J.G. Ballard (November 15, 1930)
J.G. Ballard is one of those writers, like Kurt Vonnegut, who managed to write science fiction but still be considered a “respectable” mainstream talent. Given how much Hollywood loves a good apocalypse, it’s kind of surprising that more Ballard’s dystopian SF books haven’t made the leap to the big screen. That’s going to change in the not too distant future, hopefully. Movie versions of both The Drowned World and High Rise are in the works (the latter with Kill List director Ben Wheatley. It’s nice when Tinseltown notices there are classic science fiction writers not named Philip K. Dick. Ballard passed away in April of 2009. He would have turned 83 today.
Yaphet Kotto (November 15, 1939)
There aren’t many actors who can claim the bragging rights of being in a movie as influential as Alien, but Yaphet Kotto is one of those people. He played the ill-fated Parker in Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction classic. Well, okay, pretty much everybody on the Nostromo was ill-fated except Ripley and that damn cat, but whatever. Really he could have just retired after that and still would have ensured his own little slice of history, but instead he went on to carve out a damned impressive five-decade career. Aside from Alien he’s probably best known for his role as Lt. Giaradello in Homicide: LIfe on the Street. On the sci-fi front he also put in memorable appearances in The Running Man (1987), based on the book by Stephen King, and The Puppet Masters (1994), based on the book by Robert Heinlein. Kotto turns 74 today.
The Tholian Web (November 15, 1968)
There are plenty of interesting races inhabiting Gene Roddenbery’s Star Trek universe, but I always thought the Tholians never got the attention they deserved. I mean come on, they’re one of the few Trek aliens that aren’t just bipeds with weird foreheads. I know they got some play in Enterprise where we at least got to see more than their heads, but I would have thought they would have merited a movie somewhere along the way. How many times do we have to get Klingons, for crying out loud? That web thingy would look great in 3D! At any rate, the Tholians first appeared on this day in 1968, in the Original Series episode “The Tholian Web.”