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Aaron Percival (aka Corporal Hicks) is co-administrator for AvPGalaxy.net, a writer, interviewer, and host of the AvPGalaxy Podcast. Aaron was the only “conscientious objector” to the topic (read on, to see what I’m talking about), but in his essay, he shares his experiences discovering the world of science fiction…and the Xenomorph. Aaron lives in the UK.
Growing up, I’ve always been surrounded by science-fiction. One of my earliest memories is of watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in our family’s very first house. I can still vividly remember the Runabout on that television screen.
Growing up a fan of Star Trek and science-fiction, I’ve always had an interest in spaceships and various (what seemed at the time) fantastical inventions. I would make my own cardboard tricorders at Infant’s School. While there might be some violent and scary aspects of Star Trek (Khan and the Borg, anyone?!), it is undeniably more of a series that you would watch as a family.
My interest in the Alien series began around about the same time I was making cardboard tricorders. The day before my fifth birthday, my family took me to a theme park, called American Adventure, as a little birthday treat. While more themed on the days of the American Old West, it still had some more updated attractions including a motion-controlled cinema experience.
I remember queuing up to get in, and seeing the Alien warrior on the roof, hanging down above the entrance to the cinema. And I remember strapping in and being thrown around as stock-footage from Aliens showed the dropship descending through the turbulent atmosphere of whatever planet the Colonial Marines were heading to. This short experience was known as Aliens: Ride at the Speed of Fright.
For the longest time I could only remember bits and pieces of the experience and it wasn’t something I ever saw talked about. It almost got to the point where I thought I’d imagined it but thanks to the Alien Anthology boxset, I knew I wasn’t mad. The 20 minutes of footage from that ride is now available for anyone to watch. Sure, without the motion-controlled chairs it might not be as charming but that campy, awful little film (starring Jeffrey Combs, a Star Trek connection there) was my first experience of the Alien franchise.
While I might now have been sure it existed, my memories of the rest of that night were definitely of something I knew was real. We came out of the ride and my Dad said to me “I’ve got the film that’s based on” and later that night we watched Aliens.
Questionable parenting choice? Considering the nightmares watching that film gave me for the next five years of my life, maybe. But it was also a question and an answer that got me into one of the biggest interests of my life. In-between the ad breaks of watching Star Trek: Voyager’s UK debut on Sky One, we watched Aliens. We made it up to the scenes in the hive and my young mind couldn’t take it any longer and we had to stop watching.
For the next five years, I had frequent nightmares about the film. I slept with my faithful Andrex cuddly dog (he could protect me from any Aliens) and I’d often sleep face-down on the bed (the chestburster wouldn’t be able to get out if there was something against my chest, you see).
While I was terrified, I was also fascinated beyond belief. I’d often ask my Dad about the films. I’d talk about the film at school. I remember watching from behind the couch, or behind the door as my Dad played Alien Trilogy on our Sega Saturn (they were out of PS1s when we went to buy one. Got a great deal on the Saturn though! And I still have it hooked up to my TV now). I wouldn’t even dare look at the creature on the cover of the box. We tried to watch Aliens again when I was seven but I bottled it once more.
It wasn’t until I was ten when I finally saw the complete film. I walked into my Dad’s room to see what he was up to, saw he’d just put Aliens on his swanky new DVD player, and about-faced and tried to leave the room. Knowing my morbid fascination with the film, my Dad called me back in and made me sit through the film and face that fear.
And I was absolutely addicted.
After that we watched Alien 3 – despite my Dad’s warning of its quality. And I loved it back then. I wouldn’t get to watch Alien until some years later. From that point on, I was hunting to tape my own copies of the films off of Sky Movies. Eventually I came across Alien scheduled for a late night showing on Sky Movie Classics and set the VHS recorder to go. By then I’d overcome my fear but the intense interest and curiosity remained.
I know that The Nostromo Files is a website focused on the spaceships of Alien rather than the creatures. When Darrell asked me to write a short guest post about what drew me into the space vessels of the Alien series I told him my interest lay elsewhere. While I may have been obsessed with the Galaxy-class or Excelsior-class vessels of Star Trek, it wasn’t that part of the Alien series that has retained my interest all these years.
Do not get me wrong. The Nostromo, the Sulaco and the dropship are undoubtedly cool but for me, it was all about those five years of nightmares and that morbid fascination.
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