I found a copy of ‘Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ yesterday at a used book store for a dollar and change, which makes me tremendously happy because I can’t find the house copy and I have at least two people I’ve been meaning to lend it to. I’ve been meaning to lend it to them for a while now because they’ve never read it, and I think they should…which is where this gets complicated.
Because the last time I asked what media all geeky people should experience, it kind of got bogged down in questions about what the hypothetical lender was trying to instill into the lendee, and whether the idea was worthwhile to begin with given that every generation develops its own cultural touchstones and doesn’t necessarily need other people’s. Which is certainly true…goodness knows, I’ve never insisted that my daughter watch the things I loved when I was a kid solely so that she can understand my childhood experiences. (Which isn’t to say we’ve never watched Bugs Bunny cartoons together.) But I don’t think it’s as simple as saying, “You shouldn’t force your classics on other people,” because I’m a lit major, and science-fiction is a branch of literature.
And like all good literature, good science-fiction/fantasy inspires and influences its successors. Sometimes in obvious ways–there’s no question that ‘Star Wars’ inspired a generation of film-makers to use Lucas’ cinema verite style in their own sci-fi films–and sometimes in less obvious ways, like the New Wave science-fiction of the Sixties and Seventies that was a conscious reaction against the pulps. Experiencing these influential stories (let’s shy away from calling them “classics” for the moment, as that’s a loaded term) can help you get more out of the current output in the field by showing you more of what influenced and inspired the current writers, just like reading Norman Mailer will help you get more out of Chuck Palahniuk.
So with that squarely in mind as our goal, “What science-fiction/fantasy media is influential enough that you’d recommend it to someone as useful in helping them understand the roots of their current “genre” interests?”, then what would be on your list? Feel free to answer in the comments!