In the future, everything will be terrifying
Since people are starting to take notice of our most recent natural disasters (at least, when they happen to Americans in large urban centers), it seems the perfect time to start talking about all the cool stuff that could happen evolutionarily, should we kill ourselves without killing all other life, or survive in some adapted form, despite the havoc we’ve wreaked on the planet.
Dougal Dixon’s 1981 book, After Man: A Zoology of the Future is a work of speculative fiction that explores how life on earth might change over millions of years in the absence of humans. Dixon studied geology and anthropology, and is as much a scientist as an artist and writer. His beautiful, eery imaginings of what might be have garnered a cult following among science geeks and artistic types alike
The little darling above is called a Night Stalker, a “flightless predator bat,” that comes with this charming description:
He still uses his hind limbs for grasping, but his wings have evolved as legs. Being blind, he uses echolocation to find its prey, therefore his ears and nose flaps have been strongly developed at the expense of his eyes. He is 1.5 meter high and wanders in groups through the the forests at night. Screaming and yelling they hunt mammals and reptiles, which they attack with their pointy teeth and claws.
Not everything is so grotesque though. Check out various breeds of Rabbuck, the adorable bunny/deer hybrid!
In the future, there will still be cuteness
Dixon’s expertise on dinosaurs may be the root of his focus on aquatic life. We’ve seen animals crawl out of the water, it makes sense that eventually they might go back in. I’m not actually sure he thought through the whole aquatic anteater thing, though. Are there aquatic ants, as well? Or do the anteaters surface?
In the future, there will be slightly different hippos
But, if you’re one of those crazy people that finds the prospect of the extinction of man off-putting, Dixon has some speculative fiction for you, too. Dixon’s book Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future considers our own evolutionary trajectory, in the unlikely event we don’t doom ourselves.
As for us, Dixon seems particularly interested in exploring ideas of dependency. This one focuses on the potential symbiotic lives humans may lead, mind-blowing when you consider how deeply we’ve ingrained the psychological dichotomy between man and animal.
In the future, we’ll all have yeti companions to chill with. Or maybe we are the yetis.
This one is some straight Cronenberg body-horror, which is probably why I love it.
Medical technology has developed ‘soft’ forms of the backups that keep alive the weakening human form. Replacement organs, grown synthetically, are grafted onto the body. Eyes, ears, mouth and nose still function. The fingers work only as organs of touch. Lifting or handling is left to arms grown artificially. Fashion plays a part in such surgery..
In the future, we’ll be super goddamn gross and vain.
As disconcerting as it may feel, the idea of our own extinction has a strangely soothing effect on me. Right now, it’s difficult to imagine a future that isn’t of the Bladerunner/Brazil/Robocop dystopian variety, and I think the thought of non-human life surviving in spite of us eases my anxiety that we might be a truly toxic species. And if we do survive, Dixon’s final vision for humans was that we eventually made the earth so unlivable that we adapted to live in the vacuum of space. See? A bit if hope on the horizon! The future’s so bright, I’m wearing shades!