Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What We’re Reading: Speculative Fiction

The mad scientist has been a science fiction standard since the genesis of the genre with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818. Many novels and films revolve around a scientific genius and his (or her!) plans, but are they necessarily mad? And are their plans truly nefarious or only “evil” from a certain point of view? Some of the genre’s best and brightest contemporary authors explore this archetype from the inside out with fascinating, insightful and often hilarious results in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.

Within this collection of short stories, editor John Joseph Adams has gathered a wonderful selection of mostly new material (only two have been previously published) exploring this sci-fi staple. Of particular note are:

“Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List,” by Austin Grossman: The title pretty much says it all.

“Father of the Groom,” by Harry Turtledove: When a mad scientist hears his family talking about his son’s fiancé, he decides it’s time to try out that new piece of equipment! (Who knew that Harry Turtledove, the master of alternate histories, could be so funny?)

“The Angel of Death Has A Business Plan,” by Heather Lindsley: A young woman has found an untouched niche in the overloaded career counseling market: supervillains!

“Rural Singularity,” by Alan Dean Foster: When a fledgling reporter is sent to rural New Mexico to check out a lead about two-headed chickens, he finds the story of a lifetime.

“Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution,” by Carrie Vaughn: A visit to a supposedly retired scientist to determine if he has turned all of his scientific materials over to the authorities uncovers more than secret files.

“Rocks Fall,” by Naomi Novik: Sometimes the line that separates heroes and villains is thinner—and fuzzier—than we like to think.

“We Interrupt This Broadcast,” by Mary Robinette Kowal: A question rarely asked (Can a mad scientist love?) is explored in this story.

“Mofongo Knows,” by Grady Hendrix: Time is a force that affects even mad scientists and the heroes who pursue them.

While this is an enjoyable collection of stories that seem primarily just for fun, the authors do manage to slip in some interesting and thoughtful ideas throughout. The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is a must-read for anyone interested in superheroes or mad scientists, as well as readers simply looking for something diverting.

Editor John Joseph Adams has put together several other anthologies and Burbank Library has five other collections on which he has worked. They are:

Other Worlds Than These: Stories of Parallel Worlds

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes : Tales of Mystery and the Imagination Detailing the Adventures of the World's Most Famous Detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes

The Living Dead

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Seeds of Change

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