Jack Fennel is a writer and translator whose previous academic work, Irish Science Fiction, was an examination of how science fiction can be understood in terms of myth. In that study, Fennel argued that science fiction springs from pseudo-science rather than actual science and, therefore, different cultures, each with distinct pseudo-sciences, each producing unique science fiction traditions. In his latest publication, A Brilliant Void, Fennel builds on this thesis with a selection of 15 classic science fiction short stories from Irish authors.
Published by Tramp Press as part of their Recovered Voices series, A Brilliant Void features stories dating from as far back as 1837 with the newest dating from 1960. Despite their age, however, it is surprising how modern some of the stories feel. For instance, Irish writer Tarlach Ó hUid beat the DeLorean featured in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Back to the Future trilogy by about forty years with a tale about a time travelling car sent back in time to stop the Irish Civil War by detonating an atomic bomb in London in 1920!
Another story has echoes of modern-day newspaper headlines in the Trump and MeToo era. In Mercia, The Astronomer Royal, an Emperor assaults his female astronomer, and then lies to the media about it. A court case ensues, during which it emerges that a recording device has captured the whole sordid scene. In another story - The Exile, about a young Irish man who decides to emigrate to the Moon - there are echoes of the migrant crisis in Europe and the United States today.
In the book’s introduction, Fennel gives readers two reasons why it is important to recover these forgotten gems of Irish literature. First, that the science fiction of the past gives us insight into how people saw their future in days gone by, and secondly, that such stories allow us to look at the everyday world from a hypothetical remove. For instance, how would aliens see “a referendum, the St Patrick’s Day parade or a banking inquiry?”
Fans of anthology series such as The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits will enjoy this collection of darkly funny tales from the Emerald Isle.
A BRILLIANT VOID / AUTHOR: JACK FENNELL / PUBLISHER: TRAMP PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW