To Dr. Von Lupe, Concerning the Volcano

A letter by Dr. Elizabeth Chu, as provided by Alanna McFall
Art by Leigh Legler

To my dark and illustrious overlord Dr. Von Lupe,

I hope that this missive finds you in the best of health and fortune. I was just telling my colleague Dr. Quinn that you looked particularly intimidating in your last broadcast to the collected minion forces. You can verify that with her as a fact, and punish her severely if she tells treacherous lies about me.

The experiments with the cephalopods continue to go swimmingly, if you will forgive the pun (I beg that you forgive the pun). More and more of the squid are showing the accelerated intelligence of subject SQ-2651, or “Suzie Q,” who continues to be our prized pupil. Enclosed with this letter is a hat that she crocheted specially for you with her own tentacles. I think you will find it to be, scientifically speaking, the cutest thing you have ever seen. But I am veering away from the point of my letter.

You must be very well aware, my master and provider in all things, that I am an incredibly well-educated woman with a wide range of scientific skills. I possess two doctorates, one in marine biology and one in neuroscience, and a master’s degree in animal behavior (and in the spirit of complete transparency, a bachelor’s degree in poetry; my younger years were somewhat tumultuous). Dr. Quinn received her PhD in marine biology as well and holds a master’s in linguistics. For the task of breeding hyper-intelligent giant squid and teaching them to understand English, you could not find two more suited individuals; I am certain that these reasons are why you had us both so considerately kidnapped and held for your obscure and shadowy purposes. But, I am sorry to have to tell your magnificent self, neither Dr. Quinn nor I are educated in the sciences of geology. And I believe that we are unsuited to your demands that we create a machine that would allow you to control volcanoes.

I can see where the confusion might arise, sir, as we are both esteemed scientists with multiple degrees. But I am afraid that we have not pursued such multi-disciplinary paths in life as to have studied both the brain patterns of select breeds of squid and the seismic potential of molten rock and how best to harness that power for human purposes. The fact that Dr. Quinn has studied linguistics is already kind of a lucky break, in terms of breadth of study. If I may make a suggestion, from my position as an insignificant peon, you would be best served looking at a pool of trained geologists first. There is also a discipline called “volcanology” that is specific to the study of volcanoes. Volcanologists, seismologists, physicists, geological engineers to build the doomsday device itself; all of these options would be preferable to setting marine biologists to the task. In all honesty, my knowledge of rocks begins and ends at the proper gravel to put in a fish tank.

To Dr. Von Lupe, Concerning the Volcano

But, I am sorry to have to tell your magnificent self, neither Dr. Quinn nor I are educated in the sciences of geology. And I believe that we are unsuited to your demands that we create a machine that would allow you to control volcanoes.

I am sorry to have to tell you all this, and I hope that you will not interpret this concern as my attempt to be lazy or pass off my work to others. I know that you have declared yourself to be a “Doctor of the Obscure Sciences and Dark Arts.” That is a very honorable title, and I am sure that the secret institution that gave you that degree gifted you with a wide breadth of very extensive knowledge and an enviable lack of specialization. But for most people looking to pursue the sciences, with brains lacking the might and omnipotence of yours, they narrow their studies to one discipline, and narrow it even more the higher they go in their education. This must seem archaic to one so enlightened as you, but I must confess that it is very common among the rest of the people that make up the world.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2016 collection.

There is still a troubling lack of leads in the case of Dr. Elizabeth Chu, who disappeared while on vacation near the Ural Mountains nearly nine months ago. One of the world’s leading experts on invertebrate biology and cephalopod intelligence, Dr. Chu was on the cutting edge of marine biology research and her absence is distinctly felt in her field. Any information regarding the location of Dr. Chu should be brought to the appropriate authorities immediately.

Alanna McFall is an upcoming science fiction and fantasy writer. She has worked in a variety of mediums, from short stories to novels to audio scripts, and across a range of locations, stretching the span of the country from New York to Minnesota to California. She is always looking for ways to expand her repertoire and get involved in her next project. Follow her work on Twitter at @AlannaMcFall, or on her website,

Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at

“To Dr. Von Lupe, Concerning the Volcano” is © 2016 Alanna McFall.
Art accompanying story is © 2016 Leigh Legler.

Follow us online:
This entry was posted in Fiction and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.