Out of this World

This summer the British Library are staging a major exhibition entitled ‘Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it‘ (20 May-25 September).

Plans are underway for a major display that will explore sci-fi through literature, film and sound. Around 300 gems from the British Library’s collection will tell the story of our speculation about future worlds, utopias and dystopias, parallel realities and apocalypse.

Cover image from Amazing Stories, September 1936, featuring an image of a cigar-shaped spaceship, anticipating the age of the UFO (author's collection)

The exhibition, guest-curated by Andy Sawyer, from the University of Liverpool library, will demonstrate how science fiction is distinct from other related genres such as fantasy and horror.  Some of the featured highlights from the development of the genre include True History by Lucian of Samosata, written in the 2nd century AD, Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds and the more recent writings of Cory Doctorow and China Mievelle.

Along with the displays the events programme features some of the great science fiction writers of recent decades including Iain Banks, Michael Moorcock and Brian Aldis. Musicians George Clinton and Nona Hendryx will talk about science fiction influences on their stage shows and albums and a night of futuristic music on 17 June will see The Radio Science Orchestra and Global Communication perform live at the library’s St Pancras building.

As part of the programme, I have been invited to speak at an event in June called ‘Aliens in the Imagination’  that will also feature Mark Pilkington, author of Mirage Men. I will talking about my work for The National Archives and what the contents of the MoD UFO files have revealed about the evolution of ‘alien encounters’ during the 20th century. I will add more details of this event nearer the time.

In the meantime you can read more about Out of this World on the British Library website. A slide show featuring some of the most striking images from the exhibition can be enjoyed on the BBC arts website.

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