Written by Karma Samadhi
The Elric Saga (Series of Novels: “Elric of Melniboné”, “The Sailor on the Seas of Fate”, “The Weird of the White Wolf”, “The Vanishing Tower”, “The Bane of the Black Sword” and “Stormbringer”; DAW Books 1977)
Author: Michael Moorcock
Genre: Sword and Sorcery, Dark Fantasy, Intelligent Fantasy
Elric is an antihero; the last ruler of an empire in decline and the greatest sorcerer of his age. The Melnibonéans are an elf-like race who predate man and who worship the pagan Lords of Chaos. Due to the fact that his parents didn’t preform the prescribed sacrifices for his birth, Elric was born an albino with a weak constitution which he has to supplement with drugs. In the beginning Elric, who is moody and philosophical, is in conflict with his cousin Yyrkoon who secretly plots to bring back the glory of the Bright Empire. Elric’s beloved Cymoril is Yyrkoon’s sister. While Elric is away seeking the answers that would better help him rule, Yyrkoon usurps the ruby throne and puts his sister into a magical slumber. Elric makes a pact with the Chaos Lord Arioch to defeat Yyrkoon and save Cymoril. On a journey to the Shadow Plane Elric and Yyrkoon find the two sentient vampiric blackswords Stormbringer and Mournblade. Long story short, Elric helps the humans sack the Dragon Isle and ends up tragically killing Cymoril in his final duel with Yyrkoon. The rest of the stories deal with various adventures where Elric learns more about the forces of Law and Chaos (and The Cosmic Balance that unites them.) His constant companion is a likeable rogue named Moonglum of Elwher. In the stories Chaos ultimately wins and Elric ends up bringing about the end of the world/ushering in a new age.
The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy of Novels: “The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”; 1954-1955)
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Genre: High Fantasy with many influences from Norse mythology
A mixed party of fantasy races (Men, an Elf, a Dwarf and four Hobbits) on a epic quest to destroy a cursed ring of power, in order to prevent the dark lord Sauron from taking over the world whilst the armies of light and darkness do battle across Middle Earth. Tolkien’s world-building is incredibly developed. He created an entire history-myth of Arda/Middle Earth. And, being a philologist, he constructed several fantasy languages for use in his novels.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Novel, 1950)
Author: C. S. Lewis
Genre: High Fantasy, Children’s Literature, Christian Fantasy
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first book in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. During WWII, for their safety, four children are taken to live in the country house of a professor. While playing there they discover a magical wardrobe that leads to the land of Narnia (where, due to the curse of an evil witch, it is always winter, but never Christmas.) The children find themselves part of a prophecy that says that the arrival of the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve will herald the return of the great lion Aslan, a Christ figure, who will defeat the witch and restore Narnia. Narnia is populated by talking animals and mythic creatures such as fauns, dwarves and centaurs. It was a delight to read as a child.
The Time Machine (Film, 1960)
Director: George Pal, Based on the novella of the same name by H.G. Wells
Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel, Steampunk
A classic science fiction film, it is full of wonder at the marvels of scientific discovery. Set in Victorian England at the turn of the century it starts with a scientist-inventor having his friends over to reveal to them that he’s been working on a machine which will allow him to travel in time. He gives them a demonstration with a small model but no one believes him, thinking it some kind of trick. He invites them all to dinner that next Friday. When everyone has left, he sets about conducting his grand experiment. He makes several progressive jumps into the future before he has an accident and travels farther than expected (where he finds that humanity has divided into the surface dwelling childlike Eloi who live in a garden paradise and the subterranean ogre-like Morlocks.) While encountering the Eloi the Time Traveler saves a young woman named Weena from drowning and befriends her. He returns to where he left his machine and found that it has been taken by the Morlocks. In trying to get it back he learns that the ogres have a grisly purpose for the Eloi.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Film, 1968)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Intelligent Science Fiction, Ancient Aliens, Evolution, Artificial Intelligence
Based on Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” (1948) and directed with Kubrick’s iconic vision it posits that the evolution of humankind was guided by extraterrestrials through means of contact with an alien artifact in the form of a mysterious black monolith. It starts with prehistoric ape people being “inspired” by the monolith (they suddenly learn how to use tools to hunt and fight.) It then jumps to the near future where a monolith is discovered to be buried on the Moon. When inspected by a team of scientists it activates sending a strong radio signal to Jupiter. Then it moves to a deep space vessel sent to find another giant monolith orbiting the planet Jupiter. On the way the ship’s computer Hal 9000 goes homicidal and kills all the crew except for astronaut Dave Bowman who is able to shut it down. He then travels outside the ship and enters the Monolith (“My God! It’s full of stars!”). It gets really trippy as he travels through the extradimensional realm of the Star Gate.
Blade Runner (Film, 1982)
Director: Ridley Scott, Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Genre: Cyberpunk Noir, Androids
This film is a masterpiece and a movie I never get tired of watching. The set design by neofuturist Syd Mead and the synth score by Vangelis make it immersive. It’s more like watching a dream than a film. In a near future Los Angeles Harrison Ford stars as blade runner Rick Deckard; a policeman who’s job it is to hunt down and kill rogue replicants (androids). Six Nexus-6 model replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) captured a shuttle killing twenty-three people and have returned to earth to try to extend their lives. Deckard first meets with the head of the Tyrell Corporation and tests a classy woman named Rachel (Sean Young) to see if she’s a replicant. After over a hundred questions it ends up she is. Deckard tracks the androids down one by one and ‘retires’ them. Along the way he becomes romantically involved with Rachel who the police add to his kill list. The climactic fight between Deckard and Batty is intense. Batty’s dying speech is more than human. Deckard ends the film escaping the city with Rachel.
Ghost In The Shell (Anime, 1995)
Manga: Masamune Shirow, Director: Mamoru Oshii
Genre: Anime Cyberpunk, Cyborgs and Artificial Intelligence, Intelligent Science Fiction
A film set in the near future about a Japanese special police unit called Public Security Section 9 who are full cyborgs that specialize in cyber warfare. It is led by the smart and sexy Major Motoko Kusanagi. They’re on the trail of a super class hacker named The Puppet Master. The animation art is incredibly well done, stylish and cool, and I highly recommend watching the 25th Anniversary Edition on blu-ray for the best quality.