DEFINING CANON IN AN ALIEN WORLD

As a franchise consultant to 20th Century Fox on ALIEN, Predator, and Planet of the Apes, I often had to take a long hard look at a number of long-beloved franchise stories and try to figure out how exactly that could still fit in canon. If I couldn’t, I had to recommend they be tossed. I proposed a third option–what I’ve come to call barroom canon. These are stories overheard in a bar (or read in a comic, or played in a video game, or even posted on Facebook) that may or may not have some truth to them. This allows canon to have some flex in regards to including stories that otherwise could no longer count in a franchise’s development.

As the lead writer and canon consultant on the ALIEN RPG by Free League Publishing, I developed the following Canon Tier guidelines to working out the ALIEN universe.

Because people like to react before they read completely, I will stress again that this list is a guideline based on my franchise consultant work at FOX . I used it when creating the backstory/lore/history of the Alien Universe for the Role Playing Game. Several fans asked for the list. It’s okay if it doesn’t fit your personal head canon, I am in no way suggesting it should. The game lore is designed to reject what you don’t like and use what you do.

The notes below about Predator, AVP, and Easter Eggs are guidelines I was given by FOX’s franchise department when I was brought on board as a consultant. Remember that canon in any franchise is always fluid–no RPG or novel will stop headlining producers and directors from taking a series in any direction they want to try. This list is canon as canon stands, until it doesn’t.

A NOTE ABOUT PREDATORS

The first thing to understand about ALIEN, Predator, and AVP is that they are three franchise universes.

AVP is officially a separate franchise and therefore a separate canon than Alien/Prometheus. Predator is also separate from AVP and Alien/Prometheus. If a Predator shows up in an alien project, that project is in the AVP universe and not Alien.

THE TRUTH ABOUT EASTER EGGS

Easter Eggs are never an indicator of canon, they are surprise homages and nothing more. The separation of franchises is per Fox themselves, and was handed to me as perimeters to follow when I first worked on the Predator Bible for them. Lots of people get frustrated by the AVP statements above. They want Predator in their Alien. Personally I think both franchises are better on their own, so I’m happy about AVP being a third franchise.

YOUR UNIVERSE

All that being said, the Alien RPG is a guide to YOUR alien universe, official or not. Make your game universe your own. What you want in your campaign is absolutely what should be in there, no matter what. As for what I used, this is the list I stick to. It is based on my discussions and work with FOX as a franchise consultant, and I’ve laid out the setting and whatnot accordingly.

A NOTE FROM MU/TH/UR: As new inspiration or products appear, they will be added to these lists. LATEST UPDATES:

01.16.21. Comics section miniseries titled added. The 2007 film “Sunshine “was added to the Non Canon Inspiration list.

02.03.2021. The comics section was clarified . The 1965 film “Planet of the Vampires” added to the Non Canon Inspiration list.

TIER I CANON 

Definitive and authorized canon to the Alien/Prometheus universe:

  • Film Series1
    • Prometheus
    • Alien: Covenant
    • Alien
    • Aliens
    • Alien 3
    • Alien Resurrection
  • Alien Isolation video game
  • Mike Tanaka Alien Isolation Twitter account
  • Covenant Short Films:
    • The Crossing 
    • The Last Supper 
    • Meet Walter 
    • Five Crew Messages 
    • Phobos 
    • Advent 
    • David’s Lab: Last Signs of Life
  • Prometheus Short Films:
    • TED Conference, 2023
    • Happy Birthday, David 
    • Quiet Eye: Elizabeth Shaw 
    • Project Prometheus: Mission 
    • Weyland Industries Testimonial 
    • Prometheus Transmission

TIER II CANON 

These sources are absolutely canon until Ridley Scott or another producer throws a curveball:

  • Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report
  • Alien: The Blueprints
  • Alien: David’s Drawings
  • Alien Role Playing Game by Free League Publishing 
    • Alien RPG: Starter Set
    • Alien RPG: Core rulebook
    • Alien: Chariot of the Gods
    • Alien: Destroyer of Worlds
    • Alien: Map of the Middle Heavens
    • Alien: Colonial Marines Operations Manual
    • All upcoming Alien: RPG products
  • The following Dark Horse comic series:
    • Aliens: Dead Orbit
    • Aliens: Dust to Dust
    • Aliens: Defiance
    • Aliens: Resistance
    • Aliens: Rescue
  • Titan and Imprint Novel Series
    • Alien: Covenant – Origins
    • Alien: The Cold Forge
    • Alien: Into Charybdis
    • Alien: Infiltrator
    • Aliens: Phalanx
    • Alien: Prototype
    • Alien: Isolation novelization
    • Alien: Echo
  • The 40th Anniversary Short Films
    • Alien: Containment
    • Alien: Specimen
    • Alien: Night Shift
    • Alien: Ore
    • Alien: Alone
  • Alien: Blackout Mobile Video Game
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual

TIER III CANON 

Majority of the content is canon with some minor problems that can be explained away as myth or heresay.

  • Weyland Industries Viral Website (some distances are exaggerated) 
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines Video Game (Creatures and Technology are canon, the story is not)
  • Movie novelizations (accurate except when contradicted by screen evidence)
    • Alien
    • Aliens
    • Alien 3
    • Alien: Resurrection
    • Prometheus (Japanese language only)
    • Alien: Covenant
  • Alien Novels: 
    • Alien: Out of the Shadows 
    • Alien: Sea of Sorrows
    • Alien: River of Pain

MYTHS AND LEGENDS 

This stuff should be thought of as tall-tales told in bars. The events may or may have happened as described, but the locations exist:

  • Alien Survival Manual (was intended as canon but has glaring errors)
  • William Gibson’s Alien III in all incarnations:
    • William Gibson’s Alien III: Comic Adaptation
    • William Gibson’s Alien III: Audio Drama Adaptation
    • William Gibson’s Alien III: Novelization
    • William Gibson’s Alien III:Screenplay Draft I
    • William Gibson’s Alien III:Screenplay Draft II
  • Unused Screenplays including:
    • Star Beast
    • Eric Red’s Alien III
    • David Twohy’s Alien III
    • Vincent Ward’s Alien III
    • Alien: The Original Screenplay (all formats and editions)
    • Alien: Engineers
    • Alien: Paradise Lost
  • The Bantam Books and DH Press Aliens novels:
    • Novels in the Complete Aliens Omnibus Volumes 1-7 including:
      • Aliens: Earth Hive
      • Aliens: Nightmare Asylum
      • Aliens: Female War
      • Aliens: Genocide
      • Aliens: Harvest
      • Aliens: Rogue
      • Aliens: Labyrinth
      • Aliens: Music of the Spears
      • Aliens: Berserker
      • Aliens: Original Sin
      • Aliens: DNA War
      • Aliens: Cauldron
      • Aliens: Steel Egg
      • Aliens: Criminal Enterprise
      • Aliens: No Exit
  • Concept art (includes all art books)
  • Aliens: Adventure Game by Leading Edge 
  • Alien: Covenant Short Films:
    • x Audi lunar quattro 
    • She Won’t Go Quietly 
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines Video Game (Storyline)
  • Aliens: Bughunt (Labeled as such in the book)
  • The following Dark Horse comic series:
    • Aliens: Field Report
    • Aliens: Fire and Stone 2 3 4
    • Aliens: Life and Death 2 3 4
    • Comics from Dark Horse and Marvel Comics:
      • Aliens: Dark Horse Omnibus Volume 1-6
      • Aliens: Marvel Comics Omnibus Volume 1
      • Aliens: Outbreak
      • Aliens: Nightmare Asylum
      • Aliens: The Female War
      • Aliens: Theory of Alien Propagation
      • Aliens: The Alien
      • Aliens: Tribes
      • Aliens: Space Marines [Kenner Comics]
      • Aliens: Hive
      • Aliens: Newt’s Tale
      • Alien 3 Comic Adaptation
      • Aliens: Genocide
      • Aliens: Harvest
      • Aliens: Colonial Marines
      • Aliens: Rogue
      • Aliens: Sacrifice
      • Aliens: Labyrinth
      • Aliens: Advent/Terminus
      • Aliens: Reapers
      • Aliens: Horror Show
      • Aliens: Music of the Spears
      • Aliens: Stronghold
      • Aliens: Frenzy
      • Aliens: Taste
      • Aliens: Mondo Pest
      • Aliens: Mondo Heat
      • Aliens: Alchemy
      • Aliens: Kidnapped
      • Aliens: Cargo
      • Aliens: Survival
      • Aliens: Alien
      • Aliens: Earth Angel
      • Aliens: Incubation
      • Aliens: Havoc
      • Aliens: Lovesick
      • Aliens: Lucky
      • Aliens: Apocalypse – The Destroying Angels
      • Aliens: Once in a Lifetime
      • Aliens: Headhunters
      • Aliens: Tourist Season
      • Aliens: 45 Seconds
      • Aliens: Elder Gods
      • Aliens: Purge
      • Aliens: Glass Corridor
      • Aliens: Stalker
      • Aliens: Wraith
      • Aliens: Dark Horse Presents
      • Aliens: Dark Horse Insider
  • Arcade, computer, and console video games
    • Aliens: Armageddon
    • Aliens: Infestation
    • Aliens: Extermination
    • Aliens: Thanatos Encounter
    • Aliens: Online
    • Aliens: Trilogy
    • Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure
    • Alien 3: The Gun
    • Aliens: Alien 2  
  • Kenner Aliens Toyline

SHOE-HORN CANON:

A similar concept, look and feel film franchise, and a film that might as well be part of Alien though it is not. These will NEVER BE OFFICIAL. They are absolutely not part of the Alien Universe, but can be massaged into it if you squint hard enough.

  • Blade Runner
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Outland
  • Soldier

NON-CANON:

Absolutely not connected in any way to Alien—save for possible similar themes and/or easter eggs. While not canon, these properties make for great inspiration for the universe.6

  • Predator, its sequels, comics, novels, and games
  • AVP, its sequels, comics, novels, and games 4
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Firefly (2002)
  • Alien vs. any and everything 5
  • Alien 2: On Earth (1980)
  • John Carpenter’s the Thing (1981)
  • The Thing (2011)
  • Raised by Wolves (2020)
  • LIFE (2017)
  • Sunshine (2007)
  • Pitch Black (2000)
  • Riddick (2013)
  • Virus (1999)
  • Underwater (2020)
  • Prospect (2018)
  • Saturn 3 (1980)
  • Pandorum (2009)
  • Supernova (2000)
  • The Rig (2010)
  • Leviathan (1998)
  • Deep Star Six (1989)
  • Event Horizon (1997)
  • Planet of the Vampires (1965)
  • Ex Machina (2014)
  • Annihilation (2018)
  • Species, its sequels, comics, and novels
  • Terminator, its sequels, series, comics, novels, and games
  • Screamers (1995)
  • Whatever

Footnotes

  1. In the case of the films, you can count the special editions OR the feature versions as canon. I have used the special editions when writing the RPG but made nods towards the feature versions)
  2. Only the Aliens issues of “Fire and Stone” and “Life and Death” are part of the Alien Universe. The Predator and AVP portions are not.
  3. Anything with Predator in it is part of the separate Predator universe instead, or…
  4. If an Alien and a Predator appear, that means its part of the separate AVP Universe. Even if it says its an ALIEN labeled product and not an AVP one—if a Predator shows up it’s AVP).
  5. As a rule of thumb, inter-company crossovers mostly do not count towards canon in any franchise. In regards to other companies who DO count the situations that occur during crossovers, those events are never directly referred to again. For example: you will never have Judge Dredd say, “remember that time I punched Batman?” and show a recap panel of batman’s face being smashed after the license has expired. What they did instead was say, “remember when I punched that masked vigilante?” and did not show it again. You can’t use someone else’s characters past the limited time of the license. So while the event could define changes in the world, the details will forever be vague. If one of the companies involved pushed mentioning these things too far, the other could be like, um… excuse me…
  6. Updated thanks to some suggestions by FB user and gamer Pete DeRosa.

I think that’s everything. I’ll add to the list if I remember anything else.

—Andrew E.C. Gaska

An award winning game-writer, author, designer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska is the creative force behind BLAM! Ventures. He has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games and is the lead writer of Free League Publishing’s ALIEN Role Playing Game. In addition to being the senior development editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their game division and their licensing team. 

Facebook: AndrewECGaska| Instagram: blamventurer| Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Portfolio: blamventures.com | WordPress: roguereviewer | Linkedin: aecgaska

All images are © 2020 their respective owners are used for the purposes of commentary or review only unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “DEFINING CANON IN AN ALIEN WORLD

  1. So Predator is “also separate from AVP and Alien/Prometheus”. But “Weyland Yutani Report”is canon. And “WYR” mentioned events of “Fire and Stone” and “Rage War”. “Out of the Shadows” & “River of Pain” are canon… which lead us to “Rage war”… “Rage War” is related to “Predator 2”. “Aliens: Bughunt” is a myth or legend… But “Predator: If it bleeds” which use characters from “Bughunt” is not canon?
    But “Blade runner”, owned by a completely different studio, stands higher than Predator and AvP. Wow. And for some reason I listened to Tim Lebbon when he said that “Rage War” is canon…

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