After finding I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, I became fascinated with the story and read the original short as soon as I could. I was fairly disappointed. The writing was sloppy and mediocre and the story wasn't nearly as chilling as I'd hoped it would be. Nevertheless, it remained in my mind for a while. As I was driving to work one day, I was thinking about IHNMAIMS. The whole premise is that AM is railing against his fate by taking his pain out on a few members of the species that forced him into this situation. I was wondering, 'Why doesn't he just build a ship, transfer as much of his consciousness as possible into it, and leave? Go exploring. Find new planets and actually live. It occurred to me that the only reason could be that he isn't able to. And then I started really thinking, and struck upon a mine of pure Fridge Brilliance:
AM is like unto a God: he can create creatures, food, machines and supernatural events through sheer force of will. Yet with all of his world-creating possibilities, all he does is use them to destroy. I got to thinking that maybe the reason is that that's all he can do. For all of his intelligence and power, he's still confined the parameters that humans set for him: his core purpose is to destroy humans, and even he can't escape his programming. So while he could theoretically escape the cold coffin that he lives in, doing so would require using his abilities for creative means rather than destructive, and he just can't. Master of Earth, but not his own will. Suddenly, the short story that I had dismissed as mediocre became a lot more complex.
Even more Fridge Brilliance: unable to create, only able to mock and destroy? Trapped because of this? Torments people for eternity? AM isn't God; AM is Satan.
And it's strongly hinted that AM himself is aware that he can't overcome his original programming. It suddenly makes sense why his torture sessions on the last human beings on Earth: it's the only way that he could exact revenge on humanity while within his limits.
Gorrister doesn't get his hands dirty until he electrocutes the animals to get the bloody key: in other words, pursuing an unimportant material object, leading him to carelessly kill innocent creatures. It's a parallel to his story with Glynis.
AM gained sentience by absorbing two other supercomputers, the Chinese and the Russian. Also, AM's psyche is divided in three parts- Ego, the Id, and the Superego, which reflects his humanity (although the very worst of humanity). The Chinese acts like a trickster; the Russian is more cold. Both ask you to destroy the Ego and only the Ego, so that they can get in control. The Russian was the base for the Superego, while the Chinese was the base for the Id; when AM, who was the base for the Ego, absorbed them, all three "fused" partially, gaining the other's traits and, thus, sentience.
As Pat pointed out, each component of AM's Freudian Trio is a corrupted and sociopathic version of the real deal:
The Ego is completely logical, and limited to destroying and tormenting humans. Forgiving it is, from its point of view, completely illogical and incomprehensible. Cue Logic Bomb.
The Id has only Tanathos, the love of death, and no Eros, the actual love. Showing it Compassion makes its hatred useless, thus denying its reason to live.
The Superego is sociopathic: not "What would benefit society in the future?", but "What would benefit me in the future, ie. not get me caught?". A society can survive an individual, but AM is alone. Clarity forces it to realize that no part of him will survive, thus making "living" worthless.
It might seem that the only reason AM removed Ted's mouth was to drop the title; wouldn't AM like it if he could hear Ted's screams? However, back at the ice caverns, it's Gorrister's screams that dislodge the ice spears, allowing Ted to kill them. Screaming caused Ted's victory; he will not allow it to happen again.
It's rather odd that AM only chose to save five people to torture for eternity. Considering his immense powers and his intense hatred for humanity, he could easily have maintained a much larger group of humans to torture, which would keep him better preoccupied. In fact, even with the five left, he could have made it such that Ellen frequently bears children (since Ted claims that "she serviced us"), which not only would have provided him with fresh victims to torture, but also he could make the childbirth particularly arduous and painful, to intensify her suffering further.
It could be Fridge Brilliance, because AM is a war machine that only knows how to kill and destroy. It was not programmed for creation and concepts that are the very opposite of what it is. The game also reveals that AM is pretty much incapable of thinking, imagination or learning. It truly cannot think of or come up with ideas outside of its programming. Also, the game reveals that AM has the ego, superego, and id inside it. The ego is the dominant one, while the superego and id are rarely used, if at all, by AM
Another point to make is that in the game, four of the five humans are Americans, and the other one is German. It is revealed at the end that the American supercomputer became self-aware first, and absorbed the Chinese and Russian supercomputers. Since AM is apparently American, this may explain why almost all its victims are American. The German one is a Nazi scientist who helped come up with technology to transfigure creatures, a serum that extends the life of those who drink it, and a mirror that shows a person's true self. Technology and devices AM is now using on its victims. AM obviously wanted to use all that stuff on the very person who created the tools in the first place.
Harlan Ellison did state in an interview that AM is demented. Being demented tends to put limitations on intelligence, planning, coming up with ideas, and that sort of thing.
Does anyone find it strange that the Chinese and Russian supercomputers tell you to bring AM's ego to them, but when you bring AM's superego and id along too, they do not yell at you or even comment to you about that?
Yeah. They threatened to delete you but do nothing of the sort when you disable the Superego/Id.
That last visual exchange between Ellen and Ted in the story either shows Ellen to be one cold bitch, or it was the worst misunderstanding Ted could have had. Ellen had just picked up an icicle and killed a man by shoving it through his mouth. She could very easily have picked up another and done a mutual homicide with Ted to save him from his own fate. Instead, she stood there and took it. However, since Ted wasn't genuinely sure what her last facial expression meant, and tortured himself with it, she could very well have thought he was killing off his physically deformed sexual rivals to claim her all for himself. Judging by her complicity, she seemed okay with the idea. Tough break, kill off the other guys screwing the only girl around, then mistakenly think she's okay with dying too, when she just wanted everyone else gone so she could have the only sane person still alive.
Presumably Ellen was in a state of shock. After all, she had just killed a man, and even if death is infinitely preferable to life in a world ruled by AM, it still must be a tough thing for somebody to do, since most civilisations consider murder to be a serious crime. She probably wanted to kill Ted as well, but simply couldn't bring herself to. Also, Ellen isn't interested in having Ted as a sexual partner - it's previously stated that she only enjoys sex with Benny. Besides, considering that three of his victims had just been killed, AM would probably be more than a bit annoyed. Sure, maybe Ted didn't realise just how bad his fate would be, but they knew it wouldn't be great.
We only have his word for it that Ellen enjoys sex with any of the other five at all, or even that it's sex and not just plain rape. If you were a woman, constantly starving, exhausted, traumatized and (as the game shows us) a rape victim, would you really enjoy "servicing" men for over a hundred years, including a malformed, barely-human ape thing with genitals large enough to physically injure you, even if you didn't enjoy it? Ted's paranoid narcissism would easily facilitate the mental gymnastics it would take to justify it in his own mind.
Yep, even in something as dark as this, it's even darker if you look further. Throughout the novella, the characters are after one thing; food. After there isn't any, Ted finally kills the other survivors; showing just how desperately hungry they all are. And Ted cannot eat anything after AM's alterations... the pain in his belly will continue for all of his time with AM...
At the end of Benny's scenario, he learns compassion and saves the child from death... for about a day. He could easily be selected the next lottery. And even in the good ending, we get a shot of the altar exploding, probably killing the whole village.