The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Newton says, "Perpetual motion is impossible." Einstein says, "The speed of light is impassable." A Promethean says, "Challenege accepted."

A serialized novel by Colin O'Boyle. Five episodes were released between March and August 2012, which can be found here.

The story follows the life of Jack Baling, an engineering professor whose life takes a drastic turn down a strange lane when one of his students brings in a working perpetual motion machine. Studying this impossible device pushes Jack over the boundary between genius and insanity. He emerges from the other side with a death ray (cobbled together with parts from the microwave and his wife's hair dryer), and goes on a rampage, stopping only when he encounters another mad scientist.

Because there are people out there that share his abilities, and even more frightening than the mad scientists are what they dream of. For them, nothing is ever truly impossible.

The five episodes are:

  • Two Plus Two Equals Five
  • Just Because You're Paranoid...
  • We're All Mad Here
  • Pagurus and the Bouquet of Doom
  • Scirrus, the Squirrel Lord
Tropes used in The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling include:
  • Art Major Biology: A type of insect that lives in paralyzing gel, a St. Bernard-sized praying mantis/shrimp-creature that walks on land and serves as the living machine for a hyperintelligent cuttlefish named “Gwendolyn,” and that’s just from the first two episodes.
  • Artificial Limbs: The character Jack mentally dubs “Bladerunner” is described as having blade-like prosthetic legs. Probably something similar to Oscar Pistorius’s. [1]
  • Ax Crazy: When Jack gets his hands on a Disintegrator Ray capable of converting tables or people into a pile of dust, it doesn’t work out well.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The title of episode four, Pagurus and the Bouquet of Doom.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Peter Sharpe of the Prometheus Corporation describes the Prometheans as shepherds and humanity as sheep. Two guesses on how much value he assigns to the lives of people who aren’t “enlightened.”
  • Death Ray: Jack’s first invention as a mad scientist. Extra points for being housed in his wife’s hair dryer, so not only can it convert a kitchen island into dust with a red beam of light, it does so while being pearlescent pink with stylized purple flowers.
  • Deflector Shields: A personal one is used at the end of the first episode to defend against Jack’s death ray. It’s “about the size of a fold-up highway map and the color of Windex.”
  • Disintegrator Ray: After Jack accidentally shoots his kitchen island, it shivers, takes on an ashy appearance--as though it were merely newspaper image lit on fire--and then collapses into a pile of dust.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: One of the strangest creatures in the novel so far is a hyperintelligent cuttlefish named "Gwendolyn."
  • For Science!: Jack justifies his study of the perpetual motion machine and his eventual murder of Nico on the basis that figuring out how it works will mean infinite renewable energy and the solution to a host of the world’s problems.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: When Jack fires his death ray, he can actually see a red beam of light emit from the end of the weapon, and he has time to see it travel from the barrel to his target.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Jack is able to build a disintegrator gun out of parts from his microwave, flatscreen TV, laser pointer, refrigerator, and his wife’s hair dryer that plugs into any standard wall socket.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Jack’s study of his student’s perpetual motion machine caused him to go insane.
  • Hypno Ray: Not so much a ray as it is an audible tone, Jack is on the receiving end of one of these at the beginning of Episode 2.
  • Hologram: The central atrium of the Prometheus Corporation’s HQ has an enormous hologram of Prometheus as its centerpiece.
  • Insane Equals Violent: After Jack goes crazy trying to unlock the secrets of his student's perpetual motion machine, he ends up building a death ray. Violence ensues.
  • Just Think of the Potential: Even though it causes the deaths of two people Jack still can’t help but see the potential applications of his disintegrator gun.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Apparently perpetual motion is one of these things.
  • Mad Doctor: More of a Mad Research Psychiatrist than anything, but Lydia would technically count as one of these.
  • Mad Scientist: While he understands the theoretical aspects of science, Jack enjoys far more the application of it, classifying himself first and foremost as an engineer.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Jack has a rather mundane version of one of these in a shed in his backyard, but in the second episode he encounters some really sophisticated ones in the Prometheus Corporation’s HQ, some of which even have Jacob’s ladders and bubbling beakers..
  • Mind Control Device: Lydia uses one of these on Jack at the beginning of the second episode. It causes extreme feelings of disassociation in whoever hears it, temporarily submerging the afflicted individual’s conscious thoughts.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Although Jack’s initial impression of the insect/shrimp creature at the end of the second episode implies that it’s the combination of several different animals, it’s actually just a modified mantis shrimp [2]. Although, their name makes it clear that they do resemble a combination of those two animals.
  • No Conservation of Energy: Jack wonders about this one, both as it applies to the perpetual motion machine created by his student and his own disintegrator ray. Using the latter in quick succession does end up blowing a fuse, but the amount of energy involved in powering the thing in the first place is staggering. He shouldn’t be able to get that much juice at once in the first place.
  • Perpetual Motion Machine: The main focus of the first episode is what happens to an engineering professor when he encounters a working perpetual motion machine. Specifically, an overbalanced wheel [3].
  • Pure Energy: It isn’t mentioned specifically, but it seems like Jack’s disintegrator ray shoots beams made of this.
  • Ray Gun: Jack’s first creation as a mad scientist results in one of these.
  • Scale of Scientific Sins: Attempting to use his student’s perpetual motion machine to re-integrate his wife after she shoots herself with his death ray results in Jack’s committing sins number two and four.
  • Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Lydia calls it Hypercognitive Dementia. It’s characterized as the ability to create devices that “regular” science would classify as impossible. However, there are downsides as well, including a marked reduction in empathy, an inability to see how one’s actions affect others, and a belief that the sufferer’s struggles are the only ones that matter.
  • The Spark of Genius: In the second episode, the reader learns that what Jack and those like him do can never be replicated by regular scientists, and often not even by other mad scientists.
  • Tagline: Brilliance. Madness. Ray Guns.
  • Trigger Happy: The result of arming an ax-crazy mad scientist with a disintegrator gun.