Friday, January 04, 2013

Forgotten Books: The Last Man on Earth -- Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, & Charles G. Waugh, Editors

The idea of being the last person on earth was once very popular in SF.  I don't know if it still is, but one of the first short stories I ever wrote, sometime back in the latter 1950s, was on that very topic.  I still remember the story, but luckily the manuscript has long since crumbled to dust.  At any rate, it was an idea that must have fascinated me, and in a way it still does.  So I'm the target audience for this collection.

I read several of the stories last week, atarting with Clifford Simak's "The Coming of the Ants."  It's set in the world of City, one of my favorite SF novels, and the subject of one of my very first FFB posts, maybe the very first.  Naturally I liked the story a lot.  The man appears only very briefly, as by the time of the story men have long left this particular earth.

Evelyn E. Smith was a familiar name in the SF digests of the '50s, though not so much now.  That's a shame.  "The Most Sentimental Man" is a nice variation on the theme, and the last man is quite happy to be the only human left on the planet.  Smith touches on the idea of global warming, but it's not a major part of the story, just background.

"The Underdweller" by William F. Nolan has the last guy hiding out in the sewers of L. A., which made it irresistible for me even if not much time is spent there.  

And of course Fredrick Brown's "Knock" is here. It's probably more famous for the short-short story that begins and ends this tale.  Reading the whole thing is as much fun as ever.

I'll be reading some of the other stories eventually.  There are two by Edmond Hamilton, whose City at World's End I loved as a kid.  And a Zelazny I don't think I've read, and . . . .

Cheap copies abound on the 'Net if you're inclined to read this stuff.

7 comments:

Jerry House said...

I haven't found an Asimov/Greenberg/Waugh anthology that wasn't worth reading. Great stuff!

Todd Mason said...

The Harness is another old favorite. I'm surprised that I don't think I've read the Knight.

Desmond Warzel said...

If you're a Futurama fan, Poul Anderson's "Flight to Forever" will seem familiar; the main concept of the episode "The Late Philip J. Fry" was lifted wholesale from it.

Carl V. said...

I really enjoy Last Man on Earth stories. I was reading the Season of Wonder collection in December and the first story, "The Best Christmas Ever" by James Patrick Kelly was an interesting 'last man' story.

I think I've been fascinated with the idea ever since I saw the Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough at Last". There is something about the idea that would of course end up being very depressing in real life and yet it makes for interesting daydreaming about what one might do with free reign of the entire Earth.

Bill Crider said...

I remember that episode from when I saw it on its original airing. Frightening stuff.

Carl V. said...

Yes, and depressing. Could you imagine the joy of being a book lover set loose in a world of books only to have your glasses break? As a spectacle wearer that is true horror!!!

Dr. Charles G. Waugh said...

Mr. House, thanks for your praise. Marty, Isaac, and I always tried to do the best job possible. We never just mailed it in.

Now, ironically, I'm the last one left. And after a decade break, I'm producing anthologies again (many of which are sf, fantasy, or horror) for SamTeddy Publishing. You can find the first few currently listed on Amazon. Hopefully, you'll also enjoy this new work.