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

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  42 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
A Hugo Award-winner explores the massive influence that science fiction has had on popular music, particularly on David Bowie and the heady, experimental 1970s scene

In the 1960s and 70s old mores and lingering repressions were falling away, replaced with a new kind of hedonistic freedom that included sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Although it didn't factor into the stereot
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Melville House
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Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Great title, great cover, great concept, "meh" content. By the end, I really felt like Heller had had to dig to find artists and songs to support his thesis, relying heavily on the obscure and only vaguely sci-fi-ish. There was also a lack of first-hand research and/or personal interviews, which gave the book a dry, academic tone. In the end, the result is a book that a.) could have been a 50-page paper, rather than a 200-page book and b.) will likely have limited appeal to the general public, i ...more
Jason Diamond
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Heller uses sci-fi to tie together everything from Sun Ra to Bowie to X-Ray Spex and even some New Romantic stuff from the 80s. It's really all I could ever ask for in a book and possibly the most interesting music book of 2018.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Smith/Fields/Dann/Basile/Cummings/Alka/Boo
Shelves: non-fiction
This is fantastic.

I was a child in the '70s and I am familiar with much of the music and books Heller discusses (not so much on movies although I do know Star Wars and Star Trek which was more than enough to get me through) so I figured this would be a fun "trip down memory lane," as it were.

Nope. Not one piece of nostalgic fluff in sight! (That's not a bad thing, in case you aren't sure.) I was so absorbed with the connections I hadn't considered (or wasn't aware of) that it was as if I'd nev
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much, but to me, it was the very definition of a mile wide and an inch deep. Heller tracks down and catalogs what seems to be every one of the hundreds of science fiction themed songs recorded during the 70s and duly notes if they were inspired by any specific book or movie. What's mostly missing is any sort of broader historical context as to exactly why any of this stuff was happening - beyond "Star Wars came out and was really popular," Heller doesn't seem too interes ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Melville House for an advance reading copy of this book.

In the acknowledgements to this book the author writes that if not for his editor he would have written an encyclopedia. He nearly did anyway, having created here a comprehensive, sometimes dizzying account of science fiction-inspired music and its democratizing effect on sci-fi within popular culture (with a little help from NASA, drugs, and "Star Wars").

Each year of the 1970s is given a chapter along with brief prologue and epi
Amanda Mae
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a heck of a lot of fun to read. My interest in sci-fi is fairly minimal, but it was delightful to read about how different sci-fi authors and stories and franchises influenced rock music, especially David Bowie - who is the main thread through the book. You better have YouTube or Spotify handy while you read because you’ll be picking up lots of new tracks to listen to, and I finished with a small list of sci-fi novels I’d like to try. If you’re a fan of Bowie, read it. If you like 70s r ...more
Woody Chichester
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Very well researched look at how sci fi influenced and was influenced by pop culture throughout the 1970s. Jason Heller's book reminded me of a wall map of strings, connecting Bowie's Space Oddity to Kubrick's 2001, Sun Ra and afrofuturism, Devo, Kiss, Battlestar Galactica, Michael Jackson, Anne McCaffrey, Insta Funk, Mötörhead, early hip hop, punk, Carl Sagan, Klaus Nomi, JG Ballard, and lots lots more. And it all leads back to Bowie. Lots of pop culture crammed in here. An enjoyable read for s ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book that not only makes you want to keep reading it, but start diving through old music and breaking out your library card and pick up all those old sci-fi books and settle in for an adventure.

This is exactly what Dean Venture must have felt like in "Perchance to Dean" when he lets his science mind explore the outer reaches of the universe though music.

Great history, great insight, great book!
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
So... I wanted to like this book more than I did. Thumbs up for being comprehensive, but thumbs down for interest and insight. Long on names of groups, songs, sci-fi books and movies (many of which are repeated several times throughout), but short on broad context and insight. Reads a bit more like a wiki article than a long-form essay.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book is like having an intense and thrilling conversation with my favorite geek friends. Heller ties sci-fi music and literature together in a narrative that celebrates both the well known and almost forgotten. Your listening and reading lists will grow. *Review based on Advanced Reader Copy
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm actually doing a paid review for a local publication so you'll have to wait...

But it's good.

I'll post a link when the review goes live.
Lee Barry
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, culture
An exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) chronicle of the synergy between science fiction and pop music in the 70s. A fascinating nostalgia trip, yet probably different for every generation.
Karin Kross
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Jun 06, 2018
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Jun 29, 2018
From 'Stardust' in Shelf Awareness for Readers
"The scarcity of science fiction titles on David Bowie's list of 100 favorite books is notable because, from lyrics to stage personalities and film roles, it's apparent that speculative fiction inspired the musician. That influence, on Bowie as well as on several of his contemporaries, is the subject of Jason Heller's Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded (Melville House).
As Heller looks closer at each of the performe
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I'm a Denver-based writer who contributes regularly to The A.V. Club and Alternative Press. Quirk Books will publish my debut novel, Taft 2012, as well as a series of middle-grade horror books (to be announced). I'm also the nonfiction editor of Clarkesworld Magazine and am represented by Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maass Literary Agency.
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