The pulp-sci-fi galaxy of Rayguns and Rocketships has many inspirations. If you are looking to get "in the mood" for the game before it comes out, I recommend the following books, comics, toys and films that inspired me to create this game.
Marx "Space Patrol" and other plastic figures
I had a few sets of these figures as a kid and fell in love with the "bubble helmet" aesthetic. To me, space men were much more interesting than army men.
Wally Wood's sci-fi stories from Weird Fantasy
I first discovered Wally Wood thanks to reprints of Mad Magazine, but thanks to attending Comic Con every year, I soon found Wally Wood's sci-fi work. For my money, he drew the best spaceman ever.
I had already read a lot of fantasy by the time I discovered John Carter and was instantly captivated by the swashbuckling mix of fantasy and science-fiction. I wasn't a fan of the movie which didn't capture the romance and adventure of the source material.
Marvel's Star Wars issues #15 and 22
My mind was blown when Star Wars first came out in 1977 and I quickly scooped up the comics to keep up my "Star Wars fix". While I often found the comics to be kind of "hit/miss" I found the zero-G battles in issues 15 and 22 particularly fascinating and it definitely inspired the man-to-man space battles found in Rayguns and Rocketships.
Flash Gordon (1980)
This and Star Wars were my introductions to pulp-inspired sci-fi. Swashbuckling action, rayguns, strange aliens, beautiful women... this movie has it all.
While not very well known, this unofficial sequel to Jumanji features some incredible character design including some great rocketships, lizardmen and one of the best looking robots in movies. If you want to see how I imagine the rocketships flying in Rayguns and Rocketships, watch this movie.
I discovered Van Vogt a later than many of these other inspirations, but I find the story's planet hopping, bizarre aliens and the serious tone of the crew make for a delightful mix. It's easy to see why so many other creators have found inspiration from this book.