From the author: It's not often that famed mad scientist Dr. Clive Crawley allows a member of the press to ask impertinent questions. But yes, yes -- go ahead! Scoff and deride! Mock and degrade! But assert that the doctor is not a good parent, and be prepared for consequences. Consequences, I say!
Dr. Clive Crawley has made quite a splash – a less charitable person might say, a colossal ass of himself – with his presentation at the last World Science Conference. The topic? Robots. With human brains. And eye-lasers. From Mars? Maybe – I was laughing too hard by then to be sure of what he was saying. They might have been time-traveling, too – who knows. A freak, right? Kook. Psycho. Joke. But somehow this guy wrangled a spot on the stage at the WSF? WTF! Do they think he’s for real? Does Dr. C himself think he’s for real, or does he get off thinking he’s duped us all?
All this just goes to show you what the science establishment supports these days. It’s gone way beyond dodgy scholarship and outright hoaxes like evolution and global warming. Right? But beyond Crawley’s silly, self-aggrandizing grandstanding is a more sinister darkness, one that he has carefully kept hidden from the world. For I suspect Crawley is not the harmless clown that he pretends to be. There is a mountain, a shitload, of evidence that suggests – or really, compels us to believe – that Crawley has been abusing his 11-year-old daughter, Molly.
Science BuzzKill agreed to get me the gas money to go to the old guy’s house, and find out this lunatic’s dirty secrets. Yes, ace reporter Shannon Tindle – that’s me, asswipes – is on the case!
Dr. Crawley met me in his upstairs study – one of several in his ginormous house. This on a scientist’s income? Better check out his grant situation; he probably gets a buttload for toeing the party line. It is a large room, windows blocked by bookcases, desks overflowing with scientific junk, safety violations pretty much everywhere. Doc Crawley doesn’t seem to have settled on just what kind of scientist he wants to be; beakers leaned against telescopes, specimens in jars of formaldehyde sitting atop disassembled motherboards, and – I’m not shitting you – an old-timey van deGraaff generator. The room is lit brightly in places, and is impenetrably dark in others. There are noises -- electronic hums, a low grinding noise, radio static, squeaks and unidentifiable murmurs. The only odor in the room that can be politely described is the sharp tang of ozone.
His daughter, Molly, is not in evidence. No pictures of her adorn the walls, no drawings pinned up, no children’s toys strewn about.
Dr. Crawley sits like a schoolboy on the edge of a chair upholstered in fraying velvet. He is wearing a white lab coat, stained and burnt in spots, and leans forward -- why I don’t know, because as far as I can tell he’s not even trying to look down my blouse. Going for an Einstein vibe, his hair is a wild halo about his head, but his mannerisms are more like an electroshocked patient, sudden and convulsive; he is wracked by fits of giggling, uncontrolled movements, odd grimaces, and a voice that shifts from mutters to a full-throated bellow, and back again.
Yeah. A real prize. And just think – this is some poor kid’s father.
Me: Thank you for seeing me, Dr. Crawley. I hear you don’t give too many interviews. Why is that?
Crawley: A waste of time – of precious time! Talking to fools! Fools with glazed expressions, blank looks, visages of horrified incomprehension, or even more horrified comprehension – they cannot understand! They come to mock, to jeer, to steal!
Me: Well, I hope you don’t think that way about us. Our readers are all about understanding the cutting edges of science. But the forms of research that you are currently doing are somewhat unclear.
Crawley: Unclear. Yes, yes. Just my point!
Me: I didn’t notice your daughter as I came in. Perhaps she is with her mother?
Crawley: Her mother? Not a factor, in her particular case, no, no.
Me: Maybe she is staying with a friend?
Crawley: Oh, very doubtful! I am sure she is around, somewhere. She usually is.
Me: You don’t seem overly concerned. Most parents would be a little curious if their child was missing.
Crawley: There is, as yet, no evidence of foul play. But is this interview about Molly, or about my revolutionary discoveries, my astonishing breakthroughs, and my hideous failures?
Me: Oh, we’re curious about you, of course! Maybe you can start by talking about your education. You did advanced studies at the Institute of Scientific Research, right? Quite a place.
Crawley: The Institute, yes! It was there that I conducted explorations into forbidden topics, prohibited areas! Delving into secrets man was not meant to know. Late nights all alone with test tubes and test subjects, an unlocked cupboard of chemicals – paradise! Heaven, I tell you! And yet everywhere I met resistance, opposition, and doubt, from the fools, the incompetent, the petty and shortsighted (sometimes also nearsighted) idiots. On the other hand, they did have a pretty good cafeteria. The eggs – the eggs, I tell you!
Me: It’s hardly a secret that you left the Institute under something of a cloud.
Crawley: A cloud – yes, yes, I suppose it was! But it wasn’t nearly as toxic as was rumored, as was asserted, as was proven! And the effects faded rapidly – all too quickly! – in most cases.
Me: I – I see, I guess. Tell, me, do you, ah, keep in touch with your fellow researchers from the Institute? Still buds?
Crawley: Touch! Indeed not. They might be – sticky. The risk of infection! And their jealousy consumes them, their ignorance confines them, their work is tiresome, insipid, and unimpressive! Jenvold and Helman disdain to debate me, Denavov affects, has affected, not to notice the billboard I had erected, have erected, will continue to erect, outside his bathroom window! Idiots, all of them! Idiots, I tell you!
Me: Surely there are researchers you dorespect.
Crawley: And who would that be? Who are they, who the untutored masses look to? Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking – publicity hounds! And what have they done, really? When is the last time Hawking developed a death laser – can you tell me even that? No! And Neil deGrasse Tyson – well, he does of course have a space laser, but tell me – can he devisibilize a dog, or control the minds of fish? I think not! I was told he destroyed Pluto – but I checked! Still there! Yet another failure! They don’t even respond to my emails. I had hopes that Bill Nye the Science Guy would become a worthy colleague, or at least an adversary – his early work was quite promising – but he, too, is, has been, a disappointment, a frustration! Wasting time, precious time, educating the ignorant masses, debating kooks and charlatans!
Me: He debated creationism, I understand. It really was a waste of time, wasn’t it?
Crawley: Of course!
Me: But that’s the scientific establishment for you, right there. Isn’t it? Trying to crush opposing viewpoints? After all, there is apparently a lot of evidence for special creation. And that the Earth is not nearly as old as they say it is.
Crawley: You are saying words. I see that, I hear them! But what do they mean? Why do you speak?
Me: Well, didn’t they pretty much prove that so-called “Neanderthal Man” was just a modern man, with a birth defect? Not that the establishment would admit to that.
Crawley: Ah – I see, I comprehend! You are demonstrating the idiocy of the unlearned, the dogmatic and determined obliviousness of the population. But you must understand, my dear, that debating such as these serves no purpose! No objective, I tell you! Better to employ your time, your resources, your vigor, your élan and vim on research, on understanding the universe and on the construction of death machines!
Me: Whoa, there, Professor! Maybe you can sit back down? Time to dial it down a notch. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. But let us talk about some of your work. It is often quite unusual in scope and purpose. It’s been said, for example, that you’ve implanted the brains of monkeys into cows.
Crawley: Monkeys? Monkeys! Well, if that’s what you want to call them – very well!
Me: You mean this is true?
Crawley: In a sense, I suppose so.
Me: Well! I’m sure our readers would want to know why you thought that it was a good idea to do that. What were you trying to achieve?
Crawley: The results speak for themselves! In many cases, quite literally! What they say, however, is tedious and wearisome – complaints, always baseless complaints and imagined grievances. The honor I have bestowed upon them – unappreciated and undervalued! Their very milk sours on the tongue, and the cheese – oh, the cheese is all but inedible! Inedible, I tell you!
Me: I have to wonder if your daughter witnessed these experiments.
Crawley: Of course she did – she is an invaluable assistant!
Me: Is that why her school attendance has been so spotty? I’m told that it is not unusual for her to miss days, even weeks, at a time.
Crawley: It’s true that at times I forget to send her to that organization. I consumed by my work, you see. My work!
Me: So you admit, here and now, that you neglect your daughter?
Crawley: Really, what parent does not? I ask you! Yes, at times I forget to send her to that school, and of course there are more pressing concerns than meals or the doing of mere laundry.
Me: Interesting! I’m sure our readers would like to know, also, why she is often seen to have discolorations and bruises, when she does finally return to school.
Crawley: That is not a mystery, a conundrum, a puzzle! Things get quite lively in the lab. Some of the – what did you call them? – the “monkeys,” are, have been, will be quite recalcitrant, quite unwilling to cooperate! But Molly has not been seriously or permanently damaged, as yet. But I feel that you are, once again, changing the topic, the theme, the premise by which you gained the opportunity to interview me!
Me: Have I? I’m sorry. Let’s get back to Molly again later. The experiment you mentioned: transplanting the brains of one species into another – quite an achievement, if true. But how do you respond to those who say that in doing this, you are playing God?
Crawley: I am not playing!
Me: I don’t really see who would want a cow with a monkey brain. Have there been practical applications of your work? Have any of your experiments resulted in products that are sold to the public?
Crawley: Everywhere there are fools -- at the Institute, at the Academy, in business, in pressure groups, in Girl Scout covens. Though they finally did accept my recipe for Thin Mints; I suspect, I am sure, that my chemical additive, which causes them to be so highly and unforgivably addicting, and by “them” I mean the cookies, was the deciding factor. However, the ASPCA objected to my solution to animal shedding – do they not understand, can they not comprehend, that with the removal of the underlying epidermis, the hair spewed forth from that skin would no longer be shed? And the AMA didn’t like my memory-enhancement drug!
Me: Why was that?
Crawley: How do you expect me to remember something like that? It was tested, I do remember that much, I trust, quite thoroughly tested.
Me: Do you do animal-testing?
Crawley: No, I find their responses and rejoinders less than useless. In any case, I have Molly.
Me: Wait a sec. You test your experiments on your own daughter?
Crawley: If she is close at hand, naturally so.
Me: And do you really you think this is, in any way at all, ethical?
Crawley: Of course! Molly is always given the chance, the opportunity, to decline, to refuse to participate, sometimes even before the experiment has fully begun. And she is a quite intelligent child. Really very bright, I tell you.
Me: I see! Well, just let me make some notes here. OK. You were talking about the fact that your products have been met with little success in the world.
Crawley: Just so! And it is not just the AMA. Other professional associations have decried my organic-free lawn shampoo, my fat-free neighbor-nullifier, and my free Re-Construct-A-Corpse child’s game! And the Patent Office – oh, the Patent Office! They scheme to thwart me! They never accept my applications! Hacks, hacks all – and frauds and rogues. Rogues, I say!
Me: Ah, yes – I did look into that a bit. Some of your patent applications have bordered on, shall we say, the preposterous. And according to the Patent Office, certain of your applications have been deemed too hazardous for their intended uses.
Crawley: Nonsense! My design for a mango-cutter – dangerous? I think not! A danger only to mangoes! And, for some strange reason, kiwis. The fruit, not the bird. Usually. Although…
Me: Yes. According to your specifications, though, that design called for the inclusion of quite a bit of plutonium—
Crawley: No more than was absolutely necessary! With a little extra, just in case!
Me: —and it did more than just slice mangoes--
Crawley: It has multiple uses –a time-saver in the kitchen or on the road!
Me: —such as liquefying nearby silverware and sending kitchen staff members into alternate dimensions. Could you honestly say that something like that, even if it worked, would be an appropriate device to have in the home?
Crawley: Might there not be mangoes hidden away in the other dimensions? Have you proof that there are not? But come now, come, we’re all adults -- follow my logic! There is nothing, nothing, that cannot be misused. That pen in your pocket – yes, that pen! -- it could be used to, to… to put out an eye! Yes! Although, to maximize that possibility, that option, that capability, modifications will necessarily be made. Quite easily made! A rotating blade— perhaps randomly emitting a laser. But the Patent Office would, again, claim that I was mad, quite mad!
Me: Are there any projects now awaiting approval at the Patent Office?
Crawley: Yes, yes! A blanket, In fact, an electric blanket!
Me: Ah! Just the thing to keep you warm on cold nights.
Crawley: Why, yes! Now that you mention it – yes! It would also have that effect! In addition to electrocuting intruding bedbugs and invading cats. But no -- to provide merely a comforting warmth – no, no. I think not. Certainly not! The power level required for that would be far, far lower than my most minimal setting.
Me: I understand you regularly present your findings at scientific conferences, like at the most recent World Science Conference. Do you find these events useful?
Crawley: Not at all! They laugh, they jeer, they ask questions before the pre-announced Q and A time period! However, I feel it is, it has been, it will be worth it, if only for the opportunity of giving my daughter the experience, the occurrence, of traveling all over the world. She has seen seminar rooms in Vienna, where they laughed at me, the conference center in Rio de Janeiro, where I was bombarded with impertinence, yes – and hotel rooms in Brisbane and Detroit! Quite an education for a young child. Indeed, unsurpassed!
Me: A lot of rooms, anyway. Really fascinating. But aside from attending conferences, you’ve been called something of a recluse. Many of your neighbors report that they thought this house was either abandoned, or haunted, or both. Do you cultivate that air of mystery?
Crawley: A recluse? A recluse, is it? Who has been spreading such slander, such malicious rubbish? Mrs. Abseck, isn’t it, she with the cat and the lawn sprinkler! It is untrue – it is nonsense! I get out from time to time – I do! I attend conferences, as I mentioned! I purchase – I suppose you must call them “items” -- at the local shops. I buy milk – great quantities of milk, I tell you! Not for human consumption -- of course not. Also, I like Pop Tarts. And I attend performances. Oh, the joy, the elation, the ecstasy of performances! I applaud, I laugh, I writhe on the floor, spittle flying!
Me: Quite the fan of popular entertainment, I see. Concerts? Plays?
Crawley: Indeed not. From my window, or through the sights of my – my devices -- the human drama! The spectacles! They run along the streets, screaming and in panic – and the lucky few, yes! The lucky few, the survivors, they can be thought of as winners, in a very temporary and limited sense, of the grand game! Until… until they… Ah! But in the end, in the end they turn against me, they sign petitions and light torches and cast wary and sardonic glances!
Me: If I may be frank, you must know, Dr. Crawley, that your – your appearance, the way you speak – these are not exactly the best ways to comfort those who encounter you, and who may misunderstand your work. Tell me: How much of it is an act? The lab coat, the unkempt hair, calling everyone a fool. Are you playing a part?
Crawley: I don’t understand your question. Rearticulate, restate, rephrase!
Me: I mean, so much of what you look like – it’s like a character in a B movie from the Fifties. It isa joke, right?
Crawley: A – a joke? Is that what you said?
Me: I’m only wondering if some aspects of your demeanor were conscious references to a kind of stereotypical—
Crawley: Your statements are nonsensical.
Me: Come now, doctor. Let’s just cut the crap. You are obviously aware that the silly stained lab coat, the hair, the mannerisms and vocal tics, are all a big joke. But what I – and I am sure my readers – cannot find funny is the way that your innocent daughter is neglected and abused in this household.
Crawley: Silence! Oh, I should have known, have realized! Like the others you come merely to sneer and deride, to pooh-pooh and ridicule! My generosity of spirit, my innocence, has been once again taken advantage of! I invite you into my home, my sanctuary, my asylum – and you react with such predictable disbelief and suspicion! Doubt and mistrust, I tell you! And then – to imply, to suggest, to hint that I somehow treat my daughter in an inappropriate or unduly dangerous and nonchalant fashion – no, no! This I can not accept!
Me: It’s not really up to you, though, is it? My readers —
Crawley: You are like a – a primitive! An unscientific, unwashed, cave-dwelling hominid of some kind, the kind whose very existence you claim is doubtful! A co-habitant of mammoths and saber-toothed tigers, though actually the latter were not tigers at all, in the strictest sense!
Me: Well, excuse me if I dare to stand up for the rights of the young, for the due care that everyone--
Crawley: Too late, you attempt to render a weak, a feeble, an insincere apology! You have shown your true colors, your inner heart, and it discomforts me, it wounds me, it pains my soul! To insinuate that Molly, yes, even Molly -- but I have ways – yes, ingenious and cunning ways – to convince you, to change your mind – restructure your brain! Above your chair is the emitter – well, one of the emitters, you have to have several about the place – and if you hold yourself quite still, the pain will be somewhat minimized! But wait! No! A cave-dweller – yes! Your natural neighbors! I will send you back – back home! Allow me a moment, while I wrestle, while I struggle to move this piece of equipment into position.
Me: I guess this ends our interview. I’m sure you will soon see the results. My byline featured at the top of the site, and Child Protective Services paying you a long, painful visit. I regret it’s time for me to go.
Crawley: Ah – finished! Sit back down! The lever has been pulled, the switches pressed, the dials – repurposed from an old stove, you see? Ingenious! – set to the needed settings! But what were you talking about just now? Ah -- time! Exactly! You willregret it, as you say – you will feel it most keenly! Not immediately, no – it takes – well, time – to reach the full effect. Around 9:30 tonight, as the fools measure time, the alignments will occur, and you will find yourself catapulted back, back, I say!
Me: 9:30, Doctor? I’m afraid at that time I will at the opera with my fiancé.
Crawley: Perhaps, perhaps – but not for long! Too late, far too late – or perhaps I should say, too early! – will you realize, will you understand my abilities, my greatness! And then perhaps Molly and I will get some ice cream.
Me: Yeah, that’s going to happen. I’m going to suddenly grasp your amazingness. Thanks ever so much.
Crawley: You’re very welcome, I’m sure.
It is with great sorrow that we report to our readers that shortly after submitting this interview to us, Ms Tindle inexplicably vanished while on a date with her fiancé, perhaps falling victim to foul play. We are honored to have worked with such a bright and acerbic wit, and it is devastating to lose such a fine writer. We join her family and friends in praying for her safe return.
Next month in Science BuzzKill…
Science Buzzkill Interview:
This story originally appeared in Perihelion SF.