Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder | What lies within the BFI compendium?
Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder is the BFI’s nationwide blockbuster celebration of the world’s most popular genre featuring three months of bold programming covering Tomorrow’s World, a place packed with futuristic ‘what-if’ thrills; Altered States, the sci-fi of inner-space and the strange imaginings of different ways to be human; and Contact, with aliens in outer space and in our midst.
Alongside screenings at the cinema and on TV, DVD and online, the BFI have produced a range of new sci-fi film classic books, as well as this meticulously-researched compendium. Split into the three terrains that featured in the BFI season, the compendium charts cinema’s sci-fi landscape – from its infancy, when Georges Méliès took A Trip to the Moon in 1902 to the epic head-rush that is Christopher Nolan’s newly-released Interstellar – with 28 illuminating, stimulating and informative essays nestling within a soft back book packed with iconic imagery.
Among the contributors are SF writer Stephen Baxter (on Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), astrophysicist-turned-author Alastair Reynolds (on the dangers of space travel on the big screen) and scientist/broadcaster Adam Rutherford (on artificial intelligences); genre specialists Matthew Sweet (on classic British TV sci-fi) and Mark Salisbury (on the history of sci-fi special effects); while a number of in-house BFI curators express their love for the genre with articles ranging from the avant-garde to classic sci-fi on a shoestring. I particularly liked researcher Marketa Uhlirova’s excellent sci-fi costume and fashion essay (which deserves a book on its own) and writer Ashley Clark’s fascinating article on Afrofuturism. A chronology helps bridge the genre’s time span, and there’s a handy film index. This one will be well thumbed by the time you’re finished, so watch out for the soft back.
Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder is the fourth BFI Compendium, following 39 Steps to the Genius of Hitchcock, Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film and Electric Shadows: A Century of Chinese Cinema, and is available to buy from the BFI Shop at BFI Southbank for £15 (RRP £16.99), or visit: bfi.org.uk/shop