Last and First Men
Olaf Stapledon, William Olaf Stapledon
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One of the most extraordinary, imaginative and ambitious novels of the century: a history of the evolution of humankind over the next 2 billion years. Among all science fiction writers Olaf Stapledon stands alone for the sheer scope and ambition of his work. First published in 1930, Last and First Men is full of pioneering speculations about evolution, terraforming, genetic engineering and many other subjects.
perfected. Thus after a brief career of a few hundred thousand years, crowded with splendour and agony, the Seventeenth gave place to the Eighteenth, and, as it turns out, the Last, human species. Since all the earlier cultures find their fulfilment in the world of the Last Men, I pass over them to enlarge somewhat upon our modern age. [LastAndFirstMen-fig4.jpg] CHAPTER XV - THE LAST MEN 1. INTRODUCTION TO THE LAST HUMAN SPECIES IF one of the First Men could enter the world of the
national rather than cosmopolitan, situations were all too frequent in which a nation would lose its head, run amok, throw its pledges to the winds, and plunge into fear-inspired aggression. Such a situation had produced the Anglo-French War. At other times the nations would burst apart into two great camps, and the League would be temporarily forgotten in their disunion. This happened in the Russo-German War, which was possible only because America favoured Russia, and China favoured Germany.
selfimposed duty of Americanizing the planet. China, fearful of Americanization, demanded that the new sources should be brought under the jurisdiction of the Board. For some years feeling had become increasingly violent on this point, and both peoples had by now relapsed into the crude old nationalistic mood. War began to seem almost inevitable. The actual occasion of conflict, however, was, as usual, an accident. A scandal was brought to light about child labour in certain Indian factories.
these messages in the light of past experience, and to initiate responses in the wave-lengths appropriate to the organs concerned. All these subvital units, save a few types that were too highly special ized, were capable of independent life as air-borne bacteria or viruses. And whenever they lost touch with the radiation of the whole system, they continued to live their own simple lives until they were once more controlled. All were free-floating units, but normally they were under the
generations, or at the most a few thousand years, should have sufficed to make up the lost ground. But no. Once more it was in a manner the very excellence of the species that prevented its recovery, and flung the spirit of Earth into a trance which lasted longer than the whole previous career of mammals. Again and again, some thirty million times, the seasons were repeated; and throughout this period man remained as fixed in bodily and mental character as, formerly, the platypus. Members of the