Each article in this “Classic Creatures” series will define the classic creature, give you examples of it and provide resources and information about it righ here in Long Beach.
What are mad scientists?
For some reason, probably related to a fear of technological change, scientists in much of speculative fiction, particularly science fiction and horror, are depicted as having a few screws loose. Sometimes they are truly insane, other times they are merely eccentric or even bumbling.
Sometimes they do crazy things because they’ve been driven mad by love (as in the case of Metropolis’ Rotwang originally trying to bring back his dead love Hel). Sometimes they do mad things because of anger and pride (such as Captain Nemo or Dr. Frankenstein). Sometimes they are simply misguided in their hope (such as in Westworld or The Island).
The mad scientist character type is usually someone who isolates himself from people, dedicating his life to scientific discovery and progress. Often the stories that include a mad scientist have something terrible happening to him in his life that makes him go mad. But the mad scientist isn’t always a man. In Splice, it was a female scientist that creates the creature that destroys her life and kills her husband. And in Carnisaur, it is a female mad scientist that creates the virus that resurrects predatory dinosaurs.
Mad scientists can be evil, neutral or good … but what they do with their intellect always has disastrous results.
Examples of mad scientists
- Rotwang from Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang
- Victor Frankenstein from Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
- Doctor Moreau from The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
- Lex Luthor from the Superman comics
- Dr. Matthew Logan from 1985’s Day of the Dead
- Seth Brundle from 1980’s remake of The Fly
- Dr. Arless Loveless from the TV series Wild Wild West
- Dr. Griffin from The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
- Phor Tak from A Fighting Man of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Long Beach mad scientists
Of course, calling a scientist from Long Beach mad could be considered libelous, but there are other ways to find this iconic character here.
Mad Science is a children’s activity organization based in Southern California that holds annual camps at Heartwell Park Community Center in Long Beach.
You can find some vintage and not-so vintage mad scientist gear at the Long Beach Antique Mall.
Do you see the world through genre-coloured glasses? For more science fiction, fantasy and horror news and information — with a travel twist — check out The Genre Traveler, the travel resource for science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, at www.thegenretraveler.com.