A dispiriting aspect of Shamrokon was the great disservice done to the heritage of Irish speculative fiction by at least one panel.
It would be easy to get into a huge (and ultimately self-defeating) rant over some of what was said. I should know, I started to write it – then ditched it. I realised that I had to accept that much of what, in my anger, I had begun to react to as ill-informed, dismissive claptrap, ought, more constructively, to be looked upon as a cry for help – a signal if you like that there is a body of basic Irish speculative fiction heritage out there, which every Irish SF, Fantasy & Horror fan and writer ought to be aware of, that is slowly being, if not lost then at least forgotten.
A decade or so ago, there were a number of good Irish resources out there on the web. They still come up in the first page or two if you Google ‘Irish Speculative Fiction.’ Unfortunately they no longer seem to be being maintained and many of the links are dead.
So where to begin? Well as a modest contribution to the cause, I’m going to start a series of pieces on Irish speculative fiction writers here in my blog.
Really though, I ought to draw attention to the work of the incomparable Nicholas Whyte, who has been writing on the subject for decades with more knowledge and skill than I will ever manage. His vast blog is here and as an example of what he sometimes writes about, here’s his piece from January 2014 on John Francis Maguire’s novel from 1871, The Next Generation, featuring a Westminster with Irish Home Rule and women MP’s, a Channel tunnel and a British invasion of China, in which plucky heroine, Irish MP and Liberal Chief Whip Grace O’Donnell, slugs it out with her Tory counterpart. If I had one criticism of the blog it’s that the pieces are not very well tagged, so launching the ‘Irish SF’ tag, for example will only return a tiny fraction of what is there – you have to browse.
Nicholas Whyte also put together this Irish SF resource – not updated for about a decade but still utterly essential reading.
There is also a Pinterest board of Irish SF, Fantasy and Horror Writers (including folk tale and mythology collectors) run by Michael Scott (with a little help from Michael Carroll and myself) here. The qualifying criterion is that a writer was either born on or lived on the island of Ireland. That’s it. There are none of the, quite frankly, ghastly, sub-qualifications, such as a writer having to be writing for an Irish audience and published within Ireland, that appeared to be emerging at Shamrokon.