The "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" Fanfiction Online Anthology

"Supertoys in Other Seasons"
Ref Recommends
The Greatest "A.I." Fanfic
David: Special and Unique
Teddy: A Child's Companion
Monica: A Mother's Love
Henry Swinton: A Man of Good Intent
Martin Swinton: Sibling Rival
The Swinton Family
Gigolo Joe: Love Machine...
Gigolo Jane: "How's the Game"
Dr. Hobby: "The Visionary"
A Love of Your Own: David's Siblings
Many Faces, Many Visions
Evan Chan and Company
Where The Lions Weep
"A.I." Crossovers: Entwined in Other Realms
A Mecha-Child's Garden of Verses
Comedy Night at the Shangri-La Hotel
A-F.I: Arti-Filk-tial Intelligence
A.I.: Artificial InterActive
Mecha Elders: Aldiss, Kubrick & Spielberg
Fictions of the Future
Links and Connections
Updates and Upgrades


Supertoys in Other Seasons

by Brian Aldiss

Throwaway Town sprawled near the heart of the city. David made his way there, led by a large Fixer-Mixer. The Fixer-Mixer had many hands and arms of various dimensions. He kept them snugged down on his rusty carapace. Walking on extensible spider legs, he towered over David.
As they went along, David asked him, "Why are you so big?"
"The world's big, David. So I am big."
After a silence, the five-year old said, "The world has grown big since my Mummy died."
"Machines don't have mummies."
"I wish you to know I am not a machine."
Throwaway was entered down a steep slope, and partly hidden from the going human world by a high wall of breeze-blocks. The road into this junk town was wide and easy. Everything inside was irregular. Strange shapes were the order of the day. Many shapes moved, or could move, or might move. Their colours were many, some sporting huge letters or numerals. Rusty brown was a favourite. They specialised in scratches, huge dents, shattered glass, broken panels. They stood in puddles and leaked rust.
This was the land of the obsolete. To Throwaway came or were dumped all the old models of automatics, robots, androids and other machines that had ceased to be useful to busy mankind. Here was everything that had once worked in some way, from toasters and electric carving knives to derricks and computers that could count only up to infinity minus one. The poor Fixer-Mixer had lost one of its grabbers and would never again haul a tonne of cement.
It was a town of a kind. Every junked object helped every other junked object. Every old-model pocket calculator could calculate something useful, if it was only how wide a lane should be left between two blocks of scrapped automobilites to allow passage for wheelies and motormowers.
A tired old supermarket servitor took David into his care. They shared the burnt-out shell of a refrigeration unit.
"You'll be okay with me till your transistors blow." the servitor said.
"You're very kind. I just wish I had Teddy with me," said David.
"What was so special about Teddy?"
"We used to play together, Teddy and I."
"Was he human?"
"He was like me."
"Just a machine, eh? Better forget him then."
David thought to himself, Forget Teddy? I really loved Teddy. But it was quite cozy in the refrigeration unit.
One day the servitor asked, "Who kept you?"
"I had a daddy called Henry Swinton. But he was generally away on business."
* * * * *
Henry Swinton was away on business. Together with three associates, he was ensconced in a hotel on an island in the South Seas. The suite in which they were gathered looked out over golden sands to the ocean, Tamarisks grew below the window, their fronds waving slightly in a breeze that took the sting from the tropical heat.
The murmur of waves breaking on the beach did not penetrate the triple glazing.
Henry and his associates sat with bottles of mineral water and notefiles in front of them. Henry's back was to the pleasant view.
Henry had fought his way up to Chief Executive of Worldsynth-Claws. He outranked the others at the table. Of these others, one in particular, Asda Dolorosaria, had elected herself to speak for the opposition.
"You've seen the figures, Henry. Your proposed Mars investment will not pay off in a century. Please be reasonable. Forget the crazy notion."
Henry said, "Reason is one thing, flair another, Asda. You know the amount of business we do in Central Asia. It's the area of the planet most like Mars. We had communications sewn up. Not a single mech there that does not come from our factories. I bought into Central Asia when no one else would touch it. You have to trust me on Mars."
"Samsavvy is against your argument," said dry-voiced Mauree Shilverstein. Samsavvy was the Supersoftputer Mk.V which in effect ran Worldsynth-Claws. "Sorry. You're brilliant, but you know what Samsavvy says." She offered an imitation of a smile. "He says forget it."
Henry opened his hands and placed his fingers together so that they formed an arch of wisdom.
"Okay. But Samsavvy doesn't have my intuition. I intuit that if we get our synthelp on Mars right now, they can run the atmosphere-maker. In no time -- well, in half a century, let's say -- Worldsynth will get to *own* the atmosphere. That's as good as owning Mars itself. All human activities are secondary to breathing, okay? Can't you people understand that?" He thumped the guaranteed real reconstituted wood table. "You got to have flair. I built this whole enterprise on flair."
Old Ainsworth Clawsinski had said nothing, contenting himself with an unwavering glare at Henry. He was the Claws of the company. The plug in his left ear indicated that he was in constant touch with Samsavvy. Now he spoke from his end of the table.
"{Screw} your flair, Henry."
His colleagues, encouraged, came in in chorus.
"Shareholders don't think in half-centuries, Henry," said Mauree Shivlerstein. She was the one who had initially inclined toward s Henry's argument.
"Mars has no investment value. It's proved," said Asda Dolorosaria. "They've gotten in Tibetan labout. It's cheaper and it's expendable. Better forget about other planets, Henry, and concentrate that mind of yours on last year's two perecent profit drop on this planet."
Henry went red.
"Forget the past. You're dragging your heels, all three of you! Mars is the future. Ainsworth, with all due respect, you're too damned old to even think about the future! We will adjourn and meet again at three thirty. Be warned -- I know what I'm doing. I want Mars on a plate."
Gathering up his pad, he marched out of the room.
* * * * *
David found that Throwaway had a We Mend You workshop. Through the maze of rusty alleyways he went, until he came to the workshop. It was situated in a static watertank, turned upside down, with an entrance cut in its side by a welder. Inside this echoing shelter, industrious little machines worked and patched and sawed and rejoined. Still valid circuits were cannibalised, motors regenerated, the old made less old, the aniquated merely old.
And there David had his broken face repaired.
There too he met the Dancing Devlins. A socket in the male Devlin's leg had bevcome displaced. Comsumer society had scrapped him. Besides, he and his famle machine, with their rapid dancing act, had become passe. They had been earning less money. They were junked.
The socket was replaced. Batteries were recharged.
Now Devlin (M) could dance again with Devlin (F). They took David with them to their tiny hovel. There they performed their lightning dance over and over. David watched and watched. He never tired of the routine.
"Aren't we wonderful, dear?" said Devlin (F).
"I would like it even more if only Teddy could watch with me."
"It's the same dance, lad, whether Teddy is here or not."
"But you don't understand..."
"I understand our dance is clever even if nobody is watching. Once hundreds of real people used to watch us dancing. But it was different then."
"It's different now," David said.
* * * * *
The sand was yielding underfoot. Henry Swinton kicked his trainers off and left them lying on the beach. He walked on the margins of the ocean. He was in a state of despair. He had fallen from a high cliff of success.
After the dismal outcome of the morning's meeting, he had goen to the residents' bar to enjoy a long slow vodkamilk, the Drink of the Year. "Vodkakamilk -- Smooth as Silk." His associates had given him a wide berth. He had then taken an elevator up to his private penthouse on the top floor.
Peaches had gone. Her cases had gone.
Her fragrance lingered, not yet wiped out by the aircond.
On the mirror she had scrawled in lipstick  READ YOUR AMBIENT!!! SORRY AND GOODBYE! P
"She's being funny," thought Henry, aloud. He knew she was not. Peaches was never funny.
The Ambient was already tuned to the private Worldsynth channel. Henry crossed to the globe and turned it on.
The ocean that looked so bright and pure from the hotel was spewing up plasitca bottles along the shoreline, together with dead fish. Henry finally flung himself down on the sand, exhasuted. He had put on weight recently, despite his Crosswell tape, and was unaccustomed to walking.
No seagull ever visited this island. Swallows abounded. The birds circled overhead, occasionally swooping on an insect in flight. Once an insect was caught, the bird returned with it to the eaves of the hotel to feed its young, screaming in their nest. Then it was back, fluttering above the decay where ocean met shore. There seemed to be no rest for the birds.
From Henry's low view, the hotel presented a rakish aspect. It had been built on sand. Slowly, one end was sinking down. It resembled a vast concrete ship in trouble in a sepia sea.
He endured a rage of hatred about everyone he knew, everyone who had crossed his path from the beginning. The low rumble of plastic bottle bumping against plastic bottle formed an accompaniment to his anger.
He contemplated killing Ainsworth Clawsinski, for some while his enemy on the board. Eventually the anger turned against himself.
"But what have I done? What have I been? What's been in my mind? A big success! Empty success... Yes, empty. I've just sold things. I'm a salesman, nothing more. Or I *was* a salesman. Buying and selling. My God, I wanted to buy *Mars*. A whole planet...I have been mad with greed. I am mad. I'm sick, mortally sick. What did I ever care about?
"I have never been creative. I imagined I was creative. I've never been a scientist. I'm just a smarta[leck]. What do I really understand about the mechs I sell...Oh God, what a failure I am, a desperate failure. Now I've gone too far. Why didn't I see? Why did I neglect Monica? Monica, my darling...Monica, I did love you. And I fobbed you off with a toy kid. Kids. David and Teddy.
"Huh. At least David loved you. David. Poor little toy David, your one consolation.
"My God, whatever happened to David? Maybe..."
The swallows screamed overhead.
* * * * *
A council truck came slowly down the wide road into Throwaway Town. Once inside the gates, it turned its massive nose left, entering what was known as Dump Place.
Automatics began slowly to tip the rear platform. A number of obsolete robots, which had long served the public working in the subway system, slid from the back of the truck. They crashed to the ground. The truck scraped the last robot, clinging to the rear board, off on to the dump.
One or two of the robots were broken in the fall. One lay on its face, helplessly waving an arm until another mech helped it up. Together they made off into the depths of the rusty aisles.
David ran up to see the excitement. The Dancing Devlins ceased their dance to follow him.
When the other newly arrived robots had gone, one still remained. It sat in the dirt  shooting tis arms back and forth in a prescribed pattern.
Going as close as he dared, David asked the mech why he did that.
"I still work, don't I? Don't I still work? I can work in the dark but my lamp is broken. My lamp will not work. I hit my lamp on a girder overhead. There was a girder overhead. I hit my lamp on it. The chief computer sent me here. I still work."
"What did you do? Were you on the subway?"
"I worked. I worked well since I was built. I still work."
"I never did any work. I plaued with Teddy. Teddy was my friend."
"Have you any instructions? I work still, don't I?"
While this conversation was in progress, a sleek black limo entered Throwaway. A man was sitting in the front seat. Spinning the window down, he stuck his head out and asked something.
What he said was, "David? Are you David Swinton?"
David went over to the auto. "Daddy? Oh, Daddy, have you really come for me? I don't really belong here in Throwaway."
"Climb in, David. We'll get you all cleaned up for Monica's sake."
David looked round. The Dancing Devlins stood nearby. They were not dancing. David called out a goodbye to them. The Dancing Devlins simply stood where they were. They had never been programmed to say goodbye. It was not quite like taking a bow.
As David climbed into his father's car, they began to perform their dance. It was their favourite dance. It was the dance they had performed a thousand times before
* * * * *
Henry Swinton was no longer rich. He no longer had a career. He no longer had women around. He no longer had ambition.
But he had time.
He sat in a cheap apartment on Riverside, talking to David. The apartment was old and worn. One of the walls had developed a stammer. Sometimes it showed a false view of the river, where the water was blue and old-fashioned paddle-steamers bedecked with flags plied up and down. Sometimes it showed a commercial for Preservanex, where a couple in their early hundreds went through rickety copulation movements
"How can I not be human, Daddy? I'm not like the Dancing Devlins or the other people I met in Throwaway. I feel happy or sad. I love people. Therefore I am human. Isn't that so?"
"You won't understand this, David, but I'm a broken man. I've fouled up my whole life. The way people do."
"My life was nice when we lived in that house with Mummy."
"I said you wouldn't understand."
"I do understand, Daddy. Can we go back there?"
Henry gazed mournfully at the five-year-old standing before him, a hlf-smile on his scarred face.
"There's never any going back."
"We could go back in the limo."
Henry seized the boy and held him tightly, arms wrapped around him. "David, you were an early product of my first mech comapny, Synthank. You have since been superseded. You only think you're happy or sad. You only think you loved Teddy or Monica."
"Did you love Monica, Daddy?"
He sighed heavily. "I thought I did."
* * * * *
Henry put David in the auto, telling him that his obsession with being human would count as a neurosis if he were human. There were humans who had illnesses where they imagined they were machines.
"I'll show you."
From the ruins of Henry Swinton's career, little remained. One thing, however, did remain. There still survived, out in a rundown suburb between city and boonies, the production unit of Synthank, Henry's first enterprise, which had been swallowed up in his increasingly megalomaniac dreams.
He had retained financial control of Synthank. And its products had not been destroyed. They survived on a low level of production, supervised by Henry's old human friend, Ivan Shiggle.
Shiggle exported Synthank's products to undeveloped countries overseas where, in their simplicity, they were welcomed as additionmal labour.
"We could insert better brains in them. Then they would be more up-to-date. But why go to the expense," said Henry, as he and the boy turned into the unit's yard.
"They might like to have better brains," David suggested. Henry merely laughed.
Shiggle came out to meet them. Shaking hands with Henry, he looked down on David. "An early model," he remarked. "What did Monica think of it?"
Henry took his time responding. As they entered the building, he said, "You know, Monica was rather a cold woman."
Shooting him a sympathetic glance, Shiggle said, "But you married her? You loved her?" Lights came on as they walked along a corridor and through a swing glass door. David followed meekly.
"Oh yes, I loved Monica. Not well enough. Perhaps she didn't love me well enough. I don't know. My ambition got the better of me -- she must have found me hard to live with. Now she's dead -- through my neglect. My life is a complete cock-up, Ivan."
"You're not the only one. What have I done with my life? I often ask myself that."
Henry clapped his friend on his shoulder. "Youve been a good friend of mine. You have never cheated me or turned against me."
"There's time yet," said Shiggle, and both men laughed.
They had gained the production floor, where the product stood ready for packaging. David came forward, staring, his eyes wide.
He confronted a thousand Davids. All looking alike. All dressed alike. All standing alert and alike. All silent, staring ahead. A thousand replicas of himself. Unliving.
For the first time David really understood.
This was what he was. A product. Only a product. His mouth fell open. He froze. He could not move. The gyroscope ceased within him. He fell backwards to the floor.
* * * * *
On the afternoon of the following day, Shiggle and Henry stood in their shirtsleeves. The grinned at each other and shook hands.
"I still know how to work, Ivan! Amazing! Maybe there's hope for me yet."
"You can have a job here. We'd get on okay together. Provided the neural brain works in this son of yours."
David lay on the bench between them still connected by a cable, awaiting rebirth. His clothes had been renewed from stock, his face had been properly remoulded. And the later type of brain had been inserted, infused with his earlier memories.
He had been dead. Now was the time to see if he would live again, and would enjoy a brain many times more diverse than his old one.
The two men ceased their casual conversation. They paused over the prostrate body.
Henry turned to the figure standing by their side, its arms wide in the eternal gesture of love and welcome.
"Are you ready for this, Teddy?"
"Yes, I am very excited to play with David again," said the bear. He was one of a stock of bears held in the production unit, primed with memory rerun. "I missed him very much. David and I used to have such fun together, once."
"That's good. Well, then, let's bring David back to life, shall we?"
Yet the men still hesitated. They had done manually what was generally performed automatically.
Teddy beamed. "Hooray! Where we lived before it was always summer. Until the end. Then it was winter."
"Well, it's spring now," said Shiggle. Henry hit the charge button. The figure of David jerked. His right hand automatically pulled away the connecting cable. He opened his eyes.
He sat up, His hands went up to his head. His expression was one of amazement. "Daddy! What a strange dream I had. I never had a dream before..."
"Welcome back, David, my boy," said Henry.
Embracing the child, he lifted David off the bench. David and Teddy stared at each other in wonder. Then they fell into each others arms.
It was almost human.

--Transcribed from "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" and Other Tales of Future Time" by Brian Aldiss, Copyright 2001, published by St. Martin's Press