News | Thursday, 3rd October 2019
‘Mad scientist’ anthology edited by Gothic literature expert
Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes collated tales for the latest British Library 'Tales of the Weird' series
A British Library anthology of dark literary tales depicting the ‘mad scientist’ figure has been collated by a University Gothic expert.
Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes, Reader in English Literature and Film, has edited Promethean Horrors: Classic Tales of Mad Science, the latest in the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series.
The anthology features classic Gothic stories by the likes of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe which feature the ‘mad scientist’ character “as tragic antihero, hubristic maniac or sadistic villain”.
It promises “ten thrilling tales of literature's most brilliant and misguided minds; minds that strive for the unnatural secrets of immortality, artificial life and the teleportation of matter; minds that must eventually grapple with the bitter cost of their obsessions.”
Dr Aldana Reyes said: “Alongside the aristocratic tyrant, the evil monk, the seductive vampire and the vengeful revenant, the mad scientist is one of the key figures of the Gothic literary tradition. He – and it is overwhelmingly a ‘he’ – has a long history of fictional representations that goes back to Faust legend, about a savant who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly goods.”
Many classic Gothic stories, such as Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, belong to the mad science subgenre, explains Dr Aldana Reyes.
He said: “Given his prominence in longer fiction, it is perhaps surprising that there is no recent or thorough collection of mad science stories in English, but dozens of vampire anthologies, so I set to rectify this state of affairs.
Alongside the aristocratic tyrant, the evil monk, the seductive vampire and the vengeful revenant, the mad scientist is one of the key figures of the Gothic literary tradition.
“It may be argued that the differences between the stories in this collection are very significant, but this is because ‘science’ is a very ample world that can relate to any study of the physical and natural world. Mad scientists may be botanists, as in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Rappaccini’s Daughter (1844); they may be mesmerists, as in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845); they may be anatomists, as in Stevenson’s The Body Snatcher (1884); or they may be researchers interested in developing new technologies to record thoughts or transfer matter through space, as in L. T. Meade’s The Blue Laboratory (1897) and George Langelaan’s The Fly.
“The various tales in Promethean Horrors are a testament to the versatility, heterogeneity and complexity of these most human of Gothic villains.
“My selection intends to give the reader a good spread of mad scientists and capture the different areas of interest this figure has for the Gothic and its readers.”
My selection intends to give the reader a good spread of mad scientists and capture the different areas of interest this figure has for the Gothic and its readers.
Jonny Davidson, Editor of the Tales of the Weird series at British Library Publishing, said: “It is always a joy to work with Dr Aldana Reyes on our Gothic and weird fiction anthologies, and we hope readers will find plenty to discover (and shock!) in this fascinating spread of stories from the mad science sub-genre.”
Promethean Horrors is the third Tales of the Weird series edited by Dr Aldana Reyes, following on from The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodgson which was published in April, and The Gothic Tales of H.P. Lovecraft that came out last year. One further collection, Roarings from Further Out: Four Weird Novellas by Algernon Blackwood, is expected in October.