A REVIEW OF ‘EXPLORING SPACE CITY!’
By Kirkus Reviews
EXPLORING SPACE CITY!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper. Ed. by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Cam Duncan and Sherwood Bishop. Lulu.com (376 pp.) $35.00 paperback. ISBN: 978-1-312-16267-9. October 29, 2021.
In this nonfiction collection, journalists Dreyer, Embree, Duncan, and Bishop assemble notable work from a Texas-based countercultural periodical.
The 1960s was a golden age of independent journalism in America, providing fresh, alternative perspectives on such topics as the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, and the counterculture. As John Moretta, the author of The Hippies: A 1960s History (2011), states in his introduction to this book, “No one can write a thorough history of the 1960s without an in-depth discussion of the importance of the emergence and proliferation of… the underground press.” From 1969 to 1972, the newspaper Space City! filled that niche in Houston, speaking for the bohemian scene in what was then one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. This book, edited by former staffers, collects some of the paper’s finest pieces of journalism, opinion, humor, and cartoon work, covering a slew of topics, including electoral politics, the Mexican American Youth Organization, local concerts by the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, and hard-hitting investigations into such local institutions as the Houston Chronicle and Rice University. Sometimes the paper became a subject in its own reporting, as when a conflict with members of the Ku Klux Klan led to the bombing of the Space City! offices. The book serves as a time capsule for a distinct American moment, not only in its accounts of historical events and cultural shifts—some famous and some forgotten—but also in its highlighting of the language and mindset of the paper’s young, often radical staff. “In 1969, there was such a thing as a ‘movement’; there was a burgeoning counterculture that seemed at times almost on the verge of ‘taking over,’ ” writes reporter Victoria Smith in the paper’s final issue, adding that “for people like us it was simply Life.” It’s this blend of timeless and of-the-moment material that makes the book such a compelling document, because even in less notable pieces, readers can feel the writers trying to find the voice of their era.
An engaging sampling of articles from a hip, confrontational newspaper.
BUY THE BOOK
AUSTIN: BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd., and BookWoman, 5501 N. Lamar Blvd.
HOUSTON: Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth Street, and Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet Street.
ONLINE: Buy the book on our indie publishing platform, Lulu.com.
ON THE AIR
Listen to the Rag Radio podcast featuring the editors of Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper: Rag Radio host Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Cam Duncan, and Sherwood Bishop.
Listen to Open Journal, KPFT 90.1-FM, hosted by Duane Bradley, Wednesday, December 5, 12-1 p.m. (CST) and streamed at KPFT.org in Houston.
Watch the recording of the Zoom Book Launch, December 7, 2021. The editors of the book are joined by artist Kerry Fitzgerald, original editorial collective member Judy Gitlin Fitzgerald, and others.
Read Lisa Gray’s April 21, 2022 article in City Cast Houston.
Read Thorne Dreyer’s essay in the Houston Chronicle, “What to do when the KKK shoots and other lessons from Houston’s underground paper,” December 4, 2021. See it in PDF form here.
Read “Houston’s Legendary Underground Newspaper Resurfaces in Exploring Space City!,” by Tom Richards, Houston Press, December 6, 2021.
Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper
Edited by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Cam Duncan, and Sherwood Bishop
New Journalism Project is proud to announce its new book, Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper. A companion to Celebrating The Rag published in 2016, Exploring Space City! is a 376-page exploration of Houston’s groundbreaking publication to be released December 7, 2021. In the words of historian Robert Cottrell, “This lovingly crafted compilation captures the spirit of the New Left and the counterculture.” Purchase the book at Lulu.com.
Space City! was an underground newspaper published in Houston from June 5, 1969 to August 3, 1972. Though it was relatively short-lived, the paper – which was continually under assault from the Ku Klux Klan – was widely acknowledged to be one of the very best of the ’60s-70s underground newspapers that had significant impact on mainstream journalism. Space City! covered news not otherwise reported and helped pull together a widespread and diverse countercultural and New Left community in Houston.
Exploring Space City! features both articles and artwork from the original Space City! as well as essays written specifically for the book by its editors and others, designed to look back on the historical importance of the paper and to add contemporary perspective. The original Space City! included coverage of Black, Chicano, and white activists, the police shooting of Black leader Carl Hampton, the war in Vietnam and the movement against it, and the women’s and gay movements. And the paper did in-depth power structure research on who rules Houston, and extensive coverage of the cultural scene with features on Janis Joplin and Muhammad Ali and more. And it’s all in the book.
What They Say
“Pushing past bombings and Klan attacks, Space City! ranks among the best-reported and fondly remembered underground papers of the Sixties and early Seventies, and this book does a fine job of explaining why.” — Abe Peck, author of Uncovering the Sixties: The Life and Times of the Underground Press
“…thanks to the hard work and dedication of its editors and writers, we finally have this wonderful book. It’s an outstanding gathering of writings, cartoons, and ads that made Space City! such a provocative, anger provoking, and yes, often a fun read. The introductory essays provide much-needed context for the selected articles, as well as a valuable history of the paper.” — Don Carleton, Executive Director, Briscoe Center for American History
“This lovingly crafted compilation, stitched together by Movement veterans, perfectly captures the spirit of the New Left and the counterculture. A seminal underground publication of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Space City! nurtured a community smack dab in the Lone Star State. Despite confronting hostile, dangerous foes, it molded alternative institutions while delivering top-notch investigative journalism… But this volume is simply fun too, with healthy dosages of humor and incredible artwork by Gilbert Shelton and Kerry Fitzgerald, among others.” –Robert Cottrell, historian and author of All-American Rebels.
“Exploring Space City! will evoke passionate memories of hope, rage, and storefront collectives for aging participants in the ‘60s and ‘70s heyday of radical politics. For all readers, Houston’s preeminent underground newspaper is an invaluable source of history… Against overwhelming economic odds in a sprawling city difficult to organize, the editorial collective designed the paper, wrote its own stories, and relied primarily on hand-to-hand sales. They accomplished all this in an atmosphere of social conservatism, political condemnation, and police violence. –Victoria Bynum, historian and author of The Free State of Jones”
“Space City! could hardly have chosen three more momentous and disturbing years in Houston on which to report so incisively. Klan, culture, police misconduct, misprision of justice, Women’s lib, Latino lib, high school lib, the new assertiveness of Vietnam vets, Roe on the horizon. In retrospect, it seems like politics was moving in the right direction. I wish I could say the same now.” –Kaye Northcott, former editor of The Texas Observer
About the Editors
Thorne Dreyer, a founding member of the Space City! Collective, was also a founder of The Rag in Austin and an editor of Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper. His book, Making Waves: The Rag Radio Interviews, will be published next year by the Briscoe Center for American History. Alice Embree, was a founder of The Rag and also an editor of Celebrating The Rag. Her memoir, Voice Lessons, was published by the Briscoe Center for American History in 2021. Labor activist Cam Duncan, a founding member of the Space City! Collective, taught labor economics in Puerto Rico and at American University in Washington, D.C., and worked as a labor educator. Sherwood Bishop, who recently retired from teaching economics at Texas State University, is president of the New Journalism Project, co-founded the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, and also worked at Space City!.
Space City! now lives on the Internet Archive.
Space City! Video
The Space City! Video, a collaboration between New Journalism Project and People’s History in Texas.
Space City! — originally called Space City News — was one of the most important of the “second wave” of the underground newspapers of the ’60s-70s. It was praised for its strong reporting, its power structure research, its groundbreaking art, and its incisive cultural criticism. Space City! helped to pull together an activist and countercultural community in spread-out Houston.
We assembled complete collection of Space City!, all 106 issues of the paper during its run from June 5, 1969 to August 3, 1972 and arranged to have it scanned. The digital collection is available at the Internet Archive and has been added to Independent Voices, the online collection of alternative newspapers where The Rag can be found as well. New Journalism Project (NJP) raised funds for the shipping, digitization, and addition of metadata to the images.
You can donate to continue our work preserving history by sending checks to:
New Journalism Project
P.O. Box 16442
Austin, Texas 78761-6442
Read more about the Space City! project in The Rag Blog:
December 4, 2019 Houston’s historic ‘Space City! ‘to get new life
February 12, 2020 ‘Space City!’ project: Calling all hoarders
March 9, 2020 Preserve Houston’s historic underground newspaper
June 18, 2020 ‘Space City!’ lives online, survives quarantine
November 25, 2020 Houston’s historic underground newspaper