This story Starts out like the standard "Planet of the Apes" routine: Space voyagers from Earth get caught in some sort of warp and return to a recognizable Earth, but the civilization they knew is long gone. In this story, however, all macro biological life has disappeared completely, to be replaced by a wilderness of feral machines, many of them replicating the standard biological forms: amulatory predators/prey (analogous to animals), sessile energy accumulators (like plants), even sea "creatures". Some predators are able to use parts of their prey directly, although most incorporate some kind of smelter or other recycling feature that allows them to mine basic materials from prey. Explosives are part of the repertoire of prey defenses, hinting that some of this may have been kicked off by humans tinkering with autonomous machines meant for warfare. I think it was by a well-known SF author, like, say, Robert Silverberg. I believe it dates back to the 1980s, could have encountered it in a collection of older stuff, but it's definitely post-60s, as integrated chips are mentioned explicitly as a resource.


2 Answers 2


This is probably Poul Anderson's story "Epilogue" which fits all of the details you mention. There's a discussion of the story at http://poulandersonappreciation.blogspot.com/2013/08/epilogue.html and another at https://polaris93.livejournal.com/2745134.html. It was first published in Analog Science Fact -> Science Fiction, March 1962 and has been reprinted many times, see the ISFDB: https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?61784

  • Thanks, that's definitely it.
    – willibro
    Dec 9, 2018 at 3:12

A novel, not a short story, is a quirky tale by James Hogan, Code of the Lifemaker. 1983. ISFDB: https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/se.cgi?arg=code+of+the+lifemaker&type=Fiction+Titles (Though ISFDB does say an "excerpt" was published as a story.)

Somewhat humorous. Reasonably good (not Hogan's best, not his worst).

Includes a prologue with a pretty entertaining description of how the moon Titan gets "colonized" by a species of completely self-aware robots. How they live, reproduce, have politics and governments, etc. Some of the robots are "people" and others are "animals".

And then mankind detects odd sporadic radio signals from there and decides to investigate. For some reason, some of the scientific/research crew going out there consists of a "mind reading" charlatan and his tight crew of accomplices.

These images of the cover will give you an idea: google image search

(Even if it isn't the story you're thinking of check it out.)

  • 1
    I agree with davidbak. Even if this isn't the story you are seeking if you like the other one you would probably like this book as well. Even better, there is a sequel.
    – beichst
    Dec 8, 2018 at 15:53
  • Thanks, an interesting suggestion! I think what provoked my memory of the story was a recent read of Ken Macleod's "The Corporation Wars" trilogy, which is also fairly funny and features intelligent, semi-evolved machines.
    – willibro
    Dec 9, 2018 at 3:14

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