Condolences and Catching up

A great many things have happened in the two years since our last update. We needn’t remind you of them all, but the most pertinent has been the passing of several Alien alumni from both in front and behind the camera. Charles Lippincott, an advertising and publicity consultant for Star Wars and Alien, died in Spring 2020. The illustrious Ian Holm left us later that summer, producer/writer David Giler followed in December, and just yesterday Yaphet Kotto, the Nostromo’s loudest, brashest and perhaps bravest crew member, also departed.

Just last year I had the pleasure of talking to Yaphet on the phone for several hours. Although he had bitten his tongue, he was in great spirits and divulged a good deal about his background, his method, his acting heroes and, of course, how he crafted the character of Parker (inspired, he told me, by the works of Eugene O’Neill). There were also interesting tales about his time on the Alien set in 1978 – shooting pool, battling producers and putting newcomer Sigourney Weaver on the ropes.

Lippincott, Giler, Holm and Kotto join other departed cast members Bolaji Badejo, John Hurt and Harry Dean Stanton. I would like to express my condolences to their family and friends, and to thank the film’s cast and crew for their contributions not only to cinema but also in enriching my own life. Alien may have been the first time I saw many of these actors perform, but it certainly was not the last and it’s been a pleasure following their work in the decades since that landmark movie.

As for Strange Shapes, although the blog is quiet (probably too quiet for my liking) work continues behind the scenes. Although personal (and global) circumstances have gotten in the way lately, I’m a good 365 pages (or 170,000 words) deep into writing Strange Shapes: The Making of Alien, and I hope to have it finished… soon. When completed, that book will in all likelihood make the blog redundant. Much of the research I have done, and the interviews I have conducted, give new insight into old topics that I previously thought settled. The wonderful thing about being an Alien fan is that there’s always something new to discover. I’ve sat on a great deal these last few years. Hopefully, I can bring some of what I found to you soon.

More importantly, I hope regular and irregular readers of this site have found the articles to be useful, even entertaining. With rumbles of an Alien TV series making the rounds, the franchise looks to be going strong some 42 years after its inception. We certainly hope to still be here, too.

Until our next update – take care!


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11 responses to “Condolences and Catching up

  1. Tom

    No updates in two years, still the best Alien blog on the web.

    Hope things are good in your world.

  2. Morse88

    Valaquen lives!
    It’s intellectual perfection is matched only by it’s alien voracity
    Can’t wait to read your book

    RIP Yaphet, Ian, and Charles

  3. bakermurrito

    Good to hear that the book is still in progress!

  4. Tom Buxton

    Nice One Valanquen . Nice to have you back, If a little too long . The book sounds very interesting . Keep up the good work fella!

  5. S@ti

    I’m really glad the book is progressing, but I have a comment about the notion of the book “making the blog redundant”. In this day and age, I don’t think you can just write a book and “be done” with a subject. There is always more to learn anyways, even about subjects that have 1000s of books written about them.

    A significant part of the thrill of reading this blog – apart from reading the posts themselves of course – is the comment section. The opportunity to see how other fans react to a piece of information. The ability to add my own views to the conversation. The ability to clarify the finest details of a post. Sometimes a random stray sentence opens a lengthy conversation in the comments and hours of research online, finding new sources on the topic, etc.

    When it comes to a book, this is not possible, as there is no comment section for a book, obviously. I sincerely hope you didn’t mean you will stop updating this blog altogether when the book is out. Because from a certain point of view, typing the closing period of the book is only the beginning. The beginning of the exciting, new conversations mentioned above, leading to new research and new information. So here’s hoping that regular updates will continue and the wonderful community will have a chance to populate the comment section of future posts on the Alien series.

    Also, RIP Yaphet :-((

  6. John

    Thank you for returning. I love this site.

  7. Tim Boxell

    Hi Hope you have room for the chest burster and face hugger inspired by Obannon and the producer of CHUD and Tim Boxell

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. Luke McNally

    Will the book be the end of your research or will there still be a few unanswered questions to keep you busy? Is there also a definite publishing deal?

    • There’s always going to be unanswered questions, unfortunately, because many of the people who were there have now passed. Some gaps can only be filled with (hopefully informed) supposition and, frankly, some guess-work.

      Some people don’t respond to interview requests (I’ve gotten in touch with Veronica Cartwright’s agent several times and had zip in return.) Folk like Ridley Scott are far, far beyond my reach unfortunately. Other peoples’ memories are understandably lacking, given the time that has passed since the film’s release. Some, like Walter Hill, were amazingly forthright and frank with me, and I have good material there. Ditto with Yaphet Kotto. I’d hoped to speak to David Giler, but he died recently.

      I think the book will shed new light on some things. Other scoops that I’ve sat on are now in the public domain (see J.W. Rinzler’s recent book, which contained some material I’d held close to my chest.) Some time ago I was in touch with Titan Books and things seemed optimistic there, but they opted for Rinzler’s book when the opportunity came, and I can’t blame them (established writer vs. blogger.)

  9. Adrian

    Checked-in on a whim this morning and….thrilled to see a Strange Shapes update.

    There is sadness as you note the passing of an increasing number of the people who contributed to Alien, yet great joy in hearing of your progress in writing a book. Having enjoyed your writing for some years, it will be a wonderful work, I’ve no doubt.

    I managed to get a non-fiction work published this year (not Alien-related). If my experiences as a first-time writer can be of any help to you, please do get in touch,

    Best wishes for great success with the book.


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