We've seen the exploits of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation in the Alien movies, but in Tim Waggoner's new novel Alien: Prototype, we get to find out what happens when one of their corporate competitors, Venture, tampers with a Xenomorph egg... with deadly results. Set between the events of Alien and Aliens, and featuring Zula Hendricks from the Aliens: Defiance comic book series, Alien: Prototype is out now in paperback from Titan Books, and we caught up with prolific author Waggoner in our latest Q&A feature to discuss his first experience with the Alien franchise as a Fangoria-reading teenager, his character-centric approach to making the Xenomorph scary, and what readers can expect from the latest adventure in the ever-expanding Alien universe.
Can you tell us about your first introduction to the Alien franchise? Also, what's your favorite film in the series and why?
Tim Waggoner: I was a teenager when the first Alien film came out. There was no internet, so horror fans got their info about upcoming movies from magazines like Fangoria. I probably first read about Alien there, and likely saw the trailer on television. But my first clear memory of Alien is of sitting on my parents’ front porch and reading a review of it in the local newspaper. The movie sounded like it was going to be great, and I couldn’t wait to see it!
Aliens is probably my favorite in the series. Everything—characters, the Xenomophs, Weyland-Yutani—was developed in more detail, really opening up the universe. The threat was bigger, the stakes higher. And Ripley made the transition from a good hero in the first film to an iconic one in the sequel. Plus, we got Lance Henriksen as Bishop!
How did you become involved with Alien: Prototype? Was it something you pitched Titan Books on or did Titan / Fox reach out to you?
Tim Waggoner: I’d talked with editor Steve Saffel several times over the years about finding a project that we could work on together. Steve suggested we do an Alien book, and I said that sounded good. It was a couple more years before the opportunity to actually write Prototype came up, though.
Can you tell our readers about the setting for this new book and how it fits into the "Alien" universe timeline?
Tim Waggoner: Prototype is set on a planet where Venture, a corporate rival of Weyland-Yutani’s, has established a testing facility. Venture specializes in tech for space colonization, and this facility is where they try out and refine their equipment. Venture has hired former Colonial Marine Zula Hendricks to train a private security force that will protect colonists who use Venture’s tech and services. Venture has also acquired a Xenomorph egg, and when a highly dangerous new breed of Xenomorph emerges from its host, Zula and her trainees must try to stop it.
Prototype takes place after Alien but before Aliens. It follows directly after the comics series Alien: Defiance and Keith R. DeCandido’s novel Alien: Isolation. It occurs before the comics series Alien: Resistance.
It's been said that it's hard to make the "Alien" scary again since it's been seen so many times in movies, collectibles, and comic books. What do you feel is key to making the "Alien" scary to readers in your book?
Tim Waggoner: The same thing that’s key to making any monster scary. A monster is only scary when it’s shown through the perspective of a viewpoint character. Writers need to focus on a specific character’s response to the monster, his or her psychological and physical response to it. If readers can identify with that character’s experience and empathize with them, then the monster that confronts the character is (hopefully) going to be scary.
What can you tell our readers about Zula Hendricks? What qualities make her an interesting character to write?
Tim Waggoner: Zula was trained as a Colonial Marine, but she was injured during her first official mission and her comrades were killed. Afterward, she had to deal with survivor’s guilt as she worked to heal from her injuries. The Marines won’t have her anymore, but in her heart she’s still one of them, and she intends to go on fighting the Xenomorph threat.
What makes Zula so much fun to write is her determination and stubbornness. She won’t allow anything to stop her from doing what she thinks is right, and she continues living by the code of the Colonial Marines because it’s what she believes in, not because anyone expects it of her. Those qualities, along with the element of tragedy in her background, make her a compelling character.
What's next for you? Do you have additional books planned in the Alien universe?
Tim Waggoner: I’d love to write more novels in the Alien universe, but as of now, I’m not scheduled to do any. My next novel to come out is a horror/dark fantasy called The Forever House. It’ll appear in March. I’m currently working on another horror/dark fantasy novel called Your Turn to Suffer, as well as a book on writing horror called Writing in the Dark. Both of those will be out sometime in 2020.
For more information on Alien: Prototype, visit the official Titan Books website: https://titanbooks.com/9827-alien-prototype/