We're often asked what our favorite sci-fi is, and we're occasionally accused of ripping off greats like Iain M. Banks, Larry Niven and Philip K. Dick. Movies we're accused of stealing from include Starship Troopers, Aliens, Blade Runner… you name it.
Of course, these things influence us. After all, we're nerds. The specific accusation that we swiped the idea of a ring-shaped planet wholesale is not accurate. The idea of a Ringworld, first posited in sci-fi by Larry Niven in his brilliant novel of the same name, is actually a variation of a Dyson Sphere, a fantastically impossible object described by the 20 th century physicist, Freeman Dyson. You can read about that here: Dyson Spheres!
Ring-shaped artificial worlds have also been used by Iain M. Banks and others because they are cool. And that's why we used one. Because it's cool and therefore the type of thing a Forerunner civilization would build.
The list that follows is humongous and is not only representative of the wealth of influences adopted by the Bungie team, but can also be used as a kind of shopping guide for the sci-fi neophyte (unless we point out otherwise).
One unfortunate part about this list is the demographic at Bungie errs on the side of 20 and 30-somethings. Which means classics from yesteryear probably aren't as well represented as they should be, although there's some Edgar Rice Burroughs in here to play nice with the Firefly and Lost.
The Bungie Top Five Sci-Fi Fings
That's right, using a poorly thought out system of polling, subjective opinion and water-cooler talk - this is the definitive list of Bungie Sci-Fi influences, time-wasters and favorites.
Maybe because it's recent. Maybe because it's fresh. Maybe because it features an ungodly amount of delectable lady-protagonists. Whatever the reason, Firefly rose to the top as the cream of the TV crop. The new-fangled Battlestar had its followers too, coming in a close second and enjoying the luxury of more seasons to come. A lone vote for Blake's 7 gets mad props, if nothing else.
- Battlestar Galactica (new school!)
- The X-Files
- The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
This was easily the least controversial part of our loose poll. Bungie's movie tastes are limited by the comparative lack of big sci-fi movies. There are literally thousands of books to choose from and frankly, a few dozen movies. Blade Runner's emergence as the most popular should surprise precisely no one. It really is the Citizen Kane of sci-fi. Even the photo-investigation scene still feels futuristic, in this age of 7 megapixel cameras and Photoshop.
- Blade Runner
- The Empire Strikes Back
- The Matrix
- The Terminator
Books are tricky, since more so than the movies in this list, one man's meat is another man's poison. All of these authors are fantastically talented, and the type of sci-fi on offer varies massively. That said, the sci-fi section of any bookshop is a treasure trove of undiscovered gems. Any of the authors listed here will provide you with hours of deliciously cheap entertainment.
- Dune - Frank Herbert
- Neuromancer - William Gibson
- Excession - Iain M. Banks
- Rendezvous With Rama - Arthur C Clarke
- Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
All of these seemed to stem from the mists of time, as Bungie staff fondly remembered their youthful gaming experiences. And there were no clear winners here, so the following list is assembled with fondness rather than democratic accuracy.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
- Star Control II
- Half Life (series)
Things that barely or don't at all qualify as Sci-Fi
About a quarter of the stuff people submitted was actuall fantasy we left in some of the more frequently mentioned things, like Lord of the Rings, for example. But the fact that people mash up sci fi and fantasy is hardy surprising, since bookstores do it too.
- Donnie Darko
- Gravity's Rainbow
- Leprechaun 4
- Thundarr the Barbarian
- Lord of the Rings
And so, without further ado, here is the reading, watching and playing recommendation of every Bungie staff member who participiated in this unique Sci-Fi cabal. Remember, each person here has their own unique tastes, some more refined than others. Some just bonkers. But if you see a book, author, movie or game mentioned here more than once, then you know it's gotta be worth checking out.
Dave Candland , UI Designer
I was heavily influenced by Star Wars in the 70’s & 80s. To satiate my appetite for cool, epic Sci-Fi, I even watched tripe like Space:1999, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers fairly religiously on TV. I remember actually paying to see Flash Gordon and Battle Beyond the Stars as a pre-teen.
I guess my taste has changed a bit and I try to be a bit more selective now that there are a lot more options out there. I recently finished reading Ender’s Game and it’s companion novel, Ender’s Shadow. Fahrenheit 451 is still one of my favorite novels out there. I’ve also been very partial to the writings of Philip K. Dick and the subsequent movies based off his books such as Minority Report and Blade Runner. Say what you will about Star Wars 1-3, they still have fantastic production values and art direction. My tastes are pretty mainstream. Two of my favorite movies are Terminator 2 and Aliens – both excellent work by Cameron.
As far as games go, the biggest influence remains Marathon. That was the game that really jump-started my desire to work in this industry.
Oh, man, I can’t believe I forgot to mention the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I must’ve read every John Carter book 3 times in high school.
Books: Startide Rising by David Brin, Blood Music by Greg Bear and Dune, of course
Movies: Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey
And many, many more, but I can’t think of them.
Andrew Davis (agdTinMan)
Books: John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy , Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Dune (books 1-4)
TV: Battlestar Galactica (new TV series), Babylon 5
, Cinematics Director
Anything in the Culture series from Iain banks, but particularly Excession .
Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
The Planets series from Ben Bova
The three Myst novels
, UI Guy
War of the Worlds - HG Wells
Area 51 series
Greg Snook , Animatrix
Firefly is the most recent thing I’ve gotten hooked on. The TV series, movie and even the comics are pretty well done. If you’re talking strictly Sci-Fi, that’s all that has really grabbed me in the past couple years.
Favorite Sci-Fi flicks: Buckaroo Banzai , Time Bandits, Tron, Brazil, Alien, 12 Monkeys (Lots of Terry Gilliam flicks), Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (any year, any media), Dr. Who, Mad Max.
Books: Hitchhikers Guide series, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Scud (does that count as Sci Fi?).
Lars Bakken , Multiplayer Designer
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlien (book and movie for different reasons)
, Storyboard Artist
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson (a little more horror perhaps)
A Sound Of Thunder – Ray Bradbury (very short, but I love the idea)
The Twilight Zone (episodes) – Rod Serling and the dudes above.
Contact (the book) – Carl Sagan
Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton
28 Days Later
The films of M. Night Shyamalan (so far)
Overall, I tend to like material that could almost be real, or is treated in a real way.
, New Guy (designer)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Dark Tower (Stephen King)
And the classics: Star Wars + Lord of the Rings
, New Guy 2, Eclectic Boogaloo
Kim Stanley Robinson: Mars Trilogy
Alistair Reynolds: Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap, Revelation Space
Frank Herbert: DUNE!
James P. Hogan: Giants Trilogy
Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash, The Diamond Age
John Steakley: Armor
Joe Haldeman: The Forever War
Robert A. Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, Time Enough for Love, Friday
Greg Bear: Forge of God, Anvil of Stars, Slant
Isaac Asimov: Foundation Series
Arthur C. Clarke: Rama Series, 2001 Series
2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner, Soldier, No Escape, Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, Terminator 2, Dark City, Fifth Element
Homeworld, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, KOTOR, Escape From Butcher Bay, Half-Life.
, Angry Zen Master Transformers: The Movie
The Childe Cycle/Dorsai series and the Dragon Knight series by Gordon R. Dickson,the Robots and Empire series by Asimov,
, Sketchfactor 5
Most of my fondest sci-fi memories come from my earlier days.... the original Star Wars trilogy (I was always pretty hardcore fan, and still hold it close to my heart, despite what the franchise turned into), Predator, Running Man, Total Recall, Aliens, Flash Gordon (the movie), Blade Runner, Ice Pirates, The Matrix, Futurama, Time Bandits, Robocop, V the television series (back then it was awesome... now it probably sucks), Starship Troopers, Star Trek Next Generation, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica (old school), Dune, Buck Rogers, Akira, Spaceballs....
Games: Ratchet & Clank Series, KOTOR, Defender, Xenophobe, Aliens for Apple II C, and that Halo game....
, AI Guy
“Against a Dark Background” and “The Algebraist”, plus all his other sci-fi work, by Iain M. Banks. He creates a very good world and populates it with interesting characters. The books tend to end rather depressingly too, which is great.
“The Warrior’s Apprentice” and the rest of the Vorkosigan series, by Lois McMaster Bujold. She writes the best space opera you can imagine. The hero has vast amounts of charisma, and the earlier books are brilliant.
“Alien” and “The Matrix”. Sorry.
, Audio Fella
Orson Scott Card (Ender and Bean novels), L.E. Modesitt (also does great fantasy), Frank Herbert (of course), I have read (I think) every Asimov novel and the short stories, and who is that British guy whos name escapes that wrote that great one about “the game” and took over that planet (help me out here).
Currently reading The Eternity Artifact by L.E. Modesitt
That is but a few … although I am more of a fantasy junkie…
, Code Kiwi
(Iain M.) Banks, Brin – particularly ‘Earth’, E.E. Doc Smith – particularly the Galaxy Primes and Subspace Explorers, Julian May’s Pliocene Exile series, Arthur C. Clarke – Rama II (the best of the series, IMO). Alan Moore – Watchmen, Harry Harrison – the Stainless Steel Rat series, and his short fiction, Jack L. Chalker – Twilight at the Well of Souls series
Chris Carney , THE ARCHITECT!
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (the book, not the awful movie)
Christopher Rowley sci-fi novels – “The War for Eternity”, “The Black Ship”
Blade Runner - film
Outland – film
Cowboy Bebop - anime
Books:“Ender’s Game”, by Orson Scott Card.
“Hyperion” and “Fall of Hyperion”, by Dan Simmons
Television: “Firefly” “Battlestar Galactica” (The new Series). “Blakes 7”
Graham Bartlett , Pants Fan
Well… this may be low-brow sci-fi, but I really liked Anne McCaffrey’s The Planet Pirates series ( Sassinak in particular). I also liked her Dragonriders of Pern stuff (the first couple of books anyway).
Keep in mind that I last read these when I was twelve and wanted to be a fighter pilot (okay – I still do).
, Artiste Savant
Sci-Fi Authors: William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Tom Maddox.
Pen and Paper Games: Shadowrun, Gamma World, Car Wars, Cyberpunk 20/20
Videogames: System Shock I & II
, Environmental Activist
The novella that came with each copy of Elite on the Commodore 64, Blade Runner, Star Trek the Motion Picture , Dune, Children of Dune.
, IT Girl
Dennis Danvers - Circuit of Heaven and End of Days (Great books),Orson Scott Card - Enders Game, Neal Stephenson – Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, Doug Adams – Hitchhikers Trilogy. Anything by (Roger) Zelazny
Gattaca. Tron, Dr. Strangelove, Blade Runner.
, AI Guy
Books: The Asimov Robot Series, Arthur C. Clarke “Rendezvous with Rama”, Early Crichton
Movies/TV: Pitch Black, Aliens, Firefly/Serenity. And Star Wars of course.
Games: The Chronicles of Riddick Video Game, The Space Quest Series
, Anime Fanboy
I have to give a shout out to old school Battletech. Inner Sphere 4 Lyfe!
Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke is one of my favorite classic sci-fi books.
Generally I don’t care for most anime- too many magical cat-girls for my tastes- but these two TV series are worthy of inclusion:
Ghost in The Shell: Standalone Complex - a surprisingly thoughtful, richly detailed work of speculative fiction that is better than both movies. Cowboy Bebop: Pure fun in a well realized futuristic setting with great music. The characters are well written and charming.
Comedy option: any attempt to revive a flagging horror franchise by putting the antagonist in space
Leprechaun 4 - In Space (seriously)
, English Major
Gravity’s Rainbow , Thomas Pynchon
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Ficciones , Jorge Luis Borges
The Man in the High Castle and Ubik , PK Dick
The Stars My Destination , Alfred Bester
Kindred , Octavia Butler
Blade Runner , Ridley Scott
Ghost in the Shell 1 and 2 , Mamoru Oshii
, Art Attack
Akira; manga and movie , Appleseed; Manga , Ghost in the Shell; Manga and movie , Alien and Aliens, Predator, City of Lost Children, Transformers the movie and series, Star Wars 4-6, Back to the Future, The Terminator 2, G-force, Starblazer, Robotech, Voltron
, 3D Artist
The new Battlestar Galactica series and Lost series!! And of course, Firefly.
, Cranky Olde Man
Oryx and Crake by Margret Atwood
Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Neuromancer series by William Gibson
The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach
Lexx – The TV Show
The Fifth Element
Battlestar Galactica (new)
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Thundarr the Barbarian
, King of Town
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller
Light Sci-fi but great visually/thematically:
Ryan Hylland, Timorous Emeritus
I have to give props to PKD (Philip K Dick) too but I prefer the “The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” over “Man in the High Castle”. Of course you can always read “ Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ” instead of watching Blade Runner too if you are into that nerdy reading thing.
And I sure hope Stephenson got some shout outs for “Snowcrash” and “Diamond Age”. I just read “Cryptonomicon” and enjoyed it too but it wasn’t sci-fi.
Finally, I can’t write one of these up without giving props to Vonnegut. My favorites are “ Slaughterhouse 5 ” (of course), “Cat’s Cradle” and “Sirens of Titan”.
Battle Star Galactica (The new series is possibly the greatest thing to happen to television. Ever.)
Firefly (I get all weepy when I think about how awesome Firefly could’ve been)
Duck Dodgers in the 24 th and a Half Century (the original Duck Dodgers, not the cheap imitation playing on Cartoon Network)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
The Fifth Element
New Hope, Empire, Jedi
The Matrix (Just part one. Parts two and three can suck it)
Critters (1, 2, and 3. 4 can go to hell!)
Xenogears/Saga (Though I’ll concede that Jenseits von Gud und Boese was not a very good game)
The original Contra
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Many, many, many more.
, Design by Design
Battle Angel (Anime more so than the Manga)
Original Star Wars trilogy
Back to the Future
William Gibson (Neuromancer and Virtual Light trilogies)
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Final Fantasy (VII and X especially)
Chris Tchou , New Guy 3
I don’t think anyone has mentioned these yet:
Joan Vinge and David Marusek, great short stories
Star Control II, best game ever made.
Isaac Asimov - Foundation
Orson Scott Card - Ender’s Game
, Inventor of the Face Punch
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress , Robert A. Heinlein
Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
My old school social protest Sci-Fi list.....
Brave New World - Aldus Huxley
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein
Dune - Frank Herbert
War of the Worlds - HG Wells
Area 51 series
And of course, we'd be crazy not to push our own sci-fi, in the form of the Halo novels , by Eric Nylund and William Dietz.