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…

Where Magic Meets Technology: Peter Bebergal’s ‘Strange Frequencies’

By Michael Grasso

I remember vividly the rich variety of books that I was surrounded by in childhood that talked about the history of magic, or then-current trends in paranormal research, or how investigators were searching for the signs of the afterlife on magnetic audio tape. If you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s like me, and loved books like these, then go out and get yourself a copy of Peter Bebergal’s Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

“You Owe Me Awe”: Culture, Class, and the New South in Thomas Harris’s ‘Red Dragon’

By Michael Grasso

Thomas Harris’s sophomore novel Red Dragon (1981) introduced the world to iconic serial killer and cultured cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and arguably set the gold standard for all serial killer fiction to follow. But Harris’s novel is more than just a taut true crime thriller that first popularized the archetype of the serial killer profiler. It is also a methodical, deliberate exploration of the class anxieties…

“Going At Ghosts With Science”: ‘Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale’

By Michael Grasso

Legend of 20th century science fiction Nigel Kneale (1922-2006) would likely bristle to be described as such. Andy Murray’s terrific biography, Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale, readily conveys Kneale’s sometime ambivalence at being pigeonholed as a genre writer. But the full parade of Kneale’s fascinating life gives perspective to the inseparability of the mundane and the fantastic…