Study Questions for Ian McDonald's "Recording Angel" [1996]

Although it is an excerpt from McDonald's Evolution's Shore [1995], "Recording Angel" reads rather well as a complete story. Like so much of the SF that we have studied this term, it presents a future that contains the past, but in a decidedly innovative way. Consider some of the following issues as you review the story:

  1. Masri suggests that contemporary readers might be "discomfited" by McDonald's references to "dark Africa" and by her creation of a seemingly stereotypical "Great White Hunter." Were you?
  2. What, thematically, is the point of the author's references to primordial Africa? Of her portrayal of Prenderleith as the hunter who has outlived his time? How does Prenderleith characterize distinctions between the current Africa, and the previous Africa? (964; 966).
  3. McDonald's story clearly enacts a social critique. What aspects of culture is he criticizing. What is the impact of using the names of actual celebrities, and of the statement, "The male Hollywood stars tried to look brave, but this was no screenplay" (967)?
  4. Why does Gaby McAslan choose to use Prenderleith as her "angle"? What is it about him that differentiates him from the others at the hotel? Why does he say that he decided to talk with her? (962-63; 966).
  5. What is the significance of the elephant that Prenderleith and Gaby witness in the Chaga? How does the elephant prepare us for Prenderleith's final action?
  6. Gaby agreed to go to the end of the world party because she wanted to get close to the Chaga, but also because she wanted to create an angle for her story that would enhance her reputation. What is the significance of her final action? What has she come to realize is more important than her story?