That Man Behind the Curtain: January 2013

This is a little delayed as I wanted to use the first of February for posting about our special call for submissions. It’s been a crazy month, with a few more frustrations than we’re used to, but we have soldiered on.

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Zero (or, The Collected Correspondence of Patient Zero)

An essay provided by Cameron Suey
Art by Justine McGreevy

Istanbul, Turkey


09:12:09 AM

I am at a small outdoor cafe just a few hundred yards from the teeming throng of a morning market, just in sight of the Bosporus. I love this city, and all its thick and violent contradictions. The rising heat of the day is already causing the linen of my suit to cling to my legs.

I awoke last night with a change of heart; you are owed an explanation, and even a warning. If I do as I have planned, I and my actions will be vilified, and misunderstood. Please believe me, I am doing this for all the right reasons. You may not see it now, but in ten or twenty years, you will see a new world born. That is worth any sacrifice, and my good name is no sacrifice at all. It is worth nothing to me now.

I have done my work here in Istanbul, the first of many great cities to see, and I board a plane tomorrow. Don’t bother looking for me here.


I have left you something. One last breadcrumb, woven into these letters. It may be the key to your salvation. If you find it, it will set you onto the path to the cure. You understand that I can not just hand it to you; that would defeat my whole purpose. Believe me when I say that I want you to live, but I must be strong not to undermine the grand struggle that will shape you for centuries to come.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2013 collection.

Patient Zero is a caucasian male, aged 50-60, who passed away at San Francisco General Hospital of the PZRV pathogen that has since appeared in many major cities. The collected letters he left behind were never addressed or sent, and the intended recipient is unknown. Based on the these documents, we can surmise only that he was at one point employed by a pharmaceutical manufacturer, and later worked on the creation and weaponization of the pathogen responsible for the ongoing pandemic. Anyone with any information on Patient Zero should contact the World Health Organization or the CDC.

Cameron Suey is a California native living in San Francisco with his wife (who can occasionally be convinced to edit his work, as long as it’s not too gross) and infant daughter. He works as a writer and producer in the games industry, and along with several other talented writers, won the WGA Award for Videogame Writing in 2009 for “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.” He can be found on the web at, where he writes about writing, horror, and other influences, and on twitter as @josefkstories

Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.

Author’s note: The puzzle hidden in the story is in the timecode. If you convert each listed time into 24hr formats, and then to letters (With A=01, B=02, etc.), the message reads “I lied there is no cure.”

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The Return of the Special Call for Submissions

For the month of February, we are once again looking for content to use exclusively in our quarterly anthology. As with previous calls, we are looking for:

  • Fictional Classified Ads: 100-500 words featuring one or more classified ads from mad scientists. Pay is $5.
  • Flash and Short Fiction: 500-2,000 words and 2,000 to 8,000, respectively. Unlike our standard fare, this is described in the anthology as “fiction” instead of an “essay”. Pay is $10 or $20 depending on length.

Depending on the number of submissions we receive, we are hoping that we might cover two quarterly anthologies with this. Submissions for this special call are due by February 28th. More information on submission guidelines can be found here on our Submissions page.

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Our First Reviews!

In exchange for a free copy, Mallory Anne-Marie Forbes offered to write fair and honest reviews. She reviewed our Summer and Autumn issues from last year, and you can click the links below to see what she had to say!


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The Assembly of Equals

A letter by Dr. Jane Macdonald, as provided by David Taub Bancroft
Illustration by Katie Nyborg

Mr. Simon Newsom
News Editor
Hypothesis Magazine
1867 E. Rogella Rd.
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A9  Canada

Dear Mr. Newsom:

I am writing to protest the article written about me in the latest issue of your journal. The offensively titled “Pretty PhD’s Primate Politics: The Story of Jane Macdonald’s Well-Intentioned Experiment” by Ronald Burke is a work of sensationalistic drivel that stands noticeably out of place in Hypothesis Magazine. I find it hard to believe, in fact, that such garbage should ever have escaped the critical eye of an editor of your stature and stained the good name of your otherwise illuminating periodical. It completely misrepresents my project with the chimpanzees of the Loccuto Wildlife Preserve in Tanzania, portraying me by turn as an empty-headed, naive idealist and an attention hog fraudulently “lusting after grant money.” In truth, I am internationally respected in my field of primatology, and though my project did not go as planned, it was an undeniably worthwhile endeavour based on years of meticulous research. Humanity’s reservoir of scientific understanding is now all the richer as a result of my work.

Why is Mr. Burke so hell-bent on discrediting me? As far as I can make out (assuming generously that his rabid attack contains any logical structure whatsoever), his critique is threefold. First of all, he believes that I am undeserving of what success and esteem I have enjoyed during my career. I can’t help but think that it is at least partly my gender that sours him towards me. Throughout his article, Mr. Burke maintains a tone that is surprisingly sexist for a publication as highly regarded as yours–a tone that I have unfortunately become used to over the years. When I first graduated fromCambridge, primatology was still by and large very much a man’s discipline, and I was not able to contribute to my field in any given place for more than a few months at a time. I spent the dawn of my postgraduate career rotating unpredictably between African field work, zoo research, and assistant professorships all over the world. Far from being, in Mr. Burke’s words, “the latest hog at the trough of pseudoscientific fame, demanding her allotted fifteen minutes,” I undeniably paid my dues.

It was only after the widespread corroboration of the findings of my doctoral thesis that my professional reputation began to soar beyond what most women in the natural sciences could then expect. My idea was quite simple. Child psychologists had long been measuring the innate moral compasses of infants by creating imagined scenarios of right and wrong with puppets. I decided to perform the same experiment on the animal I had fallen in love with during my undergraduate years, the common chimpanzee. In the American zoos where I did my practicum, a number of chimps had been taught sign language. I would arrange to have them watch puppet shows, in which two puppets are shown gathering items of food for themselves in equal amounts. After they finish, one puppet steals a piece of food from the other. I would then instruct the observing chimps by sign language to take food away from just one of the puppets. The vast majority would choose to take from–to punish–the puppet who stole. We have here a clear instance of moral judgement amongst non-human primates.

The Assembly of Equals

So I formed an Assembly. An Assembly of Equals in which the chimps of the Loccuto Wildlife Preserve could speak and deliberate on a level field, and take part in decision making that impacts the group as a whole.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2013 collection.

Dr. Jane Macdonald, recipient of last year’s Kim Campbell Women in Science Award, is one of the world’s foremost chimpanzee experts.
Having studied anthropology and political science during her undergraduate years, she received a PhD in zoology on full scholarship
from Cambridge University, and has spent almost all her ensuing years working and living in Tanzania’s Loccuto Wildlife Preserve.

David Taub Bancroft is a writer and blogger based in Vancouver, Canada. He is currently working very, very slowly on his first novel. Writing is hard. You may find his work in The Montreal Review, Zouch Magazine &, and

Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at

This short story first appeared in The Montreal Review and Zouch Magazine & Miscellany.

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Mad Scientists in the Wild

Mad scientists never slow down, so here are some newsly items regarding other accomplishments of our misunderstood geniuses.

First up is a correction of an earlier gaff of mine. Gary Cuba‘s “The Fine Point“, which is also available in the new Autumn 2012 collection, has an audio version! I had offered to post a link to the audio version when I published the story. But since it was one of the stories we posted for November, I missed it in the pile of stories I was trying to get done before National Novel Writing Month started. So if you’re interested, hop over to Drabblecast for this fine tale!

Eleanor Leonne Bennett, who provides some of the stunning photographs we use with our stories, recently won the award for the Over 16 category in the National Trust’s photo competition. If you just want to see the photo without reading the article, you can see a big version of the photo here. She also had a mention in this article on Salt Lake City’s ABC4 website.

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The Goliath Complex

An essay by James Dultry, as provided by Franz Bidinger III
Illustration by Luke Spooner

The newspapers called it Colombian Devil’s Breath. The scientists, Scopolamine. I call it the drug that ruined our country.

This isn’t a morality tale about the war on drugs or some sad story about how addiction destroyed our youth. This is my recollection of how the world’s paramount superpower was turned into a nuclear wasteland because of a little white powder.

I was working as a bodyguard for the Vice President of the United States. The job description stated that my life was not as important as this man who wouldn’t even look me in the eyes. It’s doubtful he even knew my name as anything other than bodyguard number one or two. But shit, it was hard for me to complain. Lofty benefits and a bloated salary to maybe take a bullet for a man no one cared about enough to shoot at? I figured that my long stint with the special forces would prepare me for any danger surrounding Mr. Vice President.

I followed the guy everywhere. The five other bodyguards and I all had sleeping cots at his estates and we accompanied him to whichever country he was sent to brownnose in. Before we were sent anywhere though, the CIA briefed us at the Pentagon, explaining every possible threat we might find and how to adequately protect the Vice President. Half of it was always paranoid horseshit and half the time they missed a real threat. Nonetheless, we figured Colombia would just be another quick in and out featuring black coffee and beautiful women. And it was. But that was when the government should have known that some very messy shit was brewing.

The Goliath Complex

The video showed the three of them walk out of the room while the rest of us just stared. I couldn’t help thinking back to that day in Bogota.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2013 collection.

James Dultry is an ex-special forces officer who spent ten years as a bodyguard for high profile individuals. He played his part in allowing the world to turn to shit and he’ll never let himself off the proverbial hook for losing the Vice President. He currently resides in a government regulated radiation bunker at a location that’s still classified.

Franz Bidinger III is not as foreign as his name might suggest. He enjoys fly-fishing, hockey, and bourbon-laced evenings discussing philosophy and other impractical matters.

Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that peaks his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

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An essay by E. E. Malatesta, as provided by Nicholas P. Oakley
Art by Katie Nyborg

“Imagine a drug. A virus, actually. One so powerful, so clever, that you could release it inside a dome or on a station full of hundreds, thousands, of people and it would go undetected. And imagine that this virus would only infect a very specific set of people, a group that you yourself could determine, and that it would kill them–and only them–completely painlessly. Everyone else would be safe. Now, imagine you had a pathogen like this in your possession. What would you do?”

The man stopped talking, taking a long gulp from a tall glass, his eyes locked on mine. He’d been talking quietly, almost whispering, but I’d still heard every word over the noisy crowd.

“I’d use it,” I said, returning his stare.

His eyes crinkled into a smile over his drink.


I’d met him three months before. I’d been on the station nearly a year, and he’d been the first person I’d spoken more than three words to outside of my work shift. I was young, my forehead bare, another anonymous drone. My type weren’t worth making friends with. Shareless, doing the dirtiest of jobs, we’d be transferred, conscripted, or dead in less than six months anyway. And who talks to a dead man?

This guy was different. Ajura was his name. I first saw him loitering outside the shuttle drop-off, his eyes drawn and shoulders twitching, the familiar stimhead nervous tics immediately apparent even from a distance. I tensed up. I’d already had a few brushes with people like him. I made a mental note of his facial tattoos and the contents of my pockets, and squeezed my fists in anticipation.

Instead of the shiv I was expecting, I was met with a smile. It caught me off-guard, and my expression must have given me away. His smile broadened into a toothy grin, a cackle escaping his lips.

He bought me a drink. The first time I can remember anyone ever giving me something for free.

“What’s your debt?” he’d asked.

“70 standard,” I said, cautiously. It was actually a bit more than that–90 years–but everyone always lied about it, and I was no exception.

He whistled. “How you feel about that?”

“Figure I’ll be dead way before then anyway. Try not to think about it.”

He nodded sagely. We didn’t talk again for the rest of the night, just sat playing cards and eyeing up the others, just as they eyed us back.


The security seemed far tighter than I ever remembered it being. Every scanner, every camera, and every eye seemed to be pointing my way. The enforcer pulled my arm into the machine, and I could feel my fingers twitching nervously.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2013 collection.

Dr. E. E. Malatesta is a Distinguished Professor of Biosecurity at the University of Zetti, KL-235b. His research has been published in numerous respected journals on topics as diverse as clinical virology, to dome security procedures, to bioterror. He also edits the biennial Journal of Pandemic Research, where an expurgated copy of this testimony first appeared in Vol. 214, No. 5, pp.102-113.

Nicholas P. Oakley is a science fiction author from the UK.

Nicholas was born in Solihull, England, and now lives with his partner in Inverness, Scotland. His first novel, The Watcher, is due out in 2013 from See Sharp Press. Details of this and his other stories can be found at his website,

Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at

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Autumn 2012 is here!

It took a week and a half to get back on track and get stuff together, but it is with much joy that we announce that Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2012 is now available for sale on Smashwords.

I’m pretty excited about this quarter’s collection. We got a lot of really great submissions for our exclusive fiction. Narrowing it down to just four was painful. But we really enjoyed these stories and hope you will too. We also have our first advice column, so you can see what Dr. Synthia has to say regarding questions from troubled mad scientists.

Also, with the launch of this edition I’ve dropped the prices for all of our collections to 99-cents. It’s been hard picking a price point for these collections, because I also offer royalties to the authors. I haven’t wanted to short change the authors, but sales have not been sufficient to make the notion of royalties valid. It’s tough to sell something that has a lot of its content for free online. I’m hoping that this price point will be more enticing to people for the exclusive content.

If you’d like to help out Mad Scientist Journal and don’t have the money, write a review for us. All of the places that Mad Scientist Journal is sold have a place to write reviews. We also have a page for our latest collection on Goodreads!

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Dear Father,

A letter by Subject 025, as provided by A.W. Gifford
Photography by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

If you’re reading this, I must be dead. Of course, you’ve probably already figured that much out.

I want you to know that this was all your fault. No, I’m not saying that you were a mean father when I was a kid, nor abusive. But you just couldn’t leave well enough alone.

You need to do a better job of hiding things you don’t want people to find, and never tell a child that a room is off limits. That just about guarantees the child will snoop. And yes, that means I went into your study, and discovered the truth behind my existence.

Dear Father

I have a gun and I plan on using it, but please don’t bring me back again. I don’t want to know what a bullet taste like.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2013 collection.

Subject 025, son of Dr. Richard and Laura Newbury, brother of the late Adam New bury, penned the preceding letter upon learning what his father had done. Funeral services will be held at the First Methodist Church this Friday. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you donate to the charity of your choosing in Adam’s name.

Many of A. W. Gifford’s story ideas come from the nightmares of his wife, Jennifer. Though she too is a writer of dark fiction, she will never write these stories herself, fearing that if she does, they will come true.

He is the editor of the dark fiction magazine Bête Noire and his work has appeared in numerous magazines, webzines and anthologies.

Though he grew up in the northern suburbs of Detroit, he currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and daughter.

Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old internationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United States and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited , having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles, Florida, Washington, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the Year Exhibition (2011) amongst many other locations.

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