Man After Man

vacuumorph

Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future’ is a 1990 book written by Scottish geologist Dougal Dixon exploring future evolutionary paths for humanity. Illustrator Philip Hood’s depictions of Dixon’s speculative organisms have been called fear-provoking and biologically horrific to the modern eye.

The book starts 200 years in the future where modern humans have genetically modified themselves into several subtypes including ‘aquamorphs’ (marine humans with gills instead of lungs) and ‘vacuumorphs’ (engineered for life in the vacuum of space, its skin and eyes carry shields of skin to keep its body stable even without pressure).

Civilization eventually collapses, with a few select humans escaping to colonize space. The humans that manufactured these species degrade to simple farmers and are driven to extinction. Other humans, the ‘Hitek,’ become almost totally dependent on cybernetic technology. They occupy ecological niches, with genetically-altered variants such as temperate woodland, prairie, jungle, and tundra-dwelling species. Geomagnetic reversal wipes out most of the technology on the planet and genetically-altered humans no longer have access to their genome, so all modifications must naturally evolve. Many new forms result from natural selection such as ‘Socials’ (colonial humans with a single reproductive parent), ‘Fishers’ (goblin-like fishing humans), ‘Slothmen’ (megatherium-like humans), ‘Spiketooths’ (smilodon-like humans), and even parasitic types.

After five million years of uninterrupted evolution, the descendants of modern man that retreated into space return and xenoform the planet, covering it in vast alien cities. The humans and other life forms in this new Earth must breathe air with low oxygen content. Thus the alien invaders use cyborg-technology to fuse the bodies of the few human species they find useful on the planet with air tanks and respiration systems. Genetic modification also returns and giant building humans and tiny connection humans are bred to aid city construction. Genetically created antelope-like humans serve as mounts for the invaders. Some engineered human species even became farmed like pigs or cattle.

As with all civilization, this new era of man falls apart once again. Eventually the spacefaring humans leave their shattered homeworld. With barely any oxygen left in the Earth’s atmosphere, all terrestrial life on the planet perishes. But, at the bottom of the world’s oceans, at the oases that were the underwater hot springs, life continues. In the abyss, Piscanthropus profundus, a deep-sea descendant of the now-extinct Aquatic evolves. It is implied that Piscathropus profundus would eventually recolonize Earth’s surface.

 

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