How Titan Books and Dark Horse Ended Up Creating an Aliens Expanded Universe

In late 2014, Dark Horse Comics and Titan Books are each releasing new stories spun off from James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens film. Dark Horse’s Fire and Stone, written by Chris Roberson, was part of a larger story connected to new Prometheus, Predator, and Aliens vs. Predator comics. Christopher Golden wrote the standalone River of Pain novel for Titan. The stories have a location in common—the doomed mining colony of Hadley’s Hope, where Ellen Ripley and her crew save Newt and confront the Alien Queen…

The novel features Ripley, while the comics don’t. What else do the stories share with the films—Bishop, Newt, the Marines?

Christopher Golden: I watched the first film—the Ridley Scott Alien—a couple of times, but my focus was mostly on the scenes of Newt and her family from the Extended Edition of Cameron’s Aliens… plus everything I could glean from and about Newt herself in that film. There are recreations of famous Ripley scenes in the novel, but it’s really the story of Hadley’s Hope as a colony, the people in it, and the lengths they’ll go to in order to survive when the worst happens.

Aliens Fire and Stone Christopher Roberson Aliens River of Pain Christopher Golden Scott Allie interview

Chris Roberson: As much as I love the Colonial Marines, I thought there was a lot of storytelling potential with the ordinary men and women of Hadley’s Hope who found themselves facing this unstoppable alien menace. I spent a lot of time watching and rewatching the Aliens film to figure out the best ways that our story could fit in between the established scenes.

So which of your original characters cross over between the comics and the novel?

Roberson: It was really less a question of the characters crossing over than it was the stories happening alongside one another. None of the characters from Christopher’s novel actually appear in the pages of our comic, but we mention and allude to several of them in dialogue. And Christopher introduced a few of our characters and, more importantly, the ship that they use to escape from Hadley’s Hope in his novel, and he provided space in his plot for them to get away.

Aliens Fire and Stone Christopher Roberson Aliens River of Pain Christopher Golden Scott Allie interview

Who initially talked to you about getting the characters to line up, as it were?

Roberson: I think the word came down from Fox through the editors at Dark Horse that Christopher was writing a novel set in the same place and time, and that there was the desire for our stories not to contradict each other at least, and ideally to work together.

Golden: I heard from Steve Saffel, my editor at Titan. At first I was concerned—I’d finished the novel already, you see, and it required that I revise to incorporate those elements. But then I heard that it was Chris writing the comics. I know him and I have a lot of respect for him as a writer. I knew we’d be able to make it work.

Aliens Fire and Stone Christopher Roberson Aliens River of Pain Christopher Golden Scott Allie interview

Did this do much to change the experience of working on a licensed novel, having to compare notes with another writer?

Golden: I’m constantly collaborating on something with other writers, so I’m used to it. I wasn’t happy to have the word so late in the game, novel-wise, but I knew it was necessary—I’m a fan, too, remember—and I knew we’d work out something cool. We did.

Roberson: Fortunately, I’ve known Christopher for years, since my days as a science fiction and fantasy novelist, and so it was a matter of ease for me to send him a quick note and start a dialogue. We checked facts back and forth, making sure the dates and times jibed, and added in little nods here and there pointing from one story to the other.

How far into Fire and Stone were we when you talked??

Roberson: It was very early on, as I recall. I think we were doing revisions on the first issue script and starting work on the second when we found out about Christopher’s novel, and so we were very quickly able to make course corrections to keep everything heading in the right direction.

Aliens Fire and Stone Christopher Roberson Aliens River of Pain Christopher Golden Scott Allie interview

So did one of you add the other’s characters into your story, or was it more reciprocal…?

Golden: My novel tells the story of the Hadley’s Hope colony and the Jorden family. A novel by nature is going to go into more detail, so it would’ve been really weird if I told the whole story of the discovery of the derelict and the fall of Hadley’s Hope to the aliens and didn’t create an environment where Chris’ story could happen in the context of the novel. So you see his main characters in there, and you see the ship they use to get off Acheron. If you don’t read the comics, you won’t be focused on that, but if you do, you’ll see that their story is happening in the background to the story I’m telling.

Chris [Roberson], you were already working with four other writers on Fire and Stone, but in that case we were all meeting face to face. How’d that compare to working this out with Golden??

Roberson: It was a very similar process, actually. Since my characters don’t interact directly with the other Fire and Stone characters, there was a lot of discussion about setting things up for the other writers’ characters to find later, or introducing questions that their characters could answer later. And with Christopher’s novel, even though they started in much the same place, we ended up going in very different directions, so it was largely a question of making sure that our two stories meshed together seamlessly.

Aliens Fire and Stone Christopher Roberson Aliens River of Pain Christopher Golden Scott Allie interview

How important are Roberson’s Fire and Stone characters in River of Pain?

Golden: They’re not overwhelmingly important to the plot, but they’re important to me as someone who really cares about continuity. Once I got word, I wanted to make sure readers of the novel actually see Chris’ Fire and Stone characters in my pages, and that I’ve created space for them to have the journey they have in the comics. The way I’d originally written it, there was no way—zero—for the two stories to co-exist, and since they’re both supposed to be official continuity, that obviously wasn’t going to work. It was the sort of thing that would’ve driven me crazy if we didn’t get it right.

In your respective books, who’d you send to the most grisly death?

Roberson: The nice thing about a collaborative medium like comics is that those kinds of decisions are often shared. So it was really up to my artistic collaborator, Patric Reynolds, to decide who would get the most visually gruesome end. And he came up with some winners!

How about you, Chris?

Golden: I’m not telling.

Aliens: Fire and Stone art by David Palumbo

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