California Dreams: Our Cyberpunk Future According to ‘Wild Palms’

By Michael Grasso

The 1980s saw the gradual ascendancy of cyberpunk narratives in popular science fiction. The genre projected Western societal trends seen in the decade—corporate conglomeration, the rise of computer networking and global media, and the ascendancy of Pacific Rim economies, most prominently Japan—into a vision of the future bursting with high technology controlled by a few neo-feudal corporate interests…

Earth Visitor’s Passport: ‘Tour of the Universe’, 1980

A collision of imperial phase-Young Artists—the London-based illustration agency whose imagery would dominate and define British science fiction and fantasy art throughout the 1970s and ’80s—and an attention to graphic design detail that bordered on the unhinged, Tour of the Universe was a bold attempt to create an immersive world of science fiction art and prose that still looks as wildly ambitious today…

All Graphite and Glitter: ‘Down the Rhodes: The Fender Rhodes Story’

By Michael Grasso

Earlier this year, while on a YouTube nostalgia tear through NBA highlights from the late ’70s and early ’80s, I made the following observation on Twitter after watching a live performance of Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Let It Flow (For ‘Dr J.’)” set to vintage hoops footage: “The sound of my early childhood is ineluctably a Fender Rhodes electric piano”…

Inventing Sci-Fi Noir: Jim Steranko’s ‘Outland’

When Heavy Metal published 1979’s stand-alone Alien: The Illustrated Story to coincide with the release of Ridley Scott’s now-canonical sci-fi horror, no one knew what a “graphic novel” was. The adaptation, with frequently gruesome art by Walt Simonson and words by Archie Goodwin, was strikingly innovative while remaining true to Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay, and it soon landed on the New York Times Best Seller list…