Last Men in London
By Olaf Stapledon
THOUGH this is a work of fiction, it does not pretend to be a novel. It has no hero but Man. Since its purpose is not the characterization of individual human beings, no effort has been made to endow its few persons with distinctive personalities. There is no plot, except the theme of man's struggle in this awkward age to master himself and to come to terms with the universe. This theme I seek to present by imagining that a member of a much more developed human species, living on Neptune two thousand million years hence, enters into our minds to observe the Terrestrial field through our eyes but with his own intelligence. Using one of us as a mouthpiece, he contrives to tell us something of his findings. The shortcomings of his report must be attributed to the limitations of his Terrestrial instrument.
This book is intelligible without reference to another fantasy, which I produced two years ago, and called Last and First Men. But readers of that earlier book will find that Last Men in London is complementary to it. In both, the same Neptunian being speaks, formerly to tell the story of man's career between our day and his, now to describe the spiritual drama which, he tells us, underlies the whole confused history of our species, and comes to its crisis today. The present book is supposed to be communicated from a date in Neptunian history later than the body of the earlier book, but before its epilogue.
The last section of the chapter on the War, though it makes use to some extent of personal experience, is none the less fiction.
It will be obvious to many readers that I have been influenced by the very suggestive work of Mr Gerald Heard. I hope he will forgive me for distorting some of his ideas for my own purpose.
My thanks are due once more to Mr E. V. Rieu for many valuable criticisms and suggestions; and to Professor and Mrs L. C. Martin (who read the untidy manuscript) for condemnation and encouragement without which the book would have been much worse than it is. Finally I would thank my wife both for hard labour, and for other help which she is apparently incapable of appreciating.
Let me remind the reader that henceforth and up to the opening of the Epilogue the speaker is a Neptunian man of the very remote future.
W. O. S.
Introduction: The Future's Concern With the Past
1. The World of the Last Men
2. Exploring the Past
3. The Child Paul
4. Paul Comes of Age
5. Origins of the European War
6. The War
7. After the War
8. The Modern World