EXCERPT: Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire

CATEGORY:  Observations in Psychological Cataclysms

RULE 1304.23: Doctor, Heal Thyself

SOURCE: Professor Clarissa Garrity, behavior conditioning specialist

VIA: Seanan McGuire

Our next story takes us into the maddest of the sciences: psychology. In a future where “schizotypal creative genius personality disorder” (SCGPD) is a bona fide psychological disorder, any bright mind is under close scrutiny. Anyone getting a Master’s degree faces a battery of psych tests, and anyone continuing in scientific research can expect monthly testing for this disorder.

But a clean bill of health is no guarantee of immunity from SCGPD. In fact, as one psychologist discovers, madness is easy to induce  . . .  if you have the right skills.

The author says: “I find that a lot of people who study history, psychology, human behavior, or any of the other ‘soft sciences’ have a tendency to regard themselves as less intellectual than people who study, say, giant death lasers on the moon. I majored in folklore and mythology, and it took me a long time to stop thinking I was dumb when compared to my friend, the physicist. So this story is personal to me in the sense that it posits the soft sciences getting ready to kick your ass.”


Laughter at the Academy:
A Field Study In The Genesis Of Schizotypal
Creative Genius Personality Disorder (Scgpd)
by Seanan McGuire

 Upon consideration, we must agree that the greatest danger of the so-called “creative genius” is its flexibility. While the stereotypes of Doctors Frankenstein and Moreau exist for good reasons, there is more to the CG-afflicted than mere biology. So much more. The time has come, ladies and gentlemen, for us to redefine what it means to be scientists . . . and what it means to be afraid.

—from the keynote speech delivered to the 10th Annual World Conference on the Prevention of Creative Genius by Professor Elizabeth Midkiff-Cavanaugh (deceased).


The world’s best research has always been done in the field. Anyone who tells you different is lying, or trying to hide something. Ask anyone who’s seen my work. My results speak for themselves.



—graffiti found in the ruins of MIT. Author unknown.


“I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long, Miss—?”

“Channing. It’s all right. Now it’s my turn to hope that you don’t mind, but I brewed a fresh pot of coffee and did those dishes that were in the sink. I know it was an imposition. I just don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have anything to do with my hands.”

“Mind? Why, no, I don’t mind at all. Thank you. I’ve been meaning to do those dishes for . . . well, let’s just say the dishes aren’t the first chore to come to mind when I have time to tidy around here.”

“No thanks needed. You shouldn’t be wasting your time with things like this. Isn’t that why you’re advertising for an assistant? So that you’ll have someone to take care of the mundane chores, and free you to handle the things that really matter? The important things?”

“Yes, Miss Channing. That’s exactly right. If you’ll come with me, I’d like to discuss the job a bit further.”

“Why, Doctor Frieburg, it would be an honor.”


Schizotypal Creative Genius Personality Disorder (SCGPD) was officially recognized in the 1930s, by the Presidential commission convened following the destruction of the Washington Monument. Those brave, august men, half of whom were probably mad in their own right, decided that the label of “mad scientist” created a self-fulfilling prophecy, one which, by naming individuals as “mad,” made their madness a foregone conclusion . . .

—excerpt from The History of Creative Genius In America, by Professor Paul Hauser (missing, presumed dead).


Sunrise cast its bloody light across the ruins of the lab, illuminating the scene without judgment or mercy. There were still electrical fires burning deep inside the wreckage, forcing rescue personnel to add gas masks to their standard-issue gloves and reinforced boots. Many of them were secretly grateful for the extra protection, no matter how uncomfortable it was. It was never wise to breathe near a confirmed SCGPD outbreak site without protection, and doing it while something was on fire was just signing up for an interesting new mutation.

“Sarge, I think you should come and take a look at this.”

Sergeant John Secor rose from his examination of a smoldering desk and picked his way through the shattered ceiling tiles and broken sheetrock to his squad mate. After six years on the Mad Science Cleanup Patrol—not that anyone official would be so gauche as to use the name; they called it the Special Science Response Unit, like having a polite title would change the nature of the job—he was finally growing numb to the horrors that greeted him with every incident. Perversions of every natural law, horrific mockeries of humanity, impossible distortions of the fabric of reality . . . they were everyday occurrences, verging on the blessedly mundane.

The bodies were another matter. This one still looked human; no visible mutations or half-rejected cybernetic implants. If not for the bloodstains on his lab coat and the unnatural bend in his neck, the man sprawled on what was once the laboratory floor would have looked like any other research technician. Just one more scientist dreaming of a better world for all mankind.

“Poor bastard,” muttered John, crouching down to study the visible injuries more closely. He didn’t touch the remains. The scene was already compromised beyond recovery, but the risk of infection remained if one or more of the local madmen had been working with pathogens.

“We have an identity. It’s Doctor Charles Frieburg.”

“What was his field?”

The attending officer tapped the screen of his tablet computer. Then: “Particle physics. He was a faculty member at the local university until last year, when he received a grant to pursue private research. There are no flags on his file. He showed no signs of SCGPD.”

“But this is a confirmed incident.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Poor bastard,” John repeated, and stood. “Something drove him over the edge.”

“Shall I call the medical team to remove the body?”

“Yes, and keep sifting. If he had any staff working with him, they probably didn’t make it clear of the blast.”

[End Excerpt]