David is just a little boy, a little boy who loves his mother, and his teddy bear. David wants to make his mummy happy, and tell her he loves her, but can't quite seem to find the words.
His verbal communication center is giving him trouble again. He may have to go back to the factory.
For more than four decades Brian Aldiss has been confounding the limits of satire, poetry, and science fiction, creating stories from the well of dreamscapes that come up sharp against the cutting edge of our technological society.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)|
About the Author
Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) has won many awards over the span of his 40+ year-long career, and was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. A longtime resident of Oxford, England, he is the author of dozens of novels and collections. His books include the Helliconia trilogy and the short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long," on which the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence was based.
Read an Excerpt
A vast crowd was gathering to see Flammerion behead himself. The TV people and Flammerion had rehearsed almost every move so that the event would go without a hitch. It was estimated that some 1.8 billion people would be watching: the largest TV audience since the nuking of North Korea.
Some people preferred to watch the event live. Seats in the stadium, highly priced, were booked months in advance.
Among the privileged were Alan Ibrox Kumar and his wife Dorothea Kumar, the Yakaphrenia Lady. They discussed it as they flew in to Dusseldorf.
`Why is he giving all the proceeds to Children of Turkmenistan, for heaven's sake?' Alan exclaimed.
`The terrible earthquake . . . Surely you remember?'
'I remember, yes, yes. But Flammerion's European, isn't he?'
For answer, she said, `Get me another gin, will you?' She had yet to reveal to him she was divorcing him directly after the beheading.
The Swedish royal family had reserved two seats in a back row. They felt that Sweden should be represented at what was increasingly regarded - by the media at any rate - as an important event. The Swedish government remained furious that their offer of a prominent site in Stockholm had been turned down by Flammerion's agent.
Fortunately, six Swedes, two of them women, had since volunteered to behead themselves, either in Stockholm or preferably Uppsala. They named the charities they preferred.
Dr. Eva Berger had booked a seat in the stadium on the day the box office opened. She had counselled Flammerion, advising against his drastic action on health grounds. When she realised she was unable to deflect him from his purpose, she begged him that at least a percentage of the proceeds go towards the Institute of Psychoanalysts. Flammerion had replied, `I am offering you my psychiatric example. What else do you want? Don't be greedy.'
Later, Dr Berger had sold her seat for nineteen times the amount she had paid for it. She felt her integrity had paid off.
Dr. Berger's feckless nephew, Leigh, happened to be a cleaner in the Dusseldorf stadium. `Thank God I'm not on duty tonight,' he said. `There'll be one hell of a mess. Blood everywhere.'
`That's what the public pay for,' said his boss. `Blood has a whole vast symbolism behind it. It's not just a red liquid, son. You've heard of bad blood, and princes of the blood, and blood boiling, or things done in cold blood, haven't you? We've got a whole mythology on our hands, no less, tonight. And I need you to do an extra shift.'
Leigh looked hang-dog and asked what they would do with the head when Flammerion had finished with it.
His boss told him it would be auctioned at Sotheby's in London.
Among those who were making money from the event was Cynthia Saladin. She had sold her story to the media worldwide. Most people on the globe were conversant with what Cynthia and Flammerion had done in bed. Cynthia had tried her best to entertain, and was now married to a Japanese businessman. Her book, `Did Circumcision Start Flammy Going Funny?' had been rushed into print, and was available everywhere.
Flammerion was passably good-looking. Commentators remarked on the numbers of ugly men who had bought seats in the stadium. Among their numbers was Monty Wilding, the British film director whose face had been likened to a wrinkled plastic bag. Monty was boasting that his exploitation flick, Trouble Ahead was already at the editing stage.
The Green Party protested against the movie, and about the selfexecution, claiming that it was worse than a blood-sport and would undoubtedly start a trend. British sportsmen, too, were up in arms. The beheading clashed with the evening of the Cup Final. F.A IN HEADOFF COLLISION, ran the headlines in the Sun.
There were others in Britain equally incensed by what was taking place on the continent. Among them were those who remained totally ignorant of the whereabouts of Turkmenistan.
As so often in times of trouble, people turned towards their solicitors, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Gore Vidal for consolation - not necessarily in that order.
The Archbishop delivered a fine sermon on the subject, reminding the congregation that Jesus had given His life that we might live, and that that `we' included the common people of England as well as the Tory party. Now here was another young man, Borgo Flammerion, prepared to give up his life for the suffering children of Central Asia - if that indeed was where Turkmenistan was situated.
It was true, the Archbishop continued, that Christ had not permitted Himself to be crucified before the television cameras, but that was merely an unfortunate accident of timing. The few witnesses of the Crucifixion whose words had come down to us were notoriously unreliable. Indeed, it was possible (as much must be readily admitted) that the whole thing was a cock-and-bull story. Had Christ postponed the event by a millennium or two, photography would have provided a reliable testament to His self-sacrifice, and then perhaps everyone in Britain would believe in Him, instead of just a lousy nine per cent.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop concluded, we should all pray for Flammerion, that the deed he contemplated be achieved without pain.
Visibly put out by this address, the British Prime Minister made an acid retort in the House of Commons on the following day. She said, amid general laughter, that at least she was not losing her head. `My head is not for turning,' she stated, amid laughter.
She added that the Archbishop of Canterbury should ignore what went on in Europe and look to her own parish. Why, a murder had taken place in Canterbury just the previous month. Whatever might or might not be happening in Dusseldorf, one thing was certain: Great Britain was pulling out of recession. This much-applauded speech was delivered only hours before Flammerion performed in public.
As the stadium began to fill, bands played solemn music and old Beatles' hits. Coachloads of French people of all sexes arrived. The French took particular interest in L'Evenement Flammerion, claiming the performer to be of French descent, although born in St Petersburg of a Russian mother. This statement had irritated elements of the American press, who pointed out that there was a St Petersburg in Florida, too.
A belated move was afoot to have Flammerion extradited to Florida, to be legally executed for Intended Suicide, now a capital offence.
The French, undeterred, filled the press with long articles of analysis, under such headings as FLAMMY: EST IL PEDALS? T-shirts, depicting the hero with head and penis missing, were selling well.
The country which gained most from the event was Germany. Already a soap was running on TV called Kopf Kaput, about an amusing Bavarian family, all of whom were busy buying chainsaws with which to behead each other. Some viewers read a political message into Kopf Kaput.
Both the Red Cross and the Green Crescent paraded round the stadium. They had already benefited enormously from the publicity. The Green Crescent ambulances were followed by lorries on which lay young Turkmen victims of the earthquake in blood-stained bandages. They were cheered to the echo. All told, a festival air prevailed.
Behind the scenes, matters were almost as noisy. Gangs of wellwishers and autograph hunters queued for a sight of their hero. In another bunch stood professional men and women who hoped, even at this late hour, to dissuade Flammerion from his fatal act. Any number of objections to the act were raised. Among these objections were the moral repulsiveness of the act itself, its effect on children, the fact that Cynthia still loved her man, the fear of a riot should Flammerion's blade miss its mark, and the question whether the act was possible as Flammerion proposed it. Among the agitated objectors were cutlers, eager to offer a sharper blade.
None of these people, no priests, no sensation-seekers, no surgeons offering to replace the head immediately it was severed, were allowed into Flammerion's guarded quarters.
Borgo Flammerion sat in an office chair, reading a copy of the Russian Poultry Dealer's Monthly. As a teenager, he had lived on a poultry farm. Earning promotion, he had worked for a while in the slaughterhouse before emigrating to Holland, where he had robbed a patisserie. Later, he was lead singer with a group, The Sluice Gates.
He was dressed now in a gold lame blouson jacket, sable tights and lace-up boots. His head was shaven; he had taken advice on this.
On the table before him lay a brand new cleaver, especially sharpened by a man from Geneva, a representative of the Swiss company that had manufactured the instrument. Flammerion glanced at this cleaver every so often, as he read about a startling new method of egg-retrieval. Figures on his digital watch writhed towards the hour of eight.
Behind him stood a nun, Sister Madonna, his sole companion in these last days. She was chosen because she had once made a mistaken pilgrimage to Ashkhabad, capital of Turkmenistan, believing she was travelling to Allahabad in India.
At a signal from the sister, Flammerion closed his periodical. Rising, he took up the cleaver. He walked up the stairs with firm tread, to emerge into the dazzle of floodlights.
An American TV announcer dressed in a blood-red gown said sweetly, `If your immediate viewing plans do not include decapitation this evening, may we advise you to look away for a few minutes.'
When the applause died, Flammerion took up a position between the chalk marks.
He bowed without smiling. When he whirled the cleaver 'to his right side, the blade glittered in the lights. The crowd fell silent as death.
Flammerion brought the blade up sharply, so that it sliced from throat to nape-of-neck. His head fell cleanly away from his body.
He remained standing for a moment, letting the cleaver drop from his grasp.
The stadium audience was slow to applaud. But all had gone exceptionally well, considering that Flammerion had had no proper dress rehearsal.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Having started by reading 'SuperToys...', it was exciting to learn about this collection; including the two follow-up stories to ST. As a fan of SF, especially neo-historic futurism, I feel anyone delving into this fascinating collection will gain solid insight into what seems to be our rapidly approaching technological future, and walk out with a solemn introspection and a new understanding of those around them. For a CM (CloudMaker org), this wealth of background only whets my appetite for the upcoming movie, A.I. while I, and 4500+ others(!), continue to envelop our LIVES in the intriguing, pervasive and ever-changing Internet adventure spawned by the PuppetMasters!! Who Killed Evan Chan?
I heard of Brian Aldriss when I started my initial research into 'A.I.' - The Steven Spielberg film releasing June 29th, starring Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law. 'Super Toys Last All Summer Long', Brian Aldriss' initial story about a young android/boy named David, captivated my attention like anything. And when I read that Aldriss wrote two sequels in '99, I just had to read them. Of course the book isn't out yet, but I, in my desperateness, go so far to order the British version of the book, which is out. So do the sequels live up to their predecessor? Definitely. 'Supertoys When Winter Comes' was up-to-par, while my personal favorite, though, is the third, 'Supertoys In Other Seasons.' They echo the same feelings and mood as in the original, while providing whole new content as well. Very well written. And to think there's eleven ADDITIONAL stories as well....