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Irish Science Fiction$
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Jack Fennell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381199

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381199.001.0001

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date: 13 December 2017

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

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

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

Jack Fennell

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781381199.003.0001

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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