I’m back – late and rather quieter than before due to a horrible stomach bug but back and still internally leaping about with the giddy spring fever feeling I got last Thursday night when I realised that one of my books was in a glass display case at The British Library. (Natural History, for those of you who wondered). Am foolishly, madly thrilled and excited beyond all sane reason. I wish my Dad could see it.
Anyhoo, that’s enough about me. The reason for my discovery and consumption of far too much free wine at said Library was the opening of the Out Of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It exhibition. This is something of a landmark moment for SF which has formerly often been treated with great condescension by literary establishment powers-that-be. However, as China Mieville stated during his opening speech, it does rather look as though our alienation is over. As much as we have been critically and socially dismissed it seems the era of the nerd is upon us and the culture is finally taking us if not to its heart then at least into its front parlour where we can be introduced to others.
Speaking as someone who was never outside the genre I have to say that this is both delightfully gratifying and at the same time deeply disturbing. I used to have a long and bitter vengefulness against the literati – a nebulous set of non-named individuals, critics, writers and publishers who existed as a kind of cloud-computed object hovering at the limit of my awareness, unified and identified by their disparaging attitude to SF. This acted like rocket fuel on my personal ambitions to write SF that wasn’t only good in its own right but also kicked their butts on their own hallowed turf. Spite as might? You betcha. And now? Seems my task here is done…and not by myself really, but by the many other writers from both sides of the erstwhile divide who have been busy taking up each other’s tools and crafting busily. And by this exhibition which doesn’t only suggest a history and evolution of SF which is generous and wide-ranging but also, by its existence, implies that it is safe to pop up from the rabbithole.
Why I go off in search of another hit of the crack that is artistic alienation (and I suspect I’ll find it easily in that freshly renewed skirmish of They Might Be Writing SF But They’d Better Do It Properly) if you have the time and ability to do so there are weekly events as well as the exhibit itself to enjoy down at The Library. And I would go to all of them if I lived in London. If not you can still watch the Discovery Channel for their tie-in programming.
To. The. Library… *bounce* *bounce* *boing*
(The title of this blog refers to the code that hacked the computers in Jurassic Park and let all the monsters out by the way. It’s a reference to the library exhibit, a white rabbit object of unknowable consequence…but I always like it when monsters get out. Is our task really done? No, not at all. Even if the humanistic side of the task – to gain recognition as artistic equals – was a done deal the wider goal of producing mindbending fiction about our relationship to ourselves and our own machineries will never be over. The T-Rex of SF is free to roam and ravage unhindered.)