'Out of this world' review - The British Library - London

Better late than never I check out the science fiction exhibition at the British library a few weeks before its end. Here are some rambles from the brain....

The show had this beautiful mix of time within it. Here we were in the present, looking at the past, which discussed the future. We are in that future and it was fascinating to see how much of what these writers predicted has come true, things we take for granted like satellites and sky scrapers etc.

The exhibition was split into sections of general interest, 'Virtual worlds' 'Parallel Worlds' 'End of the worlds' 'Perfect worlds?' It reminded me of some drawingesque pieces by artist David Theobald where he went around England photographing all shops with the word 'world' printed at their shop name. 'Sowing world' 'Gardening world' 'PC world' etc. Where does the concept of worlds fit in todays culture?

The books were beautifully left open for viewers to peer into cabinets and look at their illustrations. One could watch how these progressed from black and white cartoons to coloured film. SF illustration now spills into all sectors of culture, only last week I watched the making of Avatar which pushed the concept of SF to new limits within film making. As a message it asks us to stop and re-discover our relationship with nature. In the 'end of the world' section there were many books about nature biting back. Something which is becoming very much a thought which stays in the front of my mind.

There were short film and sound clips from archives where writers such as H.G Wells discussed our inability to use foresight, to think about the consequences of our actions, to look into the future. He discussed automobiles in detail, describing how we knew they were coming, we knew the effects of using petrol and yet we didn't do anything about it. The roads were unprepared etc.

Letters demonstrated the thoughts of some iconic SF writers. George Orwell writes to a friend that he thinks 1984 would have been better written had he not been suffering from a chronic illness. That book is such a milestone in my own personal experience of SF and I had no idea that such a classic in literature was written under such circumstances.

The show was a good way of introducing oneself to SF. Every book had its writer, and a brief description of what the book was about. For any of those who couldn't make the show, or won't have time to (only on for another week or so) I have written some authors down so you can research and check them out for yourselves.

J G Ballard
Dave Wallis
Brian Aldiss
H G Wells
George Turner
John Christopher
George Orwell
Richard Jefferies
Margret Atwood
Neal Stephenson
Jeff Noon
Greg Egon
Yevgeny Zamyatin
Edward Bellamy
William Morris (news from nowhere)
W H Hudson
Thomas More
Margaret Cavendish
Aristophemes (the birds)
Alasdair Gray
Don A Strat.
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