Challenge 556 Response
Bewildering Stories discusses
with Lewayne L. White
“Jason’s Solution” appears in issue 556.
Jason tells Phoebe, “It’s not exactly science...” Does Jason ever answer Phoebe’s question? If what Jason is doing is not science, what is it?
“‘It’s not exactly science...’ Jason replied absently. He peered over his glasses as he punched instructions into the computer. A large box that Phoebe presumed was a motor or battery of some kind started to hum.
This has the same sort of “feel” to the language as the descriptions Mary Shelley uses to describe Frankenstein’s work, as well as the various film depictions of the “workshop of filthy creation” with the buzzing Jacob’s Ladder, or flashing lightning rods.
“From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation.”
“I became acquainted with the science of anatomy, but this was not sufficient...”
“I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.”
Both Jason’s “solution” and Frankenstein’s experiment suggest “science” and “something else” at work.
Jason tells Phoebe, “This is not a cure. You must understand that from the outset. It’s as good as. But it’s not a cure.” — And yet, at the end, Phoebe seems to be as good as new. If she is not “cured,” what is her condition? And how does she feel about inhabiting a body transplant? Or is the entire story a wish-fulfillment dream on her part?
Phobe is not “cured” of her (probably) cancer by Jason’s treatment, it simply becomes a moot point, because she no longer appears to inhabit the diseased body. She may eventually fall prey to whatever genetic time-bombs exist in her new body, but, presumably, she can be freed of those concerns by shifting to another body.
Where do Jason’s “consensual” subjects come from? How does he acquire and keep them? And why is his laboratory so dirty? Is Jason a Frankenstein?
I suspect that Jason gets his subjects from places not unlike those Frankenstein got his, though Jason’s are at least still alive when he acquires them. Presumably the lab is “dirty” to further drive home the point that this is unapproved “dirty” work that can’t be done in acceptably sterile facilities.
Thanks, Lewayne! The parallels with Frankenstein’s laboratory are unmistakable. All that’s missing is Marty Feldman (Eye-gor) bringing Gene Wilder (young “Frankensteen”) the brain of “Abby Normal.”
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein does future science, i.e. magic, and so does David Brookes’ Jason. While Frankenstein’s tragic flaw is probably the most monumental hubris imaginable, Jason’s is just plain Utilitarian, if I may borrow a term that Gary uses in the recent discussion of a related story, LaVerne Zocco’s “Dolores Metcalf, Comforter.” Do Jason’s subjects really agree to be accomplices in their own murders? That’s a little too conveniently “useful” and calls for some explaining.
The really scary character in this horror story is Phoebe. It’s quite understandable that she would go to any lengths to be cured, but she’s unaccountably cold and incurious, even emotionless. Most of all I would like to know how she feels after the procedure, when she looks in the mirror and sees someone who is not herself.
Copyright © 2014 by Lewayne L. White
and Bewildering Stories