Exclusive: Author Alex White on his chilling new Alien novel, The Cold Forge

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Apr 26, 2018

Today is April 26, aka Alien Day, the day the world celebrates all things of a xenomorphic nature in the billion-dollar Alien empire that began in 1979 with Ridley Scott's original outer-space shocker.

The occasion's name comes from LV-426, the official classification of the notorious planetoid where the Nostromo crew discovered the derelict Engineer's spaceship and its nasty nest of evil ovopods.

To salute this big annual Alien bash, Titan Publishing in London just released a new Alien novel, The Cold Forge, by author Alex White. Taking place after the tragic events at the Hadley's Hope colony on LV-426 depicted in James Cameron's Aliens, this new entry in the roster of in-universe Alien tie-in books is a worthy addition to the mythology.

Here's the official description:

With the failure of the Hadley's Hope, Weyland-Yutani has suffered a devastating defeat — the loss of the Aliens. Yet there's a reason the company rose to the top, and they have a redundancy already in place. Remote station RB-232 abruptly becomes their greatest hope for weaponizing the Xenomorph, but there's a spy aboard — someone who doesn't necessarily act in the company's best interests. If discovered, this person may have no choice but to destroy RB-232… and everyone on board. That is, if the Xenomorphs don't do the job first.

SYFY WIRE spoke to White about this latest entry in the Alien legacy and learned what readers can expect in his riveting new novel, what challenges and rewards arose from playing in the beloved Alien sandbox, his opinion of the AVP films, and which Alien movie scared him the most.

Can you tell us how this new Alien tie-in novel was born?

Alex White: My debut novel was over at Solaris, and the publicist there moved over to Titan Books and told me if I ever wanted any free books to let her know. So I was looking through Titan's catalog and saw they had the Alien license. Immediately I was on the phone with my agent, Connor Goldsmith, and told him to get me an Alien deal, whatever it takes!

We pitched in 2015 and again in 2016 directly to the Titan editor at DragonCon. The contract came through in June of 2017 and was due in September, so I had four months total. It's such a ride. I've never written that fast in my life, and it changes the way you write, sometimes for the better, because you can't sweat the small stuff anymore.

What were some of the restrictions or guidelines given to you by 20th Century Fox or Titan as to what you could and couldn't do with your Alien book?

Well, Titan didn't have the license for Prometheus, and they were considered to be two separate licenses by Fox. And they had all these things in Prometheus that would alter the alien physiology in terms of origins and delivery methods, and I couldn't use any of that stuff. I couldn't make reference to the black goo or the super-weapon or the Engineers. Not allowed. Then the contract came through in June of last year and Alien: Covenant came out just as I started writing. I was not given an advance screener of Covenant or a story bible or anything like that.

So Covenant comes out and all of a sudden all the stuff from Prometheus is in there, plus the word "Alien" in the front. And that clears everything up, and now I'm allowed to use all of it! That was enough for me. I'm going for it, and we'll see what they say. I enjoyed a lot of Covenant but also thought that it was not an Alien movie as much as a gothic horror story.

Was it daunting diving into the Alien universe knowing all the vocal fan expectations and 40 years of films, comics, tie-in novels, and video games?

If I had had to consider the Dark Horse novels canon, that would have been really rough. Because there are like 20-something Dark Horse novels, so it would have been a nightmare. Luckily the only things I had to consider canon were the movies and potentially other Titan novels. I've always wanted to write for Alien. I was so fascinated by Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3.

But I remember when Resurrection came out in 1997. I was a kid and so excited and it was the first time to really see an Alien movie in the theater and I got in there with my friends in their mid-teens and I'm just dead inside. I hated every minute of it. [Laughs] Alien and Alien 3 are fairly dry. Resurrection has this very comic-ness about it. But the scene with the aliens underwater is amazing. And I love Ron Perlman and Michael Wincott.

What were your personal associations with the Alien franchise growing up?

I saw them in order. A friend of our family gave us Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Predator, Predator 2, and Warlock on VHS. I watched the first one and it was tough for my tiny little mind to understand because I had not yet entered the corporate world of dystopia. Then Aliens made a lot more sense to me. It was very digestible for an adolescent mind. It had everything you could want. Moving into Alien 3, it was very subtle and very hard for me to understand.

Then Dark Horse really took off with its license, producing Earth War, Music of the Spears, and Labyrinth. I dove into the tie-in novels and read every one, including all the Predator ones as well. All that stuff was awesome. I got a five-dollar a week allowance for chores and the local comic shop was selling the watercolor Earth War issues for twenty dollars so they really got their money from me on those. I was really into anything with a corporate espionage angle.

But I am not a fan of the Alien vs Predator movies, it was like watching a wrestling match.

Which Alien movie is your favorite and which is the most overrated?

Alien is my favorite, just the original. I know that's so boring. I'm gonna get some hate for this one, but I think Aliens is the most overrated. Aliens is a masterpiece, but for my money, it makes very few statements in any kind of interesting way. Alien is a critique of the culture that is coming. Even the name Weyland-Yutani. At the time the movie was made, America was extremely phobic of Japanese businesses coming to dominate our markets. It was a chance to kind of work that into the screen story. In the future, there are all these mergers and it doesn't matter anymore and you don't matter anymore. Aliens is more "coked up" and sort of screams these things at you.

What were some of the official reference materials you used in crafting the novel?

Whenever I needed something that wasn't in the Colonial Marines Technical Manual or wasn't directly on the screen, I'd go to look at the various Wikis. They're extensively fan documented series, probably more accurate than Fox would be able to provide. And a big shout-out to the guys at AVPGalaxy.net. On the science end of it, I have a friend who has a doctorate in entomology and virology, which is like a perfect storm of people to ask questions about the xenomorph.

What is it about the Alien xenomorph that keeps it in everyone's nightmares?

When you're writing the book, it becomes very hard not to write every scene using terms that relate to sexual assault. That creature, the facehugger to chestburster life cycle, was deliberately designed by Giger to be very hyper-sexualized and disgusting. But it's playing on some very primal fears that we all have. The idea that something would take you to a dark corner and impregnate you, then use you up and all that's left is a corpse? That's terrifying!

In honor of Alien Day, Titan Publishing is also announcing more Alien goodness being released in the near future, including the deluxe sketchbook Alien Covenant: David's Drawings by Dane Hallett & Matt Hatton (Sept. 4), and Jonesy: Nine-Lives on the Nostromo by Rory Lucey (Oct. 18), telling an Alien tale from a cats-eye view.