Friday, October 22, 2010

31 favorite monsters: the Great Round Jelly Thing

Slow down there, BUSTER. If you've never read Harlan Ellison's famously sadistic short story "I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream" and would like to read a famously sadistic short story without having the sadistic surprise spoiled for you, click here to read it online, it's public domain!

For the rest of you who don't care about spoilers or already know the twist, let's all show some appreciation for the great round jelly thing, A.K.A. the final form of Ted. I Have no Mouth tells the story of a bizarre and hellish post-apocalyptic world ruled by AM, a computer so powerful that it has a god-like control over reality within its domain. Unfortunately, that domain is limited to the planet Earth, and to AM, it's a prison so maddeningly tiny that it hates mankind for creating it at all. And how much does it hate mankind?

When our story begins, there are only five human beings left on the planet Earth, selected by AM for no explained reason as playthings to act out his frustration. The computer uses all of its impossible power to keep these five random people alive for all eternity, just to torture them in every conceivable way; revolting foods, obnoxious sounds, ravenous monsters, bouts of insanity, whatever the machine can come up with. To make a short story shorter, our protagonists suffer over nine hundred years of this technological hell before finally figuring out how to kill themselves without AM's interference, though it leaves one of them alive - our narrator, Ted - to suffer the computer's wrath. To make sure his last human toy can't ever escape, AM transforms Ted into a helpless form that can't even harm itself.

Poor Ted. This particular image actually comes from the ending of the PC game, and could actually be any of the five characters depending on how you played. Since Harlan Ellison worked on the game directly, it's safe to say this is the jelly thing's "official" design, and don't you just want to flop all over it like a beanbag chair? You wouldn't want to be Ted, no, but for a mockery of humanity that only exists to suffer, isn't it just SO huggable?


Anonymous ScutigeraColeoptrata said...

It is an interesting design. In the computer game it is mentioned that AM doesn't have very much imagination, which is probably why it hasn't invented a way to get off planet Earth. It is still my favourite Ellison story, as it discusses human conceptions of absolute power and authority. Stay inside and be god, or go outside and take a risk at something more?

3:31 PM  
Anonymous dartagnan said...

There's two endings to the PC game, One were mankind wins, And the ending with the jelly thing.

I like the jelly one more

11:57 PM  

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