it broke.
"a second-rate German author ... claimed that a heroic and obviously Nordic ruled by divine right over an ... obviously Slavonic spirit.... Moscow, Leningrad and Berlin were shattered from the air.
"a young Chinese physicist ... had been experimenting to find means for the utilization of sub-atomic energy by the annihilation of matter ... an intolerable scorching sun ... suddenly the whole island leapt asunder ... a gigantic mushroom of steam and debris ...
Approx 2300 AD Sino-American War First World State founded
To AD 4000 Americanized world
The Dominance of Science
Science so complex that only a tiny fraction of it could be mastered by one brain - the huge science called subatomic physics
About two centuries after the formation of the world state ... the time was ripe for a formal union of science and religion - the Sacred Order of Scientists was founded
All the continents were by now minutely artificialized
The whole American continent succumbed to a plague of pulmonary and nervous diseases..
The American madness spread to the other continents also and very soon all living traces of their civilization vanished
During a hundred thousand years man remained in complete eclipse
After a brief revival the planet was so seriously damaged that mind henceforth lay in deep slumber for ten more millions of years
The idea of irresistible decay obsessed the race at this time. The whole mass of scientific knowledge was rapidly lost ...
The revival of civilization in Patagonia
It was found possible by means of a huge initial expenditure of energy to annihilate the positive and negative charges in one not very common kind of atom ... an inexhaustible source of power
Which went out of control and destroyed most of the planet Of the two hundred million members of the human race, all were burnt or roasted or suffocated within three months - all but thirty-five who happened to be in the neighbourhood of the North Pole.
Who eventually devoted themselves to recording as much as they could of Patagonian science and culture
It was some ten million years after the Patagonian disaster that the first elements of a new human species appeared
An era of great geological change coupled with the effects of the destruction of most of the surface of the planet
Evolution of divergent human species and development of intelligent monkeys
For nearly a quarter of a million years the Second Men passed through successive phases of prosperity and decline
The brain of the second species threatened to outgrow the rest of its body
A virus, whose subtle derangement of the glandular system was never suspected, ... propagated throughout the world a mysterious fatigue ... the vast lethargy produced a vast despond.
The third ... civilization of the Second Men passed ... into a phase of brilliant natural science.
It was time for man to take control of himself and remake himself upon a nobler pattern.
The First Martian invasion. ... when the Second Men were gathering their strength for a great venture in artificial evolution.
Another dark age followed after the bacterial weapons used to destroy the Martians infected the human race also.
We have now followed man's career for some forty million years.
When the Second Men had remained in their strange racial trance for about thirty million years ... a subtle chemical re-arrangement of the germ-plasm such that there ensued an epidemic of biological variation ... one new type consolidated itself as a new species, the Third Men.
Biological control through manipulation of the germ-plasm the race developed a very remarkable new art ... plastic vital art ... the production of a worldwide and perfectly systematic fauna and flora.
It took this brightest of all the races of the third species many thousands of years of research to discover the more delicate principles of heredity, and to devise a technique by which the actual hereditary factors in the germ could be manipulated.
The First of the Great Brains
Those who sought to produce a super-brain... creating an organism which consisted of a brain twelve feet across ...
Let us pass on to the first true individual of the fourth human species.
A large circular brain-turret ... some forty feet in diameter He casually solved ... the ancient problems of good and evil, of mind and its object, of the one and the many, and of truth and error.
When some three thousand years had passed ... the unique individual determined to create others of his kind.... including a direct sensitivity to radiation for telepathic communication
And produced intelligent machines which destroyed the Third Men except for a few specimens
Which ultimately they modified to produce the Fifth Men with a telepathic capacity and a lifespan of thousands of years
Who eventually destroyed the great brains and relapsed into barbarism and then advanced continually for millions of years
Unlimited power from the disintegration of the atom
Some ten thousand million persons
Life-span extended to 50,000 years
As their science advanced they saw a time would come when mentality would be driven out of existence
The exploration of time
Research was concentrated on the possibility of flight through empty space and the suitability of neighbouring worlds
Clearly humanity must leave its native planet It did not take the Fifth Men many centuries to devise a tolerable means of voyaging in interplanetary space. Immense rockets were constructed, the motive power of which was derived from the annihilation of matter.
Mars could not be made habitable
Colonisation of Venus
Migration of whole human population to Venus
Man's sojourn on Venus lasted somewhat longer than his whole career on earth.
The Sixth Men
Creation of the Seventh Men, the bat-like flying men, of very small size Who committed mass suicide eventually
Development then of the Eighth Men who discovered that the sun was about to become a white dwarf
Migration to Neptune after development of Ninth Men capable of living there
About halfway through period from man's origin to annihilation
Remaining period spent on Neptune
Ten more species followed until the last, the Eighteenth Men.
A million million of the Last Men
The visitor would doubtless be surprised to see no books. In every room however there is a cupboard filled with minute rolls of tape, microscopically figured. Each of these rolls contains matter which could not be cramped into a score of your volumes. They are used in connection with a pocket- instrument the size and shape of the ancient cigarette case.
The average length of life is not much less than a quarter of a million terrestrial years.
It did not seem impossible that man himself was the germ of the world-soul..
In respect of the future, we are now setting about the forlorn task of disseminating among the stars the seed of a new humanity ... an artificial human dust capable of being carried forward on the sun's radiation
Great are the stars and man is of no account to them... He proposed even that he should become the Flower of All Things, and that he should learn to be the All-Knowing, the All- Admiring. Instead, he is to be destroyed. ... It is very good to have been Man. ... a fair conclusion to this brief music that is man.