The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien created the genre of epic fantasy with his Middle-earth cycle, and we tend to forget how silly elves and dwarves could be before he redefined them. The films are decent fun, filled with amazing visuals and decent acting, but the books are stunning. I was fortunate enough to be the developer of The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game for Decipher back when the movies were coming out.
Dungeon Master’s Guide by Gary Gygax
This book was the core for the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the original of which Gygax co-created with Dave Arneson. It was the first version of the game that really held together, clunky as it can seem now, and it blasted roleplaying games into the larger culture. I wound up writing loads of D&D books over the years, the latest of which is Dungeonology.
Blade Runner by Ridley Scott
This film defined the look and feel of cyberpunk, although the word hadn’t even been coined yet, much less made into a genre. I’ve watched this at least a dozen times over the years, and it still holds up to this day.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
In this book, William Gibson brought cyberpunk into the fore of literary SF. It’s dense and challenging and yet still full of mystery, action, and fun. A real masterpiece.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
No one is funnier in print than Douglas Adams, especially when it comes to SF. He’s endlessly inventive and hilarious at the same time—and he’s willing to wait for a joke to land. There’s a scene involving a bowl of petunias, for instance, that’s funny when you read it in the first book, but it’s even better when you get a payoff for it in book three.
Aliens by James Cameron
The Aliens series got launched with Alien, an amazing horror-SF film by Ridley Scott. It’s so good, you think it just can’t be topped. Then Cameron comes in and blows it all away with a military SF action film that’s jaw-droopingly great.
Star Wars by George Lucas
This was the first movie I ever saw more than once in the theater. I was eight years old, and it hooked me good. We went to go see it seven times that spring—back in the days before VCRs much less video-on-demand—and it just seemed to get better every time. As a lifelong fan, I was absolutely thrilled when I signed on to write my latest book, the Rogue One junior novel.