“The Custodian,” William Tenn, 1953 – The sun will go nova in a year and earth’s populace has divided into Affirmers (of utility, continued life) and Custodians (of art and beauty). The Affirmers win out politically and organize a mass evacuation of life. The last Custodian on Earth waits for the nova, spending his days traveling to museums and resenting the time used up by the necessities of survival. Humor and a new point of view intervene when he discovers a one year old infant, whom he names Leonardo. He finally decides to rescue Leonardo (as he is now responsible for a life other than his own) and a ship full of art, an “aesthetic Noah,” who intends to make the future acknowledge its past.
Comments: Themes of artifacts, museums, culture, utility, life, children, art, culture. Read in 18 Greatest SF Stories. Perhaps compare with “A Master of Babylon” by Edgar Pangborn. See Matthew Cheney’s review of Tenn’s fiction.
Author: Wikipedia: “William Tenn was the pseudonym of Philip Klass (May 9, 1920 – February 7, 2010), a British-born American science fiction author, notable for many stories with satirical elements.”