Re:View – ‘Out Of This World’

London, The Arts

Entering the science fiction exhibition at the British Library, you are greeted with a giant flying saucer having crash-landed into shelves of books, an appropriate metaphor for SF’s impact on the world of literature. There’s also an immense tripod bestriding the show. much as the shadow of HG Wells continues to fall across SF.

The exhibition is divided into sections covering different genres within the genre, from apocalypse scenarios – there’s one from the late 1800s predicting the climate-change death of the planet – to the kind of body technology largely pioneered by William Gibson in ‘Neuromancer’.

There are books about our own future and alien world (I liked the 2D world scenario printed on a continuous flat book), parallel and virtual worlds, which I suppose fairly includes ‘Alice In Wonderland’, and utopias, although there are few fun reads about perfect worlds unless they go wrong. I’ve always liked Ira Levin’s underrated ‘This Perfect Day’.

Ballard, Lem, Asimov, Clarke, Aldiss and Dick are all represented – although I’d have liked a bit more about them (the exhibition is very user-friendly) and there’s stuff for the kids – a full-sized Tardis, interactive games and K-9 (yes, sorry, Dr Who is a children’s show although the BBC seems to think it replaces adult drama).

The nice thing about exhibitions at the British Library is that for once a bookshop feels entirely appropriate, and there’s a good selection of SF on sale.

BTW, in publicity for the beautifully designed upcoming ‘War Of The Worlds’ video game I wrote for Paramount, I’ve been described as one of ‘Britain’s top SF writers’ which I’m certainly not – looking at this collection of authors shows what a distinctive and difficult genre this is to get right. Too often SF is dismissed by academics, but a read through some of these classics would humble the hardest critic.

2 comments on “Re:View – ‘Out Of This World’”

  1. J. Folgard says:

    Sounds great -I love looking back at old SF, whether it’s chillingly prescient or oddly charming.

  2. Joel Meadows says:

    I haven’t been to the exhibition but went to two of the talks (New Worlds and Mervyn Peake) and they were both pretty good. Must go to the exhibition myself…

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