A unipolar universe

May 26, 2011

Roger Luckhurst's preview of the Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it exhibition ("Other-worldly wise, 12 May) engagingly presents science fiction as "a device for 'othering' the present". Alas, it perpetuates a less edifying variety of "othering".

An extraterrestrial falling to Earth conveniently next to a copy of Times Higher Education would from the article be forgiven for concluding that the anglophone variety of Earthling has a monopoly on fictionalised speculations about the worlds beyond their own. Twelve English-speaking writers from the past 450 years, not to mention Star Trek's Leonard "Bones" McCoy and James T. Kirk, overwhelm numerically the "foreigners", who, moreover, are neutralised: Jules Verne, assimilated citizen of the anglophone international canon; the Belgian translator, sidelined by anonymity, of Wells' The War of the Worlds; the illustrator Albert Robida and Werner Herzog, the visual accessibility of whose work downplays their foreignness.

What's more, the author's name on a book cover - one of three illustrations on the final page of the article - plus the briefest of references in the caption constitute the only acknowledgement of Enrique Gaspar, whose novel about a time machine, El Anacronópete, predates Wells' work by almost eight years. Why should this sci-fi coup for Spain, seized upon in the British Library and BBC online coverage of the exhibition, remain unacknowledged in the preview? Anglocentrism? If so, take note: Gaspar's work, re-edited twice recently in Spain, is poised to appear in English translation, that ray capable of penetrating the Anglo-Saxon cultural force field.

Glyn Hambrook, Wolverhampton

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