The history of science fiction is full of unforgettable characters. So it's no surprise that famous writers often appear in fiction themselves — either by name, or wearing the thinnest of disguises. Here are our 10 favorite science-fiction writer cameos.
HG Wells, Time After Time
HG Wells pops up in fiction on a regular basis. He has dropped by Lois and Clark: The New Adventures Of Supermanin his guise as a time traveler, met the Colin Baker-era Doctor in "Timelash," and most recently appeared on Warehouse 13 (though in greatly altered form).
But it's 1979's Time After Time that really commits to HG Wells as a fictional character. The movie suggests Wells didn't just dream up a time machine — he actually built one. Unfortunately, just as he reveals the device to his erudite friends, Jack the Ripper dashes into his townhouse, looking for a place to hide from the police. The serial killer knows a getaway when he sees one, so he hops in the time machine and takes off for 1970s-era San Francisco. The vehicle dumps him out and returns automatically to Victorian London, but the adventurous Wells isn't going to simply leave it at that. He follows the Ripper, and so we get to see H.G. Wells do all sorts of things that would have seemed highly science-fictional to the man himself, like eating at McDonald's.
Darius Just / Harlan Ellison, Murder at the ABA
One year at the American Booksellers Association's annual trade show, a science fiction author finds a colleague dead in his hotel room. The police rule it a suicide, but the stubborn writer disagrees. He digs in and decides to unravel the mystery on his own. Oh, and one more thing: The protagonist of Isaac Asimov's Murder at the ABA goes by the name Darius Just, but is commonly believed to be a lightly fictionalized Harlan Ellison. Asimov even admits as much in his memoir,I, Asimov.
Isaac Asimov, Inferno
Asimov also inserts himself into Murder at the ABA - he's there to research a mystery novel about a murder at the ABA. But for sheer plot impact, his best cameo comes in Larry Niven's Inferno. Scifi writer Allen Carpentier is attempting to impress his fans at a convention after-party with an ill-advised, drunken party trick taken from War and Peace. Balanced precariously on the ledge of an 8th-floor window, he's in the process of downing an entire bottle of run — without holding on to anything — when Isaac Asimov strolls in and everyone stops paying attention. Out the window Allen goes, and then he's waking up in the Vestibule to Hell. That's a big impact for a one-sentence appearance, but such is the awesome power of Asimov.
Mark Twain, Riverworld
Samuel Clemens, author of A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, is another speculative fiction favorite. He appears as a struggling writer in Sandman's "Three Septembers and a January," being honored as Official Storyteller by Joshua Abraham Norton, San Francisco's self-proclaimed Emperor of These United States. He spends an entire two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation tagging along behind the crew of the Enterprise. Data attracts the author's attention when a temporal disturbance lands him in the 19th century, and he spends the rest of "Time's Arrow" following the cast's every move. But his splashiest fictional role is as the main character of The Fabulous Riverboat, Philip José Farmer's second Riverworld novel. Farmer imagines him building a giant, weaponized riverboat and chugging upstream to investigate the world's source.
Grant Morrison, Animal Man
Writers put their characters through the wringer for our entertainment value, and Grant Morrison is no exception. Take his treatment of Buddy Baker, AKA Animal Man, a thoroughly decent guy who fights evil using his ability to borrow animal attributes. In Animal Man #26, Buddy's family is brutally murdered while he's away—and it's not even for any good plot-related reasons. He goes looking for the killers, and his search leads him to Morrison himself. But rather than vanishing in a puff of meta-fictional smoke, Buddy confronts the author about his shoddy treatment of his characters, and Morrison finally relents and brings back Buddy's family.
Jules Verne, The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne
The patron saint of steampunk certainly hasn't escaped fictionalization. Most notably, he experiences the events of his own novels in The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne. Developed by SyFy (back when it was still the SciFi Channel), the show portrays Verne running around with Phileas Fogg and Passepartout in a dirigible called the Aoura. They foil villainous plots and hang out with historical luminaries like Alexander Dumas and Queen Victoria, as young Jules collects the material for what will become his novels.
Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas
It's 1982. In his fourth term as president, Richard Nixon holds America in the iron grip of fascism. Who can save us? Philip K. Dick, of course. His science fiction novels are banned, but passed around the underground. The man himself dies in the opening pages, but that's not going to stop him from sticking it to the man. There's also been a couple of other novels in recent years that featured thinly veiled versions of Dick: Lint by Steve Aylett and Cardboard Universe by Christopher Miller.
Edgar Allen Poe, The Venture Bros
Poe is a popular choice among novelists, in particular, for reimagining the past: In Matthew Pearl's The Poe Shadow, Rudy Rucker's The Hollow Earth, Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. But for sheer bonkers entertainment value, you've got to watch him in the Venture Bros, "Escape to the House of Mummies Part II." Poe gets mixed up in the boys' time traveling escapades and subjected to all manner of indignity. Brock puts him in a headlock, just because his face is conveniently pumpkin-like. Later, to keep Hank warm against Arctic weather conditions, he slices Poe open like a Tauntaun.
Kilgore Trout / Kurt Vonnegut
Kilgore Trout began his literary life as a fictionalized version of Theodore Sturgeon, but gradually morphed into his creator's voice over the years. He crops up again and again in Vonnegut's fiction, from Timequaketo God Bless You, Mr Rosewater. He's a brilliant, prolific short story writer, with over two-thousand science fiction pieces to his credit. But he doesn't exert much effort to get them published, so his stories typically serve as literary padding in pornographic magazines. He's almost always a major character or a powerful influence on the plot, and it's hard not to see Vonnegut in his bio—and his outlook on life.
Stan Lee, Mallrats
A Stan Lee cameo is practically a requirement for making a super hero movie, but he usually appears in a small, unassuming part. But the short appearance that makes you want to have him hanging around dispensing life advice is his turn in Mallrats. He stops by the mall for a book-signing and ends up delivering Brodie and T.S. some solid romantic advice. He also suggests Brodie get help for his obsession with superhero sex organs, which someone needed to say.
Additional reporting by Alasdair Wilkins, Cyriaque Lamar, and Marc Bernardin.