Tor.com content by

Courtney Alameda

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
All

Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Everything I Needed to Know about Writing Monster Horror I Learned from Alien

I wish I could say I saw Alien on the big screen in 1979, and experienced the glory of Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger’s chest-bursting, face-hugging terrors before they became property of pop culture and parody. Alas, Alien was years before my time. The film was nearly thirty years old before I borrowed the DVD from a friend and watched it alone in a small, dark room. Mistake.

What my tiny, flickering television experience lacked in silver screen quality, it made up for in atmosphere, intense claustrophobia, and the eerie sense of being isolated in the universe. Space is already a terrifying, incomprehensible void to me; adding Alien’s Xenomorph only made me check my locks thrice and start looking up how to make homemade napalm… at least for fiction’s sake.

I watched the film countless times, breaking down the movie down into its basest parts, trying to understand why it succeeded to frighten audiences so thoroughly with its modest budget, low performance expectations, and a fairly lukewarm critical reception. Nowadays, the film is widely considered a classic.

[Here’s what Alien taught me about writing horror.]