Wow, ces graphismes !
Many great works of science fiction, from Wells’s The Time Machine onward, have attempted to portray the far future, and in reading them we look backward by the brilliant light of those distant epochs to see our own era, outlined with the vividness that surrounds something very strange, something utterly unfamiliar. Viewing the ruins of our own culture through the eyes of the denizens of the future creates a powerful effect. Thus the famous final shot of Planet of the Apes, the Statue of Liberty buried neck-deep in the sands of what we had thought was an alien world. Thus the glimpses of our own long-vanished era (and later eras, also long-vanished) in such books as William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, Brian Aldiss’s The Long Afternoon of Earth, and Jack Vance’s The
Dying Earth, and such stories as Cordwainer Smith’s “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,” John W. Campbell’s “Twilight,” Robert Moore Williams’s “Robots Return,” and Poul Anderson’s “Epilogue,” to name just a few out of a great many.
My own best shot at achieving the time-displacement parallax effect was the 1971 novel Son of Man, in which my bewildered protagonist, wandering through the world of some billions of years from now, comes upon the ruins of an ancient building, “a columned edifice in the classical style, gray and stolid and self-assured, fitted by style and grandeur to have been the supreme museum of Earth. . . . A scaly green lichen clings to the roughnesses of the wall, creating patterns of choked color, continents sprouting on the ancient stone. Weeds have begun to straggle across the portico. The door is gone, but, staring through it, he sees only darkess within the building.” Five huge dinosaur-like beasts, remote descendants of mankind, occupy a courtyard behind the shattered columns. What he experiences is the parallax of time, the measure of the distortion and shifting that the eons impose on the past. One of the finest things science fiction can do is show us the great span of time under the auspices of eternity, the succession of the ages, the great arch of history shading into almost unknowable prehistory at one end and the utterly unknowable future at the other.