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 was created but never published, though a few English panels and the full Spanish version found their way onto the internet. This has become one of my favorite post-apocalyptic stories due to the development of the characters and the themes at play.
First Allied Mastercomputer, then Adaptive Manipulator, later Aggressive Menace, and finally AM. Originally created to oversee World War III, the machine gained sentience and chose to kill as many people as possible, sparing five fatally flawed individuals. While the world above became a radioactive wasteland, AM handpicked five humans to live in his ever-growing complex. For 109 years, AM developed himself until he had achieved god-like power (at least inside his own compound). All the while, the machine tortured his new toys physically, psychologically, and spiritually until they devolved into caricatures.
The obvious question is: Why does AM hate? Continue reading