If you’ve been anywhere near YouTube in the past few months, chances are you’ve seen a sudden uptick in interest in a book called All Tomorrows.
Set in a distant future where humanity has explored the stars only to be brutalized by the Qu, an insect-like alien species that believes only their civilization has the right to dominate the universe, All Tomorrows offers us a body horror filled view of what could happen to humanity if a haughtier species saw us as less than.
Heavy topic with some serious implications, I know. But despite the seriousness of the book and its themes, it’s still a fun exploration of what could be that’s told with a surprisingly tender tone for a textbook-style novel.
Plus, people are ranking All Tomorrows‘ post-human species based on sex appeal now. You wouldn’t want to miss out.
All Tomorrows: A Foray Into Speculative Evolution
A couple of months ago, a YouTube channel known as Alt Shift X released a video entitled ‘All Tomorrows: the future of humanity?‘. The channel had previously gained its 1.3 million subscribers by making detailed breakdowns of the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series that was adapted by HBO as Game of Thrones. But of Alt Shift X’s videos, his All Tomorrows reading towered above most of his uploads in terms of views. 4.8 million people wanted to know why our post-human descendants looked so…non-human.
Released in 2008, All Tomorrows: A Billion Year Chronicle of the Myriad Species and Mixed Fortunes of Man is a sci-fi novel under the speculative evolution genre which, you guessed it, deals in speculation about the future of mankind.
The work combines science fiction with evolutionary biology, drawing on the experience of its author, C.M Kosemen a.k.a Nemo Ramjet, who is a Turkish artist and independent researcher with a background in art, paleontology, and zoology.
Kosemen‘s enthusiasm and expertise in these fields show in the way he’s gone about visualizing and describing the post-human species of All Tomorrows. Whoever the speaker of the book is, they’re clearly some sort of researcher. A historian? A biologist? Who knows. But they study humanity and its descendants with a fond interest that isn’t too hard to imagine as Kosemen’s own feelings towards creating All Tomorrows.
All Tomorrows is a pretty easy read that would only take three hours at most for any fast reader. Clocking in at only roughly 100 pages, the book contains a series of short notes detailing the history of mankind accompanied by Koseman’s own illustrations of key events and newly developed post-human species.
The Universe of All Tomorrows
As the story of Genesis goes, God formed man from the dust of the ground and from that ground came All Tomorrows‘ future men.
The story begins with an Earth in decline. Centuries of war and indiscriminate pollution and exploitation had turned the Earth into a cesspool of dirt and despair. According to the nameless chronicler of All Tomorrows, known simply as ‘The Author’, Mars was nothing but a deserted planet even after humans had reached the moon. Political differences and competing agendas, not to mention the lack of any real threat to life that would force humans to colonize other planets, kept humans Earth-bound.
We can already feel the effects of a waning environment today, but in All Tomorrows, it took twelve billion people competing for the same resources to finally push us to seek resources among the stars. Centuries of terraforming ensued to turn Mars into a planet that humans could survive on. When the first human colonists came to settle Mars, they came on one-way ships.
“The first steps on Mars were taken not by astronauts,” Kosemen writes through his Author, “But by barefoot children on synthetic grass.”
The children of these children would eventually split off into the Martian American people. Environmental differences, particularly gravity, forced the Martian Americans to adapt to their new planet. They became spindlier in figure, developing longer limbs and warped heads that served to further the growing cultural and societal divide between them and the humans of Earth.
Not unlike their American ancestors in the 1700s, the Martian Americans developed separatist sentiments that culminated into non-essential trade and travel bans. Pushed into a corner, Earth geared up for war and both sides lost a total of eight billion citizens.
Is it the most realistic novel? Koseman only gives us the vague details his Author has been able to unearth, but the hints of humanity’s social ills pervade the development of humanity’s growth into an intergalactic civilization.
The two sides eventually realized that neither of them could afford war and the death it caused. Most importantly, both Earth and Mars’ humans realized that they were, in the end, still both human.
As the war drew to a close, the survivors agreed on sweeping political, social, and biological changes. They would finally abandon any distinctions between them. There would be no more races of humanity, only one Star People.
A Body Horror Zoo of the Stars
The Star People: Adventurers of the Universe
The Star People became adventurers of the known universe. They left behind both Earth and Mars, expanding outward into the distant reaches of the solar system, colonizing the moons and planets they encountered along the way.
Their human and Martian American ancestors had given the Star People the best of themselves, empowering them with genetics that allowed for survival on both Earth and Mars, while giving them what they didn’t have. These first post-human humans adapted easily to newly terraformed planets and were designed to be smarter than the ones who came before them.
But the Star People also had limits: the vastness of space. To solve this, they sent out machines that would terraform our corner of the galaxy while carrying with them the genetic material for creating more Star People. With expansion came discovery. Though the new Star People couldn’t find intelligent life, they encountered signs of other alien civilizations.
Centuries later, humans would run into the Qu, galactic nomads whose sole mission is to “remake the universe as they see fit”. Turns out, that universe is one where they were the rulers and every other species lived to serve them.
Though the Qu destroyed human civilizations, they would keep humanity alive as playthings and slaves.
The Colonials: Enslaved Sapient Cesspits
The Qu didn’t subjugate humanity overnight. Of the many descendants of the human race, a race known only as the Colonials were able to fend off two Qu invasions. It was the third that broke the camel’s back.
Their invaders didn’t take kindly to resistance and, as punishment, turned the Colonials into the most miserable of the post-human species of All Tomorrows. The Qu changed them into blobs of flesh and skin, connected together by a network of nerves. Though they were no longer recognizable as human, the Colonials kept their eyes and consciousness.
If you’re into post-apocalyptic science fiction, you might be reminded of Harlan Ellison’s ‘I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream‘. In it, the misanthropic A.M, a computer created with a human consciousness but without the bodily autonomy of one, turns one of the characters into a blob of flesh that keeps its consciousness but is trapped in the same body-less hell that A.M lives in.
Like that deformed blob, the Colonials spent eons without mouths or the ability to move while the Qu used them as built-in trash chutes and latrines. Gives you chills just thinking about it. We have no mouth and we must scream, indeed.
But the Colonials wouldn’t always be like this. Their forced unity gave way to real unity as they evolved into the Modular People, beings who could combine to form a variety of beings. Like the Star People before them, their biological unity ensured that the Modular People were the first of humanity’s descendants to live in a true utopia.
The Striders: Fragile Giants
But not all of the post-human species who survived the Qu would have such a happy ending.
The Striders were inhabitants of a ‘world of wonders’ as All Tomorrows‘ author puts it. The planet was inhabited by megaflora and fauna, among which were the grotesquely tall Striders.
The Qu invaders had taken their Star People ancestors and treated them the way a TikTok crafter would tinker with polymer clay. To the Qu, these Striders were sculptures which they set on a peaceful world where they had no real predators.
That said, the size of the Striders and their low gravity meant they had unbelievably fragile bones, so fragile that “a strong wind could bring them down.” Though the Striders were initially able to survive, they paid for their Earthling ancestors’ sins against chickens.
The poultry that the Striders’ ancestors brought over from Earth evolved into a species of predators, likely reverting back to their prehistoric T-rex days. These alien Angry Birds hunted down the Striders, driving them to extinction.
The Lopsiders: Human Pancakes
While the Striders towered above their inherited colony, the Lopsiders of All Tomorrows were the result of a Qu experiment to create a species that could survive in environments with high levels of gravity. They look something straight out of a surrealist or cubist painting, their warped proportions jutting out in strange, flat angles that still clearly resemble human features, without any pretense of still being human.
As the Author puts it, “They looked like cripples squashed between sheets of glass.”
But because these Lopsiders were genetically designed to survive, they were able to thrive and evolve to become the Asymmetric People. These new post-Lopsider post-humans evolved in lower gravity conditions and, through millennia of bio-engineering, were able to stand upright on all eight of their feet.
The Hedonists: Genetically Modified Pets
Not all of the post-human species created by the Qu were designed to suffer. The bipedal species of the Hedonists were designed by the Qu to become their pets. Similar to the ironic twist of fate that lead to humanity’s descendants being eaten by alien chickens, the Hedonists were deformed and degraded by pet-ification.
Here on present-day Earth, our own pets have gone through the rigorous breeding techniques that resulted in deformities, like the pug’s inability to breathe properly, and lowered mental capacity compared to wild wolves.
The Qu set the Hedonists down in a food-abundant planet that had no other animals but them, giving them no reason to learn how to survive. Their feet and hands warped into curled, chicken-like limbs while their brains “were at a level of a three-year-old at best”.
Meme or More?: The Not-So-Obvious Uses of Speculative Evolution
All Tomorrows’ strange creatures have resulted in tons of fan art and even hyper-realistic video renderings. Despite their frankly disgusting appearance, these body horror creatures of the distant future have captured the imagination of bored people on the internet. But it’s not just sci-fi fans who’ve developed an interest in the speculative evolution genre.
Evolution is a continuous process of change in a species over generations, largely due to changes in the environment that force a species to adapt or die. When you think about it, the evolutionary forces that have given mankind larger brains, opposable thumbs, and an upright posture have changed to favor new adaptations.
As our lives become increasingly industrialized, the need to perform manual labor and strenuous physical activities give way to, say, the need to be able to not go blind from sitting in front of a computer in an office cubicle all day.
Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller predicts that stronger sexual selection for intelligent mates, given its association with higher income and status, will result in future humans who are more brains than brawn. That is, if artificial selection, powered by artificial reproduction techniques, doesn’t beat evolution to it.
It’s not just science fiction that’s powering the study of biology, genetics, and evolution either. For Ronald Allain L. Cruz, a professor at Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Biology, fantasy is a great way to explore phylogenetic possibilities.
In his research article, he explains that it’s the lack of established conventions, as in the case of speculative evolution, that really forces students to use their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Given how science fiction has given young scientists-to-be a variety of inventions to turn into reality, perhaps All Tomorrows and works like it can take us to the stars in the coming millennia.
Until then, as the Author of All Tomorrows writes, “What you do today influences tomorrow, not the other way around. Love today, and seize all tomorrows!“