Don’t stress out over what to get that special science fiction, fantasy and horror fan on your holiday gift list. That’s right, Missions Unknown has done the stressing for you.
We painstakingly polled some of the biggest geeks we know — our staff and contributors — and asked them for recommendations. From Finnish sf novels and Indian horror movies to life-sized aliens and creepy mannequins, they came up with a diverse collection of gifts to fit any taste — and any budget.
John Picacio — Illustrator
SPECTRUM 17: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, edited by Cathy & Arnie Fenner
If you like science fiction/fantasy art, or know anyone who does, you can’t go wrong with SPECTRUM 17. It’s an annual compendium of the finest sf/f art from the worlds of books, comics, concept art, editorial, three-dimensional and more. The selections are chosen by a jury of pro artists and art directors that wades through thousands of submitted entries to whittle down the few hundred that make the book. The cover art this year is a steampunk Wizard of Oz take by the great Gregory Manchess. Inside, you’ll find art from many of the very best veteran and up-and-coming artists in the field including Donato Giancola, Stephan Martiniere, Dave Mckean, Eric Fortune, Raymond Swanland, Vincent Villafranca, and many, many more.
The book is available in hardcover and softcover, but if you’re gifting it to a hardcover book lover, take note that the hardcover sells out very quickly as collectors covet this book. Either way, no art book annually collects more diversity and talent in one volume than SPECTRUM. I think this year’s is the most diverse and mind-blowing book yet, and if you’re looking for pure sf/f visual experience and inspiration, this is the best gift anyone can receive.
Mike Fisher — Goofa Man Productions
Every science fiction fan should possess a life-size replica of the H.R. Giger alien from Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film. It is disgustingly detailed and accurate. All your girlfriends and moms will be thrilled that you need to find somewhere in the house to display this thing.
Seriously, I think it’s a pretty cool unnecessary item. And the good news is that it is now selling for $500 off of the suggested retail price of $5,000. You can find it at monstersinmotion.com, which has all sorts of cool geek gear.
Also order their life-sized Predator figure and pose your own intergalactic fistfight right right in your living room!
If the life-sized Alien and Predator figures are a bit too pricey, for considerably less you can grab a model kit of the Pan-Am clipper from 2001: A Space Odyssey or a Gort bobble-head.
Scott Cupp — Author
My Christmas recommendations are pretty pedestrian. I recently got a great hard science book from the UK – The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi which has the following quote from Charles Stross on the cover “If you dropped Greg Egan’s hard physics chops into a rebooted Finnish version of Al Reynolds with the writing talent of a Ted Chiang you’d begin to get a rough approximation of the scale of Hannu’s talent. The Quantum Thief made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I read it, and I think Hannu’s going to revolutionize hard SF when he hits his stride. Hard to admit, but I think he’s better at this stuff than I am. The best first SF novel I have read in many years.” I have read the book and it is that good. Only available in later printings in the UK right now. American edition is scheduled from Tor in May (I believe). I could not wait.
Also, Michael Moorcock has a new novel out and it features Dr. Who.I have not read this, but I saw Mike last weekend discussing and signing it so it is high on my list. And it should be on yours, too.
Jeff — Musician, Hyperbubble
Mannequins Among Us by Jeanette Barnett (Kindle Edition)
I admit it. I still watch cartoons. I still collect Hot Wheels. I still eat Fruity Pebbles, and I still think Godzilla is a great actor. So when a children’s book about talking showroom dummies throwing midnight mall parties popped up on Amazon, both the kid and the Kraftwerk fan in me had to take a peek. And……Score! Though it has all the ingredients of a children’s book: a curious little girl, a cute cat, and fantastical plastic playmates, the story is laced with the kind of spooky horror movie undertones that one might expect from an author who once worked for Vincent Price (as Mrs. Barnett has). Mannequins Among Us has everything an adult who grew up in the (Andrew) McCarthy era would wish for this Christmas, and oh yeah, your kid’ll like it to.
Joe McKinney — Author
Back issues of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction are available through the publisher for something like $3.50 to $4 a copy. I have everything from ’91 on up, but I’m spotty most of the way through the ’80s and I have nothing from the ’70s and earlier. If Santa wanted to make me the happiest geek on the planet, he could send me a big box full of back issues. Yep, that’d do it for me.
Paul Vaughn — Ding.us Design
I am not necessarily one to read the latest books being published. I generally look for recommendations from people whose reading tastes I respect. One such friend has been pimping Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series for years and I finally gave in to the siren song. And what a delight they are. The series begins with Gardens of the Moon (1999) and presents a complex and throughly detailed fantasy world that breathes new life into a well-explored genre.
The level of detail in this series is nearly overwhelming at first. There are pages of character lists at the beginning and multiple maps. There is a complex pantheon, a detailed history of the world hinted at and important to the swirling, colliding plot lines. Magic is this series is brilliantly and brutally portrayed, giving readers an insight into what people might actually do with this sort of power. There is vocabulary and history to learn and all of it works. The series reminds me of Dune, in that there is an investment at the beginning in understanding the milieu, but soon all of these threads weave a brilliantly imaginative tapestry.
There are currently nine books in the series with the final installment, The Crippled God, slated to be published in February 2011. This is epic fantasy that rivals the best of the genre and is not to be missed. Give the first two books, Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates, as a gift and the voracious reader on your list will praise you for years.
I’m sure our other contributors have provided some solid Christmas gift recommendations. So, in the interest of promoting multiculturalism, I decided to share three items that might make good gifts for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Eid al-Adha, respectively.
Hanukkah: Socalled “Ghetto Blaster” CD
What does a CD have to do with science fiction? In this case, a lot. Socalled is a Canadian hip-hop mad scientist with the chutzpah to fuse traditional Jewish music with urban beats and cutting-edge sound collages. The result is both funny and funky as he mixes klezmer clarinets and scratchy recordings of Eastern European wedding bands with beat boxes and raps about his Jewish heritage. “Ghetto Blaster” serves as a blueprint for how artists can embrace new technology while drawing on the vast library of interesting sounds our musical forebears left us to work with. Let’s hope the future of digital music is as rich as Socalled imagines it.
Charles Saunders’ Imaro books brought epic fantasy to Africa in the early ‘80s. Their namesake hero was an ass-kicking African warrior with more than a few similarities to R.E. Howard’s Conan — such as finding himself crossways of sorcerers with some regularity. Night Shade has been kind enough to reissue the Imaro books with an introduction by Charles De Lint, and I’m happy to say they’ve aged well. I’m sad to say, however, that they still remain one of the few heroic fantasy series to explore pre-colonial Africa as a setting.
Eid al-Adha: No Smoking DVD
This Muslim holiday has fallen around Christmas the past few years, so why not include it in the list? And why not give an Eid gift from India, a country with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations? The gift is “No Smoking,” a Bollywood dark fantasy that delivers more “WTF?” moments than it does song-and-dance numbers. In the film, an arrogant upper-middle class Indian, well-played by John Abraham, sees a mysterious guru to break his smoking habit. What starts out as a riff on Stephen King’s classic short story “Quitters Inc.” quickly heads into Kafka territory as the protagonist begins to wonder if his treatment has completely altered the fabric of reality. Bollywood’s been cranking out horror since the ‘70s with often-spotty results. This may be the movie where Indian chill cinema finally hit its stride.