July 4, 2019

Filed under: News — adamsdoyle @ 10:53 am

Essential Science Fiction & Fantasy

A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I started in on a role playing game together in the sci fi Traveler system. Out at dinner she mentioned she didn’t get a lot of the references we’d been making. She asked if I wouldn’t mind making her a list of the books and movies that would help her feel caught up for the next time we played, adding she’d like to feel more included when sci fi & fantasy topics pop up in general. Of course I said I’d be happy to.

The real challenge came with limiting the list so it wouldn’t become totally overwhelming. I knew Frankenstein was essential as was Bladerunner, but so many works in between have contributed to our shared imagined space. Sci fi and fantasy are our go-to metaphors, our cautionary tales, and prepare us for what’s to come.

So what I’ve assembled is a collection that I think solidly represents our current narrative landscape in a manner that lays out how we got to now in as concise a manner as I can muster. Mind you, I’m aware of the bias I bring having grown up in the State and being a straight, white male. Ideally I would be more globally inclusive.

I’m sharing those who would like a summer’s crash course on the broadest encapsulation of speculative fiction. My goal is to touch upon the works that have made a notable contribution, not simply homaged or revelled in familiar tropes. Lastly, I’ll point out that I (mostly) left off works from the past 5-10 years because it usually takes a span before we’re aware of how much new content has made an impact. Ok, enough qualifying, here it is:


(Wiki)  Read up for cultural significance
*         Personal Favorite
+        Hugely influential
^        Non-Essential but worth listing


8,000 BC
Aboriginal mythology (pre written language)

2,300 BC
Egyptian & Chinese myths+

1,000 BC
The Old Testament+

900 BC
Greek myths, fables, and all the rest

300 BC – 1800 AD
Folk and fairy tales+

1000 AD
Beowulf (Wiki)

Legend of King Arthur+

The Inferno – Dante Alighieri+

Paradise Lost*

Gulliver’s Travels
The Arabian Nights (Wiki)

Frankenstein* – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly+
Grimm’s fairy tales+ (Wiki)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde*
Dracula – Bram Stoker+
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll+
The Time Machine & #War of the Worlds – HG Wells+
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne+
The Tell-Tale Heart – Edgar Allan Poe+

Peter Pan
The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka+
(Einstein’s Theory of Relativity)
The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum+
John Carter of Mars – (Wiki)
Call of Cthulhu or The Outsider – HP Lovecraft+
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (Teacher of Orwell https://bit.ly/2xayA23)
1984 – George Orwell+
Amazing Stories & Weird Tales magazines

After 1950
Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien+
Chronicles of Narnia* – CS Lewis
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson (The first real zombie story. Also wrote for Twilight Zone)
Childhood’s End – Arthur C Clarke+
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov+
Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Funes the Memorious or The Garden of Forking Paths – Borges+
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula LeGuin
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
Where the Wild Things Are
The Neverending Story*
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (inspired Bladerunner) Philip K Dick+
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
A Wrinkle in Time
The Stand – Stephen King+

After 1980
Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino
Xanth series*
Communion – (True account of alien abduction)
Neuromancer – William Gibson+
Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton+
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
Ender’s Game* – Orson Scott Card
A Song of Ice & Fire – George RR Martin
^Hunger Games
Harry Potter – JK Rowling+
Who Fears Death


-DC Comics-
Superman (Wiki how he came to be)
Wonder Woman (Wiki how she came to be or watch Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Very interesting)
The Sandman – Neil Gaiman
Watchmen* – Alan Moore+

-Marvel Comics-
Spiderman* (Wiki how he came to be)
X Men*
Avengers (the hugely popular films all started with decades of comics)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles*

-Artists & Illustrators-

Anonymous monk’s illuminated manuscript creatures – https://bit.ly/2Ynytf7

Hieronomous Bosch+
Leonardo DaVinci

Gustav Doré+

Maxfield Parish
NC Wyeth+
John Tenniel
Windsor McCay+
Arthur Rackham – fairy tales
Jack Kirby – superhero comics
Picasso – Cubism
Chesley Bonestell
Frank Frazetta
MC Escher

After 1980
Jeff Easley – D&D
Jim Lee – X Men
Michael Whelan – book covers
H.R. Giger – Alien films
Brian Froud 
Syd Mead – Bladerunner & other films
Roger Dean – album covers
Jean Giraud
Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon
James Gurney – Dinotopia
Mike Mignola – Hellboy
Mary GrandPré – Harry Potter


1930s -1950s
Flash Gordon
War of the Worlds (Wiki Orson Welles hoax)
Buck Rogers
The Shadow
and much more in the ensuing years, including adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide

-TV Shows-

After 1950s
Twilight Zone – Rod Serling. Learn more at https://bit.ly/2Ll1Evy
Lost in Space
Star Trek – (Wiki) Gene Roddenberry
Dr Who (Wiki)
The Jetsons (Wiki)
Cosmos – Carl Sagan+ (Science fact)

After 1980s
Buffy the Vampire Slayer* – Joss Whedon
X Files*

After 2000
Firefly – Joss Whedon
Lost* – JJ Abrams
Battlestar Galactica
Black Mirror*
Game of Thrones
Rick & Morty*
The Expanse
Westworld* – reboot of Michael Crichton 1970s film


King Kong (Wiki)
The Wizard of Oz+
Fantasia- Disney+
Monster movies- Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein (Wiki)

After 1950
Godzilla+ (Wiki)
Seven Samurai or Hidden Fortress – Akira Kurosawa+ (Not SF or fantasy but influential)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad – Special effects by Ray Harryhausen (Wiki)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
2001 A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick+ (Wiki)
Planet of the Apes
Night of the Living Dead+ (Wiki)
#Star Wars Trilogy – George Lucas (owing to Joseph Campbell’s monomyth)+

After 1980
Bladerunner* – Ridley Scott
Mad Max series
Alien or sequel Aliens
Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind – Steven Spielberg+
Star Trek series
Back to the Future
Brazil – Terry Gilliam+
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure*
Princess Bride*
The Terminator & Terminator 2* – James Cameron+
The Fifth Element
^Nightmare Before Xmas*
Jurassic Park – Steven Spielberg+
City of Lost Children*
Iron Giant*
12 Monkeys
Groundhog Day*
Sixth Sense
Ghost in the Shell (1995 anime)
Donnie Darko*
The Matrix*

After 2000
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Spirited Away
Minority Report
Lord of the Rings
^The Incredibles
Shaun of the Dead*
Pan’s Labyrinth
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Inception* &/or Interseller – Christopher Nolan+

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