Titan Books has revealed their gorgeous cover art for another project that’s been coiling in my innards, the Alien Film Franchise Encyclopedia.
This book is an in-world guide to the Alien universe, to quote the publisher's blurb, ‘covering the xenobiology, terraforming, synthetics, humans, corporations, military, judiciary, culture, science, spacecraft, hardware, and weapons of Alien, Aliens, Alien³, Alien: Resurrection, Prometheus, and Alien: Covenant….’
Being tasked with collating this material into a 300-page book was like being handed the keys to a kingdom that had fascinated me for decades.
Alien first seared itself into my subconscious in the summer of 1979. The movie had just opened in the States. The U.K. release, as typical of the time, was months later, with the London film premiere scheduled for the first week of September at the Odeon Leicester Square. I didn’t see it there, but that’s where I first laid eyes on the trailer.
It was a summer holiday excursion into the West End, July 2, 1979. I was there to see the new James Bond space adventure, Moonraker, seated in the stalls of the Odeon's art-deco movie palace. First came the previews. As the Alien trailer unspooled, wordless images bombarded my senses. Stars, and then a planet – no, an egg, slowly rising into frame. Flashes of a woman running. What looked like astronauts climbing inside a giant human ear. Flames, strobes, a cat shrieking. A man flailing. A blocky one-word title, and the tagline: ‘in space no one can hear you scream.’ When we emerged from 007, the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘What is Alien?’
I devoured Alan Dean Foster’s novel and its eight color pages. I carved the all-caps title across the top of my school desk. I became obsessed with this vision from a filmmaker with the unusual name, Ridley Scott. This film appeared to have real people from the future, living, breathing, dying inside a gigantic, filthy, claustrophobic space truck menaced by something so hideous it defied visual comprehension. I had to see this. And that was part of my problem: British censors had rated the film an ‘X’ certificate, for 18 and older. I was 15 and looked younger.
After local cinema staff turned me away, I finally convinced Dad to take me, just the two of us, to a pokey little cinema one dreary Monday night in October. I stuffed socks inside the heels of my shoes to elevate my height and tried to look all business. Dad bought tickets and we marched past the ushers into the Brentwood Focus.
I’d read about people in American Alien screenings rushing from the cinema to vomit in the theater lobby. That didn’t happen to me (thank you, Alan Dean Foster) but my encounter with the film led to a lifelong love of Alien. I collected all the books, including the Scanlon/Gross Book of Alien, Richard Anobile’s Alien Movie Novel, and Don Shay’s article in Cinefex 1. Years later, my Alien U.K. quad movie poster, with its Blu-Tack corner stains, hangs framed in my Californian home. So, it was providence when Titan Books investigated my interest in writing an ‘Alien Encyclopedia.’
Thank you, Simon Ward, for asking. Thank you, Jo Boylett, my editor at Titan who shepherded my text, due to appear in print summer 2023. And thanks to my collaborators, writers Clara Carija, Graham Edwards, and Seonaidh Kennedy, who suited up and ventured forth with me across the Middle Heavens. This one, for reasons explained above, I’m dedicating to Dad.
Alien Film Franchise Encyclopedia is currently scheduled for August 15, 2023.