Reading science fiction is a rewarding experience that exposes readers to mind-expanding ideas and introduces them to new settings never imagined before. There's a sense of adventure in the new and undiscovered, yet sometimes it's old and familiar settings that readers crave. Well, science fiction has you covered there, too.

Read last week's SF Signal on the last days of Philip K. Dick.

So-called "media tie-ins" are books with original stories that take place in familiar  universes already-established in other media, usually film or television but sometimes games as well. Are you a fan of Star Trek but don't know which science fiction book to pick up? How about boldly seeking out the latest Star Trek novel? You say you're a fan of Star Wars but you don't read science fiction? How about reading a novel set a long time ago in a galaxy far away?

Dispel any stereotypes you may have about media tie-ins. Some of the richest universes and the best reads can be found there. Here are just some examples of media tie-in worlds that may already be familiar to you and are definitely worth exploring on the printed (or electronic) page.

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Star Trek

spock Not long after Captain James T. Kirk...let's say "had diplomatic relations with" a green-skinned alien on the small screen, he boldly made his way into books. The first original Trek novel, 1968's Mission to Horatius by Mack Reynolds, was a children's story in which Kirk and Spock fought each other coliseum-style on a world where the ruling class drugged its citizens to keep them in line. The first adult novel, 1970's Spock Must Die! by James Blish (who also wrote the novelizations of the original series), concerns a duplicate Spock who was originally created to infiltrate the Klingons but who turns against the Federation. These two early novels paved the way for the first generation of Trek tie-ins by several other notable authors as well, including Joe Haldeman, Kathleen Sky, Gordon Eklund, Stephen Goldin, Jack C. Haldeman II and David Gerrold (who wrote the classic "Trouble with Tribbles" TV episode).

The Trek franchise really began its stride with the next generation of writers (see what I did there?) in the 1980s when it was taken over by Pocket Books who published dozens more stories by notable authors. Early hits like The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre were just the start of this new era of books, which attracted the likes of Robert E. Vardeman, Diane Duane, Greg Bear, A.C. Crispin, John M. Ford, Melinda Snodgrass, Barbara Hambly, Diane Carey, Peter David, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Esther Friesner, Theodore Sturgeon and James Gunn, Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski, Keith R. A. DeCandido, and Chris Roberson. Star Trek tie-ins are still popular today and have even spawned other series set in that optimistic future.

Star Wars

star wars 1 It's a well known, scientifically proven stereotype that nobody can be a fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars. (I kid!) For diehard fans of the far away galaxy, there are lots of books to choose from. Fans of the original film will want to check out 1978's Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster (the first original Star Wars novel). Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire—a special 20th-anniversary edition which was just published—is the first installment of his still-popular Thrawn trilogy. Over the past few decades, the Star Wars universe has attracted the likes of Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson, Steven Barnes, Terry Brooks, Elaine Cunningham, William C. Dietz, Shane Dix, Barbara Hambly, Elizabeth Hand, K. W. Jeter, Greg Keyes, James Luceno, Rebecca Moesta, R. A. Salvatore, L. Neil Smith, Michael A. Stackpole, Karen Traviss, Sean Williams, Walter Jon Williams and more—all of whom have used their talents to explore George Lucas' universe beyond what was seen in the films.

Like The Star Trek novels, the Star Wars novels include many sub-branches. You can read stories from many different time periods of that universe, not just the "Rebellion Era" of the films. There are books that focus on Jedi, the Sith Lords, the rebel pilots, the Clone Wars…take your pick. There is even a series of young adult books about Jedis in training that serve as wonderful reading gateways for the young padawan in your life. Another bonus for diehard Star Wars fans: George Lucas has never modified a Star Wars novel after it's already been released.

More to Come!

Next week I'll take a look at a couple of other media tie-in universes. Stay tuned!

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews.