Humans have long been fascinated by the stars. They make us dream of new worlds, grand escapades, and incredible technology. The idea of galactic travels certainly inspired Michael Moreci’s Black Star Renegades, a novel about power, destiny, and doing what’s right. It’s a tale with a hero’s journey at its core, and an exciting call to adventure at the start. Here, Moreci shares five of his favorite hero’s journeys in science fiction.
When I started writing Black Star Renegades, I was completely aware of how closely I was following the archetypal hero’s journey as spelled out by the great Joseph Campbell. To me, the most vital aspect of the monomyth is the call to adventure—why in the heck is this person leaving the comfort of their home to risk their life in the pursuit of some, as Obi-Wan would say, “damn fool idealistic crusade.” Luke had the pull of the Force; Katniss had to save her sister; Frodo had to carry the ring. All heroes have a reason why they take that first step into a larger world. In Black Star Renegades, the protagonist, Cade, has a destiny to fulfill—even though the destiny doesn’t belong to him. A lot of different books, movies, and comics inspired Black Star Renegades and the hero’s journey that takes place in its pages. A couple of these books are listed below, and a couple I included just because they’re grand, rollicking space adventures that deserve love and recognition.
Fear Agent is a series of adventures that recall the wildest, most outlandish aspects of Silver Age pulp comics and novels. It’s like a mashup of EC sci-fi comics, E.E. “Doc” Smith, and the best of Astounding Stories. From start to finish, the series is a wild ride through the cosmos as the hard-drinking Heath Huston—a Fear Agent tasked with eliminating hostile alien threats and the last of his kind—finds himself in one action-packed pickle after another. The series also has some serious depth and scope, in both character and the overall story, giving heart and weight to all the excitement. It’s easily one of my favorite comics and a must-read for sci-fi comics fans.
What I love about Mike Brooks‘ Keiko series is how lovingly it plays with the Firefly mythos. Like the beloved TV show, Dark Run focuses on the ragtag crew of the Keiko and its captain, Ichabod Drift. They’re smugglers, mercenaries, and always getting into trouble of one kind or another. But when Drift gets blackmailed into taking a job that’s obviously much more dangerous than advertised, the crew has to navigate a whole bunch of galactic complications to stay alive. Dark Run—the first book in the series—captures the feel of Firefly, and it does so in the best way possible.
Technically, this book doesn’t qualify as a space adventure, but John Scalzi‘s voice elevates what could have been just another sci-fi military book into something so much more. The book’s premise is simple: On his 75th birthday, John Perry visits his wife’s grave, and then he joins the army. It’s such a simple, clean, and gripping setup, and Scalzi uses it to craft one of the very best sci-fi books ever written. It’s fun, razor-sharp, endearing, and smart. The book practically crackles in your hands as the pages race by, and its series of sequels are every bit as good.
Say what you will about the Luc Besson film adaptation (I personally loved it), the comic is a whole different thing. The series, which ran for over 40 years in France, is so wild and crazy that it’s impossible not to love. The comic follows the exploits of Valerian and Laureline, who protect the galaxy as spatio-temporal agents. There’s so much imagination in this series; it’s hard to even begin to praise the innovative fun that its stories contain. From time travel to space operatics to the weirdest aliens and plot lines imaginable, Valerian has it all.
A lot of people give this book a really hard time, accusing it a lifting the plot of the movie The Last Starfighter. Are there similarities? Of course. But I’ve seen The Last Starfighter many times, and Armada is by no means a ripoff of the beloved ’80s classic. The book follows Zack Lightman, a high school misfit and nerd with anger issues who discovers that his favorite video game, Armada, is real. He gets whisked away on an adventure to save Earth, and what follows is a rich coming-of-age story laden with more geek references than you can count (though still somehow fewer than Ernest Cline‘s masterful Ready Player One). It’s a unique, propulsive book elevated by Cline’s tremendous voice.
Michael Moreci is a novelist and author of comic books. His comics include the critically acclaimed sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit and the military horror drama Burning Fields. He’s also written Suicide Squad for DC, Planet of the Apes for Boom!, and his other original titles include Curse, Hoax Hunters, ReincarNATE, and Black Hole Repo. As a novelist, Michael is the author of Spy Swap, an espionage thriller for Tor/Forge. He lives in Chicago with his wife, two sons, and dog.