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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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The Wrong History: Bob Shaw, James White and the Troubles

The Wrong History: Bob Shaw, James White and the Troubles

(p.152) 6. The Wrong History: Bob Shaw, James White and the Troubles
Irish Science Fiction

Jack Fennell


This chapter juxtaposes the history of the ‘Space Race’ with the outbreak of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland; while Neil Armstrong predicted a ‘giant leap’ for mankind, it was clear to many that the promised science-fictional future wasn’t available to everyone. If space exploration was humankind’s destiny, the majority of humanity would end up with ‘the wrong history,’ including Northern Ireland. This chapter explores the work of authors Bob Shaw and James White, both self-described ‘escapists,’ and examines how their science fiction addresses both this disparity and their own ambiguous attitudes to history. Shaw, a pulp-influenced purveyor of action-adventure, depicted heroes against insane demagogues, while White is most famous for his Sector General series, set aboard a hospital space station that treats patients from varying species, where the real enemy is xenophobia. Their works embody different attitudes to history: Shaw tries to escape history, and White to diminish its importance.

Keywords:   Space Race, Northern Ireland, Bob Shaw, James White, Sector General, escapists, pulp

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