Supertoys Last All Summer Long

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Aldiss, Brian W. "Supertoys Last All Summer Long." Harper's Bazaar Dec. 1969. Coll. The Moment of Eclipse. London: Faber & Faber, 1970. Supertoys Last All Summer Long and Other Stories of the Future. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2001. For publication updates, see http://www.brianwaldiss.com.

In an overpopulated near-future world, a small number eat well, but many of them still suffer from loneliness. We learn about a day in the life of Monica and Henry Swinton, their son David, and David's toy, Teddy. Monica spends the day in their apartment "in one of the ritziest city-block, half a kilometre [sic: British spelling] above the ground": "Embedded in other apartments, their apartment had no windows on to the outside; nobody wanted to see the overcrowded external world," and their "Whologram" (sic) could provide the illusion of a Georgian mansion surrounded by plantlife. It's a big day for the family. As Managing Director of Synthank, Henry has just released "an intelligent" (but not too intelligent) "synthetic life-form" in the form of "a full-size serving man." This model goes beyond the "mechanicals on the market with minicomputers for brains—plastic things without life, supertoys" and links "computer circuitry with synthetic flesh." The new model is "a product of the computer. Without computers, we could never have worked through the sophisticated biochemics that go into synthetic flesh"; it is also "an extension of the computer—for he will contain a computer in his own head," and later models will be "linked to the World Data Network" and may come fully male or female (with the promise of something like android/robot sex). "Personal isolation will be banished forever." Monica's news is that she and Henry have won the lottery and will be allowed by the government to conceive a child. Teddy and David discuss what is real and what is not, and whether Mummy loves David. Mummy doesn't (though she had tried), but she'll definitely keep on Teddy, and they'll have David checked at the factory to have his "verbal communication-centre" fixed—and then they'll see. David asks Teddy, "Mummy and Daddy are real, aren't they," and Teddy tells him that it's a silly question: "Nobody knows what 'real' really means." Indeed; even Teddy comes across only a little less real than Henry and Monica. Source story for Kubrick/Spielberg's A.I., q.v.

Discussed in The Stanley Kubrick Archives, pp. 807-09.

RDE, 19/06/00, 23Aug20