Do you remember a story of mine called “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter“? It was originally published on Strange Horizons, and will be reprinted in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. I’ve been thinking, for a long time now, of turning it into – not a play exactly, but what is sometimes called a “read-aloud play.” To be read by seven participants (since there are seven characters). I’ve been thinking that if I can turn it into a play of that sort, I could present it instead of doing a reading at Readercon. The story is already mostly a series of conversations – my characters talking and telling stories to one another.
I think I could get it down to an hour. It would be interesting to see it come to life. If it works, if it’s any good, I could publish the script and make it available for anyone to put on. I think there are groups out there who might be interested, who might identify with my girl monsters. I’ve even thought (because I tend to think this way) of doing some sort of YouTube video. That would probably take a Kickstarter campaign, and already I’m thinking, what am I getting myself into? Because I have more than enough going on in my life right now. But wouldn’t it be fun?
And then I need to get back to working on the novel version, and figure out a way to get to London next summer so I can do the research for it. (This is why I don’t think I’m going to regret, on my deathbed, having worked too much. Because all of my work is so incredibly cool.)
So, I’m going to give you a sense of what I’m thinking. First, the characters. This is what they should look like, more or less. Of course what they actually look like will depend on the participants, but this is how I imagine them.
Catherine Moreau: Catherine was created from a puma and worked for years as a sideshow freak. She has dark skin, dark hair. She should look vaguely feline. Most importantly, she should have visible scars on her face from the surgery.
Justine Frankenstein: Justine should be tall, as tall as possible. She should look Swiss. I imagine her rather droopy, with pale, lank hair. She can speak ordinary English because although she was created from a Swiss girl, she grew up in England.
Beatrice Rappaccini: Beatrice is Italian. She should speak with an Italian accent, and she should be very, very beautiful. The poisons in her system have made her particularly alluring.
Mary Jekyll: Mary should look like a stereotypical English girl. She is logical, rational. I might give her glasses. Of my girl monsters, she’s the one who seems most normal.
Diana Hyde: Diana is wild, uncontrollable. She needs to be played by someone who can curse, laugh raucously. I imagine her looking like a stereotypical gypsy. Whereas Mary is all logic, Diana is all emotion.
Helen Vaughan: Helen is older than the others. She has a daughter. Wait, maybe I should include the daughter in some way? Mother and daughter both look Greek.
Mrs. Poole: All of the others should be dressed as Victorian ladies, although I would recommend aesthetic dress. They are radical, after all. Mrs. Poole is the housekeeper. She should look like a nice, ordinary older woman.
And now I’m going to give you some dialog, scarcely altered from the original. Which may mean that it wouldn’t make a very good play, perhaps. But when I read it, I always seem to get a good response. So here you go, just a bit of “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter”:
Catherine: Sometimes we talk about our fathers.
Justine: My father loved me. He made me from the corpse of a girl who had been a servant of the Frankenstein family. She had been hanged for a crime she did not commit, and he had preserved her body, anticipating that some day he might be able to once again give her life. He even gave me her name, to commemorate her innocence. I can’t begin to tell you what a wonderful childhood I had! My father guided me gently through the various stages of knowledge. He taught me the words to describe the world around me: the birds, the plants, the phenomena of nature. He taught me to read, and in the evenings we would read together: Paradise Lost, The Sorrows of Werther, Plutarch’s Lives. But he was always haunted by the memory of the creature he had created, and eventually that creature came for him. At his death, I lost my father and my only friend. Until – until I found you. (Justine blows her nose into a handkerchief.)
Beatrice: For so many years I was angry at my father. I thought, he had no right to make me poisonous, to make my only playmates the plants of his garden.
Helen: He had no right. Seriously, Beatrice, you’re too forgiving. You need to learn to stand up for yourself.
Mary: For goodness’ sake, let her finish. You’re always interrupting.
Helen: That’s because I can’t stand to see any of you justifying them. I mean, seriously. They were abusive bastards, and that’s all there is to it.
Catherine: I have to agree with Helen. Abusive bastards seems, you know, fairly accurate. I mean, look at my father.
Beatrice: I don’t think you can compare my father to yours, Cat. No offense, but your father was a butcher. Mine brought me up himself, in a beautiful garden –
Mary: I agree that there are relative degrees of – well, although I don’t like to say it, abusive bastardhood. But Bea, he never taught you anything. All that time on his hands, and he never took any of it to sit you down, teach you about your own biology. So you ended up poisoning the man you loved, basically by accident –
Beatrice: I should have known.
Diana: Why in the world would you blame yourself? I’m with Helen. They were bastards, the lot of them, even Justine’s sainted Papa Frankenstein. Look at me, born in a brothel. My mother died of syphilis.
Mary: You can’t generalize your story to all of us.
Diana: Oh, right, now you’re taking the other side. My story is our story, or have you forgotten, sister?
Justine: For goodness’ sake, why are we arguing? I know perfectly well that my father wasn’t perfect. But why should I remember all his faults? Why can’t I remember the good times we had together, how kind he could be?
Helen: Because that’s like lying to yourself. We’ve all been lied to. Do we really want to lie to ourselves as well? My father was a scientist, like yours. He took my mother from the gutters, where she was starving, fed her, educated her, seduced her, and then experimented on her. She had a vision. She saw something she could not, or perhaps did not have the guts to, understand – the god Pan, source of all order and disorder, Alpha and Omega, to whom all things in the end will come. Nine months later I was born, daughter of the respectable Dr. Raymond and of Pan. It’s not hard to understand why, as a teenager, I tried to destroy the world. Sometimes I wish I had. I mean, look at it. The other day, a man tried to steal my pocketbook. He was drunk, red-eyed and reeking of gin, and I turned and started hitting him with my umbrella. I thought, I could have destroyed you all – the beggars, the bankers, the filthy streets of London.
Catherine: So, why didn’t you?
Helen: Well, I married Arthur around that time, and then Leda was born. I would have had to destroy Regent’s Park, and ice cream, and prams. It just didn’t seem practical. Besides, I didn’t want to give my father the satisfaction.
Mrs. Poole (enters): Would any of you ladies like some tea?
I think it would make an interesting single-locale one-act play. As a video I’d suggest finding ways to cut up the dialogue, give more vocal back-and-forth, but I think as a one-act the dialogue could easily stand as is.
I’ve been thinking that if I can turn it into a play of that sort, I could present it instead of doing a reading at Readercon.
I love this idea.
Sonya, if I did it for Readercon, would you be willing to read one of the parts? I’m not sure I can yet, but I’d like to try. Richard, I think you’re right. I’d have to think about how to make it work for a video. But it would be a cool project . . .
Sonya, if I did it for Readercon, would you be willing to read one of the parts?
I’d be honored!
I’ll try to write it, and we’ll see if it’s any good! 🙂
What a fantastic idea!
Thanks, Brittany! 🙂