DW Staff Picks: Our Favorite Sci-Fi Books, Movies, and TV Shows

Do We Love Science Fiction? Yes We Do

It’s about exploring strange worlds, playing with alternate realities, harnessing fantastic powers and impossible technologies. It’s about saving the universe, turning a robot into a best friend, discovering our human strengths and frailties, and (to get a bit Captain Kirk about it) figuring out what it means to be part of something called humanity.

Inspired by our upcoming Sci-Fi Family Day, we asked our colleagues here at Discovery World about their favorite science fiction films, TV shows, and books. Now and when they were kids. Here’s what some of us had to say.

(We are adopting a very fuzzy and vaguely umbrella-shaped definition of science-fiction. In this case, it would include things like “The Hobbit”, which is decidedly not science-fiction, but that’s okay.) 


Ryan Kresse, Copywriter and Experience Developer

In 1977, at the age of six, I was invited to my friend Tom’s birthday party. I was beyond excited because Mrs. Block, Tom’s mother, was taking us to see a movie. I didn’t know which movie, but I loved movies, and this was going to be fun. Mom and I were running late because of my violin lessons. We were always late to everything, but this time we were extra super late because we had to stop and get Tom a birthday present. After what seemed like a billion years of careful deliberation, Mom decided that Tom would enjoy a plastic model of the human circulatory system. Or something like that. Whatever it was, it was a bafflingly horrible choice, but I couldn’t really care anymore at that point because we were LATE TO THE PARTY. By the time we got there, Mrs. Block was ready to get a move on. Tom had already opened all of his presents, and all of my friends had their jackets on. But before we left, Mrs. Block asked me a question.

“Do you want to see Star Wars or Pete’s Dragon? It’s your call.”

My call? Oh, no.

I had already seen Pete’s Dragon. I loved Pete’s Dragon. It was really funny. The music was great. I loved dragons. I wanted my own dragon. And I wanted to see the movie again. And, to be honest, I was a little afraid of Star Wars. The original trailer was scary and bizarre and made almost no sense. Yes, I kind of really wanted to see the spaceships and robots and laser swords. But the movie was rated PG, which back then meant the possibility of swearing and violence and all kinds of who knows what. And even though there would be a parent along to guide us, I thought, “Shouldn’t we all just see a more wholesome movie like Pete’s Dragon?”

Fortunately I managed to keep that thought to myself. Because standing there in front of my friends, I understood that there was only one answer. I understood what that answer was. I could clearly see that my friends did not want to see Pete’s Dragon.

And so I said, as enthusiastically as I could manage, “Star Wars”.

Everything about that movie was magic, from the first trumpet blasts of the opening theme to the closing credits. It was terrifying, it was exciting, it was mystical. In the first battle sequence, when the massive Imperial Destroyer is chasing the lone rebel ship, and there were blasters and Rebels and Stormtroopers, and we got that first glimpse of Darth Vader striding down the corridor with dust and debris and death all around him… I thought I was going to lose my mind.

On the ride home we made lightsaber noises and quoted lines like “Use the Force, Luke” and “These are not the droids you are looking for” and “That’s no moon, that’s a space station.” Months later we were talking about Star Wars. And, well… we’re still talking about Star Wars.

For me, Star Wars led to all sorts of things like Doctor Who and Star Trek and books like The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Alan Mendelsohn: the Boy from Mars, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Science Fiction and Fantasy became a big part of my childhood. I still love Doctor Who and Star Wars and The Matrix and the Marvel Universe and all that. Off the top of my head, my favorite science-fiction authors right now are probably China Miéville and David Mitchell.


Mike Armgardt – Manager, Guest Services

When I was younger, I loved Star Trek. I couldn’t believe such a “futuristic” show made it to TV. In 1966 even the hokey special effects were awesome. I loved the storylines and couldn’t wait for next week.

I read anything by Ray Bradbury I could get my hands on. The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451. These books made anything “out there” possible, even the not-so-good possibilities… if we weren’t careful.

I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in eighth grade, and it completely blew me away. It was the first movie that I remember making me actually think about what I just saw. Real special effects!  Awesome film clarity and color!  Awesome sound track! But what did it all mean? I’m still not completely sure.  Never trust a computer, I guess.

Watchmen is a fantastic graphic novel. I also love reading the compilations of HUGO and Nebula Award winning authors that are published annually. I always find a few stories that stay with me for months – sometimes years – that get me thinking about life/society/right vs wrong from a different perspective.


Kristen Artero, Reservations Supervisor

Firefly is hands down my favorite show ever. Although it only had one season (shown out of order), it was a breathe of fresh air at the time. It was smart and funny and the characters were flawed yet lovable.  There’s a reason why it has such a devoted fan base even after all these years. So devoted, eventually we got to live in that world again for a bit with the movie, Serenity, the affiliated graphic novels, and one day, if we’re all good little Browncoats, an online game that’s in development.

Another favorite  is Farscape. I used to watch this show with my parents and I have good memories associated with it. It’s a brilliant and underrated show about trying to go home. Other favorites include the hilarious Red Dwarf, as well as Roswell and Third Rock from the Sun. I am also really enjoying some more recent Sci-Fi shows from the Syfy channel such as Dark Matter, Killjoys, and The Expanse.

As for books, while I generally read more Fantasy than Science-Fiction, a couple favorites include Dune, Ready Player One, The Expanse series, the Lorien Legacies series, and Inside Out and Outside In, both by Maria V. Snyder.

Movies – There are so many. Ghostbusters, of course. As well as The Matrix, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Back to the FutureSpaceballs and Galaxy Quest have to be two of my favorites.


Ana Minter, Special Events Manager

The movie Zathura opened my eyes to sci-fi. As I kid, I thought it was heart-pounding and entertaining, and as a child, envisioning something like this happening to you was pretty fun!

As a kid, my family watched the movie E.T. a lot, so it’s a total nostalgic feel good for me.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs –that’s totally sci-fi right? I just love this movie, the concept of changing elements using a thrown together machine is something that I believe opens kids up to the idea that, they too can make something sweet!

Jurassic Park – My uncle wrote the screen play, so it has always been a family favorite.

Inception is crazy cool and imaginative. I like it because it shows that sci-fi doesn’t have to be all about aliens, space, and far out tech.


Jennifer Clearwater, Development Director

One of my favorite things about being a ‘70s baby is that I got to grow up with some incredible science fiction. The very first movie I ever saw in a theater was the first Star Wars (technically #4 now, but it will always be the first to me) with my dad. It was a big deal to get to go to the theater, so I wore a skirt, and my mom begged me to “sit like a lady” during the show. I was four or five at the time, so I remember sitting my pre-school-aged best. The movie was loud, bright, fast, and funny, and I remember going back to school that next week and arguing with my friends about who got to be Princess Leia at recess.

Eventually, as more of those great 70s sci-fi movies made their way to basic cable, I got to see the classics that were too mature for me during that decade, and they’re all still favorites… Westworld, Star Trek: The Movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Stepford Wives, Escape to Witch Mountain, Soylent Green, Superman…so many classics! I love them all.


Kevin Kolodziej, Automation Educator

Close Encounters of the Third Kind – This film always fascinated me as a kid and probably is the source of my interest in UFOs and SETI. In a time where most movies about aliens portrays them as conquerors, this film depicts them as explorers and shows how humanity can respond to first contact with openness rather than fear.

*Batteries Not Included – Intelligent Robotic Extra Terrestrials that are cute. What more could you ask for? Not only does the subject matter of the movie hit a home run with me, but the quality of the models and effects for a film made in 1987 still hold up compared to today’s computer graphics. I saw this as a kid and no one else had heard of it, but it is one of my all-time favorites.

Moon – I am a big fan of Sam Rockwell and to see him play two sides of himself in this film was a treat. I often wonder what I would do if I were in his situation? How do I know I’m not?

[Kevin is actually a clone. We haven’t told him yet. Sorry, Kevin. – Ed.]


 Kate Halfwassen, Discovery World’s CFO

Star Wars (all except episodes I and II, but including Episode 0, the Christmas Special)

Farscape

Star Trek (all TV shows and the new movies; I liked the old one with the Borg)

Smallville

All Marvel movies

Lord of the Rings

The Hobbit

Interstellar

Agents of SHIELD

The Matrix (all 3)

A.I.

Wall E

Gattaca

Back to the Future

[We were surprised and happy to learn that Kate likes science fiction. We assumed, wrongly as it turns out, that finance people only watch movies about pivot tables. – Ed.]


Kent Watson, Exhibit Maintenance

Some of my favorite science-fiction books are Downwards to the Earth, Saturn Run, and the Andromeda Strain. Some of my favorite movies are Alien, Star Trek: Generations, The Thing, and Moon. And I really like Doctor Who, Firefly, and The Expanse.


Megan Ibar, Aquarium Curator

I read all kinds of science fiction. Some of my favorite books are Enders Game (the series), The Forever War, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, The Man in the High Castle, I Robot, World War Z, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Minority Report, Battle Royale, Cloud Atlas, Windup Girl, Neuromancer, The Time Machine, Starship Troopers, The Foundation Series.

Into the Land of the Unicorns, Hero and the Crown, White Whale trilogy, Venus Among the Fishes, and Watership Down would be some favorites from my childhood.

Gattaca is my favorite sci-fi movie, along with Equilibrium, The Fifth Element, and Stardust.


Kathy Sena, Art Director

I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey back in college in the early 80’s. That was amazing. As a kid, I saw Planet of the Apes. Alien is horrifying and creepy. The Thing from 1982 is probably the best sci-fi/horror movie out there. Dune is just weird, but it’s one of my favorite movies, and I’ve seen it more than 20 times. I love Blade Runner. Tron is a fun movie. The effects were mind-blowing back in 1982.


Julie Barnett, Education Program Specialist

I’m a total fan of science-fiction and fantasy, so I have lots of favorites. Here are some of my favorite favorites…

Star Wars – I even named my kiddo Lucas! (Okay, he’s not actually named for George Lucas, but he does have a Star Wars nursery). Far away worlds, magic (the Force), awesome women, and a Princess/love story! It’s a magical story.

Author David Eddings – Polgara is my favorite book. My aunt sent it for Christmas when I was in 8th grade. Polgara is this powerful, opinionated, moody, and quirky woman who has magical powers and incredible friends. She’s off to keep the world safe from the god Torak. I own every book David Eddings has written (over 20 in that series alone). Eddings spins a tale that is complex across multiple books in an ultimate battle for power between good and evil.  I could go on forever. There’s knights, battles, magic (lots of magic), love, weddings and babies, eccentric and memorable characters, and lots of good humor.

Discworld – I love this for many similar reasons to Polgara/Eddings. The fantasy world is not that different from our own, except for the magic. My favorite book in the series, so far, is Moving Pictures. Instead of cameras with fancy electronics, there’s little gremlins that run them. I also love the reoccurring characters, like Death and his sidekick Death of Rats.


And what about you? What are your favorite science-fiction books, movies, and TV shows? What do your kids like to read and watch? Let us know! And we’ll see you at Sci-Fi Family Day on Saturday, October 1st here at Discovery World.

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Getting Here

We are located on Milwaukee’s lakefront with easy access on and off of the expressway.

500 N Harbor Dr
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Get Directions
Adults $19
Child (3-17) $16
Child 2 & Under $Free
Senior (60+) $16
College Student* $14
Military Active and Veterans* $14
Military* Active Duty & Veterans $14

*Valid ID Required.

Purchase tickets at the Ticket Counter. Prices are subject to change.

Hours

Opens tomorrow at 9a
Tues-Fri 9a - 4p
Sat & Sun 10a - 5p