Julian Gough and the Almost Complete Absence of Irish Sci-Fi

Was at a reading of Julian Gough the other day, an author I had legit never heard of before. Well, more or less. I knew that he was an Irish author who looks like he’s hanging on to the hippie bandwagon by his last fingernail, and that he has a penchant for making silly faces and taking even sillier photos. But that was it. I kinda regret that now because this dude is hilarious! Might give his writing a chance now, even though a quick google search revealed his association with a band that had an extra silly name even by indie band name standards, and I judge people on their band names. Harshly. (I don’t really remember what it is now, come to think of it. Something silly, like Flambéed Agnostics or something.)

Anyway, Gough is an Irish writer, and if you’re a student of literature and you hear the words “Irish” and “writer” in one sentence, you groan in agony as you receive vivid and terrible flashbacks to the rightfully deceased James Joyce. Gough isn’t like ol’ Jimmy boy, thank his Catholic god.

So Gough goes on to talk, quite humorously and with a healthy dose  of sarcasm, about “authentic Irish writing” and his lack thereof, and how there are more people outside of Ireland identifying as Irish than there are inside of Ireland, a mini rant about the veneration of Peig Sayers in Ireland. Then he goes into all the bullshit standards and tropes that go into “authentic Irish writing”, the kind that actually gets published like by the New Yorker. It’s pretty much always the same, poverty and misery and exile and  alcoholism and an inability to speak English (looking at you Peig Sayers!). And funerals in the rain! Lots of those! No authentic Irish writing without a funeral in the rain! And perverted priests! And terrible Family Secrets (TM)! And towards the end he mentions the almost complete lack of Irish science fiction because Irish writing is much too focused on Ireland and history and introspection of, you guessed it, life in Ireland, and not enough on the rest of the planet, much less the rest of the universe.

And I am, of course, gone. Completely. ‘Cause you know… sci-fi and me is like, get the toast ’cause this my jam. A stroke of luck had it that Gough was through listing his twenty-three or twenty-six ironic commandments for writing* and we were already into the discussion when my brain started banging against the inside of my skull. I was having a hard time not to unleash my trademark roaring laughter during the reading (Yes, he’s that funny! We found a funny Irish guy who doesn’t write about funerals in the rain!), but at that point, it was all I could do not to choke as my thoughts boarded a bobby car and ran away with it, honking the horn all the way. Why is there no Irish sci-fi? I tried to imagine Irish sci-fi, and all I could come up with were parodies and stereotypes.

Imagine… Earth makes first contact with aliens. These aliens are green, like Irish shamrocks. The Irish befriend the aliens and they in turn help them to transport the entire island of Ireland to a distant planet so they can live in peace as far away from the English as possible. They do live there peacefully and still curse the English, until one day, a good three or four generations later, a young child asks “What’s an English?” and once that child grows up mounts an expedition to old Earth to uncover the secret of the English…

Imagine… Firefly, I hope you watch Firefly, if you don’t you need to watch Firefly… nine Irish people living on a space ship called the Millennium Tiger that’s shaped like a shamrock…

Imagine… what with the Irish habit of emigrating, space is just the next logical step. The Irish are the first to leave Earth once space travel goes mainstream. And they found a colony on Mars, where they can have funerals in the Martian rain, and terrible family secrets upon the De Valera space station that’s cruising about Nova Eire in geostationary orbit, while back on Earth the Scottish are calling dibs on the now deserted territory of the island…

Imagine… the Irish branch of the Catholic church boarding a gigantic vessel. Their five year mission: To find god among the stars and prove them pesky Protestants wrong for all eternity…

Imagine… a day of strolling, like Ulysses, through a gigantic futuristic city, monologuing as you go…

See? Doesn’t work. What makes a novel or a story Irish, even? Is it the style? Is it the funerals in the rain? Does it need to have Irish people in it? Does it need to be set in Ireland? And how does it work if you throw space in the mix? Or the future? Irish writers apparently can hardly handle the existence of the internet. Is it even possible to write authentic Irish sci-fi?

Lots of debate is going on about Authentic Irish Writing (TM), about 1.5% include Authentic Irish Writers (TM) because pretty much all of them are dead. Authentic Irish Writing (TM) is a specific type of Irish writing that usually contains Joyce and Yeats, and much less Wilde because 1) SINNER! Sinning sinner who sins!, 2) not enough about Ireland and family secrets and funerals in the rain. Gough, who like most Irish writers does not live in Ireland anymore, will in all likeliness not be counted among the elite of Authentic Irish Writers (TM) either, though what with the way Irish writers are usually only recognised post-mortem we’ll just have to wait this one out. Maybe he’ll even write us some sci-fi before that happens. Meanwhile I’ll amuse myself with trying to come up with Irish sci-fi myself. Kind of hard, that. I mean, we all just know that any Irish space endeavours would fail after a week due to lack of alcohol supplies, right?

And not to stereotype, but it’s all the English’s fault. No one knows how, but it’s like 600% certain.

*Which can be basically summed up as “Thou shalt not write boring shit we’ve all read before”, and I’m sure he’d agree with this paraphrasing.

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One thought on “Julian Gough and the Almost Complete Absence of Irish Sci-Fi

  1. “nine Irish people living on a space ship called the Millennium Tiger that’s shaped like a shamrock…” gave me a coughing fit laughing.
    I’d never thought about the lack of Irish sci-fi, someone does need to do something about that!
    (It’s most definitely our fault.)

    Liked by 1 person

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