Man after Man by Dougal Dixon is a rare book. Not quite the rarest, but it commands a hefty price online. Readers looking to find this book should be prepared to pay around $170 as of the date of this article (March 8, 2017) on Amazon, and if you are an AbeBooks customer, you’ll shell out a hefty $299 for Man after Man. However, on March 8, 2017, I stumbled across a hard cover of Dixon’s Man after Man at a Catholic Charities thrift store in Mattoon, IL selling for one dollar. I was instantly drawn to it because I am a hopeless lover of odd books, and indeed the book is an oddity to behold. The imagery and illustrations of the work is beautiful and at the same time grotesque in the depiction of the evolved human form. The story is short, but thought-provoking and controversial. So why is this book considered rare in the first place?
Dougal Dixon can be classified as a prolific author and speculative zoologist, meaningthat his career revolves around hypothesizing how life on Earth (or other planets) will evolve according to understood properties of biology, chemistry and physics and has great success writing about those ideas. He is known for his beautifully illustrated and thought provoking books After Man (Dixon 1981), The New Dinosaurs (Dixon 1988) and numerous others that deal with nature, evolution and speculation of the future of such. After Man was an enormous success that gave credence to the field of “speculative evolution,” which in turn bolstered the credibility of other futurist philosophies such as exobiology. There was even a mini-series based on Dixon’s book that was featured on the Discovery Channel called “The Future Is Wild.” (Scroll to the bottom of this article for the video preview)
In 1990, another book with Dixon was published. The title was Man after Man (Dixon 1990). In previous titles, Dixon focused on how animal life would evolve physiologically after the evacuation of or otherwise disappearance of humans from the Earth. However, in this book, the hypothetical storyline focuses on how humans are genetically engineered, then evolve through time into several different species and filling empty ecological niches. The entire book consists of what some people would consider transhumanism, or the genetically engineering humans into a wholly new species.
The story in the book revolved around a fictional depiction of the human race that evacuates Earth following ecological disaster and population explosion. Genetically superior humans are shuttled off to a new planet outside of our solar system while the remaining population are left behind scraping for survival. Genetic engineers have manipulated humans at first to become suited to work in hostile environments (what amounted to a slave labor class) in order to secure resources and perform tasks in order for the genetically “superior” humans to escape the planet. After the exodus, humans are then engineered to fill the gaps that animals left behind in nature in various forms. The illustrations in the book are detailed and gorgeous although the human form becomes more and more uncomfortable and unrecognizable as the physiology evolves. It’s just downright creepy toward the end. Which may add to the cult appeal of the book, since people aren’t supposed to look like animals. The closest analogy I could think of in terms of relating it to well-known literature or film would be “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” but in this case a better title might be “The Planet of Dr. Moreau.”
Unlike his previous and subsequent works, Dixon has shown bitterness toward the book Man after Man and made the feeling known publicly. In a 2014 interview with Scientific American, Dixon was interviewed at length by science writer Darren Naish about his decades-long exploration of things that may or may not happen. The subject of the book Man after Man was briefly brought up and hastily put down by Dixon.
“So, we’ve spoken now about After Man, which is about future evolution, and The New Dinosaurs, which is about zoogeography. Then there’s Man After Man – a project I was never keen to be involved in, the title of which was originally being kept for a project of my own…”
“But, the name Man After Man was taken for that other disaster of a project.”
~Dougal Dixon (Scientific American Interview)
That “other disaster of a project” was you guessed it… the book this entire article is about. Although nothing else was said about Dixon’s animosity for Man after Man, speculation in the comment section of the article gave some clues to his vilification of the book. The most logical speculation was presented by one commenter who suggested that the publisher had come into possession of some of artist and author Wayne Barlow’s sketches of humans that had been genetically engineered or if not evolved past the point of modern humans and persuaded Dixon to adapt the storyline of the book to match the allegedly ill-gotten artwork from Barlow.
April 5, 2014: “As for the Wayne Barlowe controversy … I don’t have it handy, but I own the book in which Barlowe claims that some of his sketches of future evolved humans were stolen by another party (unnamed, but the rumors fly), and used for another book, pre-empting Barlowe’s plans to do the same.
I would be very curious to know what happened there. I find it hard to believe that a person with Dixon’s imagination and background would ever even feel the temptation to appropriate someone else’s imaginings of future evolved life. Perhaps there was some great misunderstanding? Perhaps any resemblances were coincidence? (Convergent speculations on evolution?) Maybe a publisher goofed up and thought they had the rights to Barlowe’s concepts, and pushed Dixon to incorporate them? Maybe Barlowe wasn’t even speaking of Dixon? (Rumors can be wrong.)
Whatever the truth is, it is likely to be embarrassing to someone, and even if Dixon knows what the truth is, he may not be at liberty to say. I find it intriguing but inconclusive that Dixon seems to indicate that he was not very happy with the way the _Man After Man_ book came about, and that it was not according to his original plans.”
~Comment by Stevo Darkly April, 2014 (Scientific American)
These speculations were neither confirmed nor denied but subtly acknowledged by (who we assume is) Scientific American science writer Darren Naish in a follow-up comment.
“Dougal and I did discuss the background to Man After Man at length. All I will say is that my suspicions about what happened were accurate.”
Commenter Stevo Darkly replied with a possible scenario that may be the best explanation for the controversy.
April 7, 2014: “Possibly the publisher then asked Dixon to undertake a change of direction, and incorporate Barlowe’s concepts in the book … or else no book, with all of Dixon’s effort up to that point going to waste. Basically, not too different from the dumb publisher’s decision that affected _After Man_, in which the publisher used Dixon’s writing but forced him to incorporate other artists’ illustrations. In this case the publisher might have decided to use Barlowe’s concepts, but have Dixon do the writing.
IF this is what may have happened, it also seems that Barlowe’s assent to this course of action, and the use of his sketches, was not clearly obtained. And Dixon, naturally, was not made aware that Barlowe had not clearly agreed to the use of his concepts (until, perhaps, after the book had been published and it was too late.)”
~Comment by Stevo Darkly April 5 & 7, 2014 (Scientific American)
So, if any of the above is true (and there isn’t any reason not to), then we can deduce that the book, Man after Man will never see another printing and never be officially digitized. From this we can determine that Dougal Dixon’s Man after Man will remain a rare book, not only for the removal from commerce, but for the controversy that surrounds it. And one more thing, look at those thrift shop books… look closely.
Dougal Dixon’s other books can be found on Amazon.
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“The Future Is Wild”
— 📖 cHaOsPiRaTiOnS 🔥 (@chaospirations1) April 9, 2017
— 📖 cHaOsPiRaTiOnS 🔥 (@chaospirations1) April 4, 2017
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