cover image Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded

Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded

Jason Heller. Melville House, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61-219697-8

Hugo Award–winner Heller (Taft 2012) traverses the realm of 1970s science fiction in his thorough cultural history that examines how the genre influenced music and musicians, from David Bowie’s 1969 “Space Oddity” to the “tipping point” in 1977, when Star Wars, Alan Parsons Project’s I, Robot, and Styx’s “Come Sail Away” were all released. David Bowie’s career is a constant thread throughout, from his “Space Oddity” song (inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Apollo 11 moon landing), which Heller establishes as the catalyst for sci-fi infiltrating 1970s music, to its sequel “Ashes to Ashes” in 1980. Heller excavates sci-fi influences across genres, including the impact Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End had on Bowie and myriad psychedelic artists; the robotic aesthetic of electronic duo Kraftwerk and their cold, mechanical, synthesizer-driven music; the dystopian lyrics of postpunk bands such as Joy Division; and the extraterrestrial liberation baked into the identity of seminal funk band Parliament. Heller concludes that, while countless bands wrote songs about science fiction, Bowie stood apart because he “was science fiction.” An adventurous guide through 1970s music zeitgeists, Heller’s work will pique the interests of those in search of something a little more cosmic. (June)