DBF Interviews: Jack FennellPublished 19/10/2018
Jack, thanks so much for taking the time out to speak with us today. We’re really looking forward to the launch of A Brilliant Void in November. This book is part of the Recovered Voices series by Tramp Press, and includes lesser-known works of classic Irish science fiction. Can you tell us about the origins of your project, and what appealed to you about editing it?
No problem – thanks for the kind words! A Brilliant Void came about through a happy convergence of interests. I’ve been working with Irish science fiction as an academic for years now; in 2014 I published a book based on my doctoral research, and I was asked to speak on the subject a couple of times. At the same time, Tramp Press had been looking to publish a sci-fi title, and part of their mission from the beginning was to bring forgotten or neglected Irish writing to light, hence their Recovered Voices series. My work came to their attention via an article in Village, and they asked if I’d be interested in putting a collection together for them that would do both. That was the fastest I’ve ever said “yes” to anything!
You are a Ghostwriter, as well as a published Author, Teacher, Copy editor and Proofreader! Can you tell us about any recent fun ghostwriting projects?
Nothing huge, I’m afraid – no celebrity biographies or anything like that. There are a couple of websites out there with copy on them written by me, and somewhere there’s a video game with a storyline and flavour text that I came up with, all under other people’s names. It’s always interesting work, though, and I’ll consider anything except student assignments (yes, unfortunately I get lots of those requests as well).
You’ve published a lot of translations and essays on Flann O’Brien’s short fiction pieces, including commentaries on the author’s occasional engagements with the science fiction genre. Can you give us specific examples of Flann’s engagements?
Well, The Third Policeman and its related work The Dalkey Archive have definite science-fictional elements (the Molecule Theory, quantum mechanics, the nature of time and so on), but there are two short pieces that have fun with the genre too: “Díoghaltas Ar Gallaibh ‘sa Bhliadhain 2032!” (‘Revenge on the English in the Year 2032!’) is set in a future Irish-speaking Ireland, and is about an Irishman who tricks an English tourist into swearing at everyone he meets; ” Teacht Agus Imtheacht Seán Buidhe ” ( The Arrival and Departure of John Bull ) is a fairy tale set after the extinction of the English language, and it has an English giant coming to Ireland with a sound recorder, looking for fragments of English vocabulary. There are also sci-fi bits in his Cruiskeen Lawn column from time to time. He was a writer who appreciated strange imagery and role reversals, and sci-fi offers plenty of scope for that.
And, of course, A Brilliant Void publishes a lot of the lesser-known Irish Science Fiction pieces, and we get a wide variety of those offerings just a month before Christmas, so we are in for a treat! See you then, Jack.