Why I love a scientist in my novel
“A good scientist is a bit like a rock star, crazy, wild eyed and totally unrealistic.”
I love scientists. (You: “Of course you do. You’re an author.”) It’s impossible to do without them when you write novels. They have a gift for creating havoc.
There’s the Mad Scientist who wants to destroy the world, or at least a city or a person. There’s the Good Scientist, who wants to save the world, or at least a city or a person. There’s the Juvenile Scientist, who wants to be big but stumbles on the way like a true sorcerer’s apprentice. There’s the Nazi Scientist, the Soviet Scientist, the Alamogordo Scientist who’s working on the first atomic bomb, and the Fatal Scientist, who’s actually a beautiful woman. There are scientists in schools and universities, in laboratories, on the South Pole… The list is endless. And somehow they never bore me.
One thing they seem to have in common: they never achieve anything. Of course there were Marie Curie and Albert Einstein and Thomas Bell and Alexander Fleming. But they, and some others, are the exceptions. Most scientists never achieve the saving or destruction of the world they’re after. They fail miserably. And if they’re successful, the fruits of their labour fall into the wrong hands. Usually the “wrong hands” mean either the military or some monster corporation, like a pharmaceutical or a software giant.
Scientists believe that they can make the world a better place in the near future by figuring out how to split atoms and start a chain reaction. Next thing you know there’s an atomic bomb coming down on Hiroshima.
Scientists believe that they can make the world a better place by creating a medicine that actually cures people. Next thing you know it’s patented by a pharmaceutical corporation and exploited, resulting in insurmountable costs for health care.
But no scientist believes that his work — once he’s found that thing he/she’s looking for — will be abused. This has always amazed me: scientists are supposedly fact-oriented, when in reality they can be completely blind to facts. That’s because, deep inside, scientists are really very creative. A good scientist is a bit like a rock star, crazy, wild eyed and totally unrealistic.
And isn’t that wonderful? That’s why the guest star of my Radio Detective novel “Acid Asset” is a scientist. Here’s a guy who succeeded in crossing the Iron Curtain and make it to the free west. As you can imagine, in my novel “Acid Asset”, this scientist is quite a character. He was magic to me, because I didn’t expect him to develop the way he did — how that happened, well, that’s another story, but in a way that is the wonderful thing about scientists.
So, I’ll “do” scientists more often. I like. Scientists for president, I say. Never a dull moment.