It once seemed a lonely pursuit, being a science fiction aficionado. Before the derivative Star Wars and Doctor Who took over the world and the superhero movie reigned supreme at the box office, each new science fiction film was something of an event, and people like myself devoured each new one eagerly – good, bad or indifferent. And sitting in the front row of London’s Casino Cinerama at the first showing of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – well, bliss it was in that dawn to be alive (people – strangers to each other — stood in the foyer later arguing about the film; can you imagine that today?).

Sci-fi Days of Fear and Wonder, edited by James Bell (responsible for the earlier – and equally impressive — Gothic), is both a celebration of the new all-conquering juggernaut of filmic science fiction (we’ll forgive the title use of the phrase ‘Sci-fi’ rather than the cognoscenti’s preferred ‘SF’) and a thoroughgoing (but immensely readable ) analysis of the genre. The book is a splendidly illustrated and intelligently written tribute to a genre capable of ascending the heights (per ardua ad astra, indeed) and plumbing the depths. And the fact that it is produced under the aegis of the British Film Institute means that the films herein – from Forbidden Planet to Blade Runner and beyond — are treated with respect as well as affection, with such luminaries as John Clute and Jonathan Rigby producing essays that stimulate and provoke in equal measure. (Anyone wishing to sample the book should perhaps tackle Adam Roberts’ excellent ‘Brief History of Time Travel’.) This writer recently tackled for the BFI – as one of the sister projects to this book – a study of George Pal’s and Byron Haskin’s version of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, putting me in such illustrious company as Kim Newman and Mark Kermode. Kim Newman is also in this volume. What are you waiting for?

Sci-fi Days of Fear and Wonder (James Bell, editor/ISBN: 9781844578610) is published by BFI

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