Reading and Signing: Strange Stars with Jason Heller

Author Jason Heller will join us for a reading and signing of his new book, Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, on Monday, August 13th at 6:30pm.

As the 1960s drew to a close, David Bowie slipped into the empty balcony of a London cinema to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. He emerged a changed man. As the 1970s progressed and mankind trained its telescopes on distant worlds, Bowie would lead other rock stars to see the world of science fiction as the catalyst needed to continue the revolution begun in the sixties.

Strange Stars explains how science-fiction and music came to depend on each other throughout the decade. With Bowie as their leader, Heller ties some of pop music’s most influential names into a single narrative including:  Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Sun Ra, Parliament-Funkadelic, Kraftwerk, Rush, Devo, and X-Ray Spex, while also including the more obscure musicians of the decade who nonetheless helped influence the scene.

Taking a deep look at the world surrounding the music, Strange Stars is close study of the musicians, lyrics, sounds, genres, influences, mythology, instruments, dances, costumes, cover art, marketing, and stage sets of the 1970s and their science-fiction themes. Heller shows how every genre of music – from funk, rock, glam, prog-rock, electronic, reggae, Afrofuturism, punk, post-punk, and synth-pop— contain influences of science-fiction.

Stories from Strange Stars tying together sci-fi and music include:  

  • Pink Floyd’s jamming playing live over the broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
  • How Hendrix found the infamous phrase “Purple Haze” in a sci-fi pulp novel.
  • The rise of Sci-Fi Disco and the brief popularity of disco music made from Star Wars.
  • Sun Ra lecturing on the black man in the cosmos at University of California, Berkeley.
  • George Clinton’s claim of a visitation from a UFO that influenced Parliament-Funkadelic’s Mothership Connection and Clinton’s “Citizen of the Universe” alter-ego.

Bookended by Bowie’s Space Oddity in 1969 and Ashes to Ashes in 1980, Strange Stars’ silver thread runs throughout the 1970s, bringing to life an era of unparalleled creativity that changed pop music and pop culture forever.