British Library’s ‘Out of This World’ exhibition and Lectures

'Out of This World', British Library

I noticed that the British Library had decided to trawl its vast archive and draw together a Science Fiction exhibition. It sounded phenomenal. A lecture on Lem, J G Ballard and a full exhibition. As I checked in on four square each week, I was surprised that others shared my excitement.

The truth is that this series is perhaps far to intellectual for me or perhaps too focused on the literary geek. I chose the lecture on Lem because I was sucked into a Radio 4 haunting adaptation of Solaris.  I read J G Ballard Cocaine Nights when working on a feature film that was never filmed.  Both authors have their deep links to film and it was wonderful learning about their lives and work from true fans and in J G Ballard case family.

JG Ballard Children
JG Ballard Panel Debate

If anything changed my relationship with Science Fiction then it was the inclusion of the Bronte’s in the main exhibition. Writers, the British Library tells us, have long asked the big questions; What does it mean to be human ? Are we alone ? What is reality ? Is there a perfect world ? and What are we doing to our world ? Apparently everyone has been asking these questions making them Science Fiction writers. In Iliad (850BC) Homer describes how the god Hephaestus created female robots and mechanical tripods. The Bronte’s children created detailed imaginary worlds. Mary Shelley created Frankenstein (1818). Pullman sent Lyra through multiple universe. The exhibit showed these all (including Pullman‘s manuscript).

LemWhere does the stories and other worlds described in Hindu mythology fit in ?

'Out of This World', British Library, 'K1889'

The way the exhibit is divided into Alien World, Future World, Parallel Worlds, Virtual Wolds, End of the World and Perfect Worlds, made exploring easy but also made me understand that I avoid reading all End of the World but will listen to Nevil Shute or watch a John Wyndham film.

As an aside I was intrigued by steampunk. Such as the K9 in the latest Doctor Who. I now really want to see how I can include this in a design for my mobile phone.

I always describe my own films as narrative Science Fiction. Expecting it to have limited appeal, but after this exhibit I rather excited about the long literature history that I (try to) emulate.

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