I spent a couple of hours this afternoon at the “Out of this world” exhibition in The British Library. It’s a collection of mainly printed material covering a wide variety of science fiction. It spans the earliest writings from 2AD to the twenty first century.
The exhibition was broken up into different themes eg. Future worlds; ecology of sci-fi; what would aliens look like?; alternative histories (and much more). Each section displayed a handful of books or illustrations defining the theme. It wasn’t solely printed material on display – there were also a number of interactive displays which focused on different aspects of the genre.
It was great to see that it focused on the idea that science fiction can’t really be defined by a handful of pulp fiction books. The genre is so wide open that it includes writers you may not really expect to be sitting in there.
I think my favourite parts were:
- J.G.Ballard- I’ve been a fan of his for a few years and whenever the summer peaks towards the high 20’s I wonder if Surrey’s civilised atmosphere is going to crack and we are all going to end up eating each other… with a decent glass of merlot of course. The J.G. Ballard section also offered a couple of my musical favourites up – The Normal’s Warm Leatherette and Buggles Video Killed The Radio Star.
- The Steampunk section – I love the idea of technology having developed from the age of clockwork, as you’d see in the Wild Wild West film.
- Angela Carter’s “The Infernal Desire Machines Of Dr. Hoffman”. I first discovered Angela Carter through film adaptations of her fairy stories, but Dr. Hoffman is one of my favourite books of hers.
It was definitely well worth spending a couple of hours at the exhibition finding out more about this genre, even if you’re not into science fiction. Like me, you might find that some of those books you love are actually science fiction… and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. 🙂