1) Ray Bradbury: He's the godfather of my nerd-dom. I got into the whole genre through his books. I discovered him deep in the stacks of the Shoreline public library and my mind was instantly teleported into realms of bizarre, imaginative genius. Along with Rod Serling, he’s the early master of the field.Link
2) Clifford Simak’s “City”: I was obsessed with this book as a teen and read it several times. It is truly weird. Through a series of interlinked stories, we come to know of the demise of humanity and the rise of the next dominant species, the talking dog. Yes, the talking dog. And then the ultimate master of planet Earth is revealed, the talking ant.Link
3) Robert E Howard: I seem to have lost all my original Robert E. Howard “Conan” books, but thankfully I still have “Kull” and a few others. He was a tremendous author and really launched the genre of sword and sorcery. He’s like an edgy, pulp J.R.R. Tolkien and deserves -- and needs more -- mad respect. The subsequent authors that took up his Conan series were sucky and lame compared to the brilliant, dark Howard. Forget Arnold, the original “Conan” was a ferocious bad-ass who lived in a terrifying world of sorcery. (Note: I have high hopes for Jason Momoa, who is playing Conan in the "reboot." I thought he did a great job as Khal Drogo in “Game of Thrones” on HBO.)Link
4) John Norman: He was a freak. He was a philosophy professor who had a bondage fetish. His “Gor” fantasy books were filled with noble warriors who rode giant birds around and bought and sold docile women sex slaves. Why my parents let me read these books, I’ll never know. Great cover, though.Link
5) Roger Zelazny: I read this series many times and it was one of my favorites. The “Amber” series is about a magical family that uses Tarot cards. That’s about all I remember. That, and one of the characters is named “Random," which actually inspired my aunt and uncle when they chose to name my younger cousin. Nerds all around.Link
6) Fritz Leiber: Leiber was most famous for his series of “sword and sorcery” novels (a phrase he coined) about the two great friends and roguish antiheroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Fafhrd was a 7-foot blond barbarian and his friend was a little thief named Mouse. I identified with Fafhrd for some reason and had a little friend, John Valadez, whom I called the ‘Gray Mouser’ as we ran around the woods of Seattle with fake swords and garbage-can lids for shields.Link
7) "Logan's Run": This book and movie blew my mind. I was 10 years old when the movie came out. It was pure big-budget sci-fi cheese and I loved it. It starred my hero, Michael York of “The Four Musketeers” who made a brilliant "sandman" named Logan 5 in the city of eternal youth. The book was even darker and weirder.Link
8) "Stormbringer": Oh, how I longed to be the undead, albino warrior Elric of Melniboné slinging the soul-sucking demon sword on the cover of Michael Moorcock’s "Stormbringer." I mean, look at the guy. Who wouldn’t want to be him? Heavy metal, baby.Link
9) "The Eyes of the Overworld" by Jack Vance was probably my favorite fantasy book ever. Vance wrote impossibly thick prose but had an amazing dark sense of humor. I loved that the hero, Cugel the Clever, unlike so many other fantasy heroes, had to rely on his wits to get by in this fantastically imaginative world.Link
10) And, last but not least, who could leave the realm of sci-fi and fantasy books of the '70s without mentioning the greatest masterwork of all, "Tentacles of Dawn"! Authored by this very own nerd’s father, Robert Wilson, it’s about a guy who wakes up in an egg in a cave and, after dodging a giant bat and some "wild wagon women" goes on a quest for the “Watcher of the World.” That’s my dad!Link
Rainn Wilson stars in the most dangerous masked-man movie of the year, “Super,” which hits DVD on Aug. 9, but the actor is no newcomer to the fanboy universe. In this guest essay, the famous face from “The Office” turns back the pages on his love of sci-fi and fantasy novels. Click through the photo gallery above to see some of his beloved bookshelf artifacts (make sure the “Captions On” option has been selected).
When I was growing up in the ’70s in suburban Seattle, I had a secret obsession. I was a science fiction and fantasy nerd. This was waaaay before it was ever halfway cool to be one. This was before “Star Wars,” mind you. Before Comic-Con and “The Dark Knight” and the “Lord of the Rings” movies. These were the dark days of “Logan’s Run” and “Zardoz” and “Silent Running.”
My dad was an aspiring sci-fi author and we used to go every year to NorWesCon, the sci-fi and fantasy convention of Seattle. The most bizarre, mossy, unwashed nerds of the northwest would crawl out of their caves and cabins and caverns and descend upon the Ramada Inn at Sea-Tac airport for a weekend of lectures, book signings and Dungeons & Dragons gaming.
My parents were a couple of odd bohemians living in suburban Seattle. We didn’t have much money but my dad had an awesome rule: As many books as I wanted, he would buy me.
I have many fond memories of poring over the outlandish sci-fi and fantasy book covers at the University Book Store in Seattle and choosing a stack to bring home with me to devour. I have managed to, over the many decades since the late ’70s, hold on to a good deal of my collection and I’m proud to share with you now some of my favorite authors and their covers from my bookshelf.
– Rainn Wilson
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