HSQ (8/9)

This half-hearted seasonal quiz is your friend. Don’t be afraid to leave your answers in the comments, whatever your level of ignorance.

8. ‘Catholicism and science fiction are not strange bedfellows, not in my book. As a child, I was barely able to tell them apart. I remember being shown a fifteenth century illustration of Gideon and the Fleece and thinking it was a still from the new Doctor Who. Having an angel appear to you and being abducted by an alien must be relatively similar experiences’

Who said this?

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]

Firing Body and Mind

Continuing the theme of yesterday’s post, I would like to make it clear that there is much more to ero-sci-fi than titillation for lonesome physicists. What writers like O’Droningham do, at their best, is to draw in a new audience altogether, bringing together fans from both sides of the divide, as well as those for whom either pure eroticism or pure sci-fi would be too specialised an interest.

I recall an interview with O’Droningham in which he spoke of his delight in encountering readers who were driven to his novels by the promise of alien sex, but who came out of them fascinated by the moon’s gravitational pull. Like others before him, he wondered whether erotic writers or film-makers ought not to make more of an effort to pad their stories with similarly educational subplots, in order to ‘fire both the body and the mind’.

This last phrase reminds one, of course, of the likeminded Pornucation Project, set up in the late ’80s by Reginald Fitzhelm, the son of a Chicago stockbroker and his Javanese mistress. Fitzhelm’s company took blue movies and spliced them with educational programmes, creating a new medium altogether. Unlike O’Droningham’s novels, however, the Pornucation Project was never a success – and, alas, only a small proportion of that particular hot-blooded generation emerged with a working knowledge of Japanese foreign policy in the 1890s.

To Boldly Go Where People Have Already Been

What with Star Trek pornography, and the rather more intellectually engaging work of this man, these are heady days for erotic science fiction – which turns out to be good news for this blog, which has been able to net a few of these sexy alien fanciers as they flock across the web in their thousands. ‘Erotic science-fiction’ has been far and away the most popular search-term or tag this last week, comfortably outscoring ‘Bulgarian Farm Poetry’, ‘ Tangerines in Portuguese Painting’ and – believe it or not – ‘Georgy Riecke errors’.

The bait? Ciambhal O’Droningham, of course: Ireland’s best erotic science-fiction writer of the last decade or more, whose latest novel Half-past Twelve at the Intergalactic Candy-Shop was published only weeks ago – and continues the adventures of Seamus O’Solly, the wise-cracking hero of The Dead Priest (reviewed here).

I’ve already covered the book here, but may yet take advantage of the current boom in ero-sc-fi to add another word or two later in the week, just as soon as I can wrestle my copy of the book off my wife, whose penchant for libidinous literature has often embarrassed me.

To Erotic Science-Fiction – and Beyond

After a few days tickling the furry chin of controversy, here’s a perfectly legal (if not necessary) dose of reality, relating to claims made regarding the art of the Irish novelist Ciambhal O’Droningham.

Two days ago I referred to him as a purveyor of ‘erotic science-fiction’. This is not, in itself, wrong. O’Droningham’s novels rarely go twenty-five pages without at least one encounter of a sexual kind, or a long-winded comparison of inter-planetary transportation. To reduce this scribbling monk, however, to this one powerful label is, nevertheless, a crime – as it is to reduce any artist to any narrow-minded moniker (unless the person is Obo Urlach and the label is ‘worthless’).

In light of this, I should like to point out now that O’Droningham’s work very often propels itself, like a flea on speed, beyond the constraints of ‘erotic science-fiction’. Like many great novelists (and I dare-say, some smart butterflies) he simply refuses to be pinned down. Thus, while his latest work (Half-past Twelve at the Intergalactic Candy-Shop) contains more than the usual supply of feisty fourteen-breasted aliens and light-speed-jet-packs, it also features a genuinely moving analysis of infertility in the Twenty-Second Century, and a generous sprinkling of wise comments concerning the career of Marcellus II. On top of this there is, as usual, many a clever reference to Seamus O’Solly’s long-time hero St. Columban. Those who think that O’Droningham is out ‘to titillate – and nothing more’ are standing, knee-deep, in a smelly pool of foolishness. Yes, that’s right. And what’s more, your wellington boots are leaking. Leaking, I tell you, leaking!

Here endeth the lesson, for now…

(More on O’Droningham here, here and, of course, here).