Con-man, pacifist, business woman, Nazi, scientist. Five improbable entities stuck together in a pit of darkness. A prolonged nightmare of 109 years conducted by a sadistic self-aware supercomputer with unlimited power. This is Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.
Although on the surface IHNMAIMS is a straightforward story about five people trapped in an endless underground complex after a nuclear war, it has transcended into a franchise. The human characters from the short story were greatly expanded upon in the 1995 video game while the supercomputer, AM, gained some depth in a 2001 radio drama. A comic adaptation exists as well. This has become one of my favorite post-apocalyptic stories due to the development of the characters and the themes at play.
In this series, we’ll break down each of the humans: exposing their fatal flaws and identifying what led them to redemption (and further punishment).
Ellen, the only woman in the center of the Earth. In the original story she was essentially a sex object, taking the other four humans in turn. She also served as a mother figure to Benny, always looking out for him and going so far as to wipe the spittle from his mouth. Additionally, it was Ellen who pushed the group toward the ice caverns with her fantasizing about what might be found there. Continue reading