Beowulf is the oldest known work in the English language. It tells of a great hero who comes from a distant land to defeat a creature who has been ravening the countryside. It is considered one of the great works of literature, and especially heroic fiction, where it stands shoulder to shoulder with such tales as the Odyssey, the Authurian legends and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an Arthurian romance written by an anonymous contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, is another heroic poem which, like Beowulf, is both a spiritual and literary predecessor of modern Science Fiction.

Above, arranged alphabetically by author, are some of the science fiction and fantasy novels which have shaped my campaign, either by subject matter or by providing me with a wide range of storytelling techniques. Some of these are well-known, some rather obscure. You'll note a distinct lack of Star Trek novels among them. As much as I enjoy Star Trek in its television and movie incarnations, a Star Trek novel worth reading is extremely rare. They generally fall into one of three categories: "Mary Sue," where the (usually female) protagonist is smarter than Spock and more capable than Kirk, and generally saves the day with little or no help from the main characters; those written by mainstream (usually Fantasy) authors with no feel for the characters or indeed for SF in general; and those written by fans-made-good who jam in references to every episode they can think of in order to "maintain continuity."

The first SF book I ever purchased was Star Trek 3, a short-story adaptation of several Star Trek episodes by James Blish. I was in grade 5, and Scholastic Book Services featured it as one of its monthly picks. It was also the first book I ever bought that was not actually written for children. Blish had perhaps the best feel for the characters of any writer to put Trek on paper.

This page ©2000 Owen E. Oulton