I HAVE seen ‘read more short stories’ or ‘a short story a day’ pop up numerous times as a New Year’s resolution on social media in recent days.
In Ireland, we are particularly blessed with wonderful short story writers and a recent publication from Tramp Press shows that was as true in our literary past as in the present day.
It Rose Up is Tramp’s first fantasy publication, and the seventh in their popular ‘Recovered Voices’ series, which has been described as ‘a literary past … being salvaged’.
This collection of lost and forgotten works of Irish fantasy includes stories by Dora Sigerson Shorter, Charlotte McManus and George Egerton - and offers readers an accessible way to dip into a neglected chapter of Ireland’s literary past. An ideal starting point if you are one of those vowing to read more short stories in 2022.
A mystical battle between foreign gods and local saints is unleashed as idols are mistaken for garden ornaments; an ambiguous wizard spies on his neighbours from an invisible tower; a cursed duelling pistol influences its owners to commit suicide. With strange combinations of occultism, electricity, magic and playfully biblical archetypes, the 15 darkly funny stories in this book illuminate a side of Irish literary history that is often overlooked.
The stories span two centuries of Irish writing, from Manus O’Donnel’s A Voyage to O’Brazeel in 1752 to Mícheál Ó Gríobtha’s The Mule, originally published in 1937.
There are stories here with tropes which will be familiar to readers who grew up with Irish fairy tales, including deals with the devil (and his highly entertaining talking dog) and attempts to then renege on the deal. Others are Irish-written but set further afield or in unspecified locations and deal in stories familiar to fantasy fans worldwide - from lost memories to family curses.
It Rose Up follows on from Tramp’s successful 2018 publication A Brilliant Void: A Selection of Classic Irish Science Fiction Stories and, like that collection, it has been edited by Jack Fennell.
Mr Fennell is a writer, editor, translator and researcher whose academic publications include pieces on science fiction, utopian and dystopian literature, monsters, Irish literature, and the legal philosophy of comic books. He is the author of Irish Science Fiction (2014), and a contributing translator for The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien (2013).
In It Rose Up, his introduction, titled The Lore of the Lever, is a fascinating read in its own right. He outlines the history of Irish fantasy writing through the centuries, including acknowledgment of stereotyping where it occurred, and also addresses the snobbery with which fantasy fiction can be treated, both in Ireland and further afield.
Mr Fennell also offers an engrossing argument about where the line is between fantasy and science fiction.
If you want to see if you agree with him, after reading It Rose Up you can go back and read the also excellent A Brilliant Void.
It Rose Up, A Selection Of Lost Irish Fantasy Stories edited and introduced by Jack Fennell, published by Tramp Press. Available now.