Breaking Boxes

I’ve said it before, but I shall say it again: I’m feeling increasingly ashamed by attempts (by myself and others) to push Ciambhal O’Droningham into a small brown box marked, in red lipstick, with the words ‘erotic science-fiction’. Admittedly, he can narrate a sexual encounter between a man and a martian like no other. But there’s so much more to his skills than the enlightening juxtaposition of these two genres. Readers sometimes forget that The Dead Priest was, at heart, a comic religious detective story. Space was simply the backdrop – and sex something that happened to take place along the way. Which is to say that it wasn’t forced down one’s throat.

Re-reading his latest, Half-past Twelve at the Intergalactic Candy-Shop, reminds me, once again, of the breadth of O’Droningham’s interests  – and, dare I say it, of the constant integrity of his purpose.  Though I’ve seen denim shorts that were less coarse, I still think that this is an essentially moral book. However much philandering O’Solly does, I never stop believing that he has a good heart – and that he really does want to stop impregnating aliens. O’Solly is no mere lecher. He’s just another flawed man working under difficult circumstances. It’s not easy trying to spread Christianity across Jupiter’s moons.

The more one reads O’Droningham, the more one feels that this is fiction as it should be: boundary-less, enterprising, brave, honest, relentless in pursuit of a good story, but never at the expense of edification: of truth. To keep on calling it ‘erotic science-fiction’ is somewhat demeaning – and so far from the truth. For in reality, I cannot imagine finding a box in which O’Droningham would fit. He is one of literature’s great box-breakers. As soon as you think you’ve got him safely squashed into one, he squeezes his way in another, before pushing forward into a third, busting out into a fifth, and bouncing off into a sixth. No box can hold this man. No box on earth.

[More on O’Droningham here]

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