Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Science Fiction at the British Library ... ooooh, aaaaah

Anyone who knows me knows I love science fiction. Wait, let me qualify that ... I love "good" science fiction. If I were a librarian (and who hasn't wanted to be a librarian at some point in their life, I ask?), the science fiction section of libraries would be a whole lot smaller. It seems to me there's a whole bunch of stuff (we're being polite here) that very clearly *isn't* SF that's put there because they didn't know what the heck to do with it otherwise. And don't get me started on Fantasy ... um, yeah, like SO not Science Fiction.

On previous trips to England I've relied heavily on buying a copy of Time Out magazine on my way out of Heathrow Airport (oooh, place name dropping!). This year, I chose to do my pre-trip planning from the comfort of my own home, by checking out all the usual museums, etc. online first.

I got *really* excited when I saw that the British Library was hosting an exhibit called: "Out of This World : Science Fiction, But Not As You Know It". As a person who's read quite a lot of SF, particularly the classics, I wasn't expecting to see a bunch of "new" stuff ~ but (of course) I did. I spent some of my precious time writing down titles that needed to be checked out in the future (no pun intended), but at a certain point gave up and decided to buy the exhibit guidebook ~ which contained not only a complete list, but grouped them by theme and is profusely articled and illustrated.

Years ago when I was an obstreperous teenager, I remember arguing with my Dad about the merit of SF ~ he didn't see the point of it. I may have won that argument, he started reading SF after that. For me, SF has almost always been about the "big questions" ~ why are we here, what would the present look like if the past had been different, and what will the future look like if we make different choices now? As I see it, one of the tools of SF is that it lets you isolate one aspect of human existence and spin it out into the grand "what if?". Because in the end, however well the writers write, they are still human writers writing human stories for human readers, and I think the best of the best of the SF I've read over my life has made me a better human. And I continue to read SF ~ apart from the exhibit guidebook, most of the books I bought while in England were SF, and classics to boot ~ including one that's eluded me for years, but the how and when of buying it is an interesting story for another day ...

1 comment:

Holly said...

Your dad sounds like my dad. I, too, am a big fan of science fiction. I believe it merits it's own stand-alone category instead of always being lumped in as scifislashfantasy. So annoying.

Anywho... my dad and I have had several "discussions" about the merits of what he believes to be "escapist" garbage. I love my dad, but he is willfully unimaginative. Sometimes I can't believe that we're even from the same gene pool. :))

I hope you enjoy your fantastic trip and bring back lots of stories to post.

Oh, and bonus points for the use of "obstreperous". I had to look it up.