Woking's Lightbox brings HG Wells science fiction and more to Alien Invasion show

By Sam Gardom | 15 October 2013

Exhibition preview: Alien Invasion, The Lightbox, Woking, until January 19 2014

An image of a cartoon alien invasion
© Chris McEwan 2013
The Lightbox will soon be playing host to an exhibition of supernatural proportions.  Alien Invasion will be a tribute to the sci-fi greats whose fevered imaginings gave birth to science fiction as we know it.

It will weave the colourful tale of the paranoia and fancy that paved the way for the early stories of alien invasion and the collapse of society, showcasing the inspirations, props and memorabilia from some of the most iconic stories.

An image of the front page of a booklet about an alien invasion
© Private Collection
This quiet corner of England is no stranger to the idea of invasion and the paranormal. HG Wells famously set the opening sequences of his epic, War of the Worlds, here on the green banks of the river Wey.

He spent endless afternoons pottering around the countryside on his bicycle gathering inspiration for the book that would one day send the American public into a panic and change the world of science fiction writing forever.

The concept of an alien invasion has filled books and screens with gruesome monsters and flying saucers ever since. But what is our fascination with this unworldly threat? Why do we obsess about what lurks in the darkness of space?

Ever since the dawn of civilization a fear of the unknown has driven man to dream up characters and stories to explain it away.

Be it the earliest fable passed down by word of mouth or Wells’ alien forces  crash landing in the Surrey countryside, the idea that something is out there that could force its way in and destroy our way of life has resonated deeply.

When Wells wrote The War of the Worlds it was a period when the cracks were beginning to show in Britain’s all-powerful empire and the fear of invasion was a rumbling threat on the edge of everyone’s mind.

A photo of a toy blue robot
© Chris McEwan
Instability has always given rise to these types of insecurities, which have never really gone away. Is this, then, the source of our obsession with invasion?

The exhibition will be split into sections; the first will look at the beginnings of science fiction and the theme of invasion that runs through so much of it. It will explore early invasion literature and draw on sources such as The Battle of Dorking, by Sir George Chesney, which sees the Surrey countryside over-run with despicable Prussian hoards and, of course, Wells’ masterpiece.

It will then go on to explore the influence of early sci-fi writers on the genre and how it has shaped the hundresds of modern epics that we all know today, including films such as Independence Day and ever-popular sagas such as Dr Who, among others.
 
The whole thing will be an interactive journey into one of the most popular genres in the history of the written word. Videos and games, interactive displays and the opportunity to build your very own alien are just some of the things on offer.

Keep your eyes peeled – you might even spot a full-size Martian Tripod or an original Dalek. This really is a tour through the mysteries of the universe; with free entry, it would be rude not to take a peek.

  • Open 10.30am–5pm (11am-5pm Sunday, closed Monday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @TheLightbox.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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