Out Of This World
May 27, 2011 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Out Of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It is an exhibition at the British Library exploring the origins of Science Fiction, running until September. China Mieville takes a look at the exhibition for the BBC. (Out Of This World postcards - images from the exhibition)

The British Library's science fiction blog has some good articles about the show, too.

The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World, by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1666). Gender issues are an integral part of the utopian genre nowadays, but in the 17th century it was a new idea in the blazing-world of utopias. As a woman, Margaret Cavendish could not travel, but the education she received allowed her to create her own world. Her husband compared her with Columbus, but ranked her higher than Columbus, since he had only found a new world, whereas she had created it in her imagination.

China Mieville on alternate histories. Notting Hill, dir. Roger Michell (1999). To celluloid, and a movie of brilliant, chilling, minatory vision. Roger Michell and Richard Curtis's is a dystopian image of contemporary London after the triumphant rise of some unseen fascist authority. With searing rage, the film underscores the totality of this victory, this dreadful alternative path, in its depiction of Notting Hill, famous for its Afro-Caribbean community and culture, as successfully ethnic cleansed. An area defined by diversity, the history of the British Black Power movement, the Mangrove restaurant, Claudia Jones and social struggle, is, with satire more bitter than Dean Swift's, stripped of people of colour, the streets instead wholly populated with mindless, twittering, wittering, lily-white rich. There is no more Carnival, with its history in struggle and play, nor shall there ever be again. A bravura cinematic hell to be shelved alongside Pasolini's Salò.
posted by dng (13 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Timely for me. I read (a Great Illustrated Classics version of) The Time Machine as a kid and loved it. Now I'm reading The Time Ships, which takes up where TM leaves off. It's a pretty interesting concept to have a Man. Of. Science. from 1891 seeing World War II, etc.

I'd love to see this exhibit.
posted by DU at 11:45 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Interesting. I've always been a fan of pre-1960s SF and horror illustration, especially the likes of Frank R. Paul and Virgil Finlay. It's nice to get a view of pre-20th century fantastical fiction.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2011

I love the British Library. I would love to be able to convince my husband that we need to go back to London for educational purposes (and family, he has family there, too).
posted by Kitteh at 12:03 PM on May 27, 2011

In 24 hours I will be in London. This is perfect timing -- thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on May 27, 2011

If you're planning on a visit, don't forget to check out the events schedule too. Unfortunately the Alan Moore talk is sold out already, but there's some excellent stuff lined up.

This post just reminded me to buy tickets. MeFi meetup anyone?
posted by fight or flight at 12:19 PM on May 27, 2011

Surely a Sunday evening drink could be arranged ... ?
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2011

His description of Notting Hill is hilarious.
posted by clockzero at 12:25 PM on May 27, 2011

MeFi meetup anyone?

Hell, I'd be game...Sunday night is ideal, as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:35 PM on May 27, 2011

Wish I could get to the exhibit! I'm glad they include Zamyatin, and I hope they have other representatives of the Russian sf tradition; Alexander Veltman, for instance, wrote one of the very first time-travel novels, Predki Kalimerosa [The forebears of Kalimeros] (1836).
posted by languagehat at 4:43 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am in favour of this meetup scheme.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:06 AM on May 28, 2011

Is there a meetup planned? (I'm in town only one more day; it's Sunday night now.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2011

Mieville is an excellent writer who almost invariably pisses me off.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:41 PM on June 1, 2011

I visited this last weekend, and I have to admit I was kinda disappointed. I did come away with notes of a few things I wanted to find out more about, but the "exhibits" themselves are books (in many cases, not even particularly rare ones) behind glass, at which point all you're really doing is reading the descriptive text that accompanies each piece. At that point, the information could just as well be conveyed in a book (or, given the rather fragmented nature of the exhibition as a whole) in a blog. Also, if it's busy when you visit then unless you're willing to elbow your way to the front of the crowd, you'll be deprived of the opportunity even to read these descriptions. There was some interesting stuff there, but I just feel that exhibitions need to be a little more visually stimulating...
posted by kxr at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2011

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