Welcome to the Summer 2014 Special Issue of the Monsters and the Monstrous journal devoted to ‘Monstrous Science.’ Science here is a very problematic word, and indeed this issue investigates some of the many complexities behind its many definitions and what might make it ‘monstrous’ in some way. The Cambridge Online Dictionary lists three possible meanings to the word ‘science’: the first is ‘the careful study of the structure and behaviour of the physical world, especially by watching, measuring, and doing experiments, and the development of theories to describe the results of these activities;’ the second is ‘a particular subject that is studied using scientific methods;’ and the last is ‘the study of science.’1 Science is then equated with a process, in that it is a series of actions that are performed on a physical body, or matter of some kind, where the results of these interactions are then ‘described’ or interpreted in a meaningful way. This in itself brings to the fore the difficulties of objectivity and subjectivity in relation to the process that is undertaken and interpreted by humans. It becomes even more problematic when such studies are carried out on human subjects. Within this framework, then, science, with its aspiration to a ‘beyond’-human objectivity, easily becomes seen as inhuman, whilst human subjectivity and emotional response are seen not only as untrustworthy but also irrational and akin to superstition.
Human science, then, becomes something of an oxymoron, or maybe hints more at an idea of a ‘ghost in the machine,’ where the necessary humanoid basis of understanding and practice of sciences reveal the inherent gothic nature of even the most objective of practices. Although thoughts of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick spring instantly to mind, at least to me, it also indicates the inherent complexities of the interface between scientific procedure, those that undertake it, the societies and cultures that interpret it and the subjects upon which it is practiced.
This current issue, then, attempts to touch upon the ways that scientific objectivity is not only defined by the times and culture within which it is practiced but in its opposition to what is also considered as being ‘human’ or ‘humane’ in that historical moment. Somewhat paradoxically, as indicated by the articles in the current issue, science becomes monstrous not because of a lack of human consideration or intervention but because of an excess of it. Here the representation of the ‘mad’ scientist, his/her monstrous creation, and what we might call monstrous ‘interpretations’ or predicates all reveal the excess of human intervention and subjectivity that ‘Gothicises’ the aspirational rationality of scientific endeavour. One should never forget the tensions within this between the individual and the society within which the bounds and procedures of science are proscribed. Here the ghost that haunts the ‘machine’ of science is not the subjectivity of the ‘us’ but of the ‘I.’ The art and prose works within the current issue reflect something of the individual response to the processes of objectivity and science, both when one becomes the focus of rationalised scrutiny and when one tries to be the eye that sees beyond the ‘I.’ ‘Monstrous Science’ then reveals something of the ‘I’ in both ‘science’ and the ‘gothic’ and that an excess of humanity is not always humane.