Visions of the future: the art of science fiction

A new display, which runs until 11 June, at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery showcases a selection of materials from the Science Fiction Collection in the University Library.

The exhibition explores the history of science fiction artwork, from the illustrations in early fiction to contemporary film posters.

Besides showcasing the history of trends and styles, the display also uncovers little-known facts, such as the important role Leeds played in the early history of science fiction in England.

The first chapter of the Science Fiction League outside the USA was formed in Leeds in 1935, and the group later hosted what is widely regarded as the world's first science fiction convention. This took place on 3 January 1937 at the Theosophical Hall- which remains at 12 Queen Square, Leeds. Around twenty fans attended, including well-known authors Eric Frank Russell and Arthur C. Clarke, plus future editors E. J. Carnell and Walter Gillings. The display showcases unique photographs from this early convention.

The Science Fiction Collection is held in Special Collections at Leeds University Library. The Science Fiction Collection comprises more than a thousand books published in the twentieth century, as well as examples of many of the influential periodicals published in the 1920s and 1930s in Britain and the United States. The majority of books in the Science Fiction Collection were presented to the Brotherton Library at various times in the 1970s by Professor Cyril Oakley (Professor of Bacteriology, 1952-1972).

Further significant additions of printed books to the collection were gifts of the former curator of the Special Collections, David I. Masson, who was himself a published science fiction writer. During his 23 years at Leeds he wrote some of his most well-known short stories, including 'A Two-Timer', the tale of a seventeenth-century man's revulsion upon finding himself in the twentieth century. This and six other stories were collected in The Caltraps of Time, published in 1968.

During the exhibition, several related events will take place at the Gallery, including a roundtable discussion and a Science Fiction Scavenger Hunt in the dark, which is part of the nation-wide event series 'Museums at Night 2011'.

The Gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10-5, and entrance is free.  For full details about the related events visit

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