The Alien universe was so much simpler to keep up with back in the late 1990s: we had the Alien Laserdisc, Alien: 20th Anniversary Edition, Aliens: Special Edition, Alien3, and Alien Resurrection on DVD. For books, we had the film novelizations and the Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual. I farmed these sources for Nostromo lore, and found a lot on which to build a website.
I never dug too deeply into the novels and comics since… well, Nostromo is my thing, right? And she’s scarce in those.
Since the publication of the Alien RPG, however, my interest has grown toward that part of the universe.
The old novels never really grabbed my interest, probably because Aliens isn’t my favorite of the films. I tried some of them, but their backgrounds and settings weren’t fleshed out since they focused on “bug hunts”, but after reading how Fria Ligan’s writer, Andrew Gaska, describes his approach to writing for the RPG, I thought it was time to reconsider.
Knowing what’s been printed is also a good way to explore my own new material as well.
It’s sort of a “use what you want and discard the rest” thing. I’m going more for an evaluation of the work on its own merits, with a dash of the ol’ “Watsonian vs. Doylist” engagement.
In case you’re even more oblivious than I am about how the line of novels and comics fit together, here’s a some information that helped me sort things out.
Gaska relegates the Bantam Books and Dark Horse Aliens novels/comics to beer-soaked yarns. Some of the tales do take the whole “hive” concept to crazy extremes (“Royal Jelly” anyone?). But the settings, situations, and characters may prove interesting.
For decades, my baseline for the continuity has been Scott Middlebrook’s The Alien Universe Timeline. Often imitated but never bettered, it sifts through the literature with a perspective that goes back to the publication of the material. In fact, TAUT has been utilized by writers of authorized written material for years.
Additional corners I’ve explored are the various video releases of the movies and their respective special features. It can be a difficult trail to follow, since I have yet to find a comprehensive list of features, regardless of where they reside.
Given that new media has allowed for more to be offered, disc space limitations have resulted in some things being omitted from even the fantastic Alien Anthology features that Charles de Lauzirika compiled for that set. However, I didn’t need to pick up the old Alien Legacy or Alien Quadrilogy sets since, with my copies of the old 20th Anniversary DVD with it’s features and the Anthology set’s features, I should have it all. (Thanks to Xenopedia’s articles for help doing this research.)
Having Middlebrook’s and Gaska’s analyses of the franchise through which to view the franchise’s literature, we can grasp its finer (and, alas, its weaker…) points.
In addition, our 21st Century Network provides Alien news sites in abundance, though your mileage will vary if you visit sites other than AvPGalaxy.net. In addition, other fan sites that focus on certain aspects of the franchise are also helpful (I’m looking at you, Alien Explorations, The Nostromo Unplugged, and Strange Shapes. After 40 years, sifting through Alien arcana can be a difficult thing to do. But when you find a gem you hadn’t known about before, it’s all worth it.
And I suspect I’ll find something in all these books and comics I’ve ordered…
…and there’s more on the way.
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