If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone."
Humanity is extinct, leaving only legends behind.
Local residents Homo sapiens sapiens were reported dead in their home planet on Stardate 2814.7 due to unconfirmed causes. Witnesses don't agree on the cause of the deaths; some say it was a domestic dispute gone badly wrong, others that they were killed during a violent home burglary, or murdered by their children, or of course they may have been careless enough to cause themselves an accident like burning, flooding, freezing, or starving, while an elderly species in the Vega system assures this publication they ascended to a higher plane of existence. Our sources however have confirmed that humanity is no longer active as a species, though speculation lingers on the existence of a lone survivor left to ponder their fate.
Humanity was born in The Time of Mythsnote and made their residence on the third planet in the Sol system, Milky Way galaxy, Orion Arm. Growing up, they created various technological marvels and were an active resident in the cosmos; some even say they were the center of cosmic life. Humanity's former enemies, currently residing in a can, suspect their death may be due to growing overly proud of their achievements.
They will be remembered for their philanthropic work as Precursors, being prolific creators of not-yet-Lost Technology, stopping several galactic wars* and being all around special. Though marring that legacy are allegations of being neglectful and even abusive. Already, a ragtag bunch of young space-faring species in the Orion neighborhood can be seen to dare each other to see who will step closest to "Creepy" Old Mannity's Oort cloud.
Surviving humanity are the species they uplifted to sapience, various models of robots still doing the tasks they were designed for despite it no longer serving any purpose, and approximately forty-two genetically engineered sub-species (including a few mutants), all currently contesting the title of "Heirs of Humanity". Among humanity's children, there is a widespread range of feelings towards their death. Some assure us they are overwhelmed with sadness, and will mourn until the stars go out. Others, including neighboring friendly aliens in the Omicron system, have pledged their intention to give humanity a "second chance" and resurrect all humans and/or reclone them back into existence via undisclosed means. Some have expressed joy at the death of humanity, and declared their intention to work against any resurrection. A few plan to take up the family business and create their own civilization. Some, who don't mind speaking ill of the dead, will dismiss humanity as a race of bastards, and a few even want to remember the crimes of humanity with a posthumous trial. Speculation on whether any of these child species can avoid the flaws which killed their parents ran rampant among those interviewees.
The funeral reception will be held in the Galactic Core on Stardate 2815.3, and burial in the Derelict Graveyard later that galactic rotation.
- Texhnolyze Those living on the surface are little more than shades of humans who live without purpose. The underground Lux is thrust into slaughter and carnage in the last few episodes, with essentially everyone dead by the end as the city goes dark.
- Land of the Lustrous takes place long After the End. Humanity is extinct, evolving into three distinct species, thematically called the "Soul, Flesh, and Bone". The Gems are the "bone", immortal beings made of mineral who have symbiotic relationships with microorganisms to produce energy to move. The "flesh" is the Admirabilis, a race of intelligent slugs living in the sea who can transform into humanoid forms. Lastly, the "soul" is the Lunarians, mysterious beings who come from the moon to abduct the other two races. It's speculated that the "soul" want to become whole humans again.
- Atavar takes place in a future where humanity is extinct, having left behind a race of robots called UOS. UOS is bent on wiping out all life in the galaxy. Nice going, humans.
- This was the Mandatory Twist Ending of one EC Comics story, which reveals that the survivors of a nuclear war on Earth who rebuilt a space-faring civilization on their planet and successfully establish First Contact with aliens are not humans but uplifted rats.
- Mighty Tiny by Ben Dunn, creator of Ninja High School. Humanity is extinct. Mice and rats had evolved into the dominant life forms and have created their own civilizations similar to pre WWII Europe. Two countries, Mosputa and Ratvaria, are in control with an uneasy peace between them. Although there are usually plots that endangered that peace throughout the course of the series.
- Apocrypha by John and Laura Lakey. Originally a 8 chapters series that appeared in Epic Illustrated No 25-26. Animals evolved among humankind ruins. The evolved civilization is fairly modern (although no advance tech such as computers are seen) and is slowly learning from the technology that humanity had left behind. Unfortunately, they are getting humanity’s bad habits and may go down the same road to destruction.
- The 1980's Marvel limited series Starriors by Louise Simonson (based on a line of action figures) tells of a future age when Earth has been laid waste by solar flares. A group of humans tried to survive the disaster by going into suspended animation, leaving robots behind to tend and protect the world until it was safe to reawaken. However, they don't wake up on time. The robots gradually develop sentience, and their memories of man dim till humanity becomes the stuff of legend. When evidence is discovered that the legends may be true, a war breaks out between those who believe the humans should be found and revived, and those who believe they should be left to slumber forever.
- Because of copious use of Schizo Tech and other arguably non-pony-friendly tools and equipment, it is a common Fandom-Specific Plot to depict My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as taking place after Humanity's Wake.
- The Writing on the Wall is about Daring Do exploring an ancient structure which predates ponies by many thousands of years, using incredibly advanced masonry for such an ancient civilization, full of intimidating architecture clearly meant to scare away future explorers. Everyone makes the natural assumption that it must be a tomb, with the titular writing on the wall being a warning of a curse upon those who would defile the sanctity of the place. It isn't. It's a nuclear waste site.
- Ruin Value: Discord mentions human ruins like the Colosseum while remarking on the desolate beauty of the post-modern city that Celestia is scavenging through. This is foreshadowing for the Twist Ending, which reveals the whole story was actually a Stealth Prequel to the series, and that Luna, Celestia, and Discord are all Artifical Lifeforms created by humans.
- There is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one-shot that deals with this topic. The Mutagen that has been used so copiously by villains and corporations alike has leaked into the groundwater, and all children, be it animal or human, born from this point on will be mutants. The story deals with Michelangelo's pondering on the fact that he and his fellow mutants will be the ones to inherit the Earth when humanity finally goes extinct.
- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: The Future Mechas at the end of the film are either the last creations of the extinct human species or of their own predecessors (robots building more sophisticated robots). They are enamored with David because he actually knew living humans from before the end of their civilization. Their leader explains that he mourns their death because they consider humans to hold the key to the meaning of life.
- Omega Doom: In this B-Movie, humans are dead, robots inherit the Earth... and rule it badly, having devolved into an Enemy Civil War. Except there's one last enclave of humans, and they're out to clean up the bad robots by sending out the reprogrammed protagonist.
- The original Planet of the Apes films.
- There was a short story by Arthur C. Clarke about alien lifeforms from Venus studying the few remaining artifacts of the human found on a frozen Earth. The one that confuses them the most is a short film portraying people behaving in a variety of strange ways, revealed at the end to be a Walt Disney cartoon.
- The book Re Body, Robots kill us all, revive a human head, and set out to destroy some uplifted animals we had created.
- Many H.P. Lovecraft stories don't take place in such a setting but have the idea of humans as an insignificant blip in a universe of monsters about to be snuffed out. Mike Mignola's works also have visions of a future-earth where man is no more.
- "The Shadow Out of Time" explicitly states that at least 14,000 years in the future humanity will die out and be replaced by a race of intelligent beetles (into whom the Great Race of Yith transfer their consciousnesses).
- Lovecraft takes the theme in a different direction in "Memory", where a demon and genie idly contemplate a number of apes who frolic in ancient ruins. The demon eventually remembers that the apes are the descendants of an older race called "man", the original builders of the ruins.
- Roger Zelazny:
- "The Stainless Steel Leech" from the story collection Last Defender of Camelot, in which humanity has died out, leaving behind a society of robots. They've adopted the behavior of humans for the most part, though developed strange superstitions. One of the robots developed a hardware problem and became a vampire of sorts, and while hiding from the rest came upon a human vampire, the last of its kind and slowly starving from lack of blood.
- "For A Breath I Tarry" from the same collection has a similar setting, used as a retelling of Faust, though the tragic ending is averted by the creation of a new race of humans.
- In Requiem, it is mentioned that once humanity finally managed to wipe itself out, two factions arose, each seeing itself as the true descendants of mankind: the robots and the mutants. The robots are animalistic tanks (elephant, gorilla, TRex...) while the mutants are hybrids and zombie-like things.
- Brian Aldiss's short story But Who Can Replace A Man? The robots are overjoyed that humanity is wiped out and they are now free, but they end up nuking each other and in the end they come across one surviving human, whom their programming compels them to obey.
- Charles Stross's Saturn's Children is a story about humanoid robots living in the wake of humanity's demise.
- Dougal Dixon has written two versions of this trope. In After Man, the Earth is repopulated by descendants of the small animals (like rats and rabbits) which an extinct humanity failed to take down with us. In Man After Man, humans speciate into dozens of varieties, some sapient but most not, through a combination of genetic engineering and natural selection.
- City by Clifford Simak is a fix-up whose component short stories start in the near future and continue until after humanity is extinct; the Framing Device consists of archival notes by uplifted dogs.
- Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon has all of the "First Men" killed in an atomic holocaust 100,000 years from now. Save for thirty-five who mutate into the Second Men, starting a cycle of extinction and replacement that continues for two billion years and 16 more species until the Eighteenth Men die when the Sun goes supernova.
- The short story Written on the Wind by David Levine, has a federation of alien races trying to decipher a message coded into the fabric of the universe, which turns out to be from humanity who destroyed the universe through nanotechnology; before the end they were able to program the nanites to rebuild the universe and create new and more diverse life.
- In short story "Pots" by C. J. Cherryh a race of aliens comes across a space probe with Pioneer plaque on the board, after mankind is long gone from the Earth. They attempt to find remaining descendants of humanity, while spreading romantic legend about first space travelers across galaxy. They remake their whole social structure, with hibernation and Cloning Blues for top leaders and scientists, for this purpose. When group of archeologists finally finds something on third planet of small, yellow star it turns out humankind destroyed itself shortly after setting foot on the Moon.
- The Daily Show's Earth (The Book) is addressed to a civilization that has discover the planet after humanity's unspecified demise. The book also provides instructions for humans to add their DNA to two storage locations: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the Trementina Base in New Mexico (built by Scientologists). At the end of the book, Stewart recommends that the aliens use the DNA to "reconstitute" humans, possibly as slaves.
- A Ray Bradbury short story, "There Will Come Soft Rains" (named after a poem which also features the trope) is about a Smart House still running through its daily functions centuries after humanity wipes itself out in a global nuclear war.
- When taken in the context of The Martian Chronicles where it's reprinted as part of the setting, the smart house has only been going through the motions for a few days at the most after World War III (it still has fresh bacon and eggs to make the uneaten breakfasts with, and the master's dog is still barely alive). Though humanity hasn't been wiped out completely, human civilization has essentially suffered the same fate as that of the Martians', dead and remembered only by those few survivors (Human or Martian) left.
- This is the central premise of The World Without Us. The book is a thought experiment by Alan Wiesman on how our infrastructure would crumble and fade if humanity were to disappear entirely.
- In Angel Notes, the human race has genetic-engineered itself into around a hundred different sub-species that, collectively, refer to themselves as the human race. The main character is the final remaining true human being, and he dies at the end. This is not good for the human race, as only a true human can use the Black Barrel, one of the only effective weapons they had against the invading Aristoteles that desire to annihilate the remnants of humanity.
- In Sasya Fox's Theta nearly all the cast are Petting Zoo People who live on several planets spread throughout the galaxy and were created by a race they call "The Ancients". Late in the novel the one alien character refers to the Ancients as "Man".
- In Stephen Baxter's Evolution, human civilization is destroyed by a supervolcano its last remnant are what eventually become super-advanced robots, virtually everything else fading into oblivion and Nature through normal evolution takes over. New human sub-species appear and the last of them is a small monkey-like creature that lives in symbiosis with trees in the searing-hot red plains of the future supercontinent.
- One episode of The Outer Limits (1995) series had robots try to resurrect humanity ("Resurrection"), and in another, aliens.
- In the new series of Doctor Who episode, "The End of the World", which is set billions of the years in the future, Cassandra claims to be the last human. The sequel story ignored this and offered a Hand Wave to the effect that there are billions of mutants and hybrids (most of whom look exactly like H. sapiens) and she's just a racist. A latter story "Utopia" showed humans existing 100 trillion(!) years from now. (Humanity has come back into existence in the meantime, handwaved by the Doctor saying that even though humans did go through different evolutionary forms, they always seem to return to their basic form eventually.)
- Red Dwarf takes place millions of yearsnote after humanity's presumed extinction, apart from Lister who was in stasis for a very long time.
- Life After People explores what might happen to the world if the human race simply vanished today.
- The Future Is Wild describes many animal species that evolve long after humanity has left the planet. In the last segment, a new type of tree-dwelling cephalopods show signs they may develop a civilization of their own.
- The book the documentary is based on plays this totally straight, with humanity having died out.
- In Wayward Pines, after Ethan Burke makes it out of the titular town, he goes in the direction of Boise, Idaho, the nearest large city, but all he finds are overgrown ruins. They later find videos of scouts sent out to other parts of the country with views of other cities' ruins.
- In the backstory of in-development RPG Hc Svnt Dracones the creation of bipedal and sentient animals known as "Vectors" set off a sequence of events that ended in a nuclear war between Mega Corps and traditional governments that sterilized Earth. During the war gene therapies designed to repair the mutations from radiation enabled humans to be transformed into Vectors and MarsCo offered those who took the procedure the chance to evacuate to Mars, while amping up production of other Vectors. Within a century unmodified humans were extinct.
- Occurs in the Time Skip between Mega Man ZX and Mega Man Legends. Humanity first managed to combine with reploids to become superior cyborgs, then created organic robots in the image of what humans used to be like as a servant race, then true humanity goes extinct, leaving the servant race behind to try and fend off the fail-safes that now think they've Turned Against Their Masters. The series MacGuffin of Legends is the last remaining sample of human DNA.
- NieR: The events of the game ensure that the remnants of humanity will die out in a generation, as Gestalts can no longer prolong their descent to madness and Replicants cannot reproduce. A group of androids in the distant future of NieR: Automata attempt to fabricate a narrative that humanity survived afterwards somehow and are currently seeking refuge on the moon, but it's merely a front to give the androids morale during the ongoing Forever War.
- In Escape Velocity Nova, at least three of the storylines end with references to all of humanity ascending to a higher plane, although it happens millennia after the player's involvement ceases.
- The world of Inherit the Earth: The Quest for the Orb is a world where humanity has disappeared, leaving the Uplifted Animals wondering where their progenitors went.
- Primordia takes place in a world where humanity has been gone for so long that their robot creations have had time to build their own society and found a religion about "Man the All-Builder."
- In the Eastern RPG Last Armageddon, demons have taken over the Earth since humanity became extinct.
- This happens in the "Refuse" ending added in the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3. If you refuse to fire the Crucible, the Reapers overwhelm the allied species of the galaxy and continue their cycle of extinction — but a later cycle of new species defeats the Reapers for good, remembering the story of the human Commander Shepard thanks to Liara's time capsules.
- In Splatoon, it's revealed via various of the Sunken Scrolls that the game's world was Earth All Along, set millenia after the disappearance of humanity, with all signs pointing to the Inklings and other races of the world developing their civilization on top of what humanity left behind. Despite this, they seem to be largely ignorant of what humanity was, with the best guess they can make about fosilized human remains being that the creature's small head made them likely primitive, with little intelligence.
- Utawarerumono: It is implied that this is the real setting of the story. Humanity has either departed the planet or is plain old extinct. The half-human hybrids populating the planet are genetic creations of humanity.
- The truth is far more sinister. Hakuoro turned the remaining humans (most have died in an implied cataclysmic war) into blob monsters, although to be fair they killed and dissected his wife and child first.
- Word of God is that that Pikmin games take place on Earth after humanity's extinction. Even before official confirmation, this was a common assumption, due the large number of human ruins and artifacts liberally scattered through the games.
- There are implications that the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team games take place after humans have either left the area or have gone extinct. Future Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games make it more vague, though in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity discusses humans as being present in in-universe myths.
- This is the backstory of The Talos Principle, although it takes a lot of digging by the player-character to find out. A virus released from permafrost by global warming infected the world before it could be identified, meaning the human race collectively had a few weeks to live. Some of them chose to spend that time creating a computer system that would serve primarily as a preserve of all human knowledge and culture, but also to try to eventually create an AI that would be advanced enough to appreciate these records. Decades later, the project is nearing completion, but the records are corrupted nearly to oblivion, leaving the AI to try to fit together the pieces. The Road to Gehenna DLC expands this by showing a community of AIs who spent their time trying to reverse-engineer human culture using the few tidbits of information available to them.
- Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life follows the adventures of a pair of robots living in a solar system where humanity has died out due to sheer disinterest in procreation.
- The segments with the Wandering Vagabond and crew in Homestuck, set in the desert wastes of Earth after it was scoured of life by the Reckoning.
- A fairly common background to Furry Comics, some notable examples:
- The big reveal at the end of this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic is that the astronauts in the pictures are aliens landing on a barren dead earth and reading a monolith left behind by humanity describing how they gradually moved into virtual reality where the perception of time was greatly accelerated to the point that an instant could be stretched into eternity.
Dear traveler: please don't think ill of us. We are the last generation. And we are immortal.
- Only Human, humanity has abandoned its organic bodies and has become a Mechanical Lifeform, called Automa.
- The Clockwork Raven features two children struggling to survive among the mostly useless remnants of an skyborne society so advanced it may as well have been a different planet. There are still humans left on the surface, but Karla and Kio want nothing more than to join them, depopulating the sky for good.
- Technically averted in the Orion's Arm setting. True members of Homo sapiens sapiens still exist in large numbers, but they are rare in comparison to the overall population of humanity's descendants and are generally only found in baseline reserves.
- In The Periodic Table Of Science Fiction, one of the stories features a miner who, waiting for a rescue ship and with nothing to do, uses the harvested ores to paint the surface of the asteroid he's stranded on. It eventually becomes acclaimed an artistic masterpiece and a galactic cultural treasure by alien species long after the human race itself disappears.
- Day of the Barney Trilogy has Barney temporarily succeed in creating a society that, had it existed long enough, would have resulted in this. After the Great Act of Love, every adult and teenager hides from Barney and his followers while every human child has become Barney's Special Friend. Barney cares for them and makes sure they're well-fed and happy until they turn thirteen, at which point he murders the boys and takes the girls away so he can rape them and impregnate them with Loved Ones. Due to the allure of Barney and the inclusiveness of his group of Special Friends, as well as the combination of boys generally not being able to reproduce before reaching the age of thirteen as well as them (hopefully) not performing sexual activity with the girls, the full-blooded human race would have died off if Barney had reigned for long enough, with the Loved Ones as the last surviving remnant of humanity.
- In the Chrysalis short story on Reddit, humanity is killed off when invading aliens glass the surface of Earth with thermonuclear weapons, to make room for a resource mining operation. This process takes longer than the aliens anticipated, giving humanity enough time to create an AI successor. The team creating the AI debate how "human" it should be, versus how coldly ruthless it should be. They pair the sentient AI with a subsentient worker AI that manages all of humanity's remaining machines below the surface of the planet, allowing the new sentient AI to rebuild civilization... or build an intergalactic war machine of vengeance.
- There was an episode of Superfriends in which aliens find Earth devastated and lifeless. They search our records, find that one of the Legion of Doom's schemes had terrible unintended consequences, and used time travel to set things right without making their intervention too obvious.
- Similar to the above, one episode of Justice League Unlimited had Superman catapulted into the future thousands of years by a so-called disintegration ray, where he discovered Vandal Savage had inadvertently wiped out the rest of humanity in one of his attempts at world domination. As the only sapient being on Earth, he went insane, grew Bored with Insanity, and then invited Superman home for dinner. "Like you've got anything better to do."
- The MGM cartoon Peace on Earth, and its Cinemascope remake Goodwill to Men.
- Adventure Time: A lighthearted cartoon series where the existence of the last boy on Earth is rather surprising, after the great mushroom war and given that humans are considered extinct delicacies.
- A good number of characters though are either partly human or used to be human. Also, with the arrival of Betty there is now at least one other full-blooded human in Ooo. Finn's Dad has been released from the cosmic prison he was held in, and even though he immediately ran off just to continue doing whatever he wants, at least he's out there too.
- A localized version that's more of an evacuation than extinction. In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster humanity is pretty much mostly gone from the exclusion zone and the area has been and is being studied by scientists to figure out what does happen if humanity up and leaves from an area and never comes back? The creators of Life After People drew much of their inspiration from Chernobyl. So far, scientists have discovered that some of the local wildlife has actually adapted (somewhat) to the radiation. Blood samples from numerous species of birds have revealed they've developed a huge increase in antioxidants to fight off the free radicals that would prematurely age them to death. But though that aids their struggle, it's still a struggle: Reproductive success rates are way down, bird populations overall remain around 40% of pre-accident rates, and as many as 30% of male birds tested were sterile. About the only wildlife that appears to be doing better post-accident are the wolves.
- Similar observations have been made of thriving wildlife in the De-Militarized Zone between North and South Korea, with the big difference being that there are land mines instead of nuclear radiation.
- Likewise, the large impact and range areas of several current and former US military bases function as important wildlife reservoirs, as the presence of unexploded ordnance prevents them from being used for anything else.
- As well as the Zone Rouge, a strip of France so decimated by WW 1 fighting it was declared uninhabitable, and which ranges from picturesque scenes of nature (albeit with oddly bumpy terrain and a proliferation of unexploded ordnance) to areas so polluted with chemical weapons and heavy metals that a century later they are still effectively wastelands.