A very long time ago, I checked out a book from a library. It was 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. One of those short-shorts is "Present Perfect," by Thomas F. Monteleone. (First published in 1974.) The viewpoint character is the editor of a science fiction magazine, currently wading through the "slush pile." (Meaning a collection of unsolicited manuscripts, mostly from people whom the editor has never heard of before, and who seem to think they have come up with an Exciting New Idea in science fiction when they really haven't.)
Here are the opening paragraphs of that tale:
William Rutherford sat in his den, lit a cigarette, and opened another manila envelope. He pulled out the self-addressed stamped envelope, threw it on the desk, and looked at the manuscript that was included with it. He smiled as he saw the familiar slush pile title:
Taking a drag on his cigarette, Rutherford read the first three paragraphs, figured out the entire story, and turned to the last page to read:
The smoldering wreckage of the once-gleaming starship lay in a twisted pile deep within a lush jungle. The man struggled to his feet and wandered away from it sweating profusely. Several agonizing minutes passed while he imagined that everyone else in the colony ship had been killed by the crash. Suddenly he saw movement within the twisted metal. A hand! Someone was climbing out! The man rushed up to the hand and pulled it out and was surprised to see that it was connected to a beautiful blonde.
"Oh, thank you," she said, pulling her torn jumpsuit up over her swollen breasts.
"That’s all right," he said. Then, after a pregnant pause, he added: "I guess we’re the only ones left."
The blonde cast a furtive glance about the hostile environs and nodded nervously. He looked at her appreciatively, smiled and said: "By the way, what’s your name?"
She looked up at him and a little smile danced upon her full lips. "Eve," she said.
Rutherford stamped out his cigarette and reached for another rejection slip. Not another one. Won’t these guys ever learn? He checked off one of the most frequently used parts of the slip (the one which said: "—To you this may seem original, but to our readers the story is old hat.") and placed it with the manuscript in the self-addressed stamped envelope for its safe return to the author.
I was very young at the time, and this was my first contact with the idea that a plot building up to the surprise twist that "this story actually happened thousands of years ago, and some of the characters survived to become 'Adam and Eve, our ancestors!'" had already been done in science fiction... and not just once or twice, but done to death!
I recently had cause to ask another question on here, trying to identify an old comic book story that used the same surprise twist. But then I got thinking: Just how old is this plot twist? Who started the ball rolling so that it could become a Venerable Cliché of the genre?
So, to make the question more detailed than what I could put into the title of this post, here's the Official Version of what I want to know:
The Question: What was the first published science fiction story which had the plot building up to the revelation that a couple of the characters were going to be remembered by their posterity as "Adam and Eve, progenitors of modern humanity," with some sort of "scientific" explanation being offered for how they came to be stranded, somewhere on Earth, thousands of years ago? (As opposed to any story which pretty much sticks to the notion that God miraculously created each of them with a wave of His hand, as described in Genesis.)
And before you try to answer that, please take a minute to examine my "ground rules" regarding what doesn't fit within my parameters.
What I Don't Want!
Stories clearly set in our future, in which something similar to the "Adam and Eve must be fruitful and multiply" scenario happens "all over again," but it is crystal-clear that the few survivors are not supposed to literally be the same "Adam and Eve" mentioned in Genesis, and thus are not your ancestors and mine. (Note: I optimistically assume that all participants on this site are human.) However, depending upon the author's whimsy, these survivors may include persons using such names as "Adam" and/or "Eve." Perhaps all but a few human beings (at least, on a given planet) have been killed or rendered infertile by some catastrophic event, such as a nuclear war, a pandemic plague, an alien attack that destroyed Planet Earth, or something similar — but none of those would fit my criteria.
Examples include Charles L. Harness's "A New Reality," Damon Knight's very cynical "Not With a Bang," and probably any number of postapocalyptic stories which have played around with such themes as "The Last Man on Earth is frantically looking for the Last Woman — if one still exists?"
Questions which put a science fiction spin on the "Adam and Eve" story, but the reader is told, right up front, that these characters are named "Adam and Eve." (Or something suspiciously similar.) I don't recall an example, but it may have been done. What I want is a story that tries to be coy about it, until springing the "big surprise" on us in the last page or two.
Stories which qualify as "fantasy" rather than "science fiction." In other words, they tend to deal with the Garden of Eden story in a way which presumes the accuracy of such details as "God," "the Serpent," and "an angel with a flaming sword" having existed as entities possessing supernatural abilities which are not explained away as the results of anything "technological" or otherwise "scientific." Such stories can be very interesting — but I don't really think of them as science fiction.
Examples: In C.L. Moore's story "Fruit of Knowledge," which I just recently reread, she "plays it straight" in having Adam, and then Eve, be created by the Will of God, with the main viewpoint character Lilith as an uninvited interloper in the Garden who wants to be Adam's mate. (That last part is not found in Genesis, but is mentioned in old Jewish folklore.) On a similar note, long before C.L. Moore's story, Mark Twain wrote "Extracts from Adam's Diary."
Stories in which the whole "Adam and Eve" bit turns out to have been a dream, a drug-induced hallucination, a virtual reality scenario, an old fairy tale which someone is telling to someone else (a parent to a child, for instance) without vouching for its authenticity, or anything similar. (I don't remember a good example, off the top of my head, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone has done it this way! Tell the audience what appears to be a story about "the truth behind the legend of Adam and Eve," and then the main character wakes up and realizes it was all a dream!)
Stories in which we are given some interesting backstory about how the human race (or its evolutionary ancestors) arrived on Earth from somewhere else... a very long time ago... but there is no hint that two of the "first-generation colonists" were called "Adam and Eve" or anything similar, and thus are still remembered today (albeit in a distorted fashion).
Examples: F.L. Wallace's "Big Ancestor," Larry Niven's Protector, and James P. Hogan's Inherit the Stars.
Stories which work on the assumption that our ancestors have lived on Planet Earth all along... but, long ago, someone else came along and amused himself by tinkering with their DNA, thereby setting in motion a process which would make us develop into the "intelligent and civilized" people that we are today... but there is no mention of "Adam and Eve" (or anything similar) as names which were used by some of the "uplifted" hominids in question, and thus inspired the Biblical account.
Example: Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Stories that were never professionally published. After all, it is possible that someone will reply to this, telling me that they have a copy of an unpublished manuscript, written by their great-grandfather in the 1920s, which builds up to the surprise twist of "and these two characters were the original Adam and Eve!" It's possible that a hundred people, way back when, each came up with this surprise twist independently, within a few years of one another, for all I know! But if they never managed to sell their story to anyone (such as a magazine editor), then I don't want to be bothered with it. Especially since an unpublished manuscript would not be likely to have a profound impact on thousands of other readers (and authors) of science fiction.
So, now that you've read all of the above, do you have any suggestions regarding which professionally-published science fiction story, by which author, deserves the honor of being remembered as the one that first tried to surprise the typical reader with the revelation that two of the characters are still remembered today as "Adam and Eve"?