Genevieve Valentine’s first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, was published by Prime Books in 2011 and won the Crawford Award for best fantasy debut and was a finalist for the Nebula Award. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Running with the Pack and in the magazines Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Futurismic, Clarkesworld, Journal of Mythic Arts, Fantasy Magazine, Escape Pod, and more. Her work can also be found in John Joseph Adams’s anthologies Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom, Armored,Federations, The Way of the Wizard, and The Living Dead 2. In 2010, she was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.
Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?
Brenda Bryce needed a day job. What she got was a position as the Executive Assistant for Dr. Methuselah Mason, the most feared mad scientist in the city. Two years after what must have been a really awkward job interview, he’s working a doomsday device; she’s updating her resume.
What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?
Definitely not at all any real-life experiences that I or any of my friends have had while navigating the world of day jobs, that is for sure.
Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?
I think there’s always a balance with bad-boss stories where the boss has to be bad enough to make trouble, but in a way that wouldn’t make it entirely impossible that they would be able to employ someone smarter than they are. (Many Bond villains and space-serial baddies have suffered noticeably from being unable to retain competent staff.)
Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?
This story is a love letter to anyone who has, or has ever had, a day job. As someone who’s had a day job for a long time, I think there’s bound to be something personal in the details of this story, if not in the whole.
What kind of research did you have to do for the story?
Either no research whatsoever, or several years of research, depending on how you look at it.
What is the appeal of mad scientist fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write it? Why do you think readers/viewers love it so much?
I think there’s always some appeal in the too-smart-for-their-own-good trope, and mad scientist manifestations of that tend to have more hilarious gadgetry than, say, the serial-killer version of that. Plus, a mad scientist is sort of a hopeful figure; even in the darkest incarnations, they’re on the hunt for knowledge and solutions, and there’s something endlessly appealing about the quest for understanding. (In the lightest incarnations, they’re marvelous goggle-wearers.)
What are some of your favorite examples of mad scientists in fiction–or fact!–(in any media), and what makes them your favorites?
I’ll always be fond of Peter Cushing, my favorite Dr. Frankenstein. Poison Ivy! (Everyone forget the movie!) And the more I learn about Dr. Louise Robinovich (who io9 pointed out was an almost archetypal mad scientist who tried to raise the dead), the more I want to know.