The Last Man on Earth is an anthology featuring post-apocalyptic stories. It was published as a paperback original by Fawcett Crest in 1982, which is the very edition that caught my eye. The artwork perfectly captures the theme of the stories – a solitary man, a backpack on his shoulders sitting atop a dune with a skull and dead bird below. The artist: W. C. Barlowe.
The opening paragraph (from the story “The Underdweller” by William F. Nolan):
“In the waiting, windless dark, Lewis Stillman pressed into the building-front shadows along Wilshire Boulevard. Breathing softly, the automatic poised and ready in his hand, he advanced with animal stealth toward Western Avenue, gliding over the night-cool concrete past ravaged clothing shops, drug and ten-cent stores, their windows shattered, their doors ajar and swinging. The city of Los Angeles, painted in cold moonlight, was an immense graveyard; the tall, white tombstone buildings thrust up from the silent pavement, shadow-carved and lonely. Overturned corpses of trucks, buses, and automobiles littered the streets.”
This anthology was edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh. It features 17 reprinted stories by such science fiction luminaries as William F. Nolan, Poul Anderson, Clifford D. Simak, Frederic Brown, Roger Zelazny, A. E. Van Vogt, and many others.
This anthology is one of the seminal works in my adoration of both classic science fiction and short fiction. It introduced me to the work of Edmond Hamilton, A. E. Van Vogt, Frederic Brown, and the short work of William F. Nolan. It, beyond the nicely executed cover art, is very much worth having on your bookshelf.