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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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Exotic Doom: The SF of Ian McDonald

Exotic Doom: The SF of Ian McDonald

(p.172) 7. Exotic Doom: The SF of Ian McDonald
Irish Science Fiction

Jack Fennell


This chapter examines Ian McDonald’s work, focusing on selected novels that set science fiction tropes in non-Western countries. In doing so, McDonald is complicating science fiction’s assumed frames of reference (white, Western techno-utopias), and displacing privileged cultural logics that maintain them. However, his attempts to do so are problematic, not least because it is on other cultures’ behalf. In highlighting non-Western settings, McDonald’s novels’ ‘selling point’ is their exoticness, and so they represent a kind of ‘Orientalism’ even as they move beyond standard Western sf narratives. This chapter argues that McDonald actually inverts usual Orientalist clichés by paying careful attention to material and economic structures: whereas Orientalism considers only the exotic ‘superstructure’ of non-Western societies, McDonald’s settings are characterised by science-fictional industrial ‘bases,’ such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology or genetic engineering. This chapter also explores a peculiar fatalism in McDonald’s work, which manifests in gender relations, economics and tribalism.

Keywords:   Ian McDonald, orientalism, gender relations, tribalism, utopias, science fiction

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