The Last-Minute Sci-Fi Gift Guide

The Last-Minute Sci-Fi Gift Guide
A luxurious vision of the future by Syd Mead; perfect for holiday relaxing.

There's only one thing worse than procrastinating on getting gifts for your loved ones, and that's procrastinating on putting together a guide to help out everyone else with all those gifts. It's Dec 12, so you can decide for yourself which I'm doing.

Here's a quick and dirty guide to a few gift ideas for the science fiction fan in your life.

Art book: Worlds Beyond Time, $32

If you follow this newsletter, you might have heard of this one. I published Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s this year after five years of work on it, and I think it's really good! 400+ images, 100+ artists, with lots of fun art history and jokes.

If you want a second opinion, I loved this quote from a different gift guide that was just published yesterday: "A perfect gift for those who yearn to explore the infinite possibilities that lie beyond our reality, Worlds Beyond Time is an incredibly curated gallery-in-a-book, alongside ridiculously well-informed, engrossing essays written in Rowe’s warm, chat, irreverent voice."

Card game: Coup, $14

In this "social deduction" card game, you play as a government official in a future dystopia who needs to backstab their way into power. Everyone starts out with just two cards in this bluffing game, so the tide can turn pretty quick when players start assassinating each other's cards. The fast pace makes it a good gift for someone who loves spies but thinks they don't like card games.

Game to play over Zoom: Bad Spaceships, $3

If a buffing game stresses you out, try Bad Spaceships: It's a collaborative world-building game in which you roll dice to see what area of your spaceship connects to another, forcing you to spitball exactly why this is the case. As the game puts it, you might fix the hull by playing Tetris, or charge your weapons in the swimming pool. You're basically getting weird prompts to tell a story that can evolve over the course of the game.

It's such an indie game that it comes as PDFs you download from, but you can play it just as well over Zoom, if you're looking for an excuse to catch up with your old digital nomad college friend.

Movies/TV: Streaming service gift card

Gift cards are all well and good, but you can personalize them by recommending a few of your favorite shows as well. I suggest:

  • Hulu: Cowboy Bebop
  • Apple TV+: Severance
  • Criterion Channel: Ravenous, Paprika, Strange Days
  • Paramount+: Yellowjackets
  • Amazon Prime: The Devil's Hour

But to be honest, this entry is just an excuse to talk about the new Max show Scavenger’s Reign. Inspired by the work of French artist Moebius and with a clear debt to famed 70s animated film Fantastic Planet, this stylish sci-fi show features a bunch of humans trying to survive on a beautiful but hostile alien world. Perfect for lovers of fictional nature.

Vintage sci-fi

This Etsy shop has some good stuff, like the 1971 Frank Kelly Freas NASA poster above, a bit of history that I even mentioned on page 167 of my art book.

Penguin science fiction postcards, $28

These postcards have a ton of very cool sci-fi covers I've blogged in the past – great value if you want a lot of art for a low cost.

Meteorite pendant necklace, $34

I think we all know what kind of rock your loved ones need around their neck: A chunk of meteorite straight out of the 1576 Argentinan meteorite fall.

Book recs

  • For astronauts: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, The New Guys: The Historic Class of Astronauts That Broke Barriers and Changed the Face of Space Travel by Meredith Bagby
  • For comedians: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, Even Greater Mistakes: Short Stories by Charlie Jane Anders 
  • For sleuths: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson
  • For crafters: Knits of Tomorrow: Toys and Accessories for your Retro-Future Needs
  • For the resistance fighters: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  • For slasher movie fans: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Syd Mead "Biomorph Vehicle" button down shirt, $49

T-shirts aren't classy enough for the world's coolest visual futurist, Syd Mead. I haven't actually bought this incredibly odd shirt, but I really need to.

A collection of dragon-centric Michael Whelan art prints

Art prints (and more) from 70s sci-fi artists

Artist shops can be surprisingly hard to track down on the internet, but here's a short list of ones I've come across. All of these artists are featured in my book (except one), so you can read up on them before you commit to a print.

Finally, here's one extra bonus, just for everyone who made it to the end of this article: The UK-based educational charity Centre for Computing History sells three big officially licensed John Harris posters featuring these three artworks, famous for their use as covers for Sinclair programming manuals.

It's a great deal that I've never seen mentioned anywhere, and Harris' work has a timeless quality that makes it great for an unassuming wall decoration. If you're outside the UK, the shipping costs will be a pain, but there's no better deal for a classic sci-fi poster.