Due to this season’s focus on Doctors West and Caligari, I thought that visitors to Our Fair City might enjoy a bit of perspective on what the lives of such individuals are like in the real world. As it happens, I know someone who works in the “fringe” areas of both science and morality. For the past six years, I have served as the literary agent for the author, scientist, and one time ruler of an alternate earth in a future that no longer exists, The Vicomte de Vivisect. I cannot detail our relationship any further owing to possible prosecution by the World Court, but I contacted him to see if he would care to shed any light on the everyday workings of a scientist colloquially referred to as “mad.” Here is what he had to say:
We who dwell on the boundary between God and man often find ourselves subject to questions. These questions include the accusatory, “Where were you on such and such a night?” the impertinent, “Can you tell me the best way to dissolve a body?” and the expected “Why are you doing this? What is that? Oh God, no! Please…gurgle, gurgle… sound of mutagenic gas turning someone inside-out.” It is a rare occasion however when anyone bothers to inquire after our day. It is a shame really. You would think as our lives are considerably more interesting than the average person, more people would want to know the trials and travails of our daily grind, which incidentally usually involve a bonesaw.
And so, when my sometimes literary agent asked me to write something for this project of his, I agreed only on the condition that I be given the opportunity to address questions or misconceptions about the day to day life of a fringe scientist. To this end, I shall answer a query posed by my often too inquisitive colleague, “Why don’t mad scientists use Lasik?”
Within our very small community you may see a rather eclectic variety of appearances ranging from the lab-coated, wild-haired madman irradiating flora and fauna to gargantuan sizes, to the gentlemen with the bowler hat and obsession with gearwork creating a mechanical man. I myself, while obviously more than any stereotype, am often lumped in with those well-dressed gentlemen who stalk the streets of London in blood-stained aprons yelling, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” A preposterous over-generalization as, for various legal reasons, I am no longer allowed in England.
Yet, despite our disparate disciplines, one commonality you will find amongst all of us is the need for some kind of corrective or protective eyewear. Whether it be acid-proof goggles, black-rimmed spectacles, or my own half-moon reading glasses, we all wear the frailty of our eyes on our sleeves, a mark of our chosen much like the labcoat, the tesla coil , and the maniacal laughter.
Why then, you may wonder, when the science exists to correct such a human weakness with a fairly simple procedure, does a person who is willing to augment his or her own body with insect parts not avail him or herself of such technology? Why not use other cosmetic procedures to rectify the physical imperfections that either led to or are the result of experimenting with arthropod to human grafting?
The reasons are twofold. First, you must understand what kind of person is called to this work. Think back to your childhood. Think about all of your former classmates, all the cliques and clubs. Turn your gaze from the popular crowd to the collection of oddballs and misfits on the edges of the campus. Now look fifty feet past them to a lone aesthetically unpleasing figure scribbling chemical formulas in a notebook. This is your burgeoning mad scientists: a child with an off-norm appearance and obsessive enthusiasm for science. Now add years of ostracism, bullying, and rejection by those with lantern-jaws and trim waistlines. By the time he is exhuming bodies from freshly dug graves, he wears his physical flaws out of spite for the standards of beauty, embracing his unibrow, shining his bald spot, and yes, donning the unflattering eyewear.
The second reason why those in our community forgo eye surgery is that it is it a waste of a perfectly good laser. We are the pioneers of this field after all, having for nearly a hundred years threatened to destroy cities with one beam of light or another. As such, we feel devices of such grandeur should not be used for such mundane purposes. They should be mounted on a castle parapet or an orbital platform, not a dentist’s chair. They should be used to wipe millions off the face of the earth, not warts off your feet. Really, the minimum surgical use to which a laser should ever be put is in breaking the bonds of coherent matter or splicing crustacean genes into a human host. Anything less is simply undignified.
And so whether out of pride or jealousy or possession by an other-dimensional being, we soldier on with our impaired vision, looking through thick glasses and squinting eyes toward a future filled with awesome wonder or utter destruction, depending on if we are far-sighted or near-sighted. God help those with astigmatism and the horrors they behold.
The Vicomte de Vivisect