5 Sci-Fi Films to Show a Little More Love

May 25th, 1977: Star Wars premieres in theaters and takes the world by storm.

May 25th, 1979: Alien premieres in theaters and terrifies audiences senseless.

This makes May 25th just about the coolest day of the year in my book. I thought about writing something about both films for this Memorial Day weekend. But you know what? They get enough love.

Don’t get me wrong. Star Wars and Alien are great – they’re classics for a reason. But they both have their own celebration days now, for goodness’ sake. They’re good. So let’s instead talk about a few sci-fi films that could use a little love. These movies are all from the 70s and 80s. Keep in mind, these films are all products of their time. Some moments may not have aged gracefully – and I don’t just mean their special effects. Still, they’re a fun time capsule of who we were and what we thought the future might look like.

If you’re looking for something new or different to watch this Memorial Day weekend, give one of these movies a chance.

Silent Running (1972)

In the future, all plant life on Earth is dead. A few vestiges of vegetation still exist far away from Earth, in biodomes being hauled through our solar system by commercial freighters. When the powers that be decide that keeping these biodomes is an unprofitable frivolity, the freighters are recalled back into commercial service. A crewmember on one of these ships, played by Bruce Dern, fakes the destruction of his ship and sets off into deep space alone, with only the companionship of three robots, hoping to preserve the last forests known to mankind. Continue reading

100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels to Geek Out Over

If your answer to every question is 42.  If you can quote the three laws of Robotics.  If you want to say “my precious” every time you see a gold band. Then this list is for you.  We asked our 3,000 bibliomaniacs what their favorite SciFi/Fantasy novels were, and here are their top 100 answers.

(1) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (2) A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (3) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (4) The Two Towers, (5) The Return of the King, (6) The Fellowship of the Ring and (7) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (8) Neuromancer by William Gibson (9) Hyperion by Dan Simmons (10) Dune by Frank Herbert (11) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (12) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (13) 1984 by George Orwell (14) Ubik by Phillip K. Dick (15) A Storm of Swords by George R. R.Martin (16) The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (17) Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. (18) Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (19) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (20) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (21) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (22) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (23) The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (24) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (25) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury


(26) Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (27) The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick (28) The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov (29) Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (30) I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein (31) Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind (32) A Princess of Mars by E. R. Burroughs (33) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (34) Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey (35) The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (36) The Once and Future King by T.H. White (37) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (38) Foundation by Isaac Asimov (39) Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman (40) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick (41) Anathem by Neal Stephenson (42) The Black Company by Glen Cook (43) The Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn (44) Magic of Recluse by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (45) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (46) The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven, Stever Barnes and Jerry Pournelle (47) Dark is the Sun by Philip Jose Farmer (48) Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber (49) Dying Inside by Robert Siverberg (50) A Watch on the Rhine by John Ringo

(51) The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (52) Dies the Fire by S. M. Strilling (53) Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (54) The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers (55) The Eye of the Pyramid by Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson (56) The Electric Church by Jeff Sommers (57) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (58) Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake (59) Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner (60) Mort by Terry Pratchett (61) Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susana Clarke (62) Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (63) Ladyhawke by Joan D. Vinge (64) I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (65) Armor by John Steakly (66) Lathe of Heaven, (67) Earthsea Chronicles and (68) Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (69) The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey (70) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (71) War With the Newts by Karel Capek (72) Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (73) To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (74) Stardust by Neil Gaiman (75) Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link


(76) The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (77) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (78) Mockingbird by Walter Tevis (79) This is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow (80) Battle Cry by Jack McKinney (81) Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marrillier (82) Resurrection by Arwen Elys Dayton (83) Parable of the Sower and (84) Kindred by Octavia Butler (85) The Subtle Knife and (86) The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman (87) Grass by Sheri Tepper (88) Three Days to Never by Tim Powers (89) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (90) The Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (91) Logan’s Run by William Nolan & George Clayton Johnson (92) White Mountains by John Christopher (93) Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov (94) Mister Monday by Garth Nix (95) Ringworld by Larry Niven (96) The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans (97) Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson(98) The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (99) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (100) The Giver by Lois Lowry

Now, Dune has been on my reading list for a while, but I am definitely going to have to read Ender’s Game.  The Hyperion series and The Looking Glass Wars just made it onto my reading list as well.  What about you?  See anything to add to your reading list?  

You can find these books and more at your local Half Price Books. Stop in today, and our Sci-Fi-Lovin’ Bibliomaniacs will help you find your book.

— Julie

Countdown to Summer: 4 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Young Adult Series

Looking for some more traditional, yet still action-packed series for you or your kids? The summer is the perfect time to dive into some action and adventure with these science fiction/fantasy young adult series. Much like the dystopian young adult series, these novels tend to have less romance and more action, so they are perfect for both boys and girls of all ages!
 
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, is a series about a 12 year old brilliant millionaire, who also happens to be a criminal mastermind. In this first novel, Artemis takes on the world of the Faerie and captures Holly Short for a ransom. A battle full of action and wit between Artemis and the Faerie world ensues. Artemis starts out as a pessimistic and cold boy, but turns into a rather charming young man throughout the series, who shows remorse for his previous bad actions. Delve into the series now, so that you and your kids can be ready when the eighth and final book is published later this year!
 
In the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John A. Flanagan, 15 year old Will wanted to be a warrior, but instead he was chosen to be Ranger’s Apprentice. At first Will is terrified, thinking that the Rangers are partially evil, but he soon discovers that the Rangers are the ones that have been long protecting their kingdom from other evil magic forces. Start with the first book in the series, The Ruins of Gorlan, for an action-packed ride with Will through the Kingdom of Araluen, which is loosely based on medieval Europe. At 11 books and still counting, this is one series that will keep you occupied for most of the summer!
 
The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore starts with Graceling. Katsa is a Graceling, or a person who is extremely skilled. As rare as a Graceling is, her skill is even more unique. She has been able to kill people with her bare hands since she was eight. While being a Graceling is usually a blessing, for Katsa it’s a curse. Her uncle, King Randa, uses her to punish and scare people in his kingdom. One day Katsa meets a prince who just might match her in combat skills, and her entire world turns upside down. The two other books in the series, Fire and Bitterblue, follow other characters that have some of the same challenges that Katsa did.
 
The Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card is an oldie, but a goodie. Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is a brilliant kid who is chosen above his older brother and sister to attend the Battle School, where he can receive intense military training through mock battles against the aliens that are attacking earth. Ender flourishes at school and soon starts skipping grades. Because of his abilities, Ender is isolated and a rival of all his classmates. Towards the end of the first novel, Ender’s Game, Ender discovers that his training was not what he thought it was. This series can be fairly violent, but has a great message for kids, especially young men, that even those who are destined for greatness have many trials and tribulations along the way.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Young Adult novels aren’t exactly your cup of tea? Coming up in our final edition of “Countdown to Summer,” we’ll offer recommendations for 4 Fallen Angel Teen Fiction Series. Check back on the blog next week!
 
Also be sure to stop by your local Half Price Books to pick up a reading log for your kids. Kids 14 and under can earn $5 HPB Back-to-School Bucks for reading in June and July with the Feed Your Brain® Summer Reading Program.

— Kristen B.

Doctor Who’s Turning 48!

Although the character claims to be approximately 900 years old, the British television show Doctor Who is turning 48 on November 23.  Doctor Who is in the Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the word, and the “most successful” science fiction series of all time.  In fact, more than 778 installments of the Doctor Who program have been televised since its first appearance in 1963. Writers such as Robert Holmes (Bergerac, and Blake’s 7) Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Russell T. Davies (Torchwood, Queer as Folk, and The Sarah Jane Adventures) and Steven Moffat (Coupling, Jekyll, and Sherlock) have all worked as writers for Dr. Who. Moffat is actually the current head writer and executive producer of the show.

Doctor Who has become a hallmark of British pop culture and has begun to greatly affect those of us “across the pond” as well. Caitlin Moran, a television reviewer for The Times of London, wrote that Doctor Who is “quintessential to being British,” and director Steven Spielberg has commented that “the world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who.” A number of spin-offs have been produced, including K-9 and Company, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and the current K-9 television series, currently airing on Disney XD.  Plus the show has been referenced or spoofed on shows like Saturday Night Live, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Family Guy, South Park, The Simpsons and Community.
 
Now, some of you may ask “Who is Doctor Who?”  Well, for those of you who do not know, neither does anybody else.  Oh, sure, you could say that he is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who journeys through time and space with his companions saving the earth, or whatever planet he happens to be on. However, the Doctor’s past is shrouded in mystery and his true name has never been revealed, though he has gone by many pseudonyms, including  “Dr. Foreman,” “Dr. Caligari,” “Doctor von Wer” (a German approximation of  Doctor Who), “Dr. Bowman,” “Dr. James McCrimmon,” “The Lonely God,” “Bringer of Darkness,” “Destroyer of Worlds,” and most frequently “John Smith.” Sometimes, it seems the Doctor himself has no idea who he actually is. In “The Lodger,” the Eleventh Doctor says, “I’m the Doctor. Well, they call me ‘the Doctor.’ I don’t know why. I call me ‘the Doctor’ too; still don’t know why.”
 
So, although, you may never know his true name, especially if the Silence has its way, let’s see what all you “Whovians” out there do know. (Note: Questions on top, followed by answers).
 
Questions:

1. Eleven men have principally portrayed the Doctor. Can you name them?

 

2. Which actor is the youngest actor to have played the Doctor?

3. Which actor played the longest lasting on-screen incarnation of the Doctor?

4. How many times can a Time Lord regenerate?

5. What does TARDIS mean?

6. Where should you never materialize the TARDIS?

7. What is the Eye of Harmony?

8. Who was the Doctor’s first companion?

9. What is UNIT?

10. In the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter” (2008), what actress played the Doctor’s daughter, and how is she connected to two different Doctors?

Answers:

1. Eleven men have principally portrayed the Doctor. Can you name them?

1.     William Hartnell (1963-1966)
2.     Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
3.     Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
4.     Tom Baker (1974-1981)
5.     Peter Davison (1981-1984)
6.     Colin Baker (1984-1986)
7.     Sylvester McCoy (1987-1980, 1996)
8.     Paul McGann (1996)
9.     Christopher Eccleston (2005)
10.   David Tennant (2005-2010)
11.   Matt Smith (2010-present)

2. Which actor is the youngest actor to have played the Doctor?

The 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, is the youngest actor to have ever played the Doctor.  He started playing the part when he was 27.  The second youngest was the 5th Doctor, Peter Davison, who started at age 29.

3. Which actor played the longest lasting on-screen incarnation of the Doctor?

Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor, played the part for 7 years.

4. How many times can a Time Lord regenerate?

According to the serials “The Deadly Assassin” and the “Mawdryn Undead,” as well as the 1996 TV film, a Time Lord can regenerate 12 times for a total of 13 incarnations.  However, at least one Time Lord, the Master, has managed to get around this according to “The Keeper of Traken.” Hopefully, The Doctor will discover this trick, or his time may soon run out.

5. What does TARDIS mean?

Time and Relative Dimensions In Space

6. Where should you never materialize the TARDIS?

You should never materialize the TARDIS inside itself.

7. What is the Eye of Harmony?

A black hole that powers the TARDIS’ time engines.

8. Who was the Doctor’s first companion?

Susan Foreman, the doctor’s granddaughter, is traveling with the Doctor when we first meet him.  They are on the run from their people.  While the Doctor learns to control the TARDIS, Susan attends Coal Hill School in London until two of her teachers (Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton) become intrigued by her and follow her to a junkyard, where they find Susan, the Doctor and the TARDIS.  Susan and the Doctor then kidnap them in order to keep the TARDIS safe.

9. What is UNIT?

An intelligence task force dedicated to protect earth from alien threats.  The third Doctor worked as their scientific advisor while trying to repair his broken TARDIS.  Since then UNIT has popped up in various episodes.  In fact, one of the Doctor’s companions, Martha Jones, ended up working for UNIT after leaving the Doctor.

10. In the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter” (2008), what actress played the Doctor’s daughter, and how is she connected to two different Doctors?

Georgia Moffett was the actress who played the Doctor’s daughter, Jenny, in 2008. Ironically enough, Georgia is the real-life daughter of the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison and fiancée of the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.  David and Georgia had a daughter named Olive in March 2011.

Got any other Doctor Who trivia?

Let me know! — Julie