JF Ptak Science Books Post 1615 Part of a series on destroyed New York City that includes New York City: Attacked by Tentacled Flying Saucers, Giant Flying Snakes, Glaciers, and Mining Missile Space Aliens, 1929-1941 and H-Bomb Wipes out Brooklyn, among others.
John Ames Mitchell created quite a world for himself in 1889. The world he saw in the year 2851 turns out not to support America, or Americans, seeing as how we ran out of luck and envy and possibility and Life. It is slightly ironic that Mitchell (1844-1918) would write so much about dystopic views of America's dead culture, as he was the creator and first editor of (the first) Life magazine, a journal dedicated to far less weighty matters (and an early popularizer of populist views of American culture by Dana and Rockwell).
The Last American (a slight book of 28 pages) is presented as the journal of a Persian explorer (Kahn-li) a thousand years or so into Mitchell's future, set off to explore the outer reaches of at-that-time known world, rediscovering the Americas, again.. Kahn-li was intrepid and accomplished:
"...Curator of the Imperial Museum at Shiraz, and (a)uthor of '''The Celestial Conquest of Kaly-phorn-ya" and of "Northern Mehrika under the Hy-Bernyan Rulers" The astounding discoveries of Khan-li of Dimph-yoo-chur
have thrown floods of light upon the domestic life of the Mehrikan people.
"He little realized when he landed upon that sleeping continent what a service he was about to render history,
or what enthusiasm his discoveries would arouse among Persian archaeologists.
Every student of antiquity is familiar with their history. "
The images of New York City in ruin, in advanced decline, in an imagined future of slow death, have always
seemed haunting to me. The images in The Last American are drawn by the author, and in some later editions
of the work are supplemented by occasional designs and a few extra images. But Mitchell's work is
pretty impressive. And daunting.
Mitchell also has a nice way of showing how his explorers were trying to make sense of the ruins, figuring out what their intended uses were. For example, the ruins of the Brooklyn Bridge were more a monumental temple, because the distance between the giant structures and the shore were (for them) to great a span for the things to be part of a bridge. There's some good, solid, imaginative imaging going on here.