What the Stars Read

Do you ever wonder what the movie and TV stars read?

After too long a break, I traveled once again to a multi-media convention in the Baltimore area as both a panelist and guest, giving me unique opportunities to learn about books, movies, television, actors, and other forms of popular media.

Among the topics discussed were the interactions of cyberpunk (tech-heavy stories) and the modern world, stories that cross genres and copyright laws (Is there anyone Scooby Doo didn’t meet? Why is there a Terminator in Wayne’s World?), trends in speculative fiction (Lunarpunk, anyone?), and more. And those were only the ones I was able to attend.

The best part of such gatherings is meeting the guests of honor. Guests can change at any time due to filming schedules or illness (Robert Duncan McNeill was replaced at the last second by John Billingsley, a phenomenally entertaining actor in person, due to McNeill testing positive for Covid), but there are always a number of interesting people making appearances. This year, among many outstanding actors, the guests included Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Chuck, The Last Ship) and Summer Glau (Firefly, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Sequestered, Arrow), and I was able to speak with both of them.

Summer Glau has put acting on the back burner for the moment as she home-schools her children. She herself was home schooled due to an overriding love of ballet, and thus was able to pursue dance more in depth with the flexibility of home schooling, though she admits there are gaps in her learning. I asked her who her favorite authors were, and what she likes to read. Glau is a fan of Steinbeck, especially East of Eden, as well as the classic Russian novelists like Tolstoy, and of course Jane Austen. She prefers her children have a more classical education, and that includes classical literature. She’s been reading books on farming, with daydreams of someday having a small farm (she is originally from Texas).

Adam Baldwin was a delight (No, he is no relation to Alec Baldwin and brothers). At 23, he appeared in the classic Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket, which is one of my favorites, and we discussed different war films we had each seen. He told me to watch The War Machine with Brad Pitt, I told him to watch 9th Company, an excellent Russian film about their 1980 invasion of Afghanistan. We talked about the WWI epic 1917. Baldwin admits he never made it to college, going into acting by the age of 18. His favorite authors? He likes reading Michael Crichton‘s best sellers such as Congo and Sphere, as well as Tom Clancy, and classic Stephen King, such as The Shining. By his own tale, he informed Stanley Kubrick that his film adaption of the The Shining was not as good as the book, which didn’t put him into Kubrick’s favor (Stephen King has been rather vocal on how much he himself disliked the film, despite it being ranked among the greatest horror films of all time).

In public, actors are always answering questions about their work, things they’ve done or would like to do, or nitpicky trivial questions about a single line of dialogue from decades ago that they can’t remember. Finding out what they like to read is a question they haven’t heard a thousand times, and brings out different aspects of the person behind the tabloid reports. Actors are more than just the roles they play, and finding something in common with them reminds us that off camera, they are people just like us!

Author Tom Clancy Dead at Age 66

Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy

Prolific writer Tom Clancy died Tuesday night, Oct 1st, at the John Hopkins Hospital in  Baltimore, Maryland.  The cause of death has not been released.

He was best known for his technically detailed espionage and military thrillers.  Several were made into movies including The Hunt for Red October, The Sum of All Fears, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present DangerThe first Net Force book was made into a television movie and the first Op-Center book was made into a mini-series.

He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1947.  He attended Loyola College as a physics major, but switched to English in his sophomore year.  Before becoming an author, he ran an independent insurance agency.

In 1979, he began writing Patriot Games where his hero CIA agent Jack Ryan was introduced.  In 1982, he set aside that book and started The Hunt for Red October which was based on a real incident in November 1979 about a Soviet missile frigate attempting to defect.

Seventeen of his novels have appeared on the New York Times bestsellers list.  Besides his stand-alone novels, he has written several series available in paperback format.  They are:  Op-Center, Net Force, Net Force Explorers, Power Plays, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and EndWar.

He was a part owner of a baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles, author of several non-fiction books, developed three board games, and co-founded the video game developer Red Storm Entertainment.  He is one of only three authors to sell two million copies on a first printing (other two – J.K. Rowling and John Grisham).

His newest book, Command Authority, is due out in December.