A Curiously Strong Literary Debut

Steffan Postaer’s first novel, The Last Generation, paints a world in which creativity—at its most basic human level—is dead. But don’t take it as a grand allegory about advertising.

“The concept came to me on a plane one day in 1998, after my first daughter was born with a terrible case of colic,” says Postaer, chief creative officer at LB Works in Chicago, who is best known for his “Curiously strong” Altoids ads. “I just thought of what the world would be like if no one could have children—what would be different.”

The book introduces the quite nasty-sounding Embryo Fatality Syndrome (“developing embryos eroded into a viscous state of gelatinous globs without any semblance of form”) and explores how a handful of characters deal with the curse, and the freedom, of being the last humans on Earth.

Like everything else, advertising is turned on its head in such a world. Vodka, fast cars and movies sell themselves, but no one’s particularly interested in sales pitches: “The networks ran the same few commercials over and over. … They only had four spots in the rotation and all except one were about other programs. The exception: Kleen Toothpaste. Apparently white teeth were still a priority. The last man on Earth would have good incisors.”

Postaer wrote the book in eight months but had trouble selling it to publishers. Many felt it was too gloomy. “I thought some of it was funny,” Postaer says. “I’ll admit that not everybody agreed with me on that.” He eventually decided to self-publish through Inkwater Press and drafted Marian Williams, a staffer at LB Works, to design the cover. “She did three designs,” Postaer says. “I asked her which she liked best, and we went with it. I sort of did what I wish all clients would do.”

The book is available at Amazon.com and LastGeneration.net.