Author's Note: Idiot Savant: a condition where one is a genius or prodigy in one subject and inept at others.
A challenge originally put out by Abigail Nicole, then made into a challenge for the Criminality archive as well. Finished a month ago, and it's a testament to how busy the history department at my school keeps me that it took that long to post it anywhere.
Author's Note 2: The Quotes are not actually from a lecture by Dr Jeanette Dean - both the quotes, the lecture and Dr Dean are products of my imagination, the idea simply provided a nice way to break up the scenes.
"The most perplexing aspect of the genius is the unpredictable nature of his intelligence, and the often flighty way said intelligence manifests itself. One could be a genius in the science disciplines, or have an amazing grasp of languages, but true genii, ones with a fully rounded repertoire, are said to be only one every thousand years. I believe they may be a little rarer."
Artemis Fowl the Second sighed slightly, unnoticed by Professor Henry Boggis. Professor Boggis was far too interested in divesting his wealth of knowledge about the Architeuthis dux, more often known as the Giant Squid, onto Artemis's uninterested shoulders and mind to notice something like a sigh.
Though, Artemis was not bored - he had never been bored in his entire life, and he still didn't understand the state of existence in others, even after much study of the human condition. He sometimes, in cynical moments, suspected that humans had made up boredom one day to make sure that life could be more complicated and less enjoyable. He had reasoned rather quickly that it had been a lawyer, or possibly a politician, that had been first to think up such a monstrosity.
How could anyone have nothing to do when there was so much to learn from everything around them?
He did, however, feel that one should only know a certain amount about squid. And even if you happened to know more, there was no point in afflicting the knowledge upon others. Why learn more about oversized entrées when you could be learning about Byzantine art developments in the 14th Century? Or the latest advances in multimedia sensors? Or medicinal plants used in traditional cultures that might have a use on a larger world stage if they would be able to be mass cultivated? The world was a mass of knowledge, and the squid were only one part of it, although moderately interesting if you wanted calamari rings that you could also use as a hoola-hoop. Artemis almost laughed inside at his own joke, but didn't.
He made his polite apologies to Professor Boggis and moved on. Boggis was obviously an idiot savant – or just an idiot – and his squid-based genius certainly didn't continue onto his clothing. Boggis hadn't left his office for anything other than a few squid trawling expeditions in the past 30 years, and owned only one 'nice' shirt that he had bought from a bargain bin when the 80's were doing their worst. Artemis couldn't respect that, and he'd never really liked calamari.
"Salve, you must be Master Fowl!" said a deep voice from just behind him.
Artemis turned, with a clear fake smile for the Professor. "Professor Turovtski, master of the Language faculty, I presume? With a personal, irrational passion for Latin."
"Why yes, indeed. But it is hardly an irrational passion. Latin is the most beautiful of languages, the development of the grammatical structure was a marvel of the times, and it has never been surpassed. I call it the 9th Wonder of the Ancient World, myself. But that's just a little personal joke."
"Ars Longa, Vita Brevis, lingua Latina perfectio."
The Professor laughed heartily. "Bene, bene!"
Artemis smiled slightly, content and smug. "As much as I would love to speak Latin all day, I have social circuits to complete. I'm sure you understand. Excuse me, Professor."
"Why of course, Master Fowl! Illiud Latine dici non potest?"
"Queo. Vale, professor." Artemis moved away, wondering if the University would be serving squid, or if their faculty would notice the quality of the food at all, being so inanely absorbed in their own hobbies and areas of study. Then he forgot about squid for a moment, seeing the impressively balanced sculpture that sat in a corner of the conference room, where everything was 'modern' other than the thinking.
The sculpture was of metal and stone, huge weights balancing on the thinnest of supports, delicate beside strength, under and around and beating gravity. Top-heavy, one component barely joined with the rest at all... He mentally catalogued how the weight distribution, coupled with the gravity centre of the sculpture, left the sculpture upright on its pedestal.
"The most well known examples of genii would undoubtedly be that of Leonardo DaVinci and Albert Einstein. Most people in the developed world know of E=mc², although it is unlikely that most know what this actually means - that energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light. Let alone knowing the significance of Einstein's equation to the scientific community. Einstein is said to have realised this in a moment of daydream at age 24, imagining himself as a beam of light bending with the gravity of the Earth. In later life he was excentric, socially inept, had inexcusably bad hair, and is known to have had an IQ of less than Marylin Munroe. He possibly had Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, since he did not start speaking until late and was hesitant even at the age of nine. His brain was lacking the parietal operculum, and instead had enlarged parietal lobes, which helps in visualisation and mathematics. He made the most significant advances in physics theory in human history, though by some accounts he wasn't able to visit his corner store successfully."
"Albert, give the student back his gadget. You've already had a look at it."
The boy, only about four or five years old, looked up at his mother with slight scorn that she had reduced the wonder that he held in his chubby hands to a mere gadget. "It's a compass, Mother. And he said I could look at it."
Young Albert Einstein looked down once more at the compass in his hands, turning it around and around, watching the magnetic pointer bounce up and down as it swung to point North. He even put it over his head and looked then, seeing if it would still point unnervingly towards the lamp in the corner of the room.
The medical student who had brought the wonder to Albert's attention grinned as he watched the boy trying to solve the mystery of the compass. "It happens everywhere, Albert; in rocks and in small pieces of metal and in huge sheets of metal - not just in my compass. How do you think it might work?"
The boy looked at the compass long and hard, turning it over in his hands, the bronze weight of it heavy in his small palms. He took a long time with his answer, considering his words and the compass with great care. "There's something that's making it move. …Stay still. …Point towards the north. Something behind it, that we can't see and we don't even know about 'cause it's so well hidden."
The student smiled at the answer. "What do you think it might be?"
"I don't know. Maybe I'll find out when I'm older though." Albert handed over the compass to the student, who wrapped the large instrument up in a velvet cloth then pocketed it once again, standing up from his crouch and giving Mrs Einstein an encouraging smile.
"Sure you will," said the student, ruffling Albert's hair with one hand. "Why don't you make another card house? Do you want me to help you?" Albert shook his head 'no'. "You'll call me to come see it once you're done?"
The student moved with Mrs Einstein towards the parlour. "You've got a delightful boy on your hands, Mrs Einstein."
Albert Einstein's mother looked back at her boy, who was carefully balancing cards against one another to make them stand. "Honestly, we worry about him."
"DaVinci is more complex, and thought to be the one in a thousand years that is a true genius, one who is an expert in whatever subject matter that is presented to him. This opinion is created because of the knowledge of his talents with invention, artistry, physics, biology and architecture. He was expert in far more disciplines than is usual, although it is not known how he faired in everyday life and tasks. It is now suspected that his famous 'mirror writing' was not, in fact, a clever means to protect his inventions, but he wrote backwards because he was dyslexic."
With tongue held between his teeth, concentrating completely on the task in front of him, something rather rare for himself, Leonardo painted another light brush of colour upon the lady's cheek. He absent-mindedly dropped the brush into a bowl of turpentine and picked up a brush of pine marten, so thin that it could paint individual eyelashes or a single hair flickering across a subject's face, and the play of light upon that imperfect hair.
Another line, delicate and flexible and balancing perfectly with what he had already completed.
He stepped back, and his eyebrows creased as he viewed the half-painted canvas before him.
It wasn't any good, not at all. He mused on the idea of starting from scratch, painting over her face and her beauty - it would be too expensive to burn her.
It was her smile. He couldn't get her smile perfect. He couldn't put into those lips a secret kiss that no one shall ever take, love of life and love itself, passion, humour, wisdom, intimate knowledge of the viewer… It needed to be perfect, because smiles were always perfect.
He dropped the brush into the turpentine. He resigned himself to never being perfect; Life and Love could not be transferred to canvas quintessentially – Life rebelled, and Love went meekly to its place in her eyes, but never reached her lips.
Leonardo moved the still wet canvas and laid it carefully against a wall. Maybe he'd get back to her later.
"Social interaction. Dyslexia. Attention difficulties. The genius's Achilles' Heel, his one fault that stops him from achieving perfection."
Artemis Fowl the Second lent against the cold granite of St. Bartleby's. The cold seeped through his blazer, into the bones the way Irish rain chills the marrow, always before you realise you're even damp.
He watched a group of students - about seventeen years old, two years older than himself - who were sending him wary looks and most likely talking about him – he could tell by the number of times each boy's gaze would drift over his way nonchalantly and then skitter back to a safe subject as soon as Artemis made eye contact.
One boy pulled out a packet of cigarettes as though he thought this was rebellious in an Irish youth of today. Didn't he know that only ten minutes away kids aged thirteen at Abbey Community College and the Dominican Convent Wicklow were shooting up drugs and getting pissed in their lunch hours? Ignorance - the one thing that Artemis could never stand. If people put in the effort to rid themselves of ignorance, then perhaps Artemis could reciprocate and boost their egos with his presence.
Artemis was still observing the boys, who were all lighting up and looking around for the suspicious eyes of teachers. The boy who supplied the cancer sticks jogged over to Artemis's section of wall.
"Fowl, do you want one?" He asked, holding out the packet of cheap ciggs bought from a Chinese man who didn't check ID. Artemis vaguely recognised the kid from an advanced science course he had taken in his first year; the boy probably had the same recognition, and thought Artemis the brown-nosing type who would dob in a fellow student indulging in the destruction of his body. He didn't know that Artemis couldn't reduce himself to speaking to the plebeian 'professors' and mock-doctors of the school without severe reason.
"Of course not. The studies I did at age seven on the chemical composition has put me off the idea for life."
"No need to be rude, I was only asking."
The boy glared at Artemis and moved back towards his mates, blowing smoke from his mouth as he walked. He shrugged at his friends and they probably made some rude comments, judging from their laughter.
Artemis remembered that his name was O'Shay or O'Sharron, or something similar.
"The state of 'Idiot Savant' is far more common than the average person knows. Most people deemed genius are only so in one discipline, and often extremely inept at anything outside their speciality. There are some genii who have broad general knowledge, are able to apply themselves to most tasks and have normal or better social skills. But they are not as advanced in any of their disciplines as their counterparts who only deal in one or two specialities are. There are not enough hours in the day and minutes in a lifetime for a genius to become an expert in everything, they must improvise and specialise."
Artemis Senior looked up as his wife entered his office and sank into a rather uncomfortable leather couch – he'd been meaning to find another to take its place, but an uncomfortable couch was such a useful negotiating tool at times.
"Is Artemis asleep?"
"Barely, Timmy. He had to tell Butler something long-winded and complicated before sleep. He was speaking so fast about who knows what - I don't think that Butler could have understood a word." Angeline sighed, and though Timmy knew she wasn't relaxed, she was certainly exhausted. "I can't believe he's only five. He's far too mature. It's unbelievable the things he comes out with, and his teacher has been giving him whatever she finds that she thinks might interest him – he especially loves books on chemistry and physics."
Timmy didn't say anything.
"Why do you object to getting his IQ tested, Timmy? He's a genius, we can't keep him in ordinary classes for long."
"He's a child." Timmy whispered.
"Not in his head. Or, at least, he's not five. He might be sixteen. If you spent any time with him you'd know that."
"He's unbalanced. We shouldn't encourage him to read books on chemistry, we should encourage him to make friends. He's never had any proper friends, not even when he was a toddler."
"That's because he was talking in full sentences when they were playing with toy diggers and starting to say 'Mama'. He helps Ms Crowe teach the other boys most of the time."
Angeline sighed, and pulled Timmy down onto the couch beside her. She rested her head on his shoulder, and rested a perfectly shaped, aristocratic arm across his chest. "You know what he's going through. He got it from his father."
Timmy didn't push Angeline away, but he didn't relax into her touch. "Some studies say that intelligence travels through the mother's genes."
"Please, Timmy. Why won't you let Arty be like you? Why can't he be a genius? Why can't we encourage him to be a fantastic intellect?"
"What about me would we want him to be, Angel?"
"We shouldn't stop him from being who he is! He's not a child, not really, and we shouldn't keep trying to treat him that way. He's far too intelligent for that. You know what it is like, far more than I do. He shouldn't have to grow up the way you did - pressured to be something that Winston wanted you to be - and lose part of himself.
"He should be a child!" Timmy yelled.
Angeline just cuddled closer, her breath warm against his ear, the hot air breathing the truth into Timmy's mind. "But he's not."
"The mind of the genius is complex, and even with all parts of the brain being equally strong, a genius is unlikely to be an expert in all aspects of human culture. Some parts of the brain would dominate over others, due to personal interest, challenge, economics, or some other environmental factor or need. The genius could be a conceptual mathematics genius, or one specialising in technologies, or in art, but they are unlikely to be as adept in another field."
It had been his mother's idea to name him Artemis, but it had been his father's inspiration. It wasn't until much later when he met his future wife that he became Timmy, and every moment up until then he felt wrong, outcast, not quite right because something wasn't quite wrong, but close enough. And after he was the same, but it understood what it was now.
Artemis Fowl the First was smart – he knew that, his teachers did too. Winston, Artemis's father, knew it better than most, because it was he who built up his son until success was the only thing he was moulded for, and failure was a far off item that only happened to other people.
Artemis had been taken into his father's business meetings when he was seven, even the meetings which were less than savoury, less than legal, and sometimes involved knifes and Butlers earning their keep. Artemis had watched, and learnt, and enjoyed every minute of it when his father paid attention to him, because that never happened at home. It didn't matter that he wanted to play with the chemical set Major had given him for his birthday, because when he ignored that Winston was happy with him. It didn't matter that he wanted to read books with long titles about black holes, because the only black hole that Winston cared about was the one in which old ties and contacts can be lost forever, their bodies not disturbing the delicate balance that the Fowls had made in the Irish underworld.
Artemis had wondered once what the Irish myths said about death, because Winston had never let him read them because they played with his mind and were not real.
Winston wasn't really real, and sometimes Artemis felt like he was only an insufficient shadow that had made the mistake to hide away from the light, and that as soon as the light fell on him he'd be free but no longer even be a shadow – he'd be banished by his own achievement and ambition. Artemis wondered what he'd feel like himself when that happened – if he'd be freer than the birds, or if he'd be a bird in a cage with the rain falling down through the wire mesh of his ceiling.
It happened like that – he was a bird with a tiger's claws, which weighted him down to Earth; and had been led into it by a vicious peacock.
Artemis smiled inside when he thought that analogy, a smirk of satisfaction. His son was already a tiger, with the freedom of a dragon, the calculating grace of a funnelweb spider, and the slow, knowing smile of a crocodile.
"Other factors must also be taken into account. If a genius – that being someone with an Intelligence Quota of over 150 by the standard scale – was to have a learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia then it is unlikely that the genius would be able to reach their full potential. Dyslexia would make reading difficult, this would isolate them from their peers in a school situation, and it would be unlikely that their intelligence would even be known. This is an eventuality which we must guard ourselves and our society against."
"What are you reading, Artemis?" Asked Winston on entering his twelve-year-old son's bedroom without knocking.
Artemis tilted the book so that his father could see the cover – a background of black and blue, a spattering of stars and a brightly shining spaceship. Artemis giggled, the smile reaching to his eyes. The title was in yellow, with a futuristic font.
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?"
Artemis finally looked up, lodging a finger in the pages to keep his place. "Major lent it to me. His wife said it was good for the soul. It's hilariously funny, Father. It turns out that the Earth was a giant computer for determining the question of life, the universe and everything and is run by white mice who are performing subtle experiments on scientists by running down the wrong tube occasionally when we think we're performing experiments on them. The mice had another computer that already figured out the meaning of life, and the answer was 42, but then they didn't know what the question was." His eyes were glittering as he spoke, and his voice hadn't yet broke.
The was barely a second of silence, but it meant a lot.
"I gave Major one of my stories to read," Artemis said, defiantly, as he already knew what his father was going to say, "and he said it reminded him of this. It wasn't as funny as this, though."
"You don't need to waste your time reading satires of philosophy. Nor writing Star Trek plots. Give me the book." Artemis handed it over, looking up at his father and wishing they didn't look so similar, because Artemis was never going to be such a mean father when he had kids.
"Thank you, son. I'll return it and have a talk with the Major. You know why I'm doing this?"
Artemis nodded, of course he knew why, he just didn't like it at times.
He scratched his hands over his duvet and looked at the individual fibres in the material, concentrating on them in an effort to think of nothing else.
"A genius who is not an idiot savant is an impossibility; there is too many things to learn, and not enough seconds in a lifetime. By definition, someone who is a genius is on an intellectual level far above his peers, and can only find an equal in another genius; the ratio of probability is far against."
Timmy was ten minutes late for breakfast, and when he came in he poured himself a glass of orange juice and sat down opposite his son. There was a bowl of muesli in front of him, but he simply sipped some orange juice and waited for Artemis to say something. Artemis didn't oblige, buttering himself a piece of toast.
Angeline gave her husband a careful smile. "How did you sleep, Timmy? You were up early."
Timmy turned his gaze to her, but only for a moment. "Not well, dear. And yes, I was; I've been up since three." He turned back to Artemis. "It was nasty to attack my assets in Asia first, Artemis. If only for the time zoning."
"Was it, Father?"
"Very. But you know that's where I've been focusing my attentions of late, so there's far more management already working on the problem."
"But the trade there is younger than your British projects; it's so much easier to uproot your whole system in Japan than to wrestle with your London offices. And I don't know what you mean by the word 'attack' – it's such a nasty, inaccurate statement, Father, you make it sound as if I'm specifically undermining your own ventures, and I assure you I'm certainly doing nothing of the sort."
Angeline opened her mouth to make a shocked comment to either her husband or her son, but Timmy already had a hand over her mouth before any words came out. "Why, Artemis? You occupy more of the world's underground that I do anyway, let alone your legitimate business ventures. It's amazing you find time to enact hostile takeovers of your father's enterprises. And you're sixteen. No wonder you have no time for a girlfriend."
"I'm good at time management and delegation. And, I'm a genius. Sorry." Artemis grinned, and took a large bite of his toast.
"Why, Artemis, not how. For the joy of this conversation over orange juice?"
Artemis took another bite, a structured incident to make his response look both more spontaneous and considered. And less important, because toast came first. "The challenge, Father."
"Bullshit." Artemis raised an eyebrow at his father's uncharacteristic, unrefined language. "Bullshit," Timmy repeated. "You don't get any more challenge out of ruining me than you get out of composing a symphony while simultaneously manipulating the president of the United States, forging the Mona Lisa, and creating a new mental illness. That's not the excuse, that's just what you're looking for."
Artemis smiled up at his father, and raised the buttered toast to his lips once more. "True, Father, it isn't particularly challenging, though it is better than if I were to 'attack'," Artemis's lips curled at the word, "some of your competitors and contemporaries. It does give me something to do, of course. If it bothers you so much I could always play my games elsewhere, but I thought that you enjoyed the challenge."
"I don't need the challenges my son gives me."
"Well, at least be thankful they're not the usual challenges the father of a normal son would get – who really needs all that mucking about with hormones and the like?"
"I envy the American sitcom dad sometimes, Artemis. He doesn't have to deal with a genius."
"Where is the fun in that? Everyone knows that genii make things so much more interesting and unpredictable."
"Only when it's you. Most of the breed is incredibly predictable – you can always know what a squid expert or a nuclear physicist is thinking about. Artemis Fowl the Second, now there is someone to keep you on your toes."
"Is that a compliment, Father? I never knew you cared."
Timmy didn't answer the question. "Your psychiatrist said—"
"Dr Edmund something; when you were eight, I think. He once said that you did these things to gain attention."
"I'm surprised you remember that. Or that you didn't get Sandra to take the call."
Timmy glared at him. "If you believe that I never paid enough attention to you as a child then I don't doubt what Edmund Whoever said."
"Don't worry, I don't blame you, Father. I know who and what you are. This way I can get your attention in the only playing field you're comfortable in, as an equal."
"Just so long as we know what mental defects we both have, Artemis."
"Of course, Father." Artemis stirred a teaspoon of sugar into his cooling tea, then left to call his General Manager, taking a sip along the way.
"The life of a genius is a hard one. One without equals, one where people are afraid to approach because of his fantastical reputation. A genius is alone. A true genius would be like a god in a sea of particularly stupid pigeons. He would see the world with wise eyes by the age of 6, and the intelligence behind those eyes would be enough so that, to him, talking with even the most learned among us would be like us trying to hold an in depth conversation with a severely autistic child."
The curator, Rupert Kavanaugh, watched the young man – at least 50 years younger than himself, but things like that grew larger with every day, when once upon a time it was he looking down at the old curator with his long-eyebrows, wrinkles about the eyes and nose and mouth, and skin the look and feel of leather at his elbows which were never bare. Rupert didn't let his elbows be bare now either; the air conditioning was far too cold to leave the elbows bare.
The man – only this side of the classification of 'boy' – had been in this room for maybe two hours, and no one but Rupert himself could find the works of Rodin so fascinating. He'd been staring at a carving for five minutes, not moving, barely blinking. Rupert decided that Questions Must Be Asked, because the average nineteen-year-old simply did not find any form of art so engrossing.
Rupert approached him from behind; he was wearing a dark suit, obviously tailored and obviously a lot more expensive than anything Rupert had ever touched – except for a few masterpieces, perhaps. His hair was just as dark, brushing at his collar in a rebellion that didn't suit Versace. There was a briefcase in his hand; maybe he was one of those computer genii who made a billion dollars at age fourteen. Rupert didn't appreciate how the English language had been degraded recently so syllabuses had replaced syllabi, and geniuses had replaced genii, because it didn't seem right to let go of two thousand year old conventions, but maybe he was just old and bathetic.
His knees were creaking, which is a constant reminder of how things have changed. The boy, who was only pretending to be a man, turned around at the sound.
"Good afternoon, sir." He said, perfectly politely, exactly as Rupert would have expected, if Rupert had expected anything.
"Do you like Rodin?" Asked Rupert, for a lack of anything else to say.
"I… appreciate his work."
"Yes, the balance is always amazing in his sculptures, isn't it?"
"The balance is nothing compared to the illusion of light and movement that he creates."
"Of course, of course. Are you studying Art?"
"I did at one point."
"Oh, what are you doing now?"
"PhD in Genetic Science, and one in Psychology - both at Oxford. And a Masters in Celtic History and Myth at Trinity through correspondence. Now, if you'll excuse me, sir…"
Rupert nodded absentmindedly and wandered away towards the Renaissance display, glancing back to see Artemis Fowl the Second take a pad of expensive art paper from his briefcase and sit on a leather ottoman. He began to draw.
If Rupert had found out about the outrageous Rodin forgery schemes before his death he wouldn't have suspected the man who had stared at them for only five minutes each.
Artemis thought of the Architeuthis dux as he drew.
"Thankfully, no such 'genius savant' exists."
- extract from presentation The Mind of the Genius: An Extended Study by Dr Jeanette Dean, Ph.D.