News | September 12, 2023

New Exhibition Focuses on History of Fantasy Writing

© The British Library Board

An ancient mappe of Fairyland newly discovered and set forth designed by Bernard Sleigh, 1918

A major new exhibition, Fantasy: Realms of Imagination, at the British Library will explore the evolution of fantasy. From ancient folk tales and fairy stories, gothic horror and weird fiction, to live action role-playing games inspired by fantasy worlds, the exhibition will celebrate the genre and its enduring impact.
Accompanying the exhibition - which runs October 27, 2023 – February 25, 2024 - will be a season of in-person and online events featuring fantasy writers and artists, musicians inspired by the genre and special events marking the anniversaries of iconic works. Highlights include:
* A Stroke of the Pen: Terry Pratchett’s Lost Stories (October 10) celebrating the re-discovery of 20 stories written by Terry Pratchett under pseudonyms before the huge success of his Discworld series
* The Dark is Rising and Other Stories: Susan Cooper and Natalie Haynes in Conversation (October 27) on the 50th anniversary of Cooper’s acclaimed novel The Dark is Rising
* Tales of the Weird (November 14) explores the British Library’s acclaimed publishing series of weird and uncanny writing, with Tanya Kirk the curator of the exhibition and the Tales of the Weird series editor, Jonny Davidson, writer and actor Reece Shearsmith
* Why We Need Fantasy: Neil Gaiman in conversation (November 20) - a special event where one of the leading fantasy writers of our time will be in conversation with poet, critic and writer, Roz Kaveney, to discuss Gaiman’s impact on literature and their involvement as advisors on the British Library’s new Fantasy exhibition.

* The Worlds of Terry Pratchett: Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins (November 21) - Terry Pratchett's biographer Rob Wilkins and Neil Gaiman celebrate Pratchett’s life and work on the 40th anniversary of the publication of the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic
* An Evening with Philip Pullman (November 30) - the bestselling writer will be in conversation with the Director of the Hay Children's Festival Julia Eccleshare, discussing his epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.
In an event from the team behind the UK Games Expo and supported by Wayland Games, there will be a Fantasy Board Games Day on December 9 exploring the world of fantasy games from tabletop and miniatures to board and card games. On the same day there will be a day of talks featuring some of the most compelling voices in fantasy writing and art including:

  • in conversation events with Brian and Wendy Froud from The Dark Crystal and R. F. Kuang, writer of best-selling Fantasy series The Poppy War and Babel, or the Necessity of Violence
  • events exploring fantasy cartography, and the life and legacy of Mary Shelley
  • world-building in fantasy with fantasy writer Adrian Tchaikovsky, writer and exhibition advisory board member Aliette de Bodard and Matthew Sangster, guest curator of the exhibition

The season of events also includes the Black To The Future Festival on November 3, an Afro-Futurist festival founded and directed by writer Irenosen Okojie in collaboration with the Royal Society of Literature and the British Library with a focus on celebrating Black literature and art. As part of the festival there will be a panel event featuring Arthur C Clarke award-winning author Tade Thompson and Bafta-nominated narrative designer Chella Ramanan.