Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not Yet Past

Visiting the Cold War Modern, Design 1945 - 1970 exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, I was struck by not only how very much superior it was to the frankly thin and poorly thought-out Dan Dare exhibition at the Science Museum, but also by how much of the themes and tropes and obsessions of current SF were on display. Space travel obviously (opposing screens pitted 2001: A Space Odyssey against Solaris; and for those interested in the alternate history of the space race, there was on display a prototype of the Soviet Kretchet lunar excursion suit, which is plainly only a couple of evolutionary steps from the lobster suits of 1950s SF magazine covers), but also virtual reality, cyborgs, the rise of the machines, technology-driven utopianism, the fragility of this island Earth, and so on and so on. As far as mainstream SF, the past isn't yet past, as they say. Is this because the seeds of the one true future really were sown back then, between the end of World War Two and the beginning of glam rock, or because SF hasn't yet acknowledged that the stuff of its dreams is rooted in the anxieties of the great and dangerous rivalry between the world's two superpowers?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Sergey said...

"Is this because the seeds of the one true future really were sown back then, between the end of World War Two and the beginning of glam rock, or because SF hasn't yet acknowledged that the stuff of its dreams is rooted in the anxieties of the great and dangerous rivalry between the world's two superpowers?"

Wise words, Paul.

December 01, 2008 3:54 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

They would be, Sergey, if I knew the answer.

There were some very fine examples of aspirational Soviet architecture on display by the way. And many examples of how the two Great Enemies mirrored each other. The space race was the least of it.

December 01, 2008 6:44 pm  

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