The Value of Science Fiction

Continuing a theme from my last post, I had the great pleasure to be at the launch of the British Library’s Science Fiction exhibition, Out of this World.

It is good to see the BL taking this genre of literature seriously. Mike Ashley has written an engaging book to accompany the exhibition.

There are writers both familiar and unfamiliar in the exhibition space which makes it an interesting journey through the history of the form.

Reflecting on the exhibition, what you will find is interesting ways in which writers engaging with perennial themes: time, what it means to be human, our planet and space, and so on.

Familiar examples, such as Arthur C Clarke and satellites show how sometimes future technologies have been anticipated.

More interesting for me are some of the examples of how what was supposedly writing about a future or alien / parallel world was actually often a disguise for discussing then-contemporary issues. It isn’t always clear whether the writer was conscious of this fact!

My own interest in both computing and the future can be tracked back to Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001 and the HAL9000, which I saw at the impressionable age of 16. It remains one of my favourite films of all time.

If you are in the Kings Cross area, pop in. If you can’t make it, buy the book if so inclined.

If the exhibition stimulates a few IT folk to put their writers’ hats on, that would be a good thing.

How about a few books on the ‘internet of things’, ‘the interplanetary internet’ or the bio-computer future.

Lots of us think we might have a book in us. If science fiction is your field, I can commend the BL’s efforts.

Live long and prosper.

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    Ariadne Tampion wrote on 20th May 2011

    Given that, as you say Chris, much science fiction is heavy with contemporary social commentary, I find the level of snobbery directed at the genre by opinion formers quite extraordinary. Many will turn up their noses at anything which can be labelled 'science fiction', whilst others will turn up their noses at anything which they do not consider to be 'pure' science fiction.

    As the author of a science fiction novel myself, I find this incredibly frustrating. At one point I succeeded in persuading the editors of both Wired and Woman&Home to accept review copies of my book (Automatic Lover). Neither reviewed it. "Too girly for the boys' mag and too boys toys for the women's mag" suggested a friend. But I know my book is good: people who read it claim to be unable to 'put it down', even when they're not sure they actually like it, and Americans 'get' it! I had a wonderful review from the BCS, but it was published on line the Thursday before Easter (2009), so there was no Friday Brunch to tempt people to read it, and no sales or enquiries resulted.

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About the author
Chris is a technology and policy futurologist. Chris has been in the IT industry since 1980. His roles have spanned Honeywell, ICL, HP, Microsoft and Capgemini. He is a Fellow of the BCS and a Fellow of the RSA.

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