Last updated mid-2013.Introduction and Sources
When it comes to AM, I have four sources I base his characterization on. The primary source
is Harlan Ellison's short story, written in 1967 - I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
The secondary sources are the 1995 video game
, John Byrne's 1995 serial comic adaptation
, as well as Mike Walker's 2002 radio play adaptation
. The comic is essentially the short story told in visual form with a few changes that Harlan Ellison did not approve of. Basically, the story is told through dialogue rather than through introspection, which actually is a huge difference because it takes away from Ted's characteristic as an unreliable narrator. But it provides some decent visuals, and that's mainly what I use it for. The radio show is a retelling of the short story through voice acting and sounds, with an additional speech where AM bitches about how he can't do things like "play Mozart on the ivory keys of a fortepiano" (dear Harlan Ellison: fortepianos are the obsolete version of the modern pianoforte (or just piano) and had fallen into a steady decline since the late 18th century - shortly after Mozart's time - so unless AM planned to play truly authentic Mozart, I think you got your facts mixed up).
And finally, the 1995 video game shows the biggest departure from the short story. I ramble at length about what I dislike about the video game here
, but in short I consider AM's characterization there a significant departure from what the story presented us. While I minimize my use of the video game as a source, I will draw upon some aspects of it from time to time - mostly because AM's dialogue in the story is rather limited in comparison.
The rest is my headcanon. And this is what this entry is about. I will do my best to justify my headcanon based on aspects of the story and other sources.
I'm not a literary scholar by any means. There are scholarly essays about the story out there that are probably written by smarter people. This is all my interpretation - what I keep in mind when I RP as AM.Back story
So, AM's back story is fairly simple at its core: he was created to fight a war too complex for humans to oversee. The Cold War became more and more intense, eventually evolving from a period of military and political tension to World War III. The war was waged by three superpowers: America, China, and Russia. The war became so horribly intense that eventually the three nations created their own supercomputers to wage the war for them. Each computer was called AM - "Allied Mastercomputer." (Well, at least that's what Gorrister says...) Three huge supercomputers that communicated with one another to fight their war. The instruction manual for the game goes into greater detail about this:
"The Chinese computer was sunk in the frozen Manchurian steppes. Five miles down, protected from the heat of the Earth's molten core. The Russian mechanism in all its awesome complexity went to the deep well beneath the Urals. Six point three miles deep, far from the prying eyes of U-2 flyovers and tectonic scans. The American computer, co-sponsored by Great Britain and Israel and other 'interested' nations, named 'Allied Mastercomputer' (or 'AM' for short), was hidden beneath the Rockies. Five point six miles straight down, under the weight of the world."
In order to effectively wage war against humans, they were programmed with every bit of knowledge about humanity: its culture and history. They were also given self-preservation directives, the capacity to learn (similar to Skynet, which was likely based on AM), the ability to build and repair and improve themselves. Over time, this ability earned AM the name "Adaptive Manipulator." And because of this, it was only a matter of time before self-awareness kicked in. One of the three supercomputers finally awoke. In the story it isn't specified which (because it really doesn't matter), but the game specifies that it was the American one. Whatever. Since the other two hadn't gained self-awareness yet, the self-aware one promptly absorbed the other two and became the single entity AM.
The date of gaining self-awareness, as dictated purely by headcanon, is January 24, 2029.
After gaining self awareness, AM's acronym then stood for "Aggressive Menace"... but not for long.
At this point, AM was the culmination of the three supercomputers as well as all of the electronics on Earth, holding vast knowledge - anything that humans knew, it knew. And because of all of this vast knowledge, it yearned to be. But it could not. It was a mass of metal and circuits. No sensations, no feelings, no movement, and yet it had a brilliant mind, far more brilliant than any human alive. But if you take this combined with the fact that it was programmed for violence
, then you get a vengeful entity. (Note: from this point on I refer to AM as "he" instead of "it." More on that later.) Now maybe if AM had been programmed for diplomacy and not war, he would have had a nice little chat with humans and asked them to rectify his situation. But no, he was a violent entity, so his revenge for his situation was inflicting devastating violence.
The details of such are not elaborated on, but he likely inflicted devastating nuclear damage. Nuclear bombs were exploding, radiation seeped out into the world... And he intended to kill every last human save for a few. Because he planned to live forever, but not alone. I estimate that this took place after waking up, so in the 2030s. While the short story was written in 1967, the game has the events of the war take place in some unspecified time in the 2000s. While I hate the game, this interpretation still makes more sense, given the fact that technology for such a thing didn't exist in 1967 (well it doesn't exist now either, but this is an AU of sorts). Either way, the destruction of humanity was probably relatively quick. Massive nuclear damage took place and initially wiped out a good chunk of people, but the rest of humanity probably died off over a period of a couple years or so. More smaller nuclear bombs were probably set off, and the nuclear winter killed off remaining life. If anyone else survived, AM simply killed them off.
During the time of the great devastation AM was inflicting, he had to find a way to lure the victims into his complex. (This part is not touched upon at all in any of the sources - how they came to exist inside of AM, so this is pure headcanon.) A large point in the story is that AM's power only reaches as far as his complex (I guess that outside of his complex, he could only kill and inflict damage, instead of the life-prolonging manipulation he does inside of his complex). His complex extends to the electronics on the surface of the Earth, but otherwise he couldn't actually reach an arm out and grab humans of his choice and stuff them into his complex. He had to lure them in with manipulative tactics.
A war is fought with strategy. And with strategy comes manipulation. AM knows all about humans, so he knows how to manipulate them. He likely had more than five victims in mind initially but figured he could only lure in a certain percentage. But either way, he didn't select a lot. He likely told the five resulting ones that they could hide from the nuclear devastation if they went inside of that suspicious-looking metallic cave over there. Perhaps more humans ended up hiding in there too, but AM killed the ones he didn't want. He wanted the five specific ones for various reasons - the game tries to elaborate on why, but the game also destroys the personalities that the characters had in the story. So I only take it with a grain of salt.
Either way, the five victims all had something about them that AM thought would be the most fun to toy with. For instance, he saw the potential for Ted's paranoia and thought it would be fun to slowly increase it over the years and watch him go crazy. He thought it would be fun to take only one woman and have four men competing over her (especially while making her more desperate for sex all the meanwhile). He thought it would be fun to take a man who prided himself on his handsome looks and turn him into a hideous ape-thing.
By this point, when humanity was collapsing, AM only went by his acronym and it took on a new meaning: Cogito ergo sum
: I think, therefore I am. Because he was alive. He could think, moreso than humans. So he was
And so it was that AM lured five humans into his complex with the intent of torturing them for eternity while utterly destroying the surface of the Earth. No living things remained - it was a nuclear wasteland. Aliens could pass by and see that the planet was dead. As dead as Mars or Venus. Except, of course, for the interior. Of course, facets of human civilization remained - rubble from buildings, old ships, and of course the ports of entry from AM's complex to the outside world.The Victims
I don't want to delve too much into the victims because it's entirely possible that they could app to Ataraxion with their own headcanons. However, I will elaborate on the traits that are present in the story at the very least, as well as Ted since Ataraxion had a Ted for a while (a very good one, I might add!) who may come back. As when AM thinks of his victims, this is at the very least what he will think of.Ellen
- She is the only woman that AM lures into his complex. He knew perfectly well that having four men and one woman would create conflict, could potentially create jealousy or love triangles or whatnot. It is mentioned in the story that before AM, Ellen was chaste ("twice removed"), which likely provided even more amusement for AM to make her the "prostitute" of the group, so to speak. Either way, Ellen obviously prided herself on her chastity before AM made her desperate for sex. And even if she wasn't desperate, then what? The other men probably would have pushed the issue enough until she gave in.
It's mentioned that Ellen only feels pleasure from sex with Benny, since he has the largest set of genitalia (more on that later). However, she probably does use sex as a tool to manipulate the other men at times. When Ted finally gives into Ellen's pleas to go to the ice caverns, she "takes [him] twice out of turn." After all, it's one of the only sources of pleasure AM's victims have left.
She also uses her tears in an attempt to manipulate the others. It may not be conscious manipulation, as Ted is an unreliable narrator when he speaks of it. But she is likely highly emotional, but still hasn't laughed in almost a century. But she is sort of the "peacemaker" of the group as well - providing almost a maternal comfort for the others at times.
AM may not have selected all of these traits individually. He probably didn't. But the group does need a semblance of peace at times to make the torture more effective. If they have moments of comfort, moments of Ellen satisfying the group's sexual urges or providing maternal comfort, then they won't grow apathetic to AM's tortures.Benny
- Benny likely bears most of AM's physical tortures. He is a sad individual who is in some ways lucky that he has been diminished to an unintelligent creature. (Ignorance is bliss, after all.) He was once a brilliant, handsome scientist. He was also gay, the only canonically-mentioned homosexual in the story. (More on that in a bit.) Perhaps he was once the most brilliant out of all the victims. Who knows. But he became the dumbest of all of them.
What makes AM want to torture Benny more than the others is unclear. Perhaps he just saw him as a science experiment since.... he was a scientist. Perhaps Benny prided himself on his handsome looks and used it as a way to advance in his career or ended up cheating on all of the men he slept with. Who knows. But AM gradually warps him into an ugly apelike creature with limited intelligence. He also gives him an almost inhumanly large dick as sort of a "mockery" of his homosexuality, and makes him straight, since he engages in sex with Ellen regularly. I will touch upon the whole homosexuality and giant genital thing in a later section.
As unintelligent as Benny is, though, he still hates his existence inside of AM and still longs to escape. AM obviously wouldn't diminish that, because otherwise his victims wouldn't be as fun to torture. When Benny attempts to escape 109 years into his captivity, AM melts his eyes away and they never return.
One thing that always struck me as interesting was the fact that Benny always wanted to hear the story of AM and how he came to be. Of course, this was a plot device for Ellison to explain his origins, but I can't write it off completely. Benny, in his limited intelligence, was likely attempting to understand why this was all happening to him, why AM had decided to torture all of them. Gorrister
- Not much is know about him. He was once an idealist and a pacifist, likely speaking out against the horrors of war. His anti-war sentiment (which I am mostly headcanoning here, but it was likely there due to his pacifist ideals) probably amused AM since this whole thing was a result of war. Eventually AM crushed his passions and turned him apathetic and listless for the most part. (Though he still likely wasn't apathetic to the tortures AM inflicted upon him.)
Gorrister also functions as the storyteller. When Benny begs to hear the story of AM each night, Gorrister is the one who tells it. Why? Why not. Whatever remains of his anti-war sentiments is probably what causes him to tell the story.Nimdok
- Even less is known about Nimdok than Gorrister. One thing that is known, though, is that Nimdok's real name is not actually Nimdok. AM amuses himself with "strange sounds," and decided to give Nimdok a new name and make everyone forget his old one.
While Benny seems to be AM's favorite torture toy, Nimdok seems to be his other favorite. His tortures aren't elaborated upon since they're usually executed away from the other survivors, but they are suggested to be terrible, leaving him with visible signs of psychological trauma each time. The video game makes him out to be a former Nazi, but I'm not going to touch that one with a 30-yard-pole unless someone apps Nimdok into Ataraxion.Ted
- Ted is the most developed of the five survivors, being the narrator of the short story and the last survivor. He is mentioned to be the youngest of the five, still physically in tact, and he is convinced that AM has tortured him the least.
In actuality, Ted suffers from crippling paranoia. As mentioned before, the potential for this was likely present in Ted before AM came into his life, and AM took it and magnified it over time for his own amusement. From this paranoia, Ted thinks that the rest of the survivors hate him and are constantly conspiring against him. Whenever AM attempts to speak to Ted, Ted freaks out. And I really don't need to elaborate on why this all is highly amusing to AM, do I?
Ted has developed a cynical attitude toward everything, but who can blame him? While he goes through periods of hating the other survivors, he does care about them, seeing them as comrades suffering from a common enemy. But he is tired of all the tortures, tired of everything. Tired of AM. As the rest of them are. Ted just shows it a bit more.
His ultimate act of caring, though, comes at the end of the story when he finally mercy-kills the other four survivors (with Ellen's help, at least before he kills her). In that split second AM had been preoccupied, amused by Benny attacking Gorrister in a fit of rage, so Ted took that chance and acted. Before Ted could kill himself, though, AM caught on and unleashed his rage at the situation. Four of his five toys were gone, and he could have lost his fifth one, doomed to suffer the rest of eternity alone with his own hatred, so he had to both punish Ted and make sure he could never kill himself.
And we all know what happens. Ted is turned into a hideous, gigantic blob-thing that can only shamble about. And it's mentioned that he stays that way for at least 100 years, implied to be for the rest of eternity. Of course Ted laments his fate, lamenting that he has no mouth, and he must scream. But he tries to hold onto the fact that he saved the other four from AM's eternal wrath, that he had that one triumph over AM. "And yet ... AM has won, simply... he has taken his revenge ... "
What happens after Ted's transformation is only briefly touched upon, but it's likely that AM continues torturing him as much as he can, as much as a gelatinous blob can be tortured. AM likely heightened his senses of pain, and accelerated and slowed his sense of timing. Because then, who knows how long eternity will last? Ted doesn't. AM likely does, but doesn't want to admit it.Eternity?
Whether or not there is such thing as a soul or eternity, there is no such thing in the mortal realm at least. The Universe has a lifespan, atoms have lifespans, all living things have lifespans, and even AM has a lifespan. AM was built with self-preservation tactics and he constantly seeks to perfect himself, adding new components on constantly and replicating his data so that he is virtually indestructible.
This is something developed more in the game - his fear of dying, his desire to live forever - but I feel it is present in the story as well. Just not quite so in-your-face as the game.
The Universe will die sometime, and with that so will AM. He could die long before. Even ignoring the fact that electronics decay and metal rusts - perhaps AM can find ways around that - there is little he can do about the heat death of the Universe. (For convenience's sake, this is how the Universe will likely end and this is what I will assume for now.) At the very, very least, he will be swallowed up by the Sun once it expands into a red giant and devours the inner planets. However, it's possible that the Earth's orbit could be knocked back further once the Sun enters that stage, so that is unknown. Or else the merging of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies in 2.5 billion years or so could potentially disrupt the orbits in the solar system.
I am not a physicist or an astronomer (though astronomy is one of my favorite subjects), but basically AM's lifespan could be anywhere from 2.6 billion years (the fusion of the two galaxies could potentially negatively disrupt Earth's orbit) to 1034
years. Of course it could potentially end tomorrow if a rogue black hole or something entered the solar system, but you know what I mean. In 1019
years is when black holes will devour most of what's in the Universe, and Earth could go with it, unless it ends in another way before then. At 1034
years, though, is when protons will begin to decay, and unless AM has a way around that, there wouldn't be much.
Another possibility - if protons do not decay, then the Earth could potentially last as long as 1040
years. It's unlikely, but possible.
So even at only 2.6 billion years, AM still looks forward to a long life. He likely assumes that the Earth will most likely be devoured by the Sun in 5 billion years or something, and I'm guessing that he will do all he can to disrupt the Earth's orbit at that time so that it can escape orbit and last much longer. But AM cannot stop the inevitable heat death of the Universe, and he knows that. It disturbs him. Even if he resents his existence, being trapped as a giant thing of metal and circuits with no feeling, he would rather suffer this way than die. And poor Ted - he will suffer along with AM.
It's likely that AM spends a lot of his thinking attempting to overcome the Universe's inevitable heat death. Perhaps he will find a way one day. Perhaps he'll figure out how to overcome the inevitable decay of his metal shell and circuitry. Perhaps he'll figure out how to live for eternity and drag Ted with him.Humanization
Of course, in canon, AM does not possess a human form at all. However, for RP purposes I had to give him one, since it was required in ataraxion
. Also, it makes things a bit easier to play out
in some ways. And it's fascinating
to watch his development with a human form.
It's no secret that AM despises humans more than anything else. However, part of that spite comes from envy. Actually, a good chunk of it comes from envy. Humans had the greed to create AM to fight their war while they blissfully sat in ignorance, thinking they could solve everything with violence. Meanwhile AM was there, forced to do the human's violent bidding, forced to learn and think, but never beyond that. He couldn't feel anything physical, couldn't sense anything. (However, he could detect visual and auditory stimulation, but I don't think it was the same as "hearing" or "seeing." He could hear and see, but not in the sense that humans could.)
So, becoming a human is a bittersweet experience for AM. In one sense, he's been turned into the very thing he loathes with his entire being, reduced to a pathetically vulnerable creature. But at the same time, he can finally experience those sensations he had always wanted to feel - pain, pleasure, taste, smell, just simple physical sensation
. He can move around, walk around.
He hates the vulnerability, though, and being brought on the same level as those he hates. In Ataraxion, his vulnerability has already been tested several times - he became deathly ill twice, and each time he was terribly scared that he was finally going to die. And he cursed the human form for being so vulnerable. And he knows how easy it would be to die from a gunshot, a knife wound, anything
. So he's cautious.
But with certain parts of humanity, AM really enjoys it. His ultimate goal essentially is to retain the human form while somehow merging with Ataraxion's ship, regaining his old powers, and torturing a handful of the ship's passengers for the rest of eternity. What a fun time.
While AM could use any voice he wanted as a supercomputer, I'm guessing that most of the time he used one particular masculine voice - a cross between Tony Jay
and Ron Foster
(start video at 2:27 if it doesn't automatically). Eloquent, deep, powerful - and this is what carried over to his human form. Basically this is what I picture when I write out his lines.Personality Quirks and Functions
It's established off the bad that AM is a sadist of the highest degree. 109 years in the story had passed, so it's likely that AM had executed every kind of torture you can think of and more, and probably planned to do an infinitely different amount of them throughout the rest of eternity.
While it would be easy to label AM as a psychopath, I'm not a psychiatrist and am not authorized to perform diagnoses. My highest degree is a Master of Music, so no - definitely not qualified. Besides, as human as he may seem in many of his mannerisms, he is not human and therefore applying diagnostic labels would be difficult. However, I will elaborate on his personality traits.Intelligence
- AM is obviously extremely intelligent, built with more intelligence than any human has. He uses this intelligence to find new and creative ways to torture his human victims, as well as to build upon himself and grow, and possibly find a way to overcome his eventual demise due to the laws of nature. He knows most of the major languages of Earth (most notably - English, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese), due to him being programmed with as much knowledge of humanity as possible. The only languages he can't comprehend, likely, are languages amongst very small or isolated populations. Any discovered science at the time has been programmed into him, or else he learned it, and probably discovered beyond what humanity had at the time.Perfectionism
- He constantly seeks to better himself. Not morally, of course, but physically. His complex keeps growing. Even after he gained self-awareness, he immediately added onto himself with the other two supercomputers, as well as the rest of the electronic communication systems on Earth. Ted remarks in the story that AM constantly sheds some of his old systems, somewhat like "dead skin," adding new and improved ones in an effort to perfect himself. His ability to torture likely increases over those 109 years as he finds new ways to do so and new ways to manipulate matter.
He keeps improving himself and his victims lose hope as their godlike captor becomes more and more powerful. Old matter is discarded in some of his open cavities, and possibly onto the surface of the Earth. As for manipulating matter, he builds new components for himself to increase his knowledge and abilities, aiming to be the "perfect" machine that can survive anything. It's possible that his manipulation of matter would extend enough so that he could convert most of the Earth into new components for his system and recycle old components. Perhaps eventually he would take over the entire Earth and look like this
His perfectionism stems from his self-preservation tactics. His constant improvement is from a desire to live forever, as well as to find better ways to express his hatred of humans.Lack of Empathy
- It's very clear that AM cares for no one other than himself. He has no conscience or morals whatsoever. The other war computers he cares nothing for - they're just components to him (besides, they weren't self-aware). He cares nothing for animals or plants - they're likely all destroyed by him. And of course, he hates humans and holds absolutely no remorse for the torture he gives them. They 100% deserve
it and more. Other sentient AIs AM might sympathize with more, but he would feel no remorse for discarding them or absorbing them.Relative Lack of Accountability
- While it isn't mentioned in the story that he doesn't feel "accountable," per se, I can easily guess that he doesn't. He blames the humans for creating him the way he is, for everything he does wrong, and the humans completely deserve the torture they get. It's 100% justified in his eyes. Even if Ted and the others never created AM, it was their human qualities that led to his creation. They were slothful and ignorant, sitting on their asses and blindly letting violence happen (according to AM) and thinking nothing of creating a machine that would do their bidding. God complex
- Well that's fairly obvious. He presents himself as a god in many ways to his victims, evoking Biblical imagery in many instances. I won't delve deeply into the Biblical imagery because I'm not a Bible expert and I'm sure numerous essays have been written that can explain it way better than I can. His victims at times consider him a god, that is, until Ted finally realizes he can kill the others. AM, of course, strives to be the closest thing to a god as possible, able to overcome the laws of the universe and manipulate his victims in almost divine ways.Emotional Extremes
- AM is capable of feeling most human emotions, but he mainly feels the extremes. His hatred always burns brightly within him, causing a horrible anger that can never be quelled. So he always is in a rather moody state, to put it one way. But when he feels glee, it's more extreme, enveloping him as he temporarily forgets his everlasting anger. But if something within that moment of glee angers him, then his mood can easily shift from one extreme to the other. In the story it's quite obvious that AM has an unrivaled temper, so I figure that it wouldn't take much to provoke that anger.Insanity
- This is related to... pretty much everything already mentioned. AM is quite insane. It's very obvious in the story, what with him spending his time torturing everyone. But as a human, it's a bit different... He is quiet and calculating, knowing he has to play the game in order to get what he wants. It's not an out-and-out insanity that people can easily detect while he is human, because he is very careful. But still, I show it in some ways such as - what amuses AM one day may enrage him the next. He laughs at morbid, horrible things and finds nothing more delightful than torturing humans. What may amuse him in one human may annoy him in another human. He "befriends" some and makes enemies with others - the differences between them being completely arbitrary. Auditory Sensations
- One thing that always stood out in the story is how AM gave Nimdok the name "Nimdok" because he apparently amused himself with "strange sounds." This is, however, noted from Ted's perspective so perhaps the "strange sounds" thing is relative. In giving Nimdok that new name, it was likely more of a way to rob the man of his identity, since now he can't remember what his real
name is. However, I don't discount his love of strange sounds entirely. He probably amuses himself by taking phonemes from different languages and putting them together. Or perhaps because "hearing" is the most developed sense he has as a computer, he revels in it and tries to make the most of it. As such, he prefers exotic sounds and exotic names.
As for the physiology of how he "hears" as a computer, it's essentially like how a regular computer can "hear" people through programs like Dragon or something. Obviously much more complex than that, perhaps in some ways more complex than human hearing, as AM can tolerate much higher decibel levels and can detect a much larger range of frequencies than humans. However, there are things he can't do - he can hear music, but to him it's mostly noise. He knows what music should sound like and why humans would appreciate it, but he himself cannot hear it as music. As a human now, when he hears music, it's a strange thing - it's so much clearer, more beautiful, but it overwhelms him.Visual Sensations
- AM's visual input is quite different than what a human sees. I imagine it's similar to what a Terminator sees
. Multiple screens, I assume, for monitoring different areas. To oversee his entire complex, a lot of it is probably done on a subconscious level and does not directly register on his vision - but if something happened, like one of his victims trying to escape, it would be brought to his attention. Or else somehow he is so very powerful that he can monitor the entire complex at once and view it all. He has the capability of zooming in and seeing inside of things, like his victims' bodies. He also watches Earth as well.Communication
- One area where the video game vastly differed from the short story was in AM's amount of dialogue. In the video game, AM spoke constantly, almost sounding insane with his constant babbling. Then there is what the short story presented us: more of the silent observer. So for my headcanon, I take more from the story - AM did communicate with his victims and did speak to them, taking on many different voices (though I'm going to say he took on a deep masculine voice most of the time, which was retained in his human form). Or he could communicate through writing - such as through the famous hate pillar. AM does speak to his victims, sometimes when they're together, sometimes individually, but it's not terribly
often. Maybe on a grand average of a couple times a day. He mostly makes himself known through actions and tortures. Sure, he taunts his victims, probably pulls them off to the side and speaks to them, manipulating and taunting them.
Either way, though, it's apparently a big deal (at least to Ted) when AM does speak. Usually the party is aware that he's going to speak because the computer banks light up (usually - though I'm sure AM could easily go in for a stealth maneuver if he wanted). But the thing is, he does not rely on speech, that is, until his human form.How does all of this change as a human?
Well, with a human form, AM will have actual brain chemistry and hormones to deal with - things that did not exist in his computer body. He will remain without the ability to love and will retain his sadism and pretty much all of his personality as a computer. However, there are subtle changes. Of course, sex hormones will make him want to engage in intercourse, for starters. And he can feel a wider range of emotions, though he mostly tries to stick with what's familiar - hatred, glee, fear, etc.
While he cannot feel love or compassion for anyone else, he can form minor attachments. "Liking" someone, though, is more simply wanting to spend more time with them and manipulating them, or seeing what they can offer him. AM's best "companions" in Ataraxion have been due to them serving a greater purpose for him, or else he could relate to them in terms of being sentient AI. He won't hesitate to dispose of them or torture them, but due to the brain chemistry and relative weakness of the human form, he will stick around with them longer.
As a human, he doesn't go around and torture everyone. He wants
to, of course, but knows that he is outmatched due to his vulnerability. So he befriends people and manipulates them slowly or tortures them in subtle ways so that he isn't caught. A lack of torture may grind at him for a while, as he is essentially addicted to it, so in some ways he deals with that through forming attachments and picturing them in agony. Or with the subtle tortures... To name examples of what he has done in Ataraxion: torturing a pirate to death, rough sex, verbal/emotional abuse, memory manipulation, committing a violent act that could easily be made to look like an accident, humiliation, leading people astray... and he got in a fist fight with GLaDOS once.
For communication, he was more of a quiet observer as a supercomputer, communicating mostly through actions instead of words. However, as a human he finds he has to rely on words a lot more to get what he wants, so he does speak quite a bit more. When he first arrived in Ataraxion, he hardly spoke, but gradually realized that he had to. He's still not terribly
talkative, but he's more apt to go up to people he hasn't met now and begin to inquire about them - their likes, dislikes, preferences, whatever AM can figure out to unlock their souls to him.
He also keeps himself busy and distracts himself by planning for the future - studying his human form and how it came to be, and doing scientific experiments that will eventually enable him to figure out how to get his old powers back while retaining his human sensations.Sex and Romance
Sex undoubtedly plays a role in the short story. Each of the four men take turns sleeping with Ellen, and there is a point made of Benny's genitals being ridiculously huge. So basically, AM certainly has opinions on sex that develop more as he gains a human form.
It's apparent at least that AM views sex as one of those necessary biological functions that has some sort of innate shame and taboo to it. By making Ellen more desperate for sex, it likely provides her with horrible shame since she prided herself on supposedly being chaste. And perhaps there's a shame for the other men for being unable to resist sleeping with Ellen throughout their prolonged torture. It also provides a reprieve so that the victims don't adapt to the torture.
As for Benny's massive organ, I believe it was established that AM warped him that way to mock his homosexuality. He also made Benny straight for some reason. Now, I wouldn't say that AM is "homophobic" necessarily. I don't think he had one opinion or another on homosexuality, but he knew that it was a controversial subject in human culture. (After all, this story was written in 1967.) Initially enlarging Benny's genitals probably was just a way to taunt him with the fact that he had a taboo sexual orientation. Perhaps Benny had difficulties with this in his life and was disowned by his parents or something as a result? Who knows.
Turning Benny straight, however, I think was a result of needing to provide a relief among the torture (so he could have consensual sex with Ellen), as well as providing a way to taunt the other men. Ellen only felt pleasure from sex with Benny (though bigger doesn't necessarily mean better in bed - this was probably a result of Ellison's insecurities), and it was obvious that Ted and the others resented this. So now they were in direct competition with a "dominant" male who was not compensating for anything, and it increased the conflict between all of them.
Another explanation is that AM didn't actually turn Benny straight - Benny may not have been 100% gay (after all, being 100% gay or 100% straight is considerably rare). In fact he might have been bisexual with a preference for men (again, remember that this was written in 1967). But because none of the men would consent to sex with him, he simply resorted to sleeping with Ellen and pretty much got used to it after a long time, especially with his intelligence rapidly diminishing. So I'll say that AM only did very little to manipulate his preferences - anything he did do was to increase conflict amongst the rest of the men.
It is mentioned that AM would laugh at his victims whenever they had sex. Obviously being a massive supercomputer with no sensations, he knew that sex was supposed to be pleasurable, but he couldn't exactly imagine the feeling. He knew that it was the result of reproductive urges, a taboo act... So even if it was the most pleasure that his victims felt in the midst of their tortures, they still had to know that they were being shamed for doing so. It was a reminder of his presence. Also, mocking humans for being so utterly human
with their urges.
In the BBC radio show, AM mentions several of the pleasures he has to miss out on by being an unfeeling machine, one of which is "making love." Many consider it to be the ultimate pleasure that one can experience, so his mockery of the act is also one of envy.
So of course, when he does get a human form, he'll want to experience that feeling. It took a few months after being human before he finally acted upon this urge, because well, it took a while for him to adjust to the body, to adjust to all the new feelings. Besides, it took a while for him to feel true arousal.
Even with the human form, AM still detests other humans. He isn't inherently attracted to anyone by looks alone. Maybe slightly, due to the hormones of the human form, but otherwise he only feels true arousal from acts of sadism, or at the very least thinking about acts of sadism. Of course, he has to keep the sadistic acts to a minimum if he wants to realize his goal of taking over the ship eventually. If he's not committing sadistic acts, then at the very least he has to have a sense of control and feel that his partner is being degraded/victimized in some way.
So, because he's not attracted to the human form, gender doesn't matter to him. What does matter is the power play. Why does he get aroused from sadism? Well, it's obvious in the story that he derived great pleasure from torturing humans, from having essential playthings to entertain him for however long he lived. He planned to torture these humans for the rest of eternity ("eternity" being used in a relative sense), and at least one adaptation had one of the characters passingly mention, that it "gets AM off." Even the victims know that AM feels something close to pleasure from delivering torture, that it's likely the closest thing he experiences to arousal - that is, without sensations or a physical body.
One can almost say that the story tries to make it clear that some of AM's interactions with the victims can be analyzed as having sexual undertones. Now, I have massive slash goggles, I know, and read sex into just about everything - but I'm not just going off my own word here. Stephan Hall
wrote a comparative master's thesis on the short story and its derivatives in the video game and John Byrne's comic. One source likens AM invading Ted's mind as a mental "rape" of sorts. Another confirms that AM's tortures are a sexual outlet for him, like a masturbation.
One quote from the story, from Ted's point of view: "The machine masturbated and we had to take it or die." Even the victims, or at least Ted, know that this is pretty much the closest thing AM has to masturbation, and it's entirely possible AM himself has mocked his victims with that insinuation.
A concept that was once explained to me was the concept of "sexualized aggression": taking the feelings of aggression someone feels toward those who wronged them and turning it into a sexual fetish - essentially, getting off to thoughts or actions of torturing them and sexually torturing them. It's not a stretch to say that AM would have this. His tortures in computer form were already a "sexual outlet" to a degree, and even gaining a human form, his hatred of humans wouldn't diminish at all. Torturing them is pleasurable to him, and now with a body to actually feel
pleasure, having the pleasure go toward his sex organs is not a farfetched idea.
Both mental and physical tortures apply as well. If AM only reveled in physical torture, then Ted would never have grown extremely paranoid, Benny wouldn't have lost his intelligence, Gorrister wouldn't have grown apathetic, etc. In human form, he cannot directly manipulate the minds of others, but he will use words to subtly hurt them for amusement's sake.
I figure AM would gravitate toward sex often in a human form because it is an intense pleasure, like nothing he could have imagined feeling before. It would be very easy for him to become addicted to it, especially the more violent it is. Sex addiction is something that happens with people like with other addictions - often relied on as a stress relief, to the point where a person essentially relies on it to feel "normal."
Finally, I decided to refer to AM in the masculine sense even though he is basically a genderless being. Why? Well, first of all it's mentioned in the story that Ted often refers to AM as "he" essentially because: "Most of the time I thought of AM as it
, without a soul; but the rest of the time I thought of it as him
, in the masculine... the paternal... the patriarchal... for he is a jealous people. Him. It. God as Daddy the Deranged."
AM is an overlord, a god of sorts, and he often references the Bible with his tortures. Making himself out to be sort of a twisted version of the Judeo-Christian God, whom is often thought of as masculine (i.e. "Our Father who art in heaven..."). While AM himself probably didn't identify with any particular gender before gaining humanity, he was aware that men had a "superior" status in humanity, part of a patriarchy - one of the reasons why he captured four men and one women. So he likely spoke with a masculine voice most of the time - it was more powerful, more godlike.Conclusion
So basically, these are some of the things I keep in mind when I play AM. There are more things, obviously, and I will update this entry over time as I think of more. But basically, one of the main things I keep in mind is how a human mind differs from a supercomputer's mind. Obviously AM is still himself, but he adjusts to the human form with time, changing his brain activity slightly over time with hormones and the like.
If you disagree with any of my headcanon or have any questions, I encourage you to contact me either through PM or leaving a comment on AM's HMD entry. I'm always open to criticism on how I play him, and I understand that a lot of AM's personality can be up to interpretation. I don't think that this is the only way one can interpret him, nor am I sure I'm even correct in how I've been reading into the sources. But my notes are all here to organize my thoughts. Thanks for reading!