“Supertoys Last All Summer Long”

“Supertoys Last All Summer Long”
   The source for the STANLEY KUBRICK– STEVEN SPIELBERG film, A. I. , appeared in 1969 in BRIAN ALDISS’s story collection Moment of Impact. It was later reprinted in Man In His Time:The Best Science Fiction Stories of Brian W. Aldiss (1988). Although it is but an eight-page sketch, it is profound in its implications. The story is set in a vaguely defined near-future, when overpopulation has necessitated strict State control of reproduction. Prospective parents must wait in line for governmental permission to have children. Monica and Henry Swinton have had to wait four years for their number to come up. In the meantime, they have acquired a substitute child, three-year-old David, a computerized android, the product of biochemistry and synthetic flesh. David is no mere machine, however; he is capable of aesthetic pleasure and love. This places him apart from the standard artificial life-forms that have been developed—“plastic things without life, supertoys,” as his “father,” Henry, describes them. Puzzled by his own awakening consciousness, David feels alienated from a “mother” who does not love him, who is incapable of fostering love for a machine. Clumsy and inarticulate in his uneasy posture between human and machine—repeatedly, he asks himself, “Am I real?”—David’s future is uncertain with the imminent arrival of the Swinton baby. Perhaps,muses Mr. Swinton,“[David will] have to go back to the factory again. ” The revelation of David’s true identity as an artificial life-form comes only at the very end of the story. It is a shock, poignant and bittersweet. “Toys” perfectly embodies Aldiss’s definition of SCIENCE FICTION, which appears in Aldiss’s history of science fiction, The Billion Year Spree (1973): “Science fiction is the search for a definition of man and his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge. ”
   ■ Aldiss, Brian, The Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction (Garden City, N. Y. : Doubleday, 1973);
   ■ ———Man in His Time (London: House of Stratus, 2001).
   J. C. T.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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