After Man

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After Man
A Zoology of the Future
Cover of a 1998 paperback edition by St. Martin's Press
AuthorDougal Dixon
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreSpeculative evolution
PublisherGranada Publishing (UK)
St. Martin's Press (US)
Breakdown Press (2018 edition)
Publication date
1 January 1981 (UK)
1 September 1981 (US)
29 March 2018 (2018 edition)
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)

After Man: A Zoology of the Future is a 1981 speculative evolution book written by Scottish geologist Dougal Dixon and illustrated by several illustrators including Diz Wallis, John Butler, Brian McIntyre, Philip Hood, Roy Woodard and Gary Marsh. The book also features a foreword by Desmond Morris. After Man explores a hypothetical future set 50 million years from now, a time period Dixon dubs the "Posthomic", which is inhabited by animals that have evolved from survivors of a mass extinction succeeding our own time.

After Man used a fictional setting and hypothetical animals to explain the natural processes behind evolution, a concept that proved successful. The success of After Man spawned two following speculative evolution books (sometimes called the "After trilogy"[1]) which used new fictional settings and creatures to explain other natural processes. The New Dinosaurs, released in 1988, explained the concept of zoogeography and biogeographic realms through a world in which the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event never happened and non-avian dinosaurs were still alive. Man After Man, released in 1990, focused on climate change over the next few million years through the eyes of future human species genetically engineered to adapt to it.[2]

After Man and Dixon's following books inspired the speculative evolution artistic movement which focuses on speculative scenarios in the evolution of life, often possible future scenarios (such as After Man) or alternative paths in the past (such as The New Dinosaurs). Dixon is often considered the founder of the modern speculative evolution movement.[1][3]


Map of the continents in After Man, having experienced 50 million years of continental drift since the present day

After Man explores Earth 50 million years in the future, hypothesizing what new animals might evolve in the timespan between its setting and the present day. Ecology and evolutionary theory are applied to create believable creatures, all of which have their own binomial names and text describing their behaviour and interactions with other contemporary animals.[2]

In this new period of the Cenozoic, which Dixon calls the "Posthomic", Europe and Africa have fused, closing the Mediterranean Sea; whereas Asia and North America has collided and closed the Bering Strait; South America has split from Central America; Australia has collided with Southern Asia (colliding with the mainland sometime in the last 10 million years), uplifting a mountain range beyond the mountains of the Far East that has become the most extensive and the highest chain in the world, greater even than the Himalayas at their zenith 50 million years ago; and parts of eastern Africa have split off to form a new island called Lemuria. Other volcanic islands have been added, such as the Pacaus archipelago and Batavia.

Over a hundred future animal species are described and illustrated in the book. Major groups include the "rabbucks", versatile descendants of rabbits filling the ecological niches of deer, zebras, giraffes and antelope; "gigantelopes", descendants of antelope filling niche held by elephants, giraffes, moose, musk oxen, rhinoceroses, and other large herbivores; "vortexes" and "porpins", descendants of penguins evolved to fill the aquatic niche of cetaceans; and the predatory rats, the major group of terrestrial predators and descendants of rats.


As a child, Dixon was inspired by H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, particularly the far future creatures featured in the book, to create his own imaginary future animals descended from creatures of the modern day. These animals often served as background characters in Dixon's own retellings of Wells' work. In the 1960s, Dixon was influenced by the contemporary conservationist movements, especially a campaign to save the tigers. Dixon began to ponder that should the tiger and other endangered animals go extinct, something would inevitably take their place. After seeing a "Save the Whale" badge on a friend in the late 1970s, the idea materialized again.[1]

Dixon devised After Man as a popular-level book on the processes of evolution that instead of using the past to tell the story projected the processes into the future.[1] After finishing a dummy version of the book, with text and his own illustrations, Dixon took the book to two different publishers in London, both of whom immediately greenlit the project.[4]

When designing the various animals of the book, Dixon looked at the different types of biomes on the planet and what adaptations animals living there have, designing new animals descended from modern day ones with the same set of adaptations.[3] Though Dixon made illustrations of his future animals to pitch the project, the final book used illustrations by other artists due to a publisher decision. Dixon created detailed illustrations that the artists followed in the creation of the final artwork featured in After Man.[1]

In March 2018, Breakdown Press published a new edition of the book, updated to reflect modern science relating to evolution.[3] The updated version also features new artwork for some of the animals.[4]


The first review of After Man was one made by Professor Barry Cox of King's College London in a science-based radio programme. Cox's review was extremely negative, but subsequent reviews were highly positive. Reviews in New Scientist and BBC Wildlife praised the book and Dixon went on publicity tours in the United States and the United Kingdom.[1] After Man was at the time of its release portrayed in reviews as a book about the extinction of mankind, though Dixon has stated that mankind's end was simply an excuse to discuss evolution, humanity having very little do with the "plot" of the book.[3]

In 1982, the book was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work.[5]


Following the success of After Man, Dixon realized that there was a market for popular-level books which use fictional examples and settings to explain actual factual scientific processes. After Man had explained the process of evolution by creating a complex hypothetical future ecosystem, the "sequel" The New Dinosaurs (1988) was instead aimed at creating a book on zoogeography, a subject the general public was quite unfamiliar with, by using a fictional world in which the non-avian dinosaurs had not gone extinct to explain the process. The New Dinosaurs was followed by another project in 1990, Man After Man, which focused on the future evolution of humanity.[1]

Japanese markets were highly interested in After Man, and Japanese adaptations were made of the book, including both a stop-motion documentary and an animated film.[4] To date, Dixon's 2010 speculative evolution book Greenworld, exploring humanity's impact on an alien ecosystem, has only been published in Japan.[1][4]

The Future is Wild, a 2002 miniseries, features future animals evolving over the course of several million years. Early in its development, Dixon was brought in as a consultant. Dixon designed many of the creatures featured in the programme, some of which are similar to creatures in After Man (such as the "gannetwhale", a bird similar to the whale-like penguins of After Man), and co-authored the companion book with the producer of the series, John Adams. The Future is Wild also focused considerably on future environmental changes, something Dixon avoided in After Man so that readers would at the very least recognize the background inhabited by the various future animals.[1]

The Future is Wild was unable to use Dixon's original creatures as DreamWorks SKG had bought and owned the rights to After Man. DreamWorks eventually abandoned the project, and the rights were then bought by Paramount, though no potential movie adaptation has yet materialized.[1][4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Naish, Darren. "Of After Man, The New Dinosaurs and Greenworld: an interview with Dougal Dixon". Scientific American Blog Network (Interview). Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  2. ^ a b Lydon, Susannah (2018-05-30). "Speculative biology: understanding the past and predicting our future". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  3. ^ a b c d Potenza, Alessandra. "This book imagines what animals might look like if humans went extinct". The Verge. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e "The Dougal Dixon After Man Event of September 2018". Tetrapod Zoology Podcast. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  5. ^ "1982 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Archived from the original on 2011-05-07. Retrieved 2010-04-19.