Written by Chris Fenoglio[Disclaimer: There’s a lot of other “all-time” favorites who deserve a place on this list, but I figured that Star Wars and Star Trek were so obvious that they might as well be implied. So, here’s a list of some of the less obvious sci-fi/fantasy things I love that you’ve probably heard of, and just haven’t had the time to enjoy yet.]
Transmetropolitan, created by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson
I’ve been thinking about this book a lot lately… What was meant to be a metaphor for modern society, Transmetropolitan is slowly starting to feel like a pre-cognitive documentary. Spider Jerusalem, a popular, cynical, we’ll say “eccentric” writer (not so loosely based on Hunter S. Thompson) takes on a sociopathic politician whose only goal is to screw with his citizens and turn the government to his own ends. It talks a lot about the legitimacy of the press and how government can trample over its privileged population given the chance. It’s a great book, but a horrifying reminder of just how much life can imitate art.
Bone, created by Jeff Smith
Whenever a non-comic reader asks me what comic they should read, this is usually my first suggestion. The book is… brilliant… from all angles. Disarming at first, as it starts as a simple humor comic strip. But it doesn’t take long for the deeper narratives to sneak through and introduce you to a rich fantasy world full of incredible characters we can relate to. It’s hysterically funny. Deeply touching. Appropriate for anyone at any age. Smith is a deft storyteller who can instantly and seamlessly switch from humor to heart to adventure. It’s comic storytelling at its finest.
Ender’s Game, created by Orson Scott Card
Look… I know, I KNOW. Given some of his personal stances, Orson Scott Card isn’t really my favorite person either — but this is a true test of separating the art from the artist. If you’re able to get past the author, you’ll be treated to probably one of the best science fiction books of all time. Captivating, poignant, a book so good that Card wrote it again from a different character’s perspective (Ender’s Shadow) and it was still excellent! I do find it ironic thought that the end of the book is all about acceptance and forgiveness of those who’re different than us, though… I feel like Card should maybe reexamine the lessons in his own book.
Pro tips on this one:
1. Don’t read past Ender’s Game in the Ender series. Seriously. Don’t. (but feel free to read through the Ender’s Shadow series).
2. Don’t watch the movie. Why is an 8-year-old taller than Harrison Ford?
Star Trek: First Contact
I’m gonna say it… First Contact is THE BEST Star Trek movie. Not Next Generation movie, the best STAR TREK movie — especially if you’re a Picard-o-phile like me. I don’t care how much you like Wrath of Khan or Voyage Home, you’re wrong and you will always be wrong. More than any of the other movies, First Contact is a real deep dive into character (specifically Picard). This is probably the only point where we see Picard lose control — and it’s stunning. Admittedly the rest of the crew is pushed in the background, but, even so, they’re all at their best: Riker is charming, Geordi is tactical, Worf is violent, and Troi is… much more enjoyable to watch when she’s inebriated. It’s everything you want in a big blockbuster, with the added bonus of being a Star Trek movie.
The Maxx, created by Sam Kieth
Is The Maxx fantasy? I’m counting it as fantasy… At the start it looks like a superhero story, but is really just… um… I don’t really know how to describe it. There’s giant slugs, magical sorcerers, weird little creatures called Isz, teenage angst, spirit animals, lesbian teenagers in the library, discussions on feminist theory, a bum who dresses like a super hero but his middle fingers are claws and he might be a giant bunny and… okay, I don’t think I’m selling this well. Look, it’s good, and weird in a way that only comics can be (although MTV did try making it into a cartoon.) You won’t really know what’s going on, like, ever. But it’s worth a read.
Bloodworth, created by Daniel Corey & Chris Fenoglio
You didn’t really expect me to write up my favorite pieces of science fiction and fantasy and NOT sneak in a plug for one of my projects, did you? Bloodworth is a sci-fi/noir book à la Blade Runner or Minority Report. It’s a fun and exciting series that I draw and Daniel Corey writes. It’s a crazy cool book, and I really think you should check it out.
Saga, created by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples
If you’re a comic fan, Saga is pretty much “required reading” at this point. A really fantastic story that touches a whole host of issues including family, race, war, love, and pretty much everything in between. I really love how Brian K. Vaughn can write characters that feel real… even though they’re aliens who live in a tree spaceship. The artwork is excellent as well and it sincerely doesn’t look like anything else being done right now. Look… it’s weird, it’s good, give it a read.