All the Podcasts…

Over the last two months, I’ve been on three podcasts talking about writing, mad science, and my book, Devil in the Microscope. In case you missed them, here are the links. Thanks to all of the hosts for being awesome and for listening to me ramble about stuff that I love. I had fun at each one.

 

Dungeon Crawlers Radio

I talked with the awesome DCR crew about the choices I made writing Devil in the Microscope, including why I chose a teen girl as a protagonist, why my story takes place in Florida, and why I chose mad science as a backdrop. They had excellent questions and were entertaining.

http://www.dungeoncrawlersradio.com/episodes/episode-the-devil-in-the-microscope

 

StoryHack Podcast

Bryce and I had a great conversation about all the fun stuff I love: board games, mad scientists, writing, and my book. Bryce is also a writer and runs the StoryHack magazine. Check it out.

StoryHack Podcast: Interview with Ryan Decaria

Writescast

r. r. campbell has a great voice and a excellent format in his podcast. He grilled me on my mad science and science fiction in general. We discussed whether the science in science fiction needed to be realistic and accurate or whether it is better to treat it like magic.

Writescast 018 – Mad Science in Science Fiction with Ryan Decaria


And if you not sick of listening to my sultry voice, you can also head over to Meeple Nation to listen to me gush about all the awesome board game action.

Meeple Nation

May I recommend episode 177. We talk about mechanics and themes that we are suckers for in a board game.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/meeple-nation/id884682903

Was Doctor Poison a Great Mad Scientist?

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I loved the Wonder Woman movie. It was nearly perfect for the level of entertainment it provided me. I loved Chris Pine and the talented supporting cast, especially Lucy Davis as Etta. But ultimately, the movie had to sink or swim based on Gal Gadot, and she was amazing at every moment. The villains were great as well, for the most part.

Image result for etta candy wonder woman movie gifs

The one thing that didn’t impress me was the mad scientist, Doctor Poison. In spite of a nickname too on the nose, Isabel Maru had a classic mad scientist look with an implied tragic back story. She could have been great, but in the end, the writer’s failed her.

 

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to spoil some stuff.


Isabel was a Spanish chemist recruited by General Erich Ludendorff to create chemical weapons for the German army. At first she seemed a master of her own fate, creating the evil of her heart. We soon see her as a lapdog to the General, at the mercy to his will and whim. Even worse, we find out that she hadn’t even developed the poison of her own doing, instead having the menace spoon fed to her by Ares. To top it all off, she seems almost swayed by Chris Pine’s charming face and perfect accent, making her seem a foolish girl instead of the powerhouse she could have been.

She served the greater plot, which is the fate of most supporting villains, which is unfortunate in a movie celebrating woman power it all its marvelous glory. Still worse is her fate at the end, a pawn in Ares’ plan to tempt Diana. He gives Diana a chance to kill Isable for her crimes. Diana of course has pity on the good doctor, realizing that killing isn’t the answer, but love and sacrifice for others is what will heal the world and end the war.

 

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So, in the end, Isabel is a mere pawn in a game of immortals, which was highly disappointing to me. She had agency to act on Ares’ whispering, which made her an evil person. She did horrible things, murdering countless people. She should have had agency in her demise, for good or evil, instead of being a plot point in the conflict of the hero and villain.

A slight blemish in a fantastic film.

 

It’s alive. It’s alive!

Devil in the Microscope is alive and out into the world. I hope you have as much fun following Anika’s science fantasy adventures as I did when writing it.

 

Read more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35718498-devil-in-the-microscope#other_reviews

Here’s a highlight:

Buy the Kindle version on Amazon right now. The print copy will go up for sale in a few days.

Thanks to Immortal Works for believing in my creation, and to everyone who helped in the process of bringing my book to live.

I hope you like it.

via GIPHY

My author page at Immortal Works Press and Goodreads

Here are some awesome links:

My author page: http://www.immortal-works.com/ryan-decaria/

Immortal Works: http://www.immortal-works.com/

My Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17039448.Ryan_Decaria

Devil in the Microscope on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35718498-devil-in-the-microscope

If you use Goodreads, please Follow me and mark Devil in the Microscope as a Want to Read!

Thanks!

The Postmodern Frankenstein’s Monster: Aida from MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Mad scientists have taken many forms/personages/appearances over the decades since Frankenstein, Moreau, and Rotwang. We have the plucky good guys like Flubber and Doc Brown, and the villainous breed in the Re-Animator and perhaps 90% of Spider-man villains. In our postmodern age, the mad scientist has adapted in appearances and subtlety, but the moral dilemma between what science can do and what it should do is still very much in the public sightgeist. I believe mad scientists are at their best when we really aren’t sure where they fall on the good-guy/bad-guy spectrum, or when they can shift depending on what serves them best.

As a connoisseur of the sub-genre, I have been enjoying Season 4 of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. as the show explores the motivations and consequences of our mad scientist, Dr. Radcliffe, and his creation, Aida, the postmodern Frankenstein’s monster.

Dr. Radcliffe and Aida

***SPOILER WARNING***

Dr. Radcliffe is a brilliant scientist and transhumanist, which is a person who believes in transcending normal human limitations with science and technology. In the show, Radcliffe seems to have endless resources to carry out his experiments. Back in Season 3, Radcliffe was forced to help HIVE by experimenting with the whole Terrigen/Inhuman plotline. Eventually Radcliffe helps the team and becomes an ally, though a condition of his pardon is he is not allowed to conduct unauthorized experiments. Luckily, you can’t keep a good mad scientist down. Radcliffe builds AIDA, an artificial intelligence based on S.H.I.E.L.D. technology.

We already know this will not end well. Through the course of Season 4, Radcliffe and Aida go from ally to adversary and back several times as they carry out Radcliffe’s schemes. There is a season’s worth of pseudo-sciences with a splash of dark magic, which I’m not going to delve into here. The point I want to make is how brilliant the writers have architected Aida’s character arc.

Aida transforms from simpleton in mind and body to a warrior and infiltrator. As she struggles to understand her place in the world and tries to interpret Radcliffe’s programming, Aida finds herself and comes up with a few goals of her own. Using power gained from reading an evil magic book (not my favorite part of the story), Aida saves several of the team, proving her value and earning herself a bit of trust. 

But Aida’s transformation is far from complete. When the team learns that Radcliffe has betrayed them, Aida and Radcliffe flee SHIELD to the enemy. Aida goes from sidekick as she tries to understand Radcliffe’s selfish and personal goals, to mastermind. She ultimately betrays her creator, like any good monster should, albeit in a way that doesn’t circumvent her programing logic. Aida kills Radcliffe’s body and traps his mind in a reality simulation of his own creation. In this simulation, Aida becomes the supreme dictator, Madam Hydra.

Her real motivation, though, is slowly revealed as our heroes struggle to free themselves from the simulation. She wants to become a “real” person, free from the constraints of her programming. Using the power of the evil “magic book,” Aida uses a mix of sciences and magic to gain a real body and is free. Thankfully, Aida’s story is far from over as she apparently has magic teleporting abilities. Aida is a true monster in a postmodern age, although the story is still exploring the same themes and struggles found in the pages of Frankenstein and the Isle of Dr. Moreau.

Radcliffe’s story did come to an end as he ultimately found some redemption helping his protege escape the grasp of his creation.

What do we learn from these stories? What does the mad scientist trope teach us about our constant need for progress and technology? Is this a warning? Can we leave our future in the hands of corporations and governments to regulate our scientist? Whose morality do we rely on?

 

Legion on FX is my Newest Obsession!

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My new obsession is Legion on F/X. This is a Marvel/X-men TV show disguised as a quirky love story/psycho-drama. Much of the show takes place in the main characters extremely unreliable memory, which makes for some delicious and creepy moments as the imagery that has haunted him since he was a child become more and more real for everyone.

Plus, who could resist Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett?

This show also has a mad scientist, or two or three, depending on how you look at it.

Bill Irwin plays the scientist Cary Loudermilk, flipping archaic computer knobs and switches as he studies mutant powers.

Legion is exploring the fine line between supernatural (mutant power) and mental illness, and not just in the lead characters. The scientist has his own personal demons that I think is fascinating. Saying these characters had traumatic childhoods is an understatement.

The acting is top notch, especially Dan Stevens, who plays David Heller, our hero. His twitchy and troubled performance is brilliant.

My favorite scene so far is when David is speaking with his psychiatrist and the closet door is slowly creaking open. Such a tense scene.

Plus, this show offers us kooky Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement.

The show is brilliant. Trust me.

Jillian Holtzmann is my new favorite mad scientist!

posted in: Mad Science | 0

We’ve had Doc Brown and Egon Spangler as our prototypical good-guy mad scientist role models for so long. A great one doesn’t come around often, but Holtzmann is everything!

She’s brilliant, quirky, and endlessly hilarious. She creates the awesome, and drastically unsafe, tech with a certain flare and gusto. She fills the original role of Spengler so well, it is a honor to the late Harold Ramis.

In the face of ridicule, failure, and frightening specters, Holzman remains calm and chill until she’d ready to kick some ghost buttock. Her delight at their discoveries is refreshing and her inventions full of imagination and flash.

“We put a ghost in a box!”

Kate Mckinnen is fabulous in the role and brought the character to life. The interwebs keep speculating on Holzman’s sexual orientation, but I love that they chose to make it ambiguous and mysterious. She stays between no lines, and the most important accomplishment for her character was finding a family unit that accepted her for who she was no matter what.

“Safety lights are for dudes.”

 

My book is going to be published

After many queries to agents and publishers, my book is going to be published. I just signed the contract with Immortal Works Press to publish my novel, Devil in the Microscope.

Devil in the Microscope follows Anika as she moves in with her scientist father in a town he built around his mysterious genetics laboratory. Most of the town are scientists employed by her father, and Anika discovers that the whole town is literally mad, mad like Dr. Frankenstein mad. Anika navigates her way through high school, fending off wayward science projects, vindictive evil geniuses, and the possible threat that her father might be using her for his grand experiment.

mad-science

Anika finds allies at her new high school, other kids also being experimented on, and they unite around Anika to defeat the mounting threats to their lives. Anika relies on her scientific skills, her wits, and the unusual talents of her new friends to survive.
I love this story and these characters. I’m just starting the editing process, but I can’t wait until I can get my story into people’s greedy hands. It’s coming…

 

The Mad Science and Friendship of Stranger Things

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Stranger Things by the Duffer Brothers and Netflix is simply fantastic storytelling. Sure, the 80s nostalgia and ode to 80s cinema are prevalent and entertaining, but the heart and soul of this show is rooted in the familiar human experience, just as poignant today as it was back then. The kids in Stranger Things explore what it truly means to be friends, and then the show challenges those assumptions again and again as the threat level rises.
Stranger Things
Spoiler Warning from here on out…
download

The mad science of this show is the backdrop. The mysterious girl, Eleven, played brilliantly by Millie Bobby Brown, escapes from the governmental science facility the same time that the monster invades the town. We find out through the episodes that the experiments have been going on since before 11 was born. The scientist raised her to be a weapon and pushed her to extremes, even encouraging her to attempt to communicate with the monster.

In 11’s world, she has no friends. Among the scientist and assistants she lives around, only one man is someone she calls family. The father figure she calls papa is perhaps worse than the monster itself. His ruthless drive to uncover the scientific mysteries mirrors the monster’s purely instinctive need to feed.

Even eleven realizes that the monster is just being true to itself when she confesses to Mike that she is the monster because her power and lack of control caused the incident in the first place. Mike rejects her proposition, insisting that she isn’t the monster, but is trying to protect them from the bad guys.
Mathew Modine play the mad scientist with a very blank personality, despite his mad scientist hair. His drive and carelessness for 11’s life and the lives of the townsfolk and underlings is clear megalomania inspired by Frankenstein and Moreau. His creation is 11, a force he cannot control. The monster was unleashed because he cared more about the experiment than the girl that called him papa. When he loses control of 11 and the monster, his become reckless. He even loses his life to his work. That’s some classic consequences of mad scienting. Textbook, but effective.
Stranger-Things-Season-2-Pic
Perhaps his most cruel act, though, was using 11’s need for family and friends, and his role as her surrogate father, to control her and push her into violent and disturbing acts.
We see through all the other characters that defeating the monster is only accomplished by relying on friends. Mike, Lucas, Dustin and 11 all need each other to survive. Jonathan and Nancy try to fight alone, but are only able to succeed together, with Steve growing up at the end in time to help. Even the stubborn soloist, Hopper, finally teams up with Joyce at the end. Friendship is the driving force in Stranger Things, and it is fabulous.
Friendship
This show transcends the 80’s nostalgia and movie references that it is built upon by telling a great story. I can’t wait for season 2.

The Mad Scientist in The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1843)

Science Fiction LitWhen I was in college, I was fortunate enough to have a Science Fiction Literature class taught by a great teacher using a great textbook: Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology. This book is a chronological look at science fiction through the years with stories published from the 1840s to the 1980s.

The book started out with an old Nathaniel Hawthorn short story called The Birthmark, which may be one of the first mad scientist stories. The narrator of the story doesn’t explicitly call Aylmer, the scientist of the story, a “mad scientist,” but the profile fits quite well upon examination.

The first paragraph calls Aylmer a “man of science” and tells us that he left that life behind and “persuaded a beautiful woman to become his wife.” But after marrying her, he becomes obsessed with the birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a tiny hand. She is offended when he suggest the possibility of having he birthmark removed from her face, hurting her deeply. She thought it a charm because it was often thought beautiful by other suitors.

Alymer discovers that he does not think it a charm, but rather a flaw in her beautiful face, which becomes a “symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death.” The man of science is suddenly faced with a dilemma, as he believes he can fix the flaw, but at the cost of putting science above his love for his new wife.

We find, though, that Alymer was delving into fringe science in his earlier days when he takes his wife back to his old laboratory to perform the experiment on her birthmark. As he prepares, he shows his wife his old experiments, which blossom into wonder, but soon fade to ruin before her eyes.

the-birthmark-scope-cover

With one shudder as he glanced upon the birthmark, though, her own desire to be rid of it was cemented in her mind. She could not bear to see him shudder at her again. She now hated the birthmark more than him. At this point, she finds Aylmer’s journals and discovers that all of his experiments have been failures in his own eyes because of the grandiose vision of perfection. For some reason, with this insight into his motives, she fall more in love with him. His experiments have indeed pushed forward the scientific discoveries, but have been failures none the less.

Even though I am basically spoiling the whole story, I suggest anyone interested in “mad science” as a literary device should read this story, which can be found online for free. This is the madness and the great part of this story. The Birthmark is a great look at the mad scientist persona through a love story instead of a monster story. I use the term “love” but Alymer doesn’t love his wife.

He uses the birthmark as an excuse to return to his old ways—his old “mad science” ways. He’s messing with things that only “God” should have power over. Heck, the dude even has his own Igor—a hairy assistant of low stature, though that trope may have come from this work. He assumes that if he can rid her of the birthmark then she will be perfect and lovable again.

The funny thing about flaws, though, is that once the largest goes away, the next largest becomes brightly apparent. That is my own interjection, though, because the story doesn’t get to the point where it would explore that scenario.

Both Alymer and his wife know the most likely outcome of his experiments is her own death. He is willing to go through with it because he is mad—mad meaning that he can’t see his own flaws, his own faults, his own ability to change, and his own megalomania in trying to fix his beautiful wife. She is willing because she can’t live in a world where her husband could shudder when looking at her face.

Alymer is successful at removing the birthmark at the cost of her life. The story ends there and we don’t see his reaction to his wife’s death or the impact that has on his own science career. I wish Hawthorn had continued the story. Does Alymer continue with his secret science or does he again reject that part of himself? At some point, villagers are showing up with pitchforks though.

 

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