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Irish Science Fiction$
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Jack Fennell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381199

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381199.001.0001

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Mad Science and the Empire: Fitz-James O’Brien and Robert Cromie

Mad Science and the Empire: Fitz-James O’Brien and Robert Cromie

(p.32) 1. Mad Science and the Empire: Fitz-James O’Brien and Robert Cromie
Irish Science Fiction

Jack Fennell


This chapter looks at the nineteenth century and the historical context in which the stock figure of the ‘mad scientist’ first appeared, which was coincidentally a time of political agitation and cultural upheaval in Ireland. In nineteenth century Ireland, the line between science and tradition was blurred, and there was not always a clear distinction drawn between the ‘real’ and the supernatural. This is reflected in the works of Fitz-James O’Brien and Robert Cromie: O’Brien, a native of county Limerick, wrote short stories in which scientists consult the spirits of dead forebears for advice, while Cromie, a Belfast author of unionist conviction, set many of his Jules Verne-esque adventures in industrial enclaves surrounded by dangerous wilderness. Both authors work against a backdrop that is a cross between the Irish Gothic of the Protestant Ascendancy and the ‘lost world’ adventure stories that were becoming increasingly popular at the time.

Keywords:   mad scientist, nineteenth century Ireland, Irish Gothic, Fitz James OBrien, Robert Cromie, lost world

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