Writing ‘Badlands’ / Fergus Cronin

Fergus Cronin discusses his short story ‘Badlands’, featured in Issue Twelve of The Lonely Crowd. 


It’s a dangerous time. Truth is shy. Hate slakes fear. Fixes are scarce. But poetry and fiction can do their thing: use their own ‘lies’ thoughtfully; untwist some of the awfulness; reclaim the meaning of words; mean to be useful.


I’ve lived a lot of my life in wild rural places, spent many hours walking lonely tracks in bogs and mountains. What happens in these environments is of interest to me. A lot that exists is never seen. And things appear on bogs that don’t exist at all. I listen for prompts from the innards of landscape. Tell me something.

People are good, decent, by and large. But there is badness; an ocean of bad is swelling. I’m not sure where it is fed from. Despite the suspicion, the evidence! When I was very young I believed that the badasses were only in Hollywood westerns. They were likely to be called—in softer tones—outlaws.  Times, thankfully, have changed and so has the reveal of badness. Now I know how bad a badass can be.

The starting place for this story is the struggle of identity. Incompatibilities. Invasions. Migrations.

I’m interested in bog-iron. An old coin, a sword or even a chalice. And also the modern casting-away, the leaving of things —yokes that have lost their usefulness or broken down;  beyond repair; not needed.  Bits of machinery: digger arms, tractor engines, axles, car chassis’. Thrown in a boggy ditch. This catches my attention. I like the term bog-iron because the two things—the two words—are in so many ways opposites. The common element is a frozen utility of sorts. But the two together don’t quite fit. There is a question of compatibility. And the fascinating matter of what happens when the hard iron hits the soft bog. What’s at stake?

Land is for settlement or abandonment. Tribes settle or move.  Nowhere is left completely bare. Ugliness abounds. As does beauty. But beauty can be torn.  Lands made bad. People get killed.

Cultural identity has a language and a force to it. There is hardness and softness in it. A music of it. What happens when cultures migrate, stretch their roots, clash.  What happens when one culture allows another one to wash over it, change its language, its dress, its music, its sensibilities, its very intelligence? What’s left that is compatible? Where does that lead? Where’s the resistance.

What happens when the iron meets the bog?

Crash in, disrupt, and ask. See what happens. See what’s bad.


Fergus Cronin  is a native of Dublin.  He has had a variety of occupations ranging from water engineering to theatre. In 2004 he moved to north Connemara in Galway.  He now divides his time between Dublin and the West. He completed an MPhil degree in Creative Writing at the Oscar Wilde Centre in TCD in 2014. His stories have been published in Surge, a Brandon Books collection of new writing from Ireland, in The Old Art of Lying, (an anthology of work from the Oscar Wilde Centre), the Manchester Review and  the Irish Times.

Banner image by Jo Mazelis.