Dr. Lucius Quade’s Super Powers

The following article originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in February 2008. 

Ten years after the Sudden Mutation Event, 1% of the population will possess Class A mutant powers. Dr Lucius Quade of the Quade Institute in Your City will have created his seminal diagram which maps out the connections and defects which relate these new powers…

by Douglas W. Edgar

I’d heard he was like Morgan Freeman — that he had that look that spoke implicitly of wisdom and understanding. I expected knowing eyes, looking deep inside people with an insight borne of experience. But smiling wide, shaking hands on his way down from the podium, and laughing with audience members in search of autographs, he looked more like Will Smith, ripened by age, and with more hair.

This is Dr. Lucius Quade, the famous creator of the namesake Quade Diagram that has revolutionized the way we see and study mutants today — and changed what we expect of them. Not since Einstein has a scientist been more widely recognized both by name and by picture. The college kids who used to have posters on their walls of Einstein with his tongue sticking out now have posters of Quade’s Keeper’s magazine cover photo, the one with him in Armani, flanked by beautiful women in lab coats, in front of the giant martini glass. Science has gone from the purview of the eccentric genius to the brilliant and stylish sci-mogul.

If he’s not the most famous researcher today, he is certainly the most exposed. From talk shows to book tours to television biographies and his own Science Channel miniseries, it seems Dr. Quade is always on television somewhere. It’s like he has a super-power of his own: amazing visibility.

His attitude, his confidence, radiates. It gets on you. It’s infectious, and like anything infectious, it can make some people sick.

Dr. Quade stands at the edge of confidence, leaning over into arrogance when the subject of his work comes up. Can we blame him? Imagine if the Periodic Table was a celebrity scientist, rich and famous, and then you questioned its veracity to its face. It’d be pretty sure of itself, too.

When I got my chance to sit down with Dr. Quade on behalf of Mutant City Tribune Culture magazine, we had just a few minutes to talk between stops on his busy schedule. We settled into leather chairs in a foyer of the MCU lecture hall where Dr. Quade had just given a rare in-person lecture to a paying audience (proceeds to the Quade Institute). In less than an hour, he’d be back in a limo on his way to the airport, and then to a summit in Vienna.

The subject of that summit? Anamorphology: the science Dr. Quade created.

Tribune Culture Magazine: So, it’s been a while—

Dr. Lucius Quade: I’m sorry, I didn’t think we’d met before.

TCM: No, no. We haven’t. I was going to say, it’s been a while since you did the lecture circuit.

LQ: This really isn’t the circuit. This is just one sort of little event. A lecture like this — getting me to talk for a couple of hours, especially about anamorphology — this is nothing. I do that over dinner.

TCM: So you don’t miss the lecture circuit, then? You still get your fix?

LQ: That’s right. Well, no, you know what? I miss the faces I’d see along the lecture circuit. Seeing people’s minds change and expand in the audience is great, but meeting someone two or three times over the course of several lectures, and seeing them come around to anamorphology and seeing their perceptiveness change, that’s a thrill I sort of miss. I get some of it on the television programs, you know, but Oprah’s audience isn’t the same from show to show and most of the people behind the scenes on those shows are already pretty well informed, so.

TCM: Do you prefer doing television to doing lectures?

LQ: I prefer reaching a wider audience.

TCM: You reach a pretty wide audience already. There were a lot of cameras at your lecture today.

LQ: I’m very fortunate in that. I’m not blind to the issue here — the celebrity scientist who does more guest spots than he does papers, these days — but it has seemed to me, for the last few years, that reaching the multitudes is really more important than reaching more of the scientific field, at this point. It’s not credible scientists who are making threats again the heightened out in the streets, and there are plenty of other scientists following my work, continuing my work, these days.

TCM: Not all of them credible.

LQ: Well, that’s true, but that’s inevitable. That’s not something I can control. And, who knows? Even a scientist without any current credibility to reputation can make a discovery that changes the way we look at new and old disciplines alike. Anamorphology is a new discipline, and there’s still lots of room for new discoveries and insights to be had. I can’t say for sure that they’ll come only from those scientists who get grant money from MIT or Stanford, for example.

TCM: How does that philosophy affect the way you respond to scientific papers that challenge the structure and the definitions of the Quade Diagram?

LQ: That’s not unreasonable. Science is so often about testing boundaries, isn’t it? They’re entitled. You know, I’ll even concede that it’s a good idea for someone to be doing it, though I really think it’s best left to grad students, who can learn more from encountering truth or fact through experimentation. Scientists, particularly now, continue to test the bonds of chemical and physical understandings, even though they’re not going to change the way physics actually operates. So I wish these scientists well, with the utmost confidence that they might reshape the philosophies that surround the Diagram, but that they can’t make a dent in its accuracy and applicability.

TCM: It’s iron-clad?

LQ: All evidence to date says so.

TCM: In some major university circles, the philosophical and anamorphological intersection of your work gets challenged, even while the anamorphological methodology gets praised. What do you say to people who claim that personal or psychological categorizations based on the Quade Diagram are damaging?

LQ: You’re talking about the Foucault wannabes — the new post-structuralists.

TCM: They’re a vocal group.

LQ: They’re coffeehouse philosophers.

TCM: Dr. Eloise Maas at the University of Edinburgh has written extensive papers on the psychological ramifications of your—

LQ: She’s mistaking our psychosocial analyses with psychological assertions. She’s misusing some of our definitions. I’m not a psychologist and I’m particularly interested in the psychological issues that surround the Diagram. They’re really not psychological, as Dr. Maas presents them, anyway. They’re philosophical. And I think the best arena for philosophy is the arena of debate.

TCM: You don’t think psychological assessments of the Quade Diagram are relevant?

LQ: I think one that took into account serious consideration of the biological factors and the psychosocial — not merely psychological — ramifications would be more… impactful. But let’s remember that the primary function of the Diagram is in anamorphology, and in that regard it is a set of good, solidly researched findings. It’ll just take us a little bit longer to sort out how the Diagram gets assimilated by other disciplines.

TCM: So a book like The Soft Helix

LQ: I haven’t read it.

TCM: You’ve heard of it?

LQ: I’ve heard of it.

TCM: So you know that—

LQ: I don’t sign off on any of the claims made in it, as I haven’t read it. It’s written by persons whose scientific qualifications I don’t know and whose credibility is maybe unproven. I don’t know these people, and I don’t know if they’re…

TCM: You know Dr. Aaron Rosenblum.

LQ: He works with us at the Institute, yes. I haven’t read the paper of his that’s in the book, but I know his research, of course.

TCM: In it, he’s analyzing mental powers of the heightened with comparisons and theses about how they interact with brain chemistry.

LQ: Right. That’s his work with us at the Institute, but his essay was a personal project, and I haven’t read the book, though, so—

TCM: You have scientists and researchers at the Institute studying the biological and psychiatric angles of mutation, though?

LQ: Absolutely. Psychiatry is sort of the happy medium between psychology and anamorphology — or at least that’s the direction we’re going in now. We’ll see where it takes us. While I’m concerned about the social circumstances for the heightened, and how their manifesting mutations affect their lives, I can’t personally study the way they feel. I don’t claim that the heightened are so different from other people that they need another approach to psychology and therapy. Many of them should probably see therapists when their powers manifest, but I don’t think that’s any of my business as a scientist.

TCM: The other scientists whose writings appear in The Soft Helix

LQ: [sigh]

TCM: —these are not unknown figures. Some of these are well-known science writers—

LQ: Essayists. They write about science, but many of them do journalistic research, not scientific.

TCM: What is it about them that you don’t find credible?

LQ: Well, let’s be clear here, if we’re going to talk about this: I don’t necessarily think they are not credible, but I don’t know where their supposed credibility comes from. I don’t take credibility for granted based on someone else’s assessment. I don’t find someone’s science credible because a magazine or a TV show says I should. If I haven’t read them, if they’re not working with us at the Institute, I can’t yet form a meaningful opinion of their work.

TCM: That brings up an interesting question: If you don’t trust television to tell you what scientists are credible, how do you feel about appearing on television in the name of science and trusting television to reflect your credibility, and even admiration, in the scientific community? Do you think that comes across the average viewer?

LQ: Foremost, I think my credibility is widely known. An audience who sees me on television already knows I’m credible, thanks not only to the various specials and programs that have been done about me, but because TV and print news has carried the word-of-mouth out of the scientific community and into the popular culture. I’m very fortunate in that regard. It’s not often that scientific renown and respect — which I’m flattered to have, and treasure — translates into popular recognition.

Where it really stands out is at a lecture like today’s, where I don’t have to restate my core research. The Quade Diagram is a household term — people may not know the periodic table, but they know what it is, they know a few elements, they know that it’s recognized because it has been thoroughly vetted and proven. It’s the same with the Quade Diagram and myself.

Beyond that, and I think this is important, I hope that people do read my book or look up my articles online, do look at and really think about the Diagram, after they see me on television. I don’t expect people to trust me without proof, but I think the proof is easy enough to find that people can quickly see that I’m the real thing. Most people aren’t as strict as I am about testing and verifying credibility, of course, and I’m not naïve. I know most people at home will take my credibility for granted. Maybe that’s a shame, or maybe that’s a luxury they’ve been afforded by my success. I worked hard to win that kind of respect.

Anyway, testing the credibility of findings — whether they’re mine or someone else’s — is what makes me a natural fit for my work. I’m a scientist.

TCM: The Institute has grown considerably in the last few years. Do you still keep up with all of the work that goes on there?

LQ: As best I can. I trust the people under me — we work with the best — and that’s one of the reasons I feel confident, and also responsible, being skeptical of the researchers who don’t work with us. If they were the best, we’d know them at the Institute.

TCM: What’s next then, for you, as far as the research goes?

LQ: Our big project, now, is a series of forensic anamorphology labs designed to apply what we’ve learned of anamorphology to a practical, real-world problem.

TCM: Crime.

LQ: Right now, I like to think of it more broadly as helping people. One of our staffers put it this way the other day, and I thought this was brilliant: Not all Missing Persons cases actually involve a crime, but all of them can probably benefit from an intelligent use of forensic anamorphology. We want to help people, whether that means solving crimes or just solving problems. We think anamorphology can find answers where we couldn’t before, and that’s a great step forward for all of us.

TCM: What’s the relationship between these new forensic labs and local police departments then? Is this the sort of relationship where they’ll send you samples of DNA and you’ll run tests?

LQ: We’re looking at a more aggressive approach to our operational dynamics. We intend to work with police departments when we can, but we’re not going to let stale municipal systems slow us down either. We have an advantage, as a separate entity, of being able to move around without all the bureaucratic restrictions that unfortunately keep the police from developing or implementing forensic techniques like ours. We hope to take advantage of that freedom.

TCM: As a kind of privatized police force?

LQ: Well, let’s be clear: I wouldn’t strictly characterize what we’re doing as enforcement. We’re a little bit more like a well organized and funded private investigation firm with top-line forensics labs of our own. It’s an exciting project.

TCM: Are these labs up and running now?

LQ: They’re in various stages of readiness, depending on the labs. We have people in the field right now, though, and the future looks to be very exciting.

TCM: Outside of your work with mutants at the Quade Institute and the forensic anamorphology lab, do you have much contact with them?

LQ: With heightened persons?

TCM: Yes.

LQ: That’s an interesting question. When I’m asked this I always feel a responsibility to remind people of the way things are. The answer I give is, “How could I know?” How many mutants do I come into contact with and not know it? The Quade Diagram, even for me, isn’t something that you can use to cold-read people, really. It requires careful observation and an appreciation of data. I think it’s important to remember that their abilities shouldn’t define the way we interact with them.

Now, to answer your question, I work with heightened individuals every day at the Institute and on the circuit. I spend a great deal of my time with them, mostly related to the Institute and my work, because that’s so often why they come to me, but I know more than a few socially. My wife and I both.

The point is, I don’t know how many mutants I know in daily life, but I do know a great many of them, and some quite well. But how can I know? I mean, you could be a mutant, and I just haven’t picked up on it. [laughs]

TCM: I’m not, but it’s funny you should put it that way, as my brother-in-law is actually a minor—

LQ: We say “B-category.”

TCM: Sorry. He’s a B-category person, and I didn’t know until after I was married.

LQ: Yes, exactly. See? So he isn’t a visible case, with manifest mutations. How could you know?

TCM: Right, I didn’t until he told me. It’s his toes. He doesn’t have toes.

LQ: That’s not an uncommon B-category mutation, actually.

TCM: But you must have lots of contact with openly manifest mutants. Is it common for you to interact with their abilities, day to day? Or just within the course of your work?

LQ: You know, it’s actually less common now, especially when I’m touring like this. I get approached sometimes after summits or TV appearances, but I don’t have many heightened persons announce their presence in my audiences. I get some correspondence, though. Lots, actually.

TCM: What’s that like?

LQ: Not so remarkable, really. They’re ordinary people, with their own distinguishing characteristics — in their case, heightened abilities — just like you and I. Some are nice, some are rude, some are shy. It’s really an odd question to answer.

But I see what you’re after — you need an anecdote — so here’s one for you: I was once levitated right off the ground by a mutant after a live TV appearance I did in Chicago. It was simply this young woman who wanted to meet me and say thank you for helping her and her doctors identify and make sense of her minor autistic symptoms, and she thanked me by giving me this unique experience. Then she teleported away and I haven’t seen her since. But here’s a young woman whose found some balance between her powers and her pain, and that really stuck with me.

TCM: Did you like it? Levitating?

LQ: I appreciated the gesture, let’s say. [laughs] But it turns out I like to have one foot on the ground. I have been teleported, though, and that’s terrific. I really loved doing that.

TCM: What power would you want, then, if you were to manifest a mutation?

LQ: I get asked this all the time, and I honestly can’t say. I try not to think about it too much, because I don’t want to be biased in my work. Also, though, I have a tendency to change my mind based on what kind of day I’m having. When my wife and I were training our dogs, I’d have given anything to be able to influence them directly, you can imagine. I guess I’d want access to them all. Who wouldn’t?

TCM: You’ve answered this question before, but the rumors persist. I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring it up: your powers. You deny having any—

LQ: That’s correct.

TCM: Have you ever been examined by your own people? Wouldn’t there be a conflict of interests there, anyway?

LQ: I have been examined, but that was largely for publicity. The fact is that if I was somehow heightened, I would know it by now. That’s the nature of things. I’d love to have some special ability, like you said, but we don’t get to choose, do we?

TCM: So what would you say to Bryce Dyson, the author of Super-Scientist, Mutate Thyself, who claims you have powers of telepathy and hyper-cognition?

LQ: I knew you were going to say that! Seriously, if only that were true.

Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game originally written by Robin D. Laws, and developed and extended by Gareth-Ryder Hanrahan, where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. Pre-order Mutant City Blues in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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