Written by John Bingham
John Boorman‘s Excalibur
This is the movie that more or less started it all for me. I saw it in the theatres in 1980 when I was 8 years old with my dad. It just about in every way shape and form informed my view on fantasy. Dark and broody with larger than life characters and-let’s face it- damn cool armour. Yeah, this one had it all. It has had such a big impact on me that I say Merlin’s charm of making to my son every night at bed time as a ward against bad dreams and have done so for the past eleven years!
Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series
My dad gave me this book when I was about 12 or so to read. I was blown away by the whole concept of psychohistory. I mean, predicting the future by observing large groups of the population. In university, I toyed with minoring in sociology just because of the whole concept. It is a classic and still holds up well.
Michael Moorcock‘s Elric of Melnibone
Ok, so this one I got into from Dungeons and Dragons. Specifically, the 1st Edition AD&D Deities and Demigods book. You know the good version with the Melnibonean and Cthulhu mythos. I think I was around 11 or so at the time and just fell in love. It had the Arthurian knights too so it was all so very awesome. Anyway, back to Elric. A brooding albino emperor from an elder race that has a sword that steals the souls of his enemies and is an unwitting pawn in a game between the gods? What’s not to like? I’ve got to admit; the combination of sword-wielding sorcerer has pretty much shaped my flavour of rpg character since to some degree.
Flash Gordon the Movie
Ok, back to movies. Flash Gordon, the goofy 1980 movie with the Queen soundtrack was so very epic to 8 year old me (and still is). It was garish, it was loud, it was cheesy, it was – glorious. I still get a thrill at Vultan and the hawkmen attacking Ming’s skyships with Voltan leading the charge. Wow, Excalibur and Flash Gordon in one year? That explains a lot about my tastes. I like my fantasy to be a mishmash of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and just whatever. I dunno, it just still really, really appeals to me. One of these days I am going to do a totally gonzo D&D setting that combines these elements with a dash of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
Crisis on Infinite Earths by DC Comics
This really kinda completely sealed the deal for me as a kid. I had been a comic book reader on and off for a few years before this, but man, the sheer scope and millions of characters really got my 11 year old brain buzzing. I was hooked at this point. George Perez’s art was and is simply amazing. How do you squeeze so many characters into one story, let alone one panel with so much detail? Also the concept of multiple earths separated by vibrational frequency was just so transformative for me. When I got to the Michael Moorcock Eternal Champion stuff a couple of years later, this is what paved the way for me to hold that sort of thing in my mind. Follow that up with later crisis series such as Infinite Crisis and especially Final Crisis and, well, it is just a staggering epic.
Frank Herbert’s work is just simply legendary. I actually read the Pandora Sequence first. Lazarus Effect was one of my first forays into the world of hard Sci-Fi when I was about 12 or so. Herbert’s writing was enthralling. The worlds he creates are immersive like no other. Dune’s blend of space opera, political and religious intrigue, and just its originality has really stuck with me. It haunts my creative endeavours and tends to always be at the back of my mind.
Tolkien’s beloved work is something I find myself going back to over and over. It is comfort reading for the weary soul. I love Tolkien’s prose and descriptions. It’s very homey. I find that every couple of years or so, I go back and read this. Especially as the days start to lengthen in the autumn and I’m getting ready for the winter, this kinda helps get my brain into a cheerier space. It is sort of like a Thanksgiving read for me. Especially as I’ve gotten older, the world has gotten more complex and stressful, but I can rely on the Hobbit to ground me.