Themes: Unaffected Pockets

Last "Men" survive through luck (or no reason), immunity, or physical protection from the destroying element. One theme is the unaffected pocket of land or valley or island. Best used for Last Man genre in Z For Zachariah. Also used in two atomic war films, The Offshore Island and The Day the World Ended.

Bibliography: The Last Man Alive

The Last Man Alive
Alexander Sutherland Neill

Entire work online.

A. S. Neill on Wikipedia


Time Magazine review: The World, The Flesh and The Devil (1959)

Monday, Jun. 01, 1959

The World, The Flesh and The Devil (MGM) is a passionately sincere, pictorially brilliant, monumentally silly example of how people who are obsessed with the race question tend to see everything in Black and White. In this instance, the audience is asked to believe that when most of humanity has been wiped out by a cloud of radioactive sodium, the three people who have managed to save their skins will spend most of their time worrying about the color of them.

The start of the film is striking. The hero, a young Negro (Harry Belafonte), is trapped by a mine cave-in. Five days later he digs his way back to the surface. "I made it!" he shouts in triumph, but nobody replies. The pit head is deserted. The town is deserted. The highways are deserted as the hero, panic-stricken, goes speeding off toward Manhattan, the nearest big city, in the first car he finds. At the Hudson River he is stopped short. The George Washington Bridge is jammed to the rails with abandoned automobiles, all arrested in a desperate plunge toward the suburbs of no return; the Lincoln Tunnel is the same.

The hero crosses to Manhattan in a rowboat with an outboard motor, wanders half insane with loneliness and terror through the enormous canceled city. "I'm alive!" he screams, "I'm alive!" But by this time he has lost all hope that anybody else is. He takes up residence in a pleasant apartment on lower Fifth Avenue, begins to make the best of his mournful immense inheritance of culture and convenience.

So far so good. But then the moviemakers feel obliged to give their black Adam a white Eve (Inger Stevens), and all at once the grand drama of humanity's survival collapses into an irrelevant wrangle about racial discrimination that has no more real significance, under the circumstances of the story, than a hotfoot in hell. Adam and Eve fall in love, but Adam refuses to accept the fact. He cannot begin a new world because he cannot forget the old; he cannot let social injustice die with the society that fostered it. At this point the moviemakers introduce a particularly amiable snake into their unedifying Eden. A cultivated white man (Mel Ferrer) wanders into town; and of course he too falls in love with the heroine.

The story falls into the predictable triangular pattern, which soon resolves into the predictable eternal question: Which boy will get the girl? In this instance, the answer is intended to answer the race question, but since Actor Belafonte's skin seems just about as light as Actor Ferrer's, the audience may justifiably wonder if the question itself is not almost academic. Anyway, black boy gets white girl—or seems to. But then in the confusing finish (which was reshot after a big front-office foofaraw), all three wander off together hand in hand—with the girl in the middle.

Survival scenarios paper

Surviving Armageddon: Beyond the Imagination of Disaster
Mick Broderick

Science Fiction Studies
#61 = Volume 20, Part 3 = November 1993


Online Dating Persona Test

The Last Man on Earth

Shit, rejected again. You are The Last Man on Earth.

Sorry, but most women would rather see the human species wither to an end--and therefore deny the most fundamental instinct that living creatures have--than sleep with you.

We've learned the following: you don't think things through. You're haphazard. You're dangerous. You're somewhat inexperienced. It's totally obvious that you're a horny bugger, as well. Everybody knows that and steers clear.

To top things off, when you do find your way into a relationship, you tend to be a dick somewhere down the line and fuck it all up.

There's a small, but negligible, chance we're wrong. In any case, your friends find your shit hilarious. There's nothing cooler than a dude reducing himself to human rubble.

FACT: The apocalypse has come. All are dead. You never should've asked her out.

"The Last Man on Earth" Brendan Day

Published in Polyphony 2, Wheatland Press, 2002

Tangent Short Fiction Review
Polyphony 2 ends with Brendan Day's first story about the "Last Man on Earth." This story magnificently captures the stereotypical science fiction reader/writer who feels isolated from the rest of the world and finds himself in a dead-end job. "Davis" Davison is working as an elevator operator who uses the quiet times to read his pulp magazines and dream of his own success. Day manages to capture the perfect feel for this story, both disjointed and focused at the same time, providing a strong exit from the anthology.

Mumble Reader
Last in this volume is Brendan Day's "Last Man on Earth," a Kavalier and Clay-like story of an elevator operator with a passion for the pulps and a screenplay titled, you guessed it, "Last Man on Earth." There's an odd series of events which lead him to the roof, with his supervisor and his supervisor's girlfriend, who don't seem to be what they are, and who show him some of what will be . . . very little of which matches his Campbell-fueled dreams. This story left me with a lot of questions, but it also intrigued me.

Time Magazine review of Alfred Noyes "The Last Man" (aka "No Other Man")

Apocalypse, Pugnacity

No OTHER MAN—Alfred Noyes—Stokes ($2.50).

THE TWENTY-FIFTH HOUR—Herbert Best—Random House ($2.50).

ATTACK—Leland Jamieson—Morrow ($1.50).

Coming fashions in war books are forecast in two novels from England, one from the U. S. From England comes apocalypse, from the U. S. pugnacity.

In No Other Man and The Twenty-Fifth Hour British Authors Alfred Noyes and Herbert Best offer their visions of the destruction of the human race and civilization in war. Both are good enough stories in themselves. As examples of what English men of letters are providing for beleaguered Britons to read while waiting for total war, they are two of the most curious documents ever written.

Both books begin in the last of the great World Wars. In The Twenty-Fifth Hour mankind dies out doggedly from plagues brought on by bacteriological war fare. Author Best writes with a kind of exaggerated pulp-paper toughness. His de cline of the west is slower, crueler, more realistic, less snagged with philosophical, religious and artistic asides than Poet Noyes's. A buzzard broods over his all-but-dead planet, whose curse is that there is still some doomed life left on it. Only the women are halfway happy as barbarians. Explains Author Best's hard-boiled hero: formerly most women were the drudges of lazy, torpid husbands. The roving sol diers, who kill these husbands and take their places, are more loverlike, practice such endearing military virtues as cooking, washing and mending their own socks.

Poet Noyes's world (No Other Man) is ended at one stroke by a death ray. Only survivors are Hero Mark. Heroine Evelyn (they were submerged in a submarine and a diving bell respectively when the ray struck); some citizens of Assisi, Italy; several herds of contented cows. Author Noyes does not explain how the citizens of Assisi survived or who milks the cows twice daily on a depopulated planet.

Noyes thinks that annihilation is the best thing that could have happened to the debased human race. He has a high old time making his death ray catch in compromising positions all kinds of people who have irked Poet Noyes for years. There is moralizing Critic Sir Herbert Boskin & wife. On a sofa Lady Boskin "was in the arms of a dead man with a long, pale nose, and a red mustache, which gave a touch of macabre comedy to their attitude. . . ." Sir Herbert was in another room, "as dead," observes Poet Noyes gleefully, "as Napoleon. ... On a table beside him there was a magnificently bound copy of a pornographic work. . . ."

Though Authors Noyes and Best differ as to how the old world will end, they are in entire agreement about the nationality of the survivors who will carry on the race. In both novels the Adam & Eve of the new world are an English university graduate and a U. S. girl.

Significantly different from these books of doom in pulse, pace and outlook is a story of war and sudden death by U. S. Author Leland Jamieson. It is a simple, all-action narrative (recently serialized in the Saturday Evening Post) about outnumbered U. S. planes and a power-diving hero in an undeclared Blitzkrieg against the U. S. Fatigue sickens the young airman, fear of death cramps his stomach muscles, terror of being lost at sea in the night momentarily deprives him of his senses. But the last thing he thinks about is the end of the world.

Monday, Jul. 29, 1940