Francis Spufford charts the history of Britain through its Science Fiction. Francis won't quite be arguing that every starship in British SF is a milkfloat in disguise, but the diversity of ideas in British SF means that these novels do give startling alternative snapshots of Britain down the years. Science Fiction has always been a genre of ideas, and so, contrary to its escapist image, can provide a hugely evocative record of the time in which it was written.
In the work of HG Wells, therefore, we find Fabian dreams of a future without poverty, nightmares about overpopulation and dark eugenic designs; in Huxley, a fascination with intelligence, and how it can be achieved; in Iain M Banks, curious echoes of the benign Wilson-era Britain in which the author grew up. This series features some of the biggest names in British Science Fiction, past and present, including Arthur C Clarke.
3/4. Albion Unbound
In the 1960s, JG Ballard and Michael Moorcock rebelled against the rocket dreams of much contemporary science fiction, and chose instead to explore 'inner space' - the darker recesses of the human soul. Francis charts the relationship between science fiction and rebellious counterculture from its earliest days.