The Alien franchise has been running for over forty years at the time of writing this post. Starting with the eponymous film back in 1979, this behemoth has powered relentlessly forward, spawning not just a host of sequels and prequel movies, but books, comics, video game and RPGs, as well as more merch than even the greediest corporate exec over at Weyland-Yutani could imagine.
As is the case with most massive sci-fi franchises, one of the arguments that rages most fiercely amongst dedicated fans, is that of “what is and is not canon”? The Alien expanded universe is a big place – aside from the six films in the main timeline there are the “Aliens vs Predator” spin offs, not to mention innumerable short films, web series and video games. There’s also twenty-odd novels, and almost one hundred comics, not to mention a host of video games. How do we go about determining what amongst this is canon, and what isn’t?
Obviously, some of this material is obviously more canonical than others – the novelisation of “Alien” probably includes details that can likely be considered canon, even if they weren’t in the movies, whereas the comic “Superman vs Aliens” probably isn’t ever going to feature in a big list of canonical source material…
Thankfully, Fox have employed a consultant to work on pulling together everything that was canon and excluding everything that wasn’t – with the object of the exercise being, presumably, the production of some kind of writer’s bible that would serve to inform future creatives on which direction their additions to the franchise could take. The consultant in question is one Andrew Gaska – a seasoned writer who has also served as a franchise consultant on other big name features like “Predator” and “Planet of the Apes” – projects that, like “Alien”, have some many spin-offs it can make you dizzy. In short, he’s got a great pedigree in this area.
Why am I talking about this on a blog devoted to table top roleplaying games? Well, whilst there doesn’t appear to be any sign of the theoretical writer’s bible for us mere mortals to gaze upon (although Andrew’s blog talking about it can be found here) there is something that is a very close approximation, namely the “Alien” RPG.
Why so? Well, Andrew Gaska is the lead setting writer for this RPG and its supplements, which means that any content produced for it – including the sizeable setting and background chapters – is considered canon for the “Alien” franchise. You want to know the latest background about species XX121 (that’s the xenomorphs, fact fans)? Check out this book. Want to know what weapons a Cheyenne drop ship carries? It’s all here. Want a comprehensive timeline of the Alien universe and where the canonical films fit in? You’ll find it within these pages. Anything and everything Alien related is here. Oh and did I mention it was a bloody good game too?
For fans of the franchise (like yours truly) this is a godsend, as it means that all future material developed for the RPG is essentially going to be given the blessing of the Powers at Be. So, unlike the Aliens Adventure game of yesteryear (may it rest in peace) which went off in some pretty crazy directions, RPG Alien enthusiasts can rest easy that all the material they’re using from these products is official and not likely to be contradicted by future films.
So, if you want to find out why nobody can hear you scream in space, take a gander at this book. You won’t regret it!